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RCCS Tidbit of the Month: Authentic Power

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The following post is from our Recovery-Centered Clinical System (RCCS) Tidbit of the Month series. Each month, the RCCS Steering Committee creates practices to support our recovery culture within our programs and among staff. Click here to learn more about the RCCS.

Authentic Power

A component of the Reducing Harm Conversation of the RCCS


In listening to individuals with the lived experience of being diagnosed with serious behavioral health conditions or an addiction, we often hear stories of loss. The losses are many and varied, but the sense of feeling powerless and the loss of hope, motivation, identity, and uniqueness are common.

We have learned that human beings need to feel that they have the power to make decisions about themselves and their lives. Within the RCCS, we call this “authentic” power. When individuals feel powerless and don’t see an end to their lack of power, individuals may choose to exercise “bogus” power. Bogus power are actions and behaviors that in the moment, relieve our anger, frustration, and anxiety but in the end, take us further away from our hopes and dreams.

While we may not have the power to do everything we want to do right now, we can find ways to exercise our authentic power as we work to make choices that can lead us to greater power and control. Program staff engage in recovery conversations with clients and members to make power visible. We can explore areas of our lives that we do have control over and ways to gain control in areas where we feel powerless.


Changing the power dynamic in a mental health program’s culture requires leaders and staff to be attentive to the effect power and control has on people. Simple, but important things — like our choice of words, the tone of our voice, or our physical actions — all transmit culture.


  • Meet with your staff to identify the rules you have created for clients and members to follow. Do any of the rules (or “power thefts”) create bogus power? How can you safely modify the rule to offer more client choice and control?

  • Ask these questions:

    • a. What is the rule? Don’t be surprised if there is confusion.

    • b. Why do we have the rule? Maybe the reason no longer makes sense. Maybe the safety we believe the rule supports is creating unintended consequences for clients and staff.

    • c. How might we safely modify the rule to offer more choice and authentic power?


  • Meet with clients and members to make power and control visible by using the attached tool to identify where in their life do they have authentic power and control and where do they feel powerless and steps to gain more control and authentic power.


  • Take a mindful moment and think back over the past week or two. Identify an action or behavior that may have resulted in a power-over outcome.

  • Is there anything different you could do next time?

  • Anything you can practice now to have a more power-with outcome next time?

More Information on Telecare's RCCS:

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