Increasingly, mental health social workers in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world are employing coercive interventions with clients. This paper explores this trend in the context of community-based settings, using national and international research literature on this subject. It begins with a discussion about the complex, contested nature of ideas on coercion. The authors then explore debates about how coercion is perceived and applied in practice. They choose two forms of coercion*/informal types of leverage, and the legally mandated use of Community Treatment Orders*/to highlight the range of ethical problems and dilemmas that confront practitioners in this field. The authors conclude by developing a tentative, explanatory model to explain how and why mental health social workers should consider a more holistic, situated approach to help deal with ethical concerns about the use of coercion.