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The way in which professions acquire prestige, power and wealth is by taking unto themselves a body of knowledge and expertise and only relinquishing it in doses in exchange for payment. The creation of dependency is an intrinsic part of that process. In contrast, public health should share with the more enlightened types of psychotherapy the desire that individuals and communities should attain, maintain or develop self sufficiency and sustainability. The term empowerment currently enjoys a popular usage, but this itself can seem patronising if the natural state is the achievement of mastery over the environment by individuals and groups. Striking a style of practice that is respectful of people’s strengths and the gifts that they bring to problem solving is the challenge to all public health practitioners and systems.