Dealing with power struggles in clinical and educational settings

J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv. 2004 Feb;42(2):22-31.


When power struggles occur, the implications for early intervention are numerous. Trying to intervene with a person who has already reached the anger phase of crisis can often be like trying to stop a train by standing on the railroad tracks and holding up one's hands. As a direct result of early and purposeful intervention using simple and accessible techniques (i.e., self-awareness, awareness of others' messages, prioritization, decisiveness, consistency, communication), professionals can create an environment of safety and trust in which all individuals feel heard. In this manner, all needs can be addressed without allowing potentially negative interactions to escalate to levels at which restraints, ultimatums, and consequences are needed. In addition, the likelihood of success increases with early intervention. By recognizing that, in many cases, winning and losing power struggles is accomplished at the expense of treatment and educational goals, enlightened professionals can not only avoid future confrontations but also effect desired client or student outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Awareness
  • Communication
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Goals
  • Helping Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations*
  • Models, Educational
  • Models, Nursing
  • Models, Psychological
  • Motivation
  • Negotiating
  • Nurse's Role
  • Power, Psychological*
  • Prejudice
  • Psychiatric Nursing / methods*
  • Safety
  • Self-Assessment