Applying Deep Democracy in Human Services

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Now Available in Paperback!

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One billion people across the globe of all ages – one eighth of our human community – are dependent on health, disability and/or care and protective systems and providers. For millions of people, everyday survival depends on caregivers, supporters, care programs and funding. The need may be temporary, longer term or lifelong. Many people in care systems and assisted living settings are lonely, isolated and long to feel at home in a community with meaningful opportunities to participate and contribute.

Mistreatment, exploitation and neglect in protective environments and institutions, has come to light in a sweep of shocking revelations and inquiries worldwide. Applying Deep Democracy in Human Services is relevant for caregivers, educators and direct support professionals, and people who rely on support and care. This book is also important for family members, policy makers and community developers, facilitators, leaders and administrators involved in this ever-growing and expanding field of human services.

The nine innate powers explained, are a concrete way to address one of the core questions people in care institutions, educators and helping professions are grappling with: How best to respond to people who require assistance and care in a strengths-based, individualized and respectful way. Applying Deep Democracy in Human Services is a humanising and pragmatic response to addressing and preventing abuse and awakening inner resources for a self-directed life, rich with meaning, friendship and contribution.

From the Foreword


“This is an important text for the future. On a global scale we are discovering that relationships and connections with other people, opportunities, and resources provide the best guarantee of health, safety, and growth and development. We are also discovering that we can no longer afford to continually enlarge the disability bubble. We will need to master the material that Wolfson provides us if we intend to explore sustainable lives and relationships beyond that bubble. This book will help people reframe the key issues in human services around the themes of self-direction, relationships, and social capital.”

– James F. Gardner, PhD, President, J Gardner & Associates, LLC, and Past President and CEO, Council on Quality and Leadership, 1989–2012

What Leaders in the Field are Saying About the Book


“Dr. Wolfson’s book Applying Deep Democracy in Human Services shows how certain skills and metaskills using ‘deep democracy’, can help those in need, caregivers and whole organizations thrive!”

— Drs. Amy and Arnold Mindell, Founders of Process Work, deep democracy and worldwork


“A refreshing and thought provoking must read if you or your friends or a family member is in a care environment.”

— Drs. Ellen and Max Schupbach, Founders of the Deep Democracy Institute International


“Finally, after working for over 40 years with people with challenging behaviors, predominantly in the field of Intellectual Disability, I am awed and heartened by this book. Rich with insight derived through direct practice and capable of being extrapolated to all nature of oppression and abuse of power, Dr. Julia Wolfson uses her own rich life and work experiences to expose the painful abuses and misguided power-over in interpersonal relationships that often commingles with well-meaning care-taking intentions for people with different abilities. Through her powerful storytelling she simultaneously exposes us to pain and suffering, as well as the hopefulness of the healing path when truth is heard in a facilitated environment. This book is very important for us all to read, especially if we hope to help humanity develop to its fullest potential. I will assign it to my students in our MSW program as well as to our clinic interns as a strategic guide to transformative leadership, and recommend it to everyone I come across who is trying to help change the world.”

—Dr. Beth Barol, Associate Dean and Director of Social Work, Widener University, Pennsylvania, USA.


“For more than a decade the author has worked with our organisation in a village in Africa, for children, youth and young adults with different abilities, bringing us together to discover at progressively deeper levels what the core of our work is. In this book she shares the treasures and insight of many decades of work supporting organisations to bring out the strengths of vulnerable people. It is a remarkable book that should be required reading for all who work in this field.”

— Agas Groth, CEO Camphill Communities, Botswana.


“This masterpiece promises to make a significant contribution to the most difficult existential questions of our time. In a fascinating weave of experiences from her professional life and deep, personal accounts, Julia provides a roadmap for a journey of a universal kind. The inquiry is both confronting and comforting. The authenticity of the voice in this narrative demands of us as readers that we, too, ask ourselves: how can I be safe and free? What does it mean to be alive? Can I become an agent of change? Can I grow my own power or must I wait for this to be authorized by another? This book should be on any reading list that aims to educate people within the social sciences. It applies not only to the education and care sectors but in any context within which our aim is to serve others. With its refined approach to inclusion, this book applies to any culture or nation where there are individuals who put their work in service of their fellow human beings. Courage and love in equal measures has made this book what it is. Read it and be changed.”

—Charlotte von Bülow, founder and CEO, Crossfields Institute, Awarding Organisation for specialist qualifications, Stroud, United Kingdom.


“Bringing in her personal and professional experiences with people of diverse ages, backgrounds, abilities, sexual orientations, political and spiritual beliefs, Julia discusses ‘nine innate deep powers,’ giving concrete examples in her work and suggesting ‘on-the-spot practices’ that can be used to apply these powers. As a counselor, multi-cultural educator, and mother/grandmother of a family with varying abilities, I identify with and will continue to learn from Julia and the people and situations that she describes.”

—Dr. Sally Gelardin, AgeSong Community Engagement Director, 
San Francisco, USA.