Assignment 1: Planning a Group


Competency Chapter

Competency 1: Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior

Behaviors Make ethical decisions by applying the standards of the NASW Code of Ethics, relevant laws and regulations, models for ethical decision-making, ethical conduct of research, and additional codes of ethics as appropriate to context.

1, 7, 13, 14

Use reflection and self-regulation to manage personal values and maintain professionalism in practice situations

1, 4, 5

Demonstrate professional demeanor in behavior; appearance; and oral, written, and electronic communication

1, 6, 7

Use technology ethically and appropriately to facilitate practice outcomes 1, 6, 14

Use supervision and consultation to guide professional judgment and behavior 1, 4

Competency 2: Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behaviors Apply and communicate understanding of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Present themselves as learners and engage clients and constituencies as experts of their own experiences

1, 5, 8, 14

Apply self-awareness and self-regulation to manage the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse clients and constituencies

1, 4, 5, 7, 8

Competency 3: Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice

Behaviors Apply their understanding of social, economic, and environmental justice to advocate for human rights at the individual and system levels

4, 5, 8, 9

Engage in practices that advance social, economic, and environmental justice 3, 4, 5, 9

Competency 4: Engage In Practice-informed Research and Research-informed Practice

Behaviors Use practice experience and theory to inform scientific inquiry and research 2, 3, 8, 14

Apply critical thinking to engage in analysis of quantitative and qualitative research methods and research findings

2, 4, 8, 10, 14

Use and translate research evidence to inform and improve practice, policy, and service delivery 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

Competency 5: Engage in Policy Practice

Behaviors Identify social policy at the local, state, and federal level that impacts well-being, service delivery, and access to social services

1, 4, 5, 11, 12

CSWE EPAS 2015 Core Competencies and Behaviors in This Text

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 1 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Competency Chapter

Assess how social welfare and economic policies impact the delivery of and access to social services 1, 5, 10, 12

Apply critical thinking to analyze, formulate, and advocate for policies that advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice

1, 5, 8, 12

Competency 6: Engage with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities


Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage with clients and constituencies

2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12

Use empathy, reflection, and interpersonal skills to effectively engage diverse clients and constituencies 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11

Competency 7: Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities


Collect and organize data, and apply critical thinking to interpret information from clients and constituencies

4, 7, 8, 12, 14

Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies

2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8

Develop mutually agreed-on intervention goals and objectives based on the critical assessment of strengths, needs, and challenges within clients and constituencies

6, 7, 8, 9, 14

Select appropriate intervention strategies based on the assessment, research knowledge, and values and preferences of clients and constituencies

3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11

Competency 8: Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Behaviors Critically choose and implement interventions to achieve practice goals and enhance capacities of clients and constituencies

1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in interventions with clients and constituencies

2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13

Use inter-professional collaboration as appropriate to achieve beneficial practice outcomes 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Negotiate, mediate, and advocate with and on behalf of diverse clients and constituencies 5, 8, 9, 10, 12

Facilitate effective transitions and endings that advance mutually agreed-on goals 13

Competency 9: Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities

Behaviors Select and use appropriate methods for evaluation of outcomes 6, 8, 11, 14

Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks in the evaluation of outcomes

1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 14

Critically analyze, monitor, and evaluate intervention and program processes and outcomes 5, 6, 8, 14

Apply evaluation findings to improve practice effectiveness at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels 14

CSWE EPAS 2015 Core Competencies and Behaviors in This Text

Adapted with permission of Council on Social Work Education. These competencies and behaviors also appear in the margins throughout this text.

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 2 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Harlow, England • London • New York • Boston • San Francisco • Toronto • Sydney • Dubai • Singapore Hong Kong • Tokyo • Seoul • Taipei New Delhi • Cape Town • Sao Paulo • Mexico City • Madrid • Amsterdam Munich • Paris • Milan

An Introduction to Group Work Practice Ronald W. Toseland University at Albany, State University of New York

Robert F. Rivas Siena College, Emeritus


globAl EDITIoN

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 3 01/05/17 11:30 AM

VP and Editorial Director: Jeffery W. Johnston Executive Editor: Julie Peters Program Manager: Megan Moffo Editorial Assistant: Pamela DiBerardino Executive Product Marketing Manager:

Christopher Barry Executive Field Marketing Manager: Krista Clark Team Lead Project Management: Bryan Pirrmann Project Manager, Global Edition: Nitin Shankar Senior Acquisitions Editor, Global Edition: Sandhya

Ghoshal Senior Project Editor, Global Edition: Daniel Luiz

Project Editor, Global Edition: Rahul Arora Manager, Media Production, Global Edition: M. Vikram

Kumar Manufacturing Controller, Production, Global Edition:

Angela Hawksbee Team Lead Program Management: Laura Weaver Procurement Specialist: Deidra Skahill Cover Art: maxstockphoto/Shutterstock Media Producer: Michael Goncalves Editorial Production and Composition Services:

Lumina Datamatics, Inc. Full-Service Project Manager: Doug Bell, Raja Natesan

Pearson Education Limited Edinburgh Gate Harlow Essex CM20 2JE England

and Associated Companies throughout the world

Visit us on the World Wide Web at:

© Pearson Education Limited 2017

The rights of Ronald W. Toseland and Robert F. Rivas to be identified as the authors of this work have been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Authorized adaptation from the United States edition, entitled An Introduction to Group Work Practice, 8th edition, ISBN 978-0-134- 05896-2, by Ronald W. Toseland and Robert F. Rivas, published by Pearson Education © 2017.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a license permitting restricted copying in the United Kingdom issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, Saff ron House, 6–10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS.

All trademarks used herein are the property of their respective owners. The use of any trademark in this text does not vest in the author or publisher any trademark ownership rights in such trademarks, nor does the use of such trademarks imply any affiliation with or endorsement of this book by such owners.

ISBN 10: 129-2-16028-4 ISBN 13: 978-1-292-16028-3

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available f rom the British Library.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 14 13 12 11 10

Typeset in Dante MT Pro 10.5/13 pt by Lumina Datamatics, Inc.

Printed and bound in Vivar, Malaysia.

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 4 01/09/17 6:37 PM

To our parents, Stella and Ed, Marg and Al

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 5 01/05/17 11:30 AM



Preface 13

1. Introduction 17 Organization of the Text 18 The Focus of Group Work Practice 18 Values and Ethics in Group Work Practice 21

Practice Values 21 Practice Ethics 24

Definition of Group Work 27 Classifying Groups 28

Formed and Natural Groups 28 Purpose and Group Work 29 Treatment and Task Groups 29

Group Versus Individual Efforts 32 Advantages and Disadvantages of Treatment Groups 32 Advantages and Disadvantages of Task Groups 34

A Typology of Treatment and Task Groups 35 Treatment Groups 36

Support Groups 36 Educational Groups 38 Growth Groups 39 Therapy Groups 40 Socialization Groups 41 Self-Help Groups 42

Task Groups 44 Groups to Meet Client Needs 44 Groups to Meet Organizational Needs 50 Groups to Meet Community Needs 54

Summary 58

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 6 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Contents 7

2. Historical and Theoretical Developments 59 Knowledge f rom Group Work Practice and Practice Research: Treatment Groups 59

Differences Between Casework and Group Work 60 Intervention Targets 61 The Weakening of Group Work 62 Current Practice Trends 63 Divergent and Unified Practice Models 66 Evidence-based Group Work Practice 67 The Popularity of Psycho-educational, Structured, Practice Models 68

Knowledge f rom Group Work Practice: Task Groups 69 Knowledge f rom Social Science Research 70 Inf luential Theories 72

Systems Theory 72 Psychodynamic Theory 75 Learning Theory 76 Field Theory 77 Social Exchange Theory 79 Constructivist, Empowerment, and Narrative Theories 80

Summary 81

3. Understanding Group Dynamics 83 The Development of Helpful Group Dynamics 83 Group Dynamics 84

Communication and Interaction Patterns 84 Group Cohesion 95 Social Integration and Inf luence 99 Group Culture 105

Stages of Group Development 108 Summary 112

4. Leadership 114 Leadership, Power, and Empowerment 115

Leadership, Empowerment, and the Planned Change Process 118 Theories of Group Leadership 119 Factors Inf luencing Group Leadership 120 Effective Leadership 121

An Interactional Model of Leadership 122 Purposes of the Group 122 Type of Problem 123 The Environment 125 The Group as a Whole 126 The Group Members 127 The Group Leader 128

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 7 01/05/17 11:30 AM

8 Contents

Group Leadership Skills 129 Facilitating Group Processes 130 Data-Gathering and Assessment 134 Action Skills 136 Learning Group Leadership Skills 143 Leadership Style 144

Co-leadership 148 Summary 151

5. Leadership and Diversity 153 Approaches to Multicultural Group Work 154 A Framework for Leading Diverse Groups 155

Developing Cultural Sensitivity 156 Assessing Cultural Inf luences on Group Behavior 160 Intervening with Sensitivity to Diversity 166

Summary 175

6. Planning the Group 176 Planning Focus 176 Planning Model for Group Work 178

Establishing the Group’s Purpose 178 Assessing Potential Sponsorship and Membership 179 Recruiting Members 185 Composing the Group 188 Orienting Members 194 Contracting 196 Preparing the Environment 198 Reviewing the Literature 200 Selecting Monitoring and Evaluation Tools 201 Preparing a Written Group Proposal 202 Planning Distance Groups 202

Summary 211

7. The Group Begins 212 Objectives in the Beginning Stage 213

Ensuring a Secure Environment 214 Introducing New Members 215 Defining the Purpose of the Group 220 Confidentiality 223 Helping Members Feel a Part of the Group 225 Guiding the Development of the Group 226 Balancing Task and Socio-emotional Foci 231 Goal Setting in Group Work 231

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 8 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Contents 9

Contracting 234 Facilitating Members’ Motivation 235 Addressing Ambivalence and Resistance 235 Working with Involuntary Members 240 Anticipating Obstacles 242 Monitoring and Evaluating the Group: The Change Process Begins 243

Summary 245

8. Assessment 246 Conducting Efffective Assessments 247

Focus on Group Processes 248 External Constituencies and Sponsors 249

The Assessment Process 249 How Much Information? 250 Diagnostic Labels 251 Assessment Focus 252 Relationship of Assessment to the Change Process and Problem Solving 253

Assessing the Functioning of Group Members 254 Methods for Assessing Group Members 255

Assessing the Functioning of the Group as a Whole 262 Assessing Communication and Interaction Patterns 262 Assessing Cohesion 263 Assessing Social Integration 265 Assessing Group Culture 270

Assessing the Group’s Environment 271 Assessing the Sponsoring Organization 271 Assessing the Interorganizational Environment 273 Assessing the Community Environment 274

Linking Assessment to Intervention 276 Summary 279

9. Treatment Groups: Foundation Methods 280 Middle-Stage Skills 280

Preparing for Group Meetings 281 Structuring the Group’s Work 285 Involving and Empowering Group Members 291 Helping Members Achieve Goals 293 Using Empirically Based Treatment Methods in Therapy Groups 303 Working with Reluctant and Resistant Group Members During the Middle Phase 305 Monitoring and Evaluating the Group’s Progress 308

Summary 310

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 9 01/05/17 11:30 AM

10 Contents

10. Treatment Groups: Specialized Methods 311 Overreliance on Specialized Methods 311

Intervening with Group Members 312 Intrapersonal Interventions 313 Identifying and Discriminating 314 Recognizing Associations 315 Analyzing the Rationality of Thoughts and Belief s 316 Changing Thoughts, Belief s, and Feeling States 318 Interpersonal Interventions 326 Learning by Observing Models 327 Environmental Interventions 333 Connecting Members to Concrete Resources 333 Expanding Members’ Social Networks 334 Contingency Management Procedures 335 Modifying Physical Environments 338

Intervening in the Group as a Whole 339 Changing Communication and Interaction Patterns 339 Changing the Group’s Attraction for Its Members 341 Using Social Integration Dynamics Effectively 343 Changing Group Culture 345

Changing the Group Environment 346 Increasing Agency Support for Group Work Services 346 Links with Interagency Networks 348 Increasing Community Awareness 349

Summary 351

11. Task Groups: Foundation Methods 352 The Ubiquitous Task Group 352 Leading Task Groups 353

Leading Meetings 354 Sharing Information 356 Enhancing Involvement and Commitment 358 Developing Information 359 Dealing with Conf lict 361 Making Effective Decisions 364 Understanding Task Groups’ Political Ramifications 366 Monitoring and Evaluating 367 Problem Solving 368

A Model for Effective Problem Solving 369 Identifying a Problem 370 Developing Goals 373 Collecting Data 374 Developing Plans 375

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 10 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Contents 11

Selecting the Best Plan 375 Implementing the Plan 376

Summary 378

12. Task Groups: Specialized Methods 380 Small Organizational Groups 380

Brainstorming 380 Variations on Brainstorming 384 Focus Groups 385 Nominal Group Technique 388 Multi-attribute Utility Analysis 392 Quality Improvement Groups 395

Large Organizational Groups 397 Parliamentary Procedure 397 Phillips’ 66 401

Methods for Working with Community Groups 403 Mobilization Strategies 403 Capacity-Building Strategies 405 Social Action Strategies 407

Summary 410

13. Ending the Group’s Work 411 Factors that Inf luence Group Endings 411 The Process of Ending 412 Planned and Unplanned Termination 412

Member Termination 413 Worker Termination 415

Ending Group Meetings 416 Ending the Group as a Whole 418

Learning from Members 418 Maintaining and Generalizing Change Efforts 418 Reducing Group Attraction 424 Feelings About Ending 426 Planning for the Future 428 Making Referrals 429

Summary 432

14. Evaluation 433 Why Evaluate? The Group Worker’s View 435

Reasons for Conducting Evaluations 435 Organizational Encouragement and Support 435

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 11 01/05/17 11:30 AM

12 Contents

Time Considerations 436 Selecting a Data Collection Method 436

Evaluation Methods 437 Evaluations for Planning a Group 437

Obtaining Program Information 437 Needs Assessment 438

Evaluations for Monitoring a Group 439 Monitoring Methods 439

Evaluations for Developing a Group 445 Single-System Methods 446 Case Study Methods 449 Participatory Action Research Methods (PARS) 450

Evaluations for Determining Effectiveness and Efficiency 450 Evaluation Measures 454

Choosing Measures 454 Types of Measures 455

Summary 459

Appendix A: Standards for Social Work Practice with Groups 460 Appendix B: Group Announcements 471 Appendix C: Outline for a Group Proposal 473 Appendix D: An Example of a Treatment Group Proposal 474 Appendix E: An Example of a Task Group Proposal 476 References 478 Author Index 507 Subject Index 519

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 12 01/05/17 11:30 AM



We are gratified by the wide use of this text by professionals, as well as by educators and students in undergraduate and graduate courses in schools of social work throughout the United States and the world.

Because we are committed to presenting a coherent and organized over- view of g roup work practice f rom a generalist practice perspective, the eighth edition continues to include typolog ies illustrating group work practice with task and treatment g roups at the micro-, meso-, and macro-level. Our research and practice focuses primarily on treatment groups, and the eighth edition continues to present our interest in improving practice with many different types of treatment groups.

New to This Edition • Research on Virtual Groups. In recent years, we have done research on the

uses of virtual group formats (teleconference and Internet groups) and have included an updated and expanded section on virtual groups in the 6th chapter of this edition.

• Additional case examples throughout this edition illustrate practice with a wide variety of groups. These were added based on feedback f rom our students, reviewers of the book, instructors, and others who have contacted us about the importance of illustrations of evidence-based practice examples.

• Updated and deeper content of the middle stage chapters on practice with treatment and task groups. The latest evidence-based treatment and task group research is incorporated throughout Chapters 9 through 12, and content has been added, deleted, and changed to ref lect current practice.

• Incorporated the most current literature on working with reluctant and resistant group members in specific sections of Chapters 7 and 9 and throughout the text.

• We find that our students face many situations with individuals who have encountered multiple traumas in their family lives and in the larger social environment, making them understandably reticent to engage group workers and fellow group members, and trust in the power of group work to heal. There- fore, we have updated and expanded sections on working with individuals who have difficulty engaging in and sustaining work in groups and have added addi- tional information about conf lict resolution skills as it pertains to both treatment and task groups.

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 13 01/05/17 11:30 AM

• Thoroughly updated Chapter 5 on leadership and diversity as social group work- ers practice in an increasingly pluralistic society.

• Thoroughly updated reference material and new content f rom evidence-based practice sources.

About Group Work Over the years, we have been especially pleased that our text has been used by educators who are dedicated to improving task group practice within social work. Group work is a neglected area of social work practice, especially practice with task groups. Most social workers spend a great deal of time in teams, treatment conferences, and committees, and many social workers have leadership responsibilities in these groups. Group work is also essential for effective macro social work practice, and therefore, we have continued to emphasize practice with community groups. The eighth edition also continues our focus on three focal areas of practice: (1) the individual group member, (2) the group as a whole, and (3) the environment in which the group functions. We continue to empha- size the importance of the latter two focal areas because our experiences in supervising group workers and students and conducting workshops for professionals have revealed that the dynamics of a group as a whole and the environment in which groups function are often a neglected aspect of group work practice.

Connecting Core Competencies Series This edition is a part of Pearson’s Connecting Core Competencies series, which con- sists of foundation-level texts that make it easier than ever to ensure students’ success in learning the nine core competencies as stated in 2015 by the Council on Social Worker Education. This text contains:

• Core Competency Icons throughout the chapters, directly linking the CSWE core competencies to the content of the text. Critical thinking questions are also included to further students’ mastery of the CSWE’s standards.

• For easy reference, a matrix is included at the beginning of the book that aligns the book chapters with the CSWE Core Competencies and Behavior Examples.

Instructor Supplements The following supplemental products may be downloaded f rom www.pearsonglobal

Instructor’s Resource Manual and Test Bank. This manual contains a sample syllabus, chapter summaries, learning outcomes, chapter outlines, teaching tips, dis- cussion questions, multiple-choice and essay assessment items and other supportive resources.

PowerPoint Slides. For each chapter in the book, we have prepared a PowerPoint slide deck focusing on key concepts and strategies.

14 Preface

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 14 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Acknowledgments The ideas expressed in this book have evolved during many years of study, practice, and research. Some of the earliest and most powerful inf luences that have shaped this effort have come about through our relationships with Bernard Hill, Alan Klein, Sheldon Rose, and Max Siporin. Their contributions to the development of our thinking are evi- dent throughout this book. The ideas in this book were also inf luenced by Albert Alissi, Martin Birnbaum, Leonard Brown, Charles Garvin, Alex Gitterman, Burton Gummer, Margaret Hartford, Grafton Hull, Jr., Norma Lang, Catherine Papell, William Reid, Beulah Rothman, Jarrold Shapiro, Laurence Shulman, and Peter Vaughan. Our appreciation and thanks to the reviewers of the seventh edition who gave us valuable advice for how to improve this new eighth edition: Tom Broffman, Eastern Connecticut State University; Daniel B. Freedman, University of South Carolina; Kim Knox, New Mexico State University; Gayle Mallinger, Western Kentucky University; John Walter Miller, Jr., University of Arkansas at Little Rock. We are also indebted to the many practitioners and students with whom we have worked over the years. Reviewing practice experiences, discussing group meetings, and providing consultation and supervision to the practitioners with whom we work with during research projects, supervision, staff meetings, and workshops has helped us to clarify and improve the ideas presented in this text.

We would also like to acknowledge the material support and encouragement given to us by our respective educational institutions. The administrative and support staff of the School of Social Welfare, University at Albany, State University of New York, and Siena College have played important roles in helping us to accomplish this project. Most of all, however, we are indebted to our spouses, Sheryl Holland and Donna Allingham Rivas. Their personal and professional insights have done much to enrich this book. Without their continuous support and encouragement, we would not have been able to complete this work. A special note of thanks also goes to Rebecca, Stacey, and Heather for sacrificing some of their dads’ time so that we are able to keep this book current and relevant for today’s practice environment.

Ronald W. Toseland Robert F. Rivas

Acknowledgments for the Global Edition Pearson would like to thank the following people for their work on the content of the Global Edition:

Contributors: Henglien Lisa Chen, University of

Sussex Pooja Thakur, writer Elizabeth Wright, Murdoch University

Reviewers: Bruce Gillmer, Northumberland, Tyne

and Wear NHS Foundation Trust Pooja Thakur, writer Elizabeth Wright, Murdoch University

Preface 15

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 15 01/05/17 11:30 AM

A01_TOSE0283_08_SE_FM.indd 16 01/05/17 11:30 AM

This page intentionally left blank


This text focuses on the practice of group work by professional social workers. Group work entails the deliberate use of interven- tion strategies and group processes to accomplish individual, group, and community goals using the value base and the ethical practice principles of the social work profession. As one prepares to become an effective social work practitioner, it is important to realize the effect that groups have on people’s lives. It is not possible to be a member of a society without becoming a member or leader of groups and being inf luenced by others without direct participation. Internet groups are also becoming more popular as people choose to meet others in virtually as well as face-to-face. Although it is pos- sible to live in an isolated manner or on the f ringes of face-to-face and virtual groups, our social nature makes this neither desirable nor healthy.

Groups provide the structure on which communities and the larger society are built. They provide formal and informal struc- ture in the workplace. They also provide a means through which relationships with significant others are carried out. Participation in family groups, peer groups, and classroom groups helps mem- bers learn acceptable norms of social behavior, engage in satisfying social relationships, identify personal goals, and derive a variety of other benefits that result f rom participating in closely knit social systems. Experiences in social, church, recreation, and other work groups are essential in the development and maintenance of people and society. Putnam (2000) points out that there has been a sharp decline in participation in clubs and other civic organizations and that social capital is not valued in contemporary society. At the same time, web-based social network and self-help group sites continue to grow enormously in popularity, enabling users to keep up con- tacts with more and more people. One goal of this book is to under- score the importance of groups as fundamental building blocks for a connected, vibrant society.

L e a r n i n g O u t c O m e s

• Describe how group work is carried out using a generalist perspective.

• Demonstrate how values and professional ethics are applied in group work practice.

• Define group work and its practice applications.

• Compare the differences between task- and treatment-oriented groups.

• List the advantages and disadvantages of using groups to help people and to accomplish tasks.

• Describe the types and functions of treatment groups.

• Define the types and functions of task groups.

1 Introduction

c h a p t e r O u t L i n e

Organization of the Text 18

The Focus of Group Work Practice 18

Values and Ethics in Group Work Practice 21

Definition of Group Work 27

Classifying Groups 28

Group Versus Individual Efforts 32

A Typology of Treatment and Task Groups 35

Treatment Groups 36

Task Groups 44

Summary 58

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 17 01/05/17 11:30 AM

18 Chapter 1

OrganizatiOn Of the text

Group work is a series of activities carried out by the worker during the life of a group. We have found that it is helpful to conceptualize these activities as being a part of six developmental stages:

1. Planning

2. Beginning

3. Assessment

4. Middle

5. Ending

6. Evaluation

Groups exhibit certain properties and processes during each stage of their development. The group worker’s task is to engage in activities that facilitate the growth and development of the group and its members during each developmental stage. This book is divided into five parts. Part I focuses on the knowledge base needed to practice with groups. The remain- ing four parts are organized around each of these six stages of group work practice. Case studies illustrating each practice stage can be found at the end of Chapters 6 through 14.

the fOcus Of grOup WOrk practice

Social work practitioners use group work skills to help meet the needs of individual group members, the group as a whole, and the community. In this text, group work involves the following elements.

group Work practice • Practice with a broad range of treatment and task groups • Generalist practice based on a set of core competencies described in the Educa-

tion Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) of the Council on Social Work Education (2015)

• A focus on individual group members, the group as a whole, and the group’s environment

• Critical thinking and evidence-based practice when it exists for a particular practice problem or issue

• Application of foundation knowledge and skills f rom gener- alist social work practice to a broad range of leadership and membership situations

• Specialized knowledge and skills based on a comprehensive assessment of the needs of particular members and groups

• Recognition of the interactional and situational nature of leadership


Behavior: critically choose and implement interventions to achieve practice goals and enhance capacities of clients and constituencies

critical thinking Question: Generalist social work practice involves many systems. How is group work related to generalist social work practice?

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 18 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 19

This text is firmly grounded in a generalist approach to practice. To accomplish the broad mission and goals of the social work profession, generalist practitioners are ex- pected to possess core competencies based on the Council on Social Work Education’s (2015) Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS) that enables them to inter- vene effectively with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. This text highlights the importance of the generalist practitioner’s acquisition of the core competencies defined in the EPAS standards.

This text is designed to help generalist practitioners understand how group work can be used to help individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities func- tion as effectively as possible. Most group work texts are focused on the use of groups for clinical practice, and many focus only on therapy or support groups with little attention paid to social, recreational, or educational purposes. Scant is made of commit- tees, teams, and other task groups that all social workers participate in as members and leaders. Despite the distinctive emphasis of the social work profession on the interface between individuals and their social environment, in most group work texts, even less attention is paid to social action groups, coalitions, and other community groups. This text examines work with a broad range of groups in generalist practice with individuals, organizations, and communities.

This text is also grounded in a critical thinking and evidence-based approach to practice. Whenever possible, suggestions made in this text are based on evidence accu- mulated f rom research studies in the literature. Although quantitative evidence f rom re- search studies is important, qualitative case studies of group work are also a part of this evidence base. Critical thinking and practice experience are essential on especially when a solid base of empirical evidence is lacking.

Macgowan (2008) points out that group workers using evidence-based group prac- tice principles incorporate critical thinking skills such as challenging assumptions and questioning what is taken for granted. They evaluate sources of evidence for their rigor, impact, and applicability. Macgowan (2008) suggests a four-step process: (1) formulating answerable questions, (2) searching for evidence, (3) critically reviewing the evidence, and (4) applying and evaluating the evidence. Although this rigorous process cannot be done while in the midst of practicing with a group, practitioners can follow this advice when planning for a group and in-between sessions. Social group workers can also use evidence-based protocols in their area of interest. For example, LeCroy (2008) has ed- ited a book of evidence-based treatment manuals for children and adolescents, and many similar publications exist for other populations. Part of the art of practice is using critical thinking skills, evidence, practice skills, and accumulated experiences in similar situa- tions to achieve the very best outcomes for group members and others who are affected by the work of the group.

Regarding group work practice with individuals, the group as a whole, and the group’s environment, some prominent group workers such as Gitterman and Shulman (2005) focus on the whole group as the unit of intervention and place less emphasis on working with individuals. Others place greater emphasis on changing individual group members and less on group as a whole dynamics (Boyd-Franklin, Cleek, Wof sy, & Mundy, 2013; Rose, 2004; Walsh, 2010). Both perspectives are useful. Whatever approach is used when leading groups, workers should direct their attention to individuals, the group as

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 19 01/05/17 11:30 AM

20 Chapter 1

a whole, and the environment in which the group functions. The worker focuses on in- dividual members to help them accomplish their goals. The worker intervenes with the group as a whole to achieve an optimal level of group functioning and to ensure that the group accomplishes its purposes. The worker also assesses the group’s environment and decides whether to help the group adapt to it or change it. During these interventions, it is especially important to focus on group processes as well as the content of the interaction. This dual focus has been referred to as the half-and-half principle (Chen & Rybak, 2004).

The purpose of the group helps determine the emphasis that each focal area should receive. For example, in a support group for recently separated people, the worker might focus on the development of mutual aid among all members of the group. Individual members might also need help developing plans for dealing with specific problems. Sim- ilarly, in the group for recently separated people, the worker might focus on developing individualized treatment plans, but also on enhancing group cohesion, mutual aid, and other beneficial group dynamics. The worker might also focus on factors outside the group that might have an impact on its members. This fits with a person-in-environ- ment perspective that is essential to generalist group work practice. For example, a close examination of the environment in which members of the support group for recently separated people functions might reveal a need to make community services, such as support for single parent dads, more responsive to members of the group. This may, in turn, lead to the development of a social action group to address this problem. Later, this text examines in detail the three focal areas of the individual, the group as a whole, and the group’s environment.

Another aspect of group work practice is that workers draw on a broad base of knowledge and skills f rom generalist practice that they apply to their work with a broad range of groups. The generalist approach emphasizes that social workers perform many roles in their professional lives. It suggests that there are foundation knowledge and skills that transcend specific roles. For example, in-depth knowledge about human develop- ment and skill in empathic responding are essential for effective work with individuals, families, groups, and communities. Although foundation knowledge and skills are de- scribed throughout this text, specialized knowledge and skills are often needed when practicing with children, adolescents, adults, and elders with a wide variety of problems. Therefore, this text also presents specialized knowledge and skills useful for practice with these populations and problems. In keeping with an evidence-based approach to group work practice, the specialized knowledge and skills presented in this book are based on empirical findings in the literature when they are available or critical thinking and prac- tice experience when there is little or no empirical evidence.

Most experienced practitioners continue to learn by exposure to different approaches to group work. Aspects of different approaches, such as humanistic, behavioral, and em- powerment, can often be integrated in a particular practice situation to meet the multi- level needs and preferences of members. A major tenet of the generalist approach is that practice should be based on a comprehensive assessment of the needs of each member in their unique, complex situations.

An integration of practice approaches is often preferable to using a single approach. Exclusive adherence to one approach may work well for a group with a particular set of needs, but it may not work well when leading a group with other needs. Critical thinking skills should always be employed as workers make decisions about the best approach to

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 20 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 21

take. Rigid adherence to one approach tends to make workers oblivious to other po- tentially useful methods. It can also distort workers’ assessments of situations. Workers might mistakenly attempt to fit data f rom a situation to a particular practice approach rather than choosing the practice approach that best fits the situation. For these reasons, group workers can be most effective when they are familiar with several approaches to group work and when they apply specialized knowledge and skills differentially and crit- ically depending on the particular group work endeavor.

The approach used in this book also recognizes the interactional nature of the helping process. A static, prescriptive approach to group work practice often appeals to novice practitioners because of its simplicity, but this often does not match the complexity and diversity of the real world of group work practice. The leadership model presented in Chapter 4 presents some of the factors that workers should consider when deciding how to proceed with a group.

Values and ethics in grOup WOrk practice

Practice Values

Group work practice is inf luenced by a system of personal and professional values. These values affect workers’ styles of intervention and the skills they use when working with group members. Values also affect members’ reactions to workers’ efforts. Despite the emphasis on ethics and values in the Education Policy and Accreditation Standards published by the Council on Social Work Education (2015), Strozier (1997) found that few social group work course syllabi gave much emphasis to the topic of values or ethics in group work practice.

Values are belief s that delineate preferences about how one ought to behave. They refer to a goal that is worth attaining (Rokeach, 1968). There is no such thing as val- ue-f ree group work practice. All group workers operate with certain specific assump- tions and values regarding the nature of human beings, the role of members, and the role of the group leader. Values inf luence the methods used to accomplish group and individual goals. Even a leader who is completely permissive and nondirective reveals the values embodied in such a stance.

A worker’s actions in the group are affected by contextual values, member value systems, and the worker’s personal value system. Levine (2012) has identified values that are dominant in American society.

american Values • Judeo–Christian doctrine with its emphasis on the dignity and worth of people

and people’s responsibility for their neighbor • Democratic values that emphasize equality and participation, including men’s

and women’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness • The Puritan ethic that emphasizes men’s and women’s responsibility for

themselves and the central role of work in a moral life • Social Darwinism that emphasizes the survival of the strongest and the fittest in

a long-term evolutionary process

Assess your understand- ing of the focus of group work practice by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 21 01/05/17 11:30 AM

22 Chapter 1

The context in which the group functions affects the values exhibited in the group. Contextual values include the values of organizational sponsors, funders, communities, accrediting bodies, regulatory agencies, the social work profession, and the larger society. All of these entities have a direct or indirect effect on the group.

Before beginning a group, the worker should become familiar with the agency’s formal and informal values. These are embodied in its mission statements, goals, policies, procedures, and practices. Are treatment groups a preferred method of delivering therapeutic services? Are decisions often made in task groups consisting of staff members, or are most decisions made by agency administrators without staff input? Becoming aware of the policies, proce- dures, and practices regarding the use of groups in a particular agency can help the worker prepare for possible resistance and evaluate and use sources of support within the agency.

The community where the group conducts its business can also inf luence the func- tioning of the group. For example, community standards and traditions, as well as racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic composition, differ widely among communities. When plan- ning a group, the worker needs to consider how these aspects of communities are likely to inf luence the group and its members.

The worker and the group are also affected by professional values. These include respecting the worth and dignity of the individual, respecting a person’s autonomy and self-direction, facilitating a person’s participation in the helping process, maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude, ensuring equal access to services and social provisions, and af- firming the interdependence of the individual and society.

Beyond the values held by all professional social work practitioners, group workers share a special concern and interest in values that are basic to group work practice. Some of the key values of group work have been stated by Gisela Konopka (1983). She suggests that all group workers should agree on the importance of the following values.

group Work Values • Participation of and positive relations among people of different color, creed, age,

national origin, and social class in the group • The value of cooperation and mutual decision making embodied in the principles

of a participatory democracy • The importance of individual initiative within the group • The importance of f reedom to participate, including expressing thoughts and feel-

ings about matters of concern to individual members or the group as a whole, and having the right to be involved in the decision-making process of the group

• The value of high individualization in the group so that each member’s unique concerns are addressed

These values are not absent in other aspects of social work practice, but in group work, they are of central importance. In addition to these five core values, we have found four additional values to be fundamental to practice with any type of task or treatment group.

Four Key Values • Respect and dignity—The worth and dignity of all group members no matter

how devalued or stigmatized they may be by society. This includes valuing mem- bers’ contributions to the life of the group and adhering to all aspects of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) code of ethics.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 22 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 23

• Solidarity and mutual aid—The power and promise of relationships to help members grow and develop, to help them heal, to satisfy their needs for human contact and connectedness, and to promote a sense of unity and community.

• Empowerment—The power of the group to help members feel good about themselves and to enable them to use their abilities to help themselves and to make a difference in their communities.

• Understanding, respect, and camaraderie among people f rom diverse back- grounds—The ability of groups to help enrich members by acquainting them with people f rom other backgrounds. Members’ respect and appreciation for each other grow as their relationships deepen over the life of a group. Thus, one powerful aspect of social group work is that it helps to decrease ignorance, misunderstanding, and prejudice among people f rom diverse backgrounds.

In addition to these core values, the worker and the members bring their own unique set of values to the group. Part of the worker’s task is to help members clarify their val- ues and to identify and resolve value conf licts between the leader and members, among members, and among members and the larger society. More information about resolving conf licts is discussed in Chapters 4 and 11.

The worker should be especially sensitive to the effect that cultural diversity has on valued behavior in groups. For example, in Native American culture, although cooperation is an important value, it is considered impolite to offer advice, help, or opinion to someone unless it is solicited (McWhirter, & Robbins, 2014; Ratts & Peder- sen, 2014). At the same time, workers should be careful not to stereotype members by assuming that particular backgrounds are always associated with particular values (Sue & Sue, 2013).

Workers’ personal value systems also affect how they practice. If workers are un- comfortable discussing certain value-laden topics, or if they impose their own values on the group, their work will be seriously impaired. Similarly, if they are not aware of the implications of their values, they are likely to get into conf licts with members who have different values.

Workers who are not aware of their own values will also have diff iculty when faced with ambiguous and value-laden situations. Sometimes, the goals of the worker, the agency, the community, and the group members differ (Rothman, 2013). This of- ten occurs with involuntary clients who are receiving the service of a worker at the request of law-enforcement officials or others in the community who find the client’s behavior unacceptable. The clearer workers are about their own values and their own purposes and stances in relation to working with the group, the easier it will be for them to sort through conf licting goals and make their own purposes known to group members.

One of the best ways for workers to become aware of their own values and their own stance in working with a group is to obtain supervision. Although workers will never become value-f ree, supervision can help them become aware of the values they bring to the group. Supervision can help workers modify or change values that are not consistent with those of the social work profession or helpful in their practice with groups of people. Value-clarification exercises can also help workers identify personal and

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 23 01/05/17 11:30 AM

24 Chapter 1

professional values that might inf luence their work with a group (Dolgoff, Harrington, & Loewenberg, 2012; Rothman, 2013).

Practice Ethics

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has devel- oped a code of ethics to guide the practice of its members. The code of ethics is an operational statement of the central values of the social work profession. Social workers who lead groups should be thoroughly familiar with it. The code is available directly f rom NASW and is reproduced in many social work practice textbooks.

Corey, Corey, and Corey (2014) point out that a code of ethics specifically for group workers would be a helpful adjunct to the more general codes of ethics developed by professional associa- tions. Although a code of ethics specifically for social group work

practice has not been developed, the Standards for Social Work Practice with Groups that are reprinted in Appendix A1 contain core values (Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups, 2013).

Ethical practices with groups include (1) informed consent, (2) leader competence and training, and (3) the appropriate conduct of group meetings. Informed consent en- compasses being clear with members about the purpose and goals of the group; giving them information about screening and termination procedures; the potential risks of participation; the cost, timing, and duration of sessions; whether participation is volun- tary; what is expected of them during meetings; and procedures to ensure confidential- ity. A written or verbal statement should also be included about what information the worker and the organization may have to disclose. Depending on the type of members, this might include the following situations: (1) child abuse or neglect, (2) harm to self or others, (3) diagnostic codes, utilization reviews, and other information for reimburse- ment f rom mental or physical health care providers, (4) courts, probation, or parole, and (5) family or legal guardians.

Social workers who provide services to groups face special confidentiality challenges when attempting to comply with standard 1.7 of the NASW code of ethics that focuses on privacy and confidentiality issues. Workers should inform members that they cannot guarantee that group members will not share confidential material outside the group (Fallon, 2006; Lasky & Riva, 2006). Nevertheless, workers should be aware that breaches of conf identiality in groups increase their liability (Reamer, 2001; Whittingham & Capriotti, 2009). They should guard against breaches of confidentiality by having all members of the group pledge that they will adhere to confidentiality policies. Reamer (2006) also suggests that workers have a firm policy not to talk individually about group members outside of the group context except during supervision. This policy builds trust and avoids perceptions of favoritism or special alliances with certain members. Some ethical dilemmas faced by group workers are described cogently by Bergeron and Gray (2003), Kirschenbaum (2013), and Rothman (2013).

In a survey of 300 group psychotherapists, Roback, Ochoa, Bloch, and Purdon (1992) found that the limits of confidentiality are rarely discussed with potential group members even though breaches of conf identiality by members are fairly common.

Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behavior: present themselves as learners and engage clients and constituencies as experts of their own experiences

critical thinking Question: Members bring their communication styles to the group. How can the leader support effective group communication among members with different styles?

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 24 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 25

Group leaders may also be required to report certain information, such as child abuse, even without the permission of a group member. To avoid ethical and legal problems associated with a group leader’s failure to provide sufficient information about the lim- its of confidentiality, Roback, Moore, Bloch, and Shelton (1996), Reamer (2006),and Fallon (2006) suggest having members and the leader sign an informed consent form (Table 1.1).

Table 1.1 Informed Consent Form

1. All verbal and nonverbal information mentioned before, during, and following group meetings is to remain confidential. It is not to be mentioned to anyone outside the group including your spouse, significant other, or others that are close to you, even if you think you can trust these individuals with the information without it being shared. There are no exceptions to this rule.

2. The law requires me to notify the authorities if you reveal that you are abusing children or if you express intent to harm yourself or to harm other people. In addition, I may share information with colleagues internally in this organization during supervision or consultation meetings about this group. Generally, no last names will be used when this information is shared, and the members of the staff of this organization are bound by confidentiality and will not share the information with others.

3. If you reveal confidential information in the group, this information may be spoken about outside the group by other members of the group, even though confidentiality has been requested of all group members. You could be hurt emotionally and economically if your confidences are told outside the group. Group leaders like myself, and this organization, may not be able to prevent other members’ breaking the confidentiality agreement.

4. Other members of this group may tell confidential information to you. If you repeat these confidences outside the group, the member whose confidential information you tell may have legal grounds to sue you for telling the confidential information to someone outside the group.

5. If you violate the confidentiality rules of the group, you promise to tell the group leader and the members of the group. In certain circumstances, the group leader may expel you from the group.

I have read and understand the information about the risks of confidentiality in treatment groups. I have discussed the risks with the group leader, and I have had the chance to ask all the questions that I wish to ask about the matter and about all other matters pertaining to my participation in the group. The group leader has answered all my questions in a way that satisfies me. I understand that I can leave the group at any time. By signing this document, I agree to accept the risks to my confidentiality explained to me by the group leader.




M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 25 01/05/17 11:30 AM

26 Chapter 1

The second area of ethics includes ensuring that workers have the proper educa- tion, training, and experience to lead a particular group. Practitioners should not offer a group, or use a procedure or technique within a group, without sufficient education, ex- perience, and supervision to ensure that it is implemented properly. Practitioners should seek out additional supervision when they anticipate or encounter difficulties with a particular group.

As they continue to practice, group workers have the additional responsibility to engage in ongoing professional development activities, including workshops, seminars, and other professional educational opportunities. They should also keep up with current clinical and empirical findings that relate to their ongoing work with group members.

The third broad area in both codes of ethics focuses on ethical principles for the conduct of group meetings.

ethical principles • Screening procedures lead to the selection of members whose needs and goals

can be met by the group • Workers help members develop and pursue therapeutic goals • Workers discuss whether the proceedings of the group are confidential and make

provisions so that they are kept confidential • Members are protected f rom physical threats, intimidation, the imposition of

worker and member values, and other forms of coercion and peer pressure that are not therapeutic

• Members are treated fairly and equitably • Workers avoid exploiting members for their own gain • Appropriate referrals are made when the needs of a particular member cannot be

met in the group • The worker engages in ongoing assessment, evaluation, and follow-up of

members to ensure that the group meets their needs

Violations of these ethical principles can be damag ing to group members. For example, it has been found that both unsolicited aggressive conf rontation and passive abdication of authority are associated with damaging group experiences (Forsyth, 2014; Smokowski, Rose, & Bacallao, 2001). Overall, a safe, low-conf lict environment is related to positive outcomes in treatment groups (Kivlighan & Tarrant, 2001).

Lakin (1991) suggests that even well intentioned, enthusiastic group workers can subtly violate ethical principles and that these violations can be harmful to members. He presents evidence, for example, that pressures to conform can lead members to suppress particular opinions, thoughts, or points of view simply because they clash with the dominant ideology expressed in the group. To guard against this, he suggests that all group workers should consider the extent to which (1) workers’ values are con- sonant with the needs and problems of group members, (2) workers carefully con- sider members’ needs, wants, and wishes instead of pushing their own agendas, and (3) each member’s needs are individualized rather than treated as identical to the needs of other members.

In 2010, the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups adopted a revised set of standards for social work groups. The standards include (1) the essen- tial knowledge and values that underlie social work practice with groups, (2) the tasks

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 26 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 27

that should be accomplished in each phase of group work, and (3) the knowledge that is needed to carry out the tasks in each phase. The standards provide social workers with needed guidance for the effective and ethical practice of social group work, and they help group workers to avoid unintended ethical violations. The standards have been reprinted in Appendix A1 and can be found in booklet form on the IASWG website (formerly AASWG). There are two other very helpful and de- tailed standards for group work practice f rom other organizations: Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) and American Group Psychotherapy Association (AGPA).

definitiOn Of grOup WOrk

Although there are divergent approaches to group work within the social work pro- fession and allied disciplines, a generalist approach suggests that each approach has its merits and particular practice applications. The broad definition offered in this chapter allows beginning practitioners to understand the boundaries of group work, specialized approaches, and many practice applications. Group work can be defined as

Goal-directed activity with small treatment and task groups aimed at meeting socio-emotional needs and accomplishing tasks. This activity is directed to individ- ual members of a group and to the group as a whole within a system of service delivery and a larger community and societal environment.

The definition describes group work as goal-directed activity that refers to planned, orderly worker activities carried out in the context of professional practice with people. Goal-directed activity has many purposes. For example, group workers may aim to sup- port or educate members, help them socialize and achieve personal growth, or provide treatment for their problems and concerns.

Workers help members of a group develop leadership skills so that they can take increasing responsibility for the group’s development. Workers enable their groups to change the social environment by focusing on group dynamics internally and focusing on external issues when necessary. This can include, for example, helping members gain greater control over the organizations and communities that affect their lives. This is advo- cated in a person-in-situation view of practice (Glassman & Kates, 1990; Shulman, 2016). Others focus on techniques of individual change within small groups ( Boyd- Franklin, Cleek, Wof sy, & Mundy, 2013; MacKenzie, 1990, 1996; Rose, 1998; Rose & LeCroy, 1991,Walsh, 2010). Both approaches are valuable when groups set their goals.

The next component of the definition of group work refers to working with small groups of people. In this text, the term small group implies the ability of members to identify themselves as members, to engage in interaction, and to exchange thoughts and feelings among themselves through verbal, nonverbal, and written communication processes. Members can meet face-to-face, by telephone or video, or through computer networks.

The definition of group work also indicates that workers practice with both treat- ment and task groups. For example, workers help members of treatment groups to work on problems and personal goals. They are also expected (1) to work on behalf of

Assess your understand- ing of values and ethics in group work practice

by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 27 01/05/17 11:30 AM

28 Chapter 1

clients in teams, treatment conferences, and other groups, (2) within their organizations in staff meetings and other groups that conduct the business of the organization, and (3) in community groups and interagency task forces.

Our definition of group work also emphasizes that the worker should have a dual focus within any group: goal-directed activities with individual members and with the group as a whole. It also emphasizes that attention should be paid simultaneously to individual members and group dynamics. The final portion of the definition of group work emphasizes that groups do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in relation to a com- munity that sponsors, legitimizes, and purposes as they relate. Even self-help groups and groups conducted in private practice are inf luenced by organizational and community support, sponsorship, and sanction.

There is an exchange of inf luence between a group and its sponsoring agency. A group is often inf luenced by its sponsoring organization’s resources, mission, goals, and policies. At the same time, a group may be the catalyst for a needed change in agency policies or procedures.

In the case example, the agency inf luences the composition of the group by limiting the parents attending to a specific geographical area. At the same time, the group inf lu- ences the agency by ensuring that childcare is available during meetings.

case example A Support Group for New Parents

A Catholic Family Service agency decided to form a group for new parents. However, because of the large number of parents that could possibly attend, the agency decided to limit membership in the support group for new parents to a specific geographic area served by the agency. It was also determined that a large number of single parents would be interested in attending the group meetings. The agency decided to respond to this interest by offering childcare during meetings to make it easier to reach these individuals and enable them to participate in the group.

classifying grOups

To understand the breadth of group work practice, it is helpful to become familiar with the variety of groups in practice settings. Because there are so many kinds of groups that workers may be asked to lead, it is helpful to distinguish among them. In the following two sections, distinctions are made among groups based on whether they are formed or occur naturally and whether they are treatment- or task-oriented.

Formed and Natural Groups

Formed groups are those that come together through some outside inf luence or interven- tion. They usually have some sponsorship or affiliation and are convened for a particu- lar purpose. Some examples of formed groups are therapy groups, educational groups, committees, social action groups, and teams. Natural groups come together spontaneously based on naturally occurring events, interpersonal attraction, or the mutually perceived needs of members. They often lack formal sponsorship. Natural groups include family groups, peer groups, f riendship networks, street gangs, cliques, and groups created by peers within social media platforms.

Assess your understand- ing of the definition of group work practice by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 28 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 29

This text is primarily concerned with formed groups. Natural groups, such as families, are neither planned nor constructed by a g roup worker. Often, natural groups have a longer developmental history that has unique implications for the rela- tionships among members and the interventions used by workers. For these reasons, a separate body of knowledge has been developed for work with natural groups, such as families.

Despite the differences between formed and natural groups, many of the skills and techniques presented in this text are readily applicable to work with natural groups, and we encourage group work practitioners to use them. Some efforts have already been made in this regard, such as attempts to use group work skills in working with the family unit (Bell, 1981), working with gangs (Berlastsky, 2015; Howell & Griffiths, 2016), and en- hancing the social networks of persons who are socially isolated (Maguire, 1991). Group work skills can also be used in phone and computer-mediated groups as described in Chapter 6.

Purpose and Group Work

Formed groups can be classified according to the purposes for which they are organized. The term purpose can be defined as the general aims of a group. The importance of pur- pose in group work cannot be overemphasized. According to Wilson (1976), “the nature of the f ramework for the practice of group work depends on the purpose of the group [that is] served” (p. 41). A group’s purpose identifies the reasons for bringing members together. As Klein (1972) notes, “purpose guides group composition” (pp. 31–32). It also helps guide the group’s selection of goal-directed activities and defines the broad param- eters of the services to be provided.

In this text, the term treatment group is used to signify a group whose major purpose is to meet members’ socio-emotional needs. The purposes for forming treatment groups might include meeting members’ needs for mutual aid, support, education, therapy, growth, and socialization. In contrast, the term task group is used to signify any group in which the overriding purpose is to accomplish a goal that is neither intrinsically nor immediately linked to the needs of the members of the group. Although the work of a task group may ultimately affect the members of the group, the primary purpose of task groups is to accomplish a goal that will affect a broader constituency, not just the mem- bers of the group.

Treatment and Task Groups

In classifying groups as either treatment- or task-oriented, it is important to consider how the two types differ. Table 1.2 points out some of the major differences between treatment and task groups in terms of selected characteristics. These include the following:

• The bond present in a group is based on the purpose for which it is convened. Members of treatment groups are bonded by their common needs and common situations. Task group members create a common bond by working together to accomplish a task, carry out a mandate, or produce a product. In both types of groups, common cultural, gender, racial, or ethnic characteristics can also help to form bonds among members.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 29 01/05/17 11:30 AM

30 Chapter 1

Table 1.2 A Comparison of Task and Treatment Groups

Selected Characteristics

Type of Group

Treatment Task

Bond Members’ personal needs Task to be completed

Roles Develop through interaction Develop through interaction or are assigned

Communication patterns Open, back-and-forth interaction based on members’ needs

Focused on a task to be accomplished

Procedures Flexible or formal, depending on the group

Formal agenda and rules

Composition Based on common concerns, problems, or characteristics

Based on needed talents, expertise, or division of labor

Self-disclosure Expected to be high Expected to be low

Confidentiality Proceedings usually private and kept within the group

Proceedings may be private but are sometimes open to the public

Evaluation Success based on members’ meeting treatment goals

Success based on members’ accomplishing a task or mandate, or producing a product

• In treatment groups, roles are not set before the group forms, but develop through interaction among members. In task groups, members may take on roles through a process of interaction, but roles are more likely to be based on mem- bers’ positions within the organization. In addition, roles are f requently assigned by the group based on the tasks to be accomplished. Roles that may be assigned include chair or team leader, secretary, and fact finder.

• Communication patterns in treatment groups are open. Members are usually encouraged to interact with one another. Task group members are more likely to address their communications to the leader and to keep their communica- tion focused on the task to be accomplished. In some task groups, the amount that members communicate on a particular agenda item may be limited by the worker. In other task groups, members may limit their own communication because they believe they will not be well received by the group.

• Treatment groups often have f lexible procedures for meetings, including a warm-up period, a period for working on members’ concerns, and a period for summarizing the group’s work. Task groups are more likely to have formalized rules, such as parliamentary procedures, that govern how members conduct group business and reach decisions.

• Treatment groups are often composed of members with similar concerns, problems, and abilities. Task groups instead tend to be composed of members with the necessary resources and expertise to accomplish the group’s mission.

• In treatment groups, members are expected to disclose their own concerns and problems. Therefore, self-disclosures may contain emotionally charged, personal concerns. In task groups, member self-disclosure is relatively inf requent. It is generally expected that members will confine themselves to discussions about accomplishing the group’s task and will not share intimate, personal concerns.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 30 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 31

• Treatment group meetings are often confidential. Some task group meetings, such as the meetings of treatment conferences and cabinets, may be confidential, but the meetings of other task groups, such as committees and delegate coun- cils, are often described in minutes that are circulated to interested persons and organizations.

• The criteria for evaluating success differ between treatment and task groups. Treatment groups are successful to the extent that they help members meet their individual treatment goals. Task groups are successful when they accomplish group goals, such as generating solutions to problems and making decisions or when they develop group products, such as a report, a set of regulations, or a series of recommendations concerning a particular community issue.

case example Treatment and Task Group

In one group, the worker meets with adults who have recently become parents for the first time. The purpose of this parenting group is to provide a forum for discussion about their adjustment to parenthood. In a second group, the worker brings together community representatives from several different social service agencies and school districts to study day-care resources and make recommendations to a government agency regarding changes in government support for day-care for low-income children. Here, the aim of the worker is to bring together representatives of the community to study day-care resources and make recommendations.

In the case example, the parents’ group is classified as a treatment group because it is convened to meet the personal needs of its members. The group is bonded by its com- mon purpose and the common needs and concerns of its members. It is expected that f riendships may develop among group members and that members will help each other in their adjustment to parenthood. It is also expected that the feeling level and the level of self-disclosure will be high because of the similar circumstances of the members and the problems they face. Because members may self-disclose about personal issues, the proceedings of the group are confidential. Roles develop based on how members assist in accomplishing the purpose of the group and how members meet each other’s needs.

Because parenting is a developmental phenomenon involving constant discovery and change, the procedures of the group are f lexible to allow members to share any pressing concerns. The parents’ group is composed with the similarity of members’ needs in mind. Patterns of communication focus on members’ needs, such as adjusting to parenthood and becoming effective parents. Procedures include an educational com- ponent, problem solving, and discussions of parenting issues and concerns. Self-disclo- sure is high, with members discussing difficult and emotionally charged parenting issues. Parents are asked to keep discussions of these issues strictly confidential. Success is eval- uated by asking members about their satisfaction with participation and by evaluating individual outcomes.

In the case example of the group working on day-care services, the focus is task- oriented, and the purpose is external to the personal needs of the members. Members are bonded by the common cause of improving day-care services. Roles are assigned by the worker based on members’ preferences. For example, members are appointed

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 31 01/05/17 11:30 AM

32 Chapter 1

to subcommittees to collect needed data. Patterns of communication focus on the task rather than on members’ personal concerns. Communication and interaction are based on the task of developing recommendations about day-care for low-income children. To facilitate an organized approach to the task, the group works f rom an agenda that is pub- lished in advance to give participants time to prepare for the proceedings. To facilitate a division of labor and encourage different perspectives, the group is composed by select- ing members who have some knowledge of day-care programs and other needed areas of expertise, such as zoning restrictions, local, state, and federal child-care regulations, and financing.

Members are expected to reveal their personal viewpoints only to the extent that they contribute to the group’s task. Personal feelings are occasionally shared, but factual data are

given greater weight. The group is publicized. It seeks out experts to contrib- ute to its deliberations. Confidentiality is impractical because it would hinder the accomplishment of the group’s task. To evaluate the effectiveness of the group, the worker examines the group’s decisions, actions, written reports, and recommendations for clarity, thoroughness, and feasibility.

grOup Versus indiVidual effOrts

There are several advantages and disadvantages to using a group rather than an individ- ual effort to meet individual, organizational, and community needs. In describing these advantages and disadvantages, it is important to distinguish between the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment and task groups.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Treatment Groups

There are many advantages of social group work. The advantages of group treatment stem f rom the fact that in addition to the worker, members can be helpful to each other. Members provide opportunities for socialization and for validation and normalization of problems and concerns. The presence of others also gives members an opportunity to learn f rom the experience of peers, to receive feedback, and to have role models and practice partners who can help with efforts to change. Feedback f rom peers is often seen as more grounded and less coercive than when it is received f rom a paid profes- sional worker who may not have experienced similar concerns or who may be viewed as an authority figure by reluctant or involuntary clients. Coining the term helper-therapy principle, Riessman (1965) noted that those who provide help derive therapeutic benefit themselves. Mutual aid gives members an opportunity to share experiential knowledge and to gain insights vicariously.

advantages of group treatment • Empathy f rom multiple sources—vicarious identification with and understanding

of members’ situations by peers and the worker • Feedback—multiple points of view shared by group members • Helper-therapy—providing help and mutual support to other group members,

therapeutic for the member who shares experiences and knowledge

Assess your understand- ing of classifying groups by taking a brief quiz at

www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 32 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 33

• Hope—instillation of hope by other group members who have coped effectively with similar situations

• Mutual aid—members both giving and receiving help • Normalization—removal of stigma f rom problems seen as socially unacceptable

by the larger society • Practice of new behaviors—opportunities to try out new behaviors in the safe

environment of the group • Reality testing—sharing ways of being and getting feedback about whether they

are realistic and socially acceptable • Recapitulation—working through previously unsatisfactory relationships with

family members, peers, and f riends with the help of group members • Recreation of the family of origin—group members serving as surrogate family

and symbolically representing family members • Resources—a wide pool of knowledge about concerns and the resources and

services to help with these concerns • Role models—members and the leader serving as models • Solidarity—connectedness with other members • Socialization—opportunities to overcome isolation and learn social skills f rom

others • Social support—support f rom other members of the group • Transcendence—members sharing how they adapted to and compensated for

disabilities • Validation—group members confirming similar experiences, problems, and

concerns • Vicarious learning—learning by hearing about other members’ coping responses

Although these advantages provide justif ication for using group work in treatment, several potential disadvantages of group treatment should be considered. Groups can encourage member conformity and member dependency (Forsyth, 2014). When mem- bers open themselves to other members through self-disclosure, they are vulnerable to breaches of confidentiality and other harm- ful responses (Corey, Corey, & Corey, 2014). Groups can scapegoat individual members. Groups sometimes focus on a few particu- larly assertive or talkative members. This creates a danger that these members’ problems will receive attention while other, less assertive or less talkative members will receive little help (Yalom, 2005). The best way to avoid these problems is to make sure that each member has time to speak in a group. This will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3.

Members can benefit f rom treatment groups when they have some ability to com- municate with others and when their concerns or problems lend themselves to group discussion. To the extent that certain group members, such as autistic children and schizophrenic adults, cannot communicate effectively, group work must be modified to include nonverbal program activities and, where appropriate, simple, brief verbal activ- ities that are consistent with those members’ skill levels. People who have an extreme need for privacy or confidentiality may also be unable to take part in group treatment

Research-Informed Practice

Behavior: use and translate research evidence to inform and improve practice, policy, and service delivery

critical thinking Question: Group work has benefits over casework. What research sup- ports the effectiveness of treatment groups?

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 33 01/05/17 11:30 AM

34 Chapter 1

without considerable support or reassurance. Groups are contraindicated for people whose behavior is so alien to others’ that it results in negative rather than positive inter- actions or when it leads to the failure of others to continue with the group.

Empirical studies tend to support clinical reports of the effectiveness of treatment groups. In a comprehensive review of well-designed studies comparing group and in- dividual treatment, Toseland and Siporin (1986) found that group treatment was more effective than individual treatment in 25 percent of the studies that were reviewed, but individual treatment was not found to be more effective than group treatment in any of the studies. Group work was also found to be more efficient than individual treat- ment and to produce fewer dropouts f rom treatment. Most reviews confirm the effec- tiveness of group treatment for many types of client needs (Barlow, 2013; Burlingame, Whitcomb, & Woodland, 2014; Burlingame, Fuhriman, & Mosier, 2003; Burlingame, MacKenzie, & Strauss, 2004; Kosters, Burlingame, Nachtigall, & Strauss, 2006; McRoberts, Burlingame, & Hoag, 1998; Saksa, Cohen, Srihari, & Woods, 2009). For ex- ample, Burlingame, Straussm and Joyce’s (2013) review of the literature reveals that group treatment is equally as effective as individual treatment for most problems, and more effective for some problems—especially those that involve interpersonal skill deficits.

Although the empirical literature does not yet yield a clear pattern of the types of problems most effectively treated in groups, there is some evidence that groups may be more effective than individuals for enhancing social support and less effective for deal- ing with intense, highly personal, psychological problems (Toseland, Rossiter, Peak, & Smith, 1990). Groups may also be more effective for interpersonal problems (Barlow, 2013). Overall, findings f rom both the clinical and the empirical literature suggest that social workers should consider recommending group treatment for individuals who suffer f rom isolation or who have other difficulties with interpersonal relationships, and individual treatment for those who do not want to be in a group. Individuals with difficult emotional problems, such as those of borderline personality disorder, suicidal ideation, and the effects of trauma, can be seen in groups using dialectical behavior therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy, which will be described later in this book.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Task Groups

A group approach, as compared with an individual effort, has advantages in helping in- dividuals, organizations, and communities accomplish tasks. In working with groups of people in organizations and communities, f ree f lowing participation is often highly de- sirable (Forsyth, 2014). Participation through group interaction helps members feel they have a stake in their organization or community. In addition, resistance to change is min- imized when those who are to be affected are given the opportunity to participate in the change through group discussion and shared decision making.

Group discussion, deliberation, and decision making can have other benefits. The increased quantity of information available in groups can be beneficial for generating alternative action plans, for problem solving, and for making decisions. Certain tasks are complex, requiring a pool of talented and diverse expertise for them to be completed in a satisfactory manner (Forsyth, 2014). The division of labor that occurs in well-run groups can help members complete tasks quickly and efficiently (Tropman, 2014).

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 34 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 35

Some disadvantages should be kept in mind when considering selecting a group approach for accomplishing tasks. For example, group problem solving may take more time than individual problem solving, and the presence of others may interfere with the effectiveness of best member’s problem-solving abilities (Forsyth, 2014). Poorly run groups can cause members to feel f rustrated, bored, or unappreciated, and they often accomplish little (Tropman, 2014). Groups are also sometimes used to make simple deci- sions or solve simple problems that could be dealt with more easily by individuals. Under these conditions, group meetings can be costly for an organization.

Findings about the effectiveness of group versus individual problem solving and decision making suggest that groups are more effective than the average individual, but rarely more effective than the best individual (Forsyth, 2014; Hare et al., 1995). Groups tend to be more effective than individuals when dealing with problems with known solu- tions rather than with problems where there is no clear right or wrong answer, what Forsyth refers to as intellective versus judgmental tasks (Forsyth, 2014, p. 302). Groups also tend to be more effective than individuals when working on difficult and complex tasks requiring participation f rom many people (Forsyth, 2014).

Overall, the advantages and disadvantages of using a task group for problem solving and decision making should be evaluated within the context of a particular situation and in reference to the types of goals to be achieved. For example, shared decision making may be more important than the time it takes to make a decision or even the quality of the decision.

Although this text suggests that group work methods have a fairly wide applicability for many different types of individual, organizational, and com- munity problems, these problems are sometimes best approached by using several practice methods. Thus, although group work is a valuable method by itself, within a generalist practice f ramework, it is also valuable as part of a larger, planned change effort that may use additional methods such as social casework or community organization to achieve particular goals.

a typOlOgy Of treatment and task grOups

The broad distinctions between formed and natural groups and between treatment and task groups can be further refined and developed into a classification system of the many types of groups workers may encounter in practice settings. One way to develop a clas- sification system is to categorize treatment and task groups according to their primary purpose. According to Klein (1972), a number of group purposes are possible.

group Work purposes • Rehabilitation—restoring members to their former level of functioning • Habilitation—helping members grow and develop • Correction—helping members who are having problems with social laws or mores • Socialization—helping members learn how to get along with others and do what

is socially acceptable • Prevention—helping members develop and function at an optimal level and

helping them prepare for events that are likely to occur

Assess your understand- ing of group versus individual efforts by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 35 01/05/17 11:30 AM

36 Chapter 1

• Social action—helping members change their environment • Problem solving—helping members resolve complex issues and concerns • Developing social values—helping members develop a humanistic approach to


The rest of this chapter presents typologies of treatment groups and task groups that social workers encounter in practice. The typologies are based on the primary purposes of each type of treatment and task group. Although groups with only one purpose rarely exist in practice, developing pure categories—that is, groups with a single purpose—is useful in illustrating differences between groups and in demonstrating the many ways that groups can be used in practice settings.

treatment grOups

Six primary purposes for treatment groups are (1) support, (2) education, (3) growth, (4) therapy, (5) socialization, and (6) self-help. In practice settings, there are innumerable variations of treatment groups that combine these six primary purposes. For example, a group for parents of children with Down syndrome might be oriented toward both edu- cation and growth. A group for alcoholics might have all six primary purposes. Table 1.3 is designed to show clearly the similarities and differences among groups with different purposes. Table 1.3 can be used as a guide by workers who are planning to lead groups with only one purpose or to lead groups that combine several purposes.

Support Groups

The description of the treatment typology begins with support groups because sup- port is a common ingredient of many successful treatment groups. Support groups can be distinguished f rom other groups using supportive intervention strateg ies by their primary goals: to foster mutual aid, to help members cope with stressful life events, and to revitalize and enhance members’ coping abilities so they can effectively adapt to and cope with future stressful life events. Examples of support groups include the following:

• A group of children meeting at school to discuss the effects of divorce on their lives • A group of people diagnosed with cancer, and their families, discussing the effects

of the disease and how to cope with it • A group of recently discharged psychiatric patients discussing their adjustment to

community living • A group of single parents sharing the difficulties of raising children alone

Leadership of support groups is characterized by a facilitative approach that empha- sizes helping members share their collective experiences in coping with a stressful event. The group worker helps members share their experiences and empathically respond to each other. Simply recounting events, ventilating feelings, and ref lecting on efforts to cope can promote self-understanding and help overcome loneliness, isolation, and de- spair. The group worker also helps members overcome feelings of alienation, stigmatiza- tion, and isolation by validating, affirming, and normalizing their experiences.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 36 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Table 1.3 A Typology of Treatment Groups

Selected Characteristics

Purpose of the Group

Support Education Growth Therapy Socialization Self-Help

Purpose To help members cope with stressful life events and revitalize existing coping abilities

To educate through presentations, discussion, and experience

To develop members’ potential, awareness, and insight

To change behavior Correction, rehabilitation, coping, and problem solving through behavior change interventions

To increase communication and social skills Improved interpersonal relationships through program activities, structured exercises, role plays, etc.

To help members solve their own problems

Leadership A facilitator of empathic understanding and mutual aid

Leader as teacher and provider of structure for group discussion

Leader as facilitator and role model

Leader as expert, authority figure, or facilitator, depending on approach

Leader as director of the group’s actions or programs

Leader is often a lay person with the problem shared by the other group members, but can sometimes be a professional who shares the problem

Focus The ability of the individual to cope with a stressful life experience Communication and mutual aid

Individual learning Structuring of the group for learning

Either member or group focus, depending on the approach Individual growth through the group experience

Individual members’ problems, concerns, or goals

The group as a medium for activity, participation, and involvement

Members working together to help each other solve their own problems

Bond Shared stressful experience, often stigmatizing

Common interest in learning, and skills development

Common goals among members Contract to use group to grow

Common purpose with separate member goals Relationship of member with worker, group, or other members

A common activity, enterprise, or situation

Acceptance that all members are equal and valued and can help each other

Composition Based on a shared life experience Often diverse

Similarity of education or skill level

Can be diverse Based on members’ ability to work toward growth and development

Can be diverse or can be composed of people with similar problems or concerns

Depending on location of group and purpose, can be diverse or homogeneous

Based solely on shared problem or concern

Communication Much sharing of information, experiences, and coping strategies Frequent self-disclosure of emotionally charged material

Frequently leader-to- member, didactic Sometimes member- to-member during discussions Self-disclosure low

Highly interactive Members often take responsibility for communication in the group Self-disclosure moderate to high

Leader-to-member or member-to-member, depending on approach Self-disclosure moderate to high

Often represented in activity or nonverbal behavior Self-disclosure low to moderate and often nonverbal

Diverse and open membership welcoming to all who share the problem Member-to-member communication with high level of self-disclosure

3 7

M 01_TO


0283_08_S E

_C 01.indd 37

01/05/17 11:30 A M

38 Chapter 1

A major role of the worker is to facilitate hope in the future and motivate mem- bers to improve coping skills through self-help and mutual aid (Hyde, 2013; Kurtz, 2014; Steinberg, 2014). The worker fosters group norms that encourage members to share in- formation and suggestions for more effective coping and to try out new coping strat- egies. Because support is basic to many types of groups, these strategies for assisting members are also used, to varying degrees, in other treatment and task groups.

Strong emotional bonds often develop quickly in support groups because of mem- bers’ shared experiences. Emotional bonding may also occur because members are stig- matized by the larger community and find comfort and power in their association with each other. Frequently, there is a high level of self-disclosure of emotionally charged ma- terial in support groups.

In addition to directly facilitating support groups, workers are often called on to pro- vide indirect assistance to support groups led by lay leaders. A worker might be asked to consult with the lay leader, serve as a referral source, or provide material assistance. Con- sultation may take the form of speaking at a meeting, helping the group resolve a prob- lem in its functioning, or assisting members with specific problems or issues. The worker may be asked to refer appropriate individuals to a support group, provide a meeting place, or offer other support, such as help with printing a newsletter or distributing publicity.

Some writers have pointed out that professionals might interfere with the effective functioning of lay-led, self-help support groups (Kyrouz, Humphreys, & Loomis, 2002). The potential does exist for professionals to dominate, interfere with, or take over the functioning of such groups. Members of self-help groups are sometimes wary of pro- fessional involvement because they fear it will compromise the autonomy and con- fidentiality of the group. This is particularly true of self-help groups, such as Parents Anonymous, in which members share concerns about child abuse or neglect—situations often considered socially stigmatizing.

Most evidence, however, suggests that there are strong connections between self- help support groups and professionals and that both professionals and lay leaders benefit by cooperating with each other (Kurtz, 2004, 2014; Powell, 1987; Toseland & Hacker, 1982, 1985). Professionals gain an additional treatment resource that is often more f lexible and responsive than the formal service system. Lay leaders have someone to turn to when they need particular types of expertise, resources, or assistance. Both can join forces when lobbying for additional community resources and services.

Educational Groups

The primary purpose of educational groups is to help members learn new informa- tion and skills. Educational groups are used in a variety of settings, including treatment agencies, schools, nursing homes, correctional institutions, and hospitals. Examples of educational groups include the following:

• An adolescent sexuality group sponsored by a family planning agency • A wellness-in-the-workplace group designed by a social worker directing an

employee assistance program • A group for prospective foster parents sponsored by a child welfare agency • A group sponsored by a community planning agency to help board members

become more effective

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 38 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 39

All educational groups are aimed at increasing members’ information or skills. Most groups routinely involve presentations of information and knowledge by experts. They also often include opportunities for group discussion to foster learning. When leading educational groups, workers concentrate on both individual members and whole groups, as vehicles for learning, reinforcement, and discussion.

Members of educational groups are bonded by a common interest in the material to be learned and by common characteristics, such as being an adolescent, a prospective foster parent, a union worker, or a board member. In composing educational groups, workers consider each member’s knowledge of the subject matter and level of skills and experience so that all members can derive the most benefit f rom the learning process.

Some educational groups seek members with different levels of exposure to the subject matter so that beginners can learn f rom advanced members. When the group is small, there are usually opportunities for member-to-member communication and group discussion. Depending on the norms of the group and the subject matter, member self-disclosure varies f rom low to moderate. In general, a relatively low level of self-dis- closure is expected in an educational group because the group is often structured around a presentation of material by the worker, a guest speaker, or a member. Usually, the ma- terial to be learned is seen as more important than the needs of members to self-disclose. However, workers often use a personalized approach to learning that emphasizes the de- velopmental learning needs of individual members. This is especially true in residential and institutional settings in which members’ emotional or social functioning is impaired.

Other approaches to leading educational groups emphasize learning as a social ex- perience. Workers who use this approach focus on group discussion and group activities rather than on didactic methods. Community center workers often use this approach to attract and hold the interest of members who participate in educational groups for per- sonal enjoyment and enrichment.

Growth Groups

Growth-oriented groups offer opportunities for members to become aware of, expand, and change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors regarding themselves and others. The group is used as a vehicle to develop members’ capabilities to the fullest. Growth groups focus on promoting socio-emotional health rather than remediating socio-emotional ill- ness. Examples of growth groups include the following:

• An encounter group for married couples • A values-clarification group for adolescents • A consciousness-raising group sponsored by a women’s community center • A gay-pride group sponsored by a community health clinic serving the gay com-

munity in a large urban area

Growth groups generally stress self-improvement and the potential of human beings to live a full and rewarding life, especially through improved relationships with others. They provide a supportive atmosphere in which individuals can gain insights, experi- ment with new behaviors, get feedback, and grow as human beings. The bond in growth groups stems f rom members’ commitment to help one another develop and maximize their potential.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 39 01/05/17 11:30 AM

40 Chapter 1

When composing growth groups, workers often select members who have diverse backgrounds and the potential to enrich and broaden each other’s experiences. However, some growth groups are composed of members with similar characteristics to enhance empathy and support within the group. In most growth-oriented groups, self-disclosure is moderate to high.

Communication in growth groups is member-centered and highly interactive. In-depth self-disclosure is expected, with members encouraged to reveal more about themselves as they become comfortable with their participation in the group.

Therapy Groups

Therapy groups help members change their behavior, cope with and ameliorate per- sonal problems, or rehabilitate themselves after physical, psychological, or social trauma. Although there is often an emphasis on support, therapy groups are distinguished f rom support groups by their focus on remediation and rehabilitation.

In group work practice, particular importance is often accorded to leading therapy groups, even to the exclusion of other types of group work, possibly because of the tradi- tional importance attributed to the medical model that stresses therapy and treatment to bring sick or dysfunctional people back to health. Konopka (1983) noted that the high status of psychiatry on the North American continent helped to make the term therapy more precious and more important than the terms casework and group work (terms used by the social work profession). Thus, therapy groups are often associated with the professionalism of group work as a method of practice. Examples of therapy groups include the following:

• A psychotherapy group for outpatients at a community mental health center • A group, sponsored by a voluntary health association, for people who want to

stop smoking • A first-offenders group in a juvenile diversion program sponsored by a probation

department • A hospital-sponsored group for people addicted to drugs

In therapy groups, members come together to solve their problems. The group leader is often viewed as an expert, an authority figure, and a change agent. Members’ problems are assessed and treatment goals are developed with the help of the worker. Although the group has a common purpose, each member may have a different problem with different symptoms. In addition, the etiology and development of each member’s problem is unique. Therefore, to achieve individual goals, the worker often focuses on one member at a time. Depending on the approach or stance of the worker, the mem- bers of a therapy group may be expected to help each other work on problems. The level of member self-disclosure is usually quite high but can depend somewhat on the types of problems experienced by group members.

Members of therapy groups have much to gain: relief f rom symptoms, loss of emo- tional pain, or resolution of a problem. Still, to ensure that members’ needs are met, much planning usually takes place before the beginning of a therapy group. Therapeu- tic interventions are selected after a careful assessment of individual members and the group is composed in relation to the members’ problems. Often, members participate in an intake procedure so the worker can assess their interest in participating in the group,

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 40 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 41

determine their suitability for group treatment, and explain the purpose of the group. Although these procedures are also used with other types of groups, they are often given greater emphasis in therapy groups.

Socialization Groups

Socialization groups help members learn social skills and socially accepted behavior pat- terns so they can function effectively in the community. Socialization groups f requently use program activities, such as games, role plays, or outings, to help members accom- plish individual goals (Cheung, 2014; Drews & Schaefer, 2010; Harpine, 2008; Miller, 2012; Misurell & Springer, 2013; Nash, 2011; Springer, Misrell, & Hiller, 2012).

The personal needs of members and the goals of the group are often met through program activities rather than exclusively through group discussion. Thus, socialization groups feature a learning-through-doing approach in which members improve their in- terpersonal skills by participating in program activities. Examples of socialization groups include the following:

• A Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) activity group • A social club for outpatients of a psychiatric center • A monthly Vietnam veterans evening social at a rural Veterans of Foreign Wars

(VFW) post • A Parents Without Partners group that includes picnics, dances, and other social


Leadership of socialization groups can be directive or nondirective, depending on the complexity of program activities and the competencies of group members. Mem- ber participation is the key to successful individual and group outcomes. The group is a medium for activity, participation, and involvement, and members are bonded to each other through these activities. The composition of socialization groups can be based on the similar interests and needs of members or on the common experiences offered by a particular program activity.

There are at least three common forms of socialization groups: (1) social sk ills groups, (2) governance groups, and (3) recreation groups. Some social skills groups, such as assertiveness training groups, are formed for adults who wish to improve their existing skills. Unlike the other types of groups in our typology, social skills groups can be partic- ularly useful for individuals who are unable or unwilling to communicate effectively and for those who have difficulty engaging in satisfying social relationships. Young children, shy adolescents, and adults with mild autistic spectrum disorders are examples of client populations that can benefit f rom social skills groups. Program activities can help draw out these types of group members by helping them form meaningful relationships and learn social skills. Activities provide the basis for interaction and communication with- out the need for direct, verbal communication. Thus, by using program activities, group work can take place through nonverbal means.

In other cases, role plays, psychodrama, and other activities requiring both verbal and nonverbal communication can be used to increase members’ skills and promote socialization. The behavior displayed during these activities can help a worker assess members’ problems and plan effective interventions.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 41 01/05/17 11:30 AM

42 Chapter 1

Governance groups are often found in residential settings, such as group homes, psy- chiatric hospitals, and congregate housing. The purpose of these groups is to involve residents (of the unit, ward, f loor, or house) in the daily governance of the institution. Although governance groups are closely related to task groups because they solve prob- lems and make decisions, they have been classified as treatment groups because their primary focus is on the needs of their members.

Through their participation in the governance process, members learn advocacy, communication, conf lict resolution, and empowerment skills. They also learn to share with others, take responsibility for their actions, and participate in decision-making pro- cesses. The concept of a governance group is borrowed, in part, f rom the idea of the therapeutic community in which members have input into the rules that govern their be- havior. Examples of governance groups include house meetings, ward meetings, resident councils, family meetings, and patient-rights meetings.

Participation in governance groups provides a method for members to identify with and become committed to the goals of the therapeutic community. It helps clarify mem- bers’ roles, responsibilities, and rights within the community. All members of therapeu- tic communities are encouraged to attend meetings so that they have a voice in the way the community functions. In some settings, such as residential treatment centers, atten- dance may be required.

A third type of socialization group focuses on recreational activities. Much of the recent group work literature has understated the importance of recreational groups in meeting members’ personal needs. The roots of group work can be traced to rec- reational groups like scouting, camping, sports, and club groups (Boyd, 1935; Slavson, 1945, 1946; Smith, 1935). Recreation can be both an end and a means to an end. As an end, recreation can be a desirable leisure time activity. As a means, recreation can help a par- ticular population become involved in an activity that has therapeutic benefits, such as increasing social skills.

Recreational groups are particularly important for working with children, adoles- cents, and older adults in neighborhood centers. Because the groups are enjoyable, they are often helpful in engaging resistant clients, such as gang members and pre-delinquent, latency-age children. They can help members learn community values and accepted norms of behavior. They can also help members develop interpersonal skills and feel a sense of belonging. In addition, recreational groups foster members’ confidence in their ability to function as part of a group in other social situations. To carry out these import- ant purposes, recreation groups require leaders who are skilled in both group work and the featured recreational mode or program activity.

Self-Help Groups

Although they share many characteristics with support, educational, and socialization groups, the distinguishing characteristic of self-help groups is that they are led by mem- bers who share the problem experienced by the other members of the group. Self-help groups have been developed for a wide variety of problems, and they are readily avail- able online (Norcross et al, 2013). Because professionals often play vital roles in self-help groups, this type of group is included in the treatment group typology. Although it is of- ten thought that self-help groups are led by lay people, in practice, many self-help groups

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 42 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 43

are actually led by professionals who have experienced the problem shared by the other members of the group (Kurtz, 2004; White & Madara, 2002). There is also mutual aid group work that is closely related to empowerment and self-help (Hyde, 2013).

Examples of self-help groups include the following:

• Alcoholics Anonymous, groups for people trying to get sober and those trying to remain sober

• Mended Hearts, a group for patients who have undergone bypass or other heart surgery procedures

• Make Today Count, a group for cancer survivors • Gamblers Anonymous, groups for people who are trying to stop gambling or

who are trying to remain f ree of a gambling addiction

Although there is no accurate estimate of the number of self-help groups in the United States or throughout the world, they are very numerous. For example, the Self- Help Group Sourcebook alone lists over 1,000 national and international headquarters of self-help groups in the United States and Canada (White & Madara, 2002) and includes 33 separate clearinghouses for self-help information in 22 different countries. These orga- nizations, in turn, sponsor many self-help groups in local communities. Online support groups are also an important resource, serving individuals with many different kinds of concerns (Norcross et al, 2013).

Leadership patterns can be quite diverse in self-help groups. In some self-help groups, leadership is rotated among members whereas in other self-help groups, a few members share responsibility for leading the group. There are also some self-help groups where one or two members take leadership responsibility. Some self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, are very explicit that the groups are composed and run by lay leaders who are chosen f rom the membership. Such groups welcome professional mem- bers but treat professionals as ordinary members. These self-help groups may seek the assistance of professionals outside of the context of meeting as needed, but accord pro- fessional social workers no special status within the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship. Other self-help groups welcome professional involvement as leaders and as speakers, and the role between professional and layperson may be blurred.

Self-help groups may be focused on helping members change or on social change and advocacy, although many groups combine different foci. Kurtz (2004), for exam- ple, organized self-help groups into f ive categories: (1) groups that are peer-led and oriented to individual change, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, (2) groups that are peer-led and social change-oriented that focus on support, education, and advocacy, such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, (3) groups that are support-oriented, advocacy-oriented, and professionally led that are part of national organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Foundation, (4) smaller, local, professionally led groups that are held in hospitals, social service organizations, or other community organizations, and (5) change-oriented groups that have peer leadership combined with professional involvement as independent sponsors or coleaders, such as Parents Anonymous. Clearly, self-help groups are so diverse and numerous that they almost defy any simple classification system.

Most self-help groups are characterized by an open membership policy. Anyone can attend a group meeting who shares the problem or concern being addressed. Because

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 43 01/05/17 11:30 AM

44 Chapter 1

of their policy of open membership, self-help groups often have set formats that are re- peated each meeting. For example, there may be a brief statement of the purpose of the group at the beginning followed by a speaker and then a time for members to share concerns and issues. This set structure enables members to feel comfortable attending quickly, even if they are new to the group or if they have missed meetings. New mem- bers quickly learn the structure and feel comfortable with what is going to happen during the meeting and what is expected of them. The focus of self-help groups is on members helping members. Members are seen as equals who share similar problems and concerns. Self-help groups place a great deal of emphasis on de-stigmatizing the problems shared and faced by members. There is a strong sense of empathy and support accompanied by a sense of empowerment that members can help themselves to overcome problems, issues, and concerns and lead better, more fulfilled lives through their own efforts to help each other. Usually there are no special requirements for attendance except that members share the problem that is the focus or purpose of the group and that mem-

bers limit what they say in the group to the purpose of the group. Members, therefore, may come and go f reely, deciding when they would like to attend. Most self-help groups are self-supporting, although they may receive some support f rom a sponsoring organization that may provide a meeting room or may help with guest speakers or ref reshments.

task grOups

Task groups are common in most agencies and organizations. They are used to find solu- tions to organizational problems, to generate new ideas, and to make decisions. Task groups can have three primary purposes: (1) meeting client needs, (2) meeting organiza- tional needs, and (3) meeting community needs.

Task groups with the primary purpose of serving client needs include teams, treat- ment conferences, and staff-development groups. Task groups with the primary purpose of serving organizational needs include committees, cabinets, and boards of directors. Task groups with a primary purpose of serving community needs include social action groups, coalitions, and delegate councils.

Selected characteristics of each type of group are presented in Table 1.4. As with the typology for treatment groups, there is often some overlap between different types of task groups in actual practice situations. Thus, instead of a rigid classification system, the typology is intended as a guide for workers who may be called on to lead different types of task groups.

Groups to Meet Client Needs

Teams There is a growing body of evidence about the effectiveness of teams in social service and business settings (Abramson, 2002; Abramson & Bronstein, 2004; Gort, Broekhuis, & Regts, 2013; Greenberg, Feinberg, Meyer-Chilenski, Spoth, & Redmond, 2007; Hackman, 2002; Heinemann & Zeiss, 2002; Klein et al., 2009; Lemieux-Charles & McGuire, 2006; Levi, 2014; Perkins et al., 2011; Ramirez, 2014). By bringing together the knowledge and

Assess your understand- ing of treatment groups by taking a brief quiz at

www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 44 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 45

Table 1.4 A Typology of Task Groups

Client Needs

Selected Characteristics Teams Treatment Conferences Staff Development

Purpose To engage in collaborative work on behalf of a client system

To develop, coordinate, and monitor treatment plans

To educate members for better practice with clients

Leadership Appointed by sponsoring agency

Neutral chair or chaired by member with most responsibility

Leader, supervisor, consultant, or educator

Focus Build team to function smoothly High member focus

Decision-oriented Low member focus High client focus

Focus on staff members’ needs and their performance with clients

Bond Team spirit Needs of organization and client

Client system Treatment plan Inter- or intra-agency agreement

Continuing education needs Interest in client welfare Professional development

Composition Often heterogeneous Diversity by function, specialty, and expertise

Individuals with similar educational needs

Communication Theoretically close, sometimes artificial or inspirational Low to moderate self-disclosure

Consideration of all points of view about the client system High disclosure

Leader-to-member Didactic and experiential instruction Member-to-member

Organizational Needs

Selected Characteristics Committees Cabinets Board of Directors

Purpose To discuss issues and accomplish tasks

To advise an executive officer about future directions or current policies and procedures

To govern an organization

Leadership Appointed or elected Appointed by chief executive officer of an organization

Officers designated by bylaws are nominated by subcommittee and approved by vote of the membership

Focus A specific task or charge The development of procedures and policies for organizational management

Policy making Governance Monitoring Fiscal control Fundraising

Bond Interest in a task Loyalty to the organization and the chief executive officer

Commitment to the mission of the organization and its service orientation

Composition Diversity to aid decision making and division of labor

Appointment based on administrative responsibilities and expertise

Diverse members often selected for their status, power, influence in the community, expertise, representation of particular interest groups and constituencies

Communication Relative to task Low member selfdisclosure

Members present points of view based on their position in an organization To build a power base

Formal communication Parliamentary procedures Less formal in subcommittees Low member self-disclosure

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 45 01/05/17 11:30 AM

46 Chapter 1

Community Needs

Selected Characteristics Social Action Groups Coalitions Delegate Councils

Purpose To devise and implement social change tactics and strategies

To exert greater influence by sharing resources, expertise, and power bases of social action groups with common goals

To represent different organizations, chapters, or other units

Leadership Indigenous leadership emerging from the groups Practitioner often is staffer or adviser

Often a charismatic or dedicated individual leading by consensus or elected by vote of the membership

Representatives appointed by the sponsoring organization

Focus Consumer, community, social justice

Building consensus and a partnership for maximum influence

Collective input and action Equality of representation Focus on larger issues, concerns, and positions

Bond Perception of injustice, inequity, or need for change

Interest in an issue Commitment to an ideological position

Larger purpose or community concern, rather than individual or agency concern

Composition Based on common interest, shared purpose, and investment in community

Loose, temporary confederation of groups or organizations working in partnership to achieve a common goal

Diverse by definition Represents interest of sponsoring organization

Communication Informal member-to- member discussion Formulation and implementation of tactics and strategies for change High member self-disclosure in relation to social problems

Formal or informal, depending on type of coalition Less formal in caucuses and subgroups Moderate member self-disclosure representing group interests

Provides a forum for communication among organizations Delegates are communication links between council and the sponsoring organization Low member self-disclosure

Table 1.4 (Continued)

skills of different categories of professionals and paraprofessionals, team work is often considered the most effective method of delivering comprehensive social and health services to those in need (Abramson & Bronstein, 2004; Levi, 2014; Scholtes, Joiner, & Streibel, 2003). A team can be defined as a group of staff members with varied back- grounds who work collaboratively, and, on a regular basis, develop and implement care plans for a designated group of clients.

Team members coordinate their efforts and work together on behalf of a particular client group. Examples of teams include the following:

• A group of professionals working with stroke victims and their family members in a rehabilitation hospital

• A group of professionals who deliver home-based hospice care

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 46 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 47

• Professional and paraprofessional helpers trained in crisis intervention sponsored by a county mental health agency

• A group of professionals and aides who work with patients in a psychiatric hospital

According to Abramson and Bronstein (2004), social workers have not always done a good job communicating their role on the team. Social workers need to make a strong case for their roles in resource procurement, counseling, advocacy, and coordination of service delivery. They also need to make a strong case for their skills in maintaining and building the smooth functioning of teams.

The functioning of the team is the responsibility of the team leader. Team leaders are often appointed by an administrator f rom the agency employing the worker, but in some settings, they are elected or nominated by team members. The team leader is a facilitator and coordinator for the group and is accountable to the agency for the actions of the team. The team leader is responsible for conducting meetings, motivating team members, coordinating individual efforts, and ensuring effective team functioning.

In most, if not all, cases, an agency sanctions the mutual involvement of team mem- bers on behalf of a particular client population. Often, the team is composed of mem- bers with different professional orientations, such as social work, nursing, physical and occupational therapy, and medicine. The team might also be composed of paraprofes- sionals, such as mental health therapy aides. Evidence suggests that there is value in in- volving clients and family members as members of the team (Abramson & Bronstein, 2004), yet this does not often happen in practice.

Meetings should avoid focusing solely on service delivery—some time should be devoted to how members function as a group (Bruner & Spink, 2011; Toseland, Palmer- Ganeles, & Chapman, 1986), a process known as team building. Neglecting team f unctioning can lead to a variety of problems, such as inter personal conf lict and rivalry, duplication of effort, and uncoordinated or incomplete service (Levi, 2014). In a comprehensive investigation into the effectiveness of team building, Klein et al. (2009) reviewed the impact of four specif ic team-building methods including improving: (1) goal setting, (2) interpersonal relations, (3) problem solving, and (4) role clarifica- tion. They found that all were moderately effective but that goal setting and role clar- ification had the largest effect. Thus, it is important to have clear goals for what the team is trying to accomplish and to make sure that each member of the team knows his or her role and is comfortable with the overlapping and complementary roles of his or her colleagues. It has also been found that trust and cohesion are important elements to enhance for building effective teams (Haines, 2014; Penarroja, Orengo, Zornoza, & Herandez, 2013).

Members are bonded by a team spirit that assists them in their work as a group rather than being a collection of individuals representing disparate concerns and pro- fessional agendas. When building and maintaining an effective team, the worker must foster the organization’s support of teamwork, encourage members’ personal and pro- fessional orientations toward collaboration and help members to develop skills to clarify roles and negotiate conf licts (Levi, 2014).

Ideally, team members should meet regularly to discuss their service delivery efforts and their functioning as a team (Abramson, 1989; Gruenfeld, 1998). In recent years there has been increasing emphasis on teams meeting virtually, online (Haines, 2014;

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 47 01/05/17 11:30 AM

48 Chapter 1

Penarroja, Orengo, Zornoza, & Herandez, 2013). More information is provided about online meetings in Chapter 6.

Communication among team members varies according to the working situation of the team (Levi, 2014). Sometimes team members work independently of each other. For example, within a residential program for children, child-care workers might be consid- ered important team members although they work different shifts. To promote adequate communication and a coordinated team effort in such situations, meetings can be sched- uled when shifts overlap.

Treatment Conferences Treatment conferences meet for the purpose of developing, monitoring, and coordi- nating treatment plans for a particular client or client system. Members consider the client’s situation and decide on a plan for working with the client. Examples of treatment conferences include the following:

• An interdisciplinary group of professionals planning the discharge of a patient in a mental health facility

• A group of child-care workers, social workers, nurses, and a psychiatrist determining a treatment plan for a child in residential treatment

• A parole board considering testimony regarding the release of a prisoner f rom a correctional facility

• A group of community mental health professionals considering treatment methods for a young man experiencing severe depression

Although treatment conferences may appear similar to team meetings, they differ in five respects:

1. Members of a treatment conference might not all work together as do members of teams. They may be employees of different organizations who come to a treatment conference to discuss ways to coordinate their efforts on behalf of a particular client.

2. Participants may not have the same close working relationship and shared sense of purpose that is essential in teamwork. Members may not work together f rom day to day. In fact, they may never have met before the treatment conference.

3. Treatment conference groups often meet less f requently than teams; they gather as the need arises in particular situations.

4. The composition of teams is relatively stable, but the composition of treatment conference groups varies depending on the clients being discussed.

5. The plan of action might be carried out by only one member who is entirely responsible for the client’s care. For example, during a treatment conference in a family service agency, a worker gets advice f rom colleagues about how to help a group member with a particularly difficult issue. The other members of the treatment conference have no direct contact with the client. In contrast, all members of a team usually have some contact with clients served by the team.

In treatment conferences, participants generally focus on one client at a time. Members who are familiar with the client contribute information that may be helpful in

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 48 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 49

developing or improving a treatment plan. Other members, who might not be familiar with the client, can also contribute their expertise about how to treat most effectively the type of problem the client is experiencing. Because of this information, the group discusses the client’s overall circumstances and considers alternative treatment plans. The group decides on one plan that all members agree will be the most helpful for the client.

Treatment conferences are oriented toward decision making, problem solving, and coordinating the actions of members. The group focuses its attention on the needs of the client rather than on the needs of the group members. The bond that group mem- bers feel is based on their concern for a client and their commitment to an agreed-on treatment plan.

Treatment conferences usually include all helping professionals who are working with a client. The group can also include consultants or experts who do not work di- rectly with the client but who can contribute to the treatment plan by offering insight, resources, or advice. Treatment conference membership is diverse by design. Participants are invited because they have new insights and treatment opportunities based on their area of expertise and their unique experiences with a client.

It is the policy of some agencies to have clients and their spouses, parents, guard- ians, or significant others participate in treatment conferences. However, the staff s of many agencies believe that inviting clients to treatment conferences may inhibit open discussion. In addition, some staff s believe that the conf licting facts, multiple options in treatment planning, or emotionally charged issues that are sometimes discussed during treatment conferences can confuse or upset clients. These agencies sometimes invite the client and significant others to the portion of the treatment conference that occurs after treatment staff have had a private discussion about the client’s situation. However, these agencies are in a minority. Most agencies simply opt not to have the client present at treatment conferences (Toseland, Ivanoff, & Rose, 1987).

No data are available to address when, or even if, it is best to invite clients and their significant others to treatment conferences, but there is a growing consensus that it is important to do so (Abramson & Bronstein, 2004). Because a client’s right to self- determination is an important part of the value base of social work practice, careful consideration should be given to soliciting clients’ input into the treatment-planning decisions that will affect their lives.

Treatment conference leadership can be determined in a variety of ways. In some agencies, the conferences are always led by the same person. This person might be the program director or a member of the staff, such as the social worker whose job in- cludes responsibility for treatment coordination. Commonly, the designated leader is the worker with the most responsibility for, or involvement with, the client’s care. In some agencies, leadership is rotated or a supervisor leads the meeting. In these situations, the leader can lend objectivity to the proceedings because he or she does not work directly with the client.

Staff Development Groups The purpose of staff development groups is to improve services to clients by developing, updating, and ref reshing workers’ skills. Staff development groups provide workers with an opportunity to learn about new treatment approaches, resources, and community

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 49 01/05/17 11:30 AM

50 Chapter 1

services; to practice new skills; and to review and learn f rom their previous work with clients. Examples of staff development groups include the following:

• A group of professionals who attend a series of seminars about pharmacology offered by a regional psychiatric center

• An in-service development seminar on codependency for the staff of an alcoholism treatment agency

• Group supervision offered by an experienced social worker for social workers who work in school districts in which there are no supervisors

• A program director who conducts a weekly supervisory group for paraprofes- sionals who work in a community outreach program for isolated elderly people

Ideally, leaders of staff development groups are experts in a particular field. Often, they also possess extensive experience and knowledge gathered through specialized training, study, and ref lection on difficult practice issues.

The focus of staff development groups is on improving workers’ skills so they can perform more effectively on behalf of their clients. The trainer or leader can use many methods to aid learning, such as lectures, discussions, audio- and videotape presentations, simulations, and live demonstrations. Members may be given the opportunity to practice new skills in the group and to receive feedback f rom the trainer and the other members.

Members are bonded by their desire to improve their skills. Often they share an in- terest in a similar client population or treatment method. They may also share in the camaraderie that comes f rom being at similar stages in their professional development.

In some staff development groups, the leader takes primary responsibility for the content of each session. The leader may make presentations, arrange for guest speak- ers, or prepare and conduct simulations and other staff development exercises. In other groups, members are responsible for structuring the group by taking turns presenting their work with particular clients.

Members are expected to risk opening their work to the scrutiny and critique of the rest of the group and to participate in staff development exercises and discussions. They are also expected to learn f rom their own mistakes and the mistakes of others in the group. Honest, f rank, constructive communication and feedback among members is valued, as is a high level of self-disclosure.

Groups to Meet Organizational Needs

Committees The most common type of task group is the committee. A committee is made up of people who are appointed or elected to the group. Their task is to accomplish a charge or mandate that is delegated to the committee f rom a higher authority, such as a spon- soring organization or an administrator. Committees may be temporary creations (ad hoc committees) or more permanent parts of the structure of an organization (standing committees). Examples of committees include the following:

• A group of young people responsible for recommending activities for the local community center

• A group of employees assigned the task of studying and recommending changes in the agency’s personnel policy

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 50 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 51

• A group of social workers considering ways to improve service delivery to pregnant teenagers

• A group of staff members developing recommendations for an employee- assistance program

In these examples, members are concerned with producing reports, accomplishing tasks, issuing recommendations, or making decisions. In each example, the committee’s work requires the collective wisdom of a number of people with varied viewpoints, expertise, and abilities.

Although members are expected to share their personal views during deliberations, the level of self-disclosure in committees is f requently low. In some cases, however, there are variations in the level of self-disclosure, depending on the norms that have developed in the committee and on the nature of the issues being discussed. For example, when the subject matter is of a sensitive nature, discussing personal viewpoints may require a high level of members’ self-disclosure.

Most committees tend to follow a standard set of procedures. Sometimes, commit- tees rely on parliamentary procedure to conduct their meetings. In other cases, commit- tees develop their own rules and regulations that control how members introduce and discuss issues and how decisions are reached.

It is useful for each meeting to have an agenda so committee members can follow the activity of the group and know what to expect during the rest of the meeting. The agenda provides structure, focus, and direction for the group. The chairperson is responsible for seeing that the agenda and the formalized procedures are carried out. The chairperson may be appointed by an executive of the organization or elected by committee members.

Committees f requently deal with complex issues, requiring the group to divide large tasks into a series of smaller subtasks. To deal with these subtasks, a committee often autho- rizes the formation of one or more subcommittees f rom its membership. Subcommittees report to the larger committee periodically or when their work is completed. The compo- sition of subcommittees is sometimes the responsibility of the chairperson, who considers the qualifications and abilities of each committee member and selects subcommittee mem- bers based on their ability to complete a particular task. The chairperson may also ask for volunteers rather than appoint members. This is especially true when the subcommittee deals with a particularly onerous task and highly motivated members are needed. In other cases, subcommittee members are elected by members of the full committee.

Committees are generally accountable to an administrator or other individual or group who gave the committee its charge. The power vested in a committee depends on the group’s mandate and the extent to which its actions are binding. It is common, however, for commit- tees to be given the power to make recommendations rather than issue binding decisions.

The importance of the committee as a type of task group cannot be overempha- sized. Most other types of task groups mentioned in our typology use elements of com- mittee structure to complete their tasks. It can be argued that other forms of task groups, such as cabinets and treatment conferences, are special forms of committees.

Cabinets Cabinets are designed to provide advice and expertise about policy issues to chief exec- utive officers or other high-level administrators. Policies, procedures, and practices that

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 51 01/05/17 11:30 AM

52 Chapter 1

affect the entire organization are discussed, developed, or modified in cabinets before being announced by a senior administrative officer. Cabinets enable formal communi- cations among senior administrators in an organization and help garner support for par- ticular policies and procedures among senior and midlevel administrators. Examples of cabinet groups include the following:

• A meeting of section heads in a large state health department to discuss long- term care reimbursement policies

• A weekly meeting of supervisory social work staff and the director of social services in a large municipal hospital

• A series of meetings of senior United Way staff to discuss potential changes in methods of allocating money among member agencies

• A meeting of department heads in a county social services department

Cabinets focus their efforts on administrative and policy issues that may have im- portant implications for the entire organization or subdivisions within it. Although committees often make recommendations to a high-level administrator who is not part of the group, cabinet members often give advice about developing and changing pol- icies and procedures directly to the chief executive officer or other administrator who leads the meeting. In some organizations, cabinets are delegated the authority to make decisions by the chief executive officer.

Unlike committee members, who may be elected or appointed, cabinet members are often appointed by the chief executive officer. Cabinet members are typically super- visors, department heads, or senior managers with powerful positions within the orga- nization. Occasionally, the executive might ask an outside consultant to join the group because of that person’s background and knowledge.

Authority and power are particularly important in cabinets. Members often vie for the chief executive’s attention and for the chance to inf luence policy decisions. Members sometimes take stances on policy issues that will benefit the program or section they lead within the larger organization.

The proceedings of cabinet meetings are often kept confidential. Self-disclosure is typically low, with members thinking strategically about how they might inf luence cur- rent and future policy decisions while simultaneously maintaining or enhancing their own power and status within the group. In this manner, cabinets are often highly politi- cal groups that wield a great deal of inf luence within organizations.

Boards of Directors There are two primary types of boards: the governing board and the advisory board (Conrad & Glenn, 1976). Under the articles of incorporation and the bylaws of not-for- profit organizations, governing boards—sometimes referred to as boards of trustees— are legally and financially responsible for the conduct of the organization.

The members of governing boards are stewards of the public trust and are account- able to the state government that granted the organization its charter; to the federal government that granted their tax-exempt status; and, ultimately, to the public whom the organization serves ( Jaskyte, 2012; Tropman & Harvey, 2009). Members of advisory boards provide counsel and guidance to the management of an organization. However,

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 52 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 53

they have no official power to make policy or fiscal decisions. Examples of board groups include the following:

• Trustees of a large public hospital • Members of the governing board of a family service agency • Individuals on the citizens’ advisory board of a county department of social services • Members of the board of a corporation that includes several affiliated social

service and health agencies

The primary functions of boards of directors are policy-making, oversight of agency operations, ensuring the financial integrity and stability of the organization, and pub- lic relations (Callen, Klein, & Tinkelman, 2010; Jaskyte, 2012; Tropman & Harvey, 2009). Boards of directors determine the mission and the short- and long-range goals of the organization. They set personnel and operating policies. They offer counsel and advice to the chief executive officer and monitor the organization’s operations. They establish fiscal policy, set budgets, and install monitoring and auditing mechanisms. They also en- gage in fundraising, hire the chief executive officer, and manage public relations (Howe, 2002). Boards, however, are not supposed to engage in the day-to-day operations of the organization, the hiring of staff (other than the executive director), or the details of programmatic decisions.

The position and duties of the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, and any other officers of a board of directors are generally specified in the articles of incorpora- tion and bylaws of the organization. The terms of these officers and how they are selected are specified in the board’s operating procedures. Usually, officers are nominated by a sub- committee of the board and are elected to specified terms by the entire membership.

It was once estimated that 11.5 million people sit on the boards of not-for-profit agen- cies in the United States (Waldo, 1986) and this number has surely grown in the past three decades. Board members are bonded by their commitment to the mission and goals of the organization and by their commitment to community service. They are often a di- verse group of individuals who are selected because of their power, status, and inf luence in the community; their expertise; and their representation of particular interest groups and constituencies. For example, a board might contain lawyers who can provide advice on legal matters, accountants or bankers who can provide advice on fiscal matters, busi- nesspeople who can assist with fundraising and advertising, other media experts who can help with public relations, and policy experts and consumers who can provide guidance on programmatic and service issues.

Written agendas are usually circulated before board meetings. Communication is often formal, following the rules of parliamentary procedure. Much of the actual work, however, is often conducted in less formal subcommittee meetings (Pelletier, 2012). Boards often have several standing and ad hoc committees that report at board meetings and recommend actions in the form of motions. For example, the finance committee might recommend that the board approve the annual budget of the agency, the person- nel committee might recommend a change in health benefits for employees of the orga- nization, or the nominating committee might present a slate of new officers for board approval. For more information about boards, see Hughes, Lakey, and Bobowick (2007), Jaskyte (2012), or Tropman & Harvey (2009).

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 53 01/05/17 11:30 AM

54 Chapter 1

Groups to Meet Community Needs

Social Action Groups Social action groups empower members to engage in collective ac- tion and planned change efforts to alter some aspect of their social or physical environment (McKnight & Plummer, 2015; Pyles, 2013; Staples, 2004; Walls, 2015). They are often referred to as grassroots organizations because they arise f rom the concerns of individuals in the community who may have little individual power or status. Although the goals of social action groups are f requently linked to the needs of the individual members of the group, goal achieve- ment generally also benefits people outside the group. Thus, social action groups serve the common good of both members and non- members. Examples of social action groups include the following:

• A citizens’ group advocating increased police protection on behalf of the elderly population in a neighborhood

• A group of social workers lobbying for increased funding for social services • A tenants’ group seeking support for a playground area in their housing complex • A group of community leaders working to increase the access of Af rican

Americans to a mental health agency

Hardina (2013), McKnight and Plummer (2015), Pyles (2013), and Walls (2015) all point out that there are varieties of ways that small groups take on social action efforts. These include organizing committees composed of well-respected opinion leaders who come together to organize a social movement; house meetings when a group of individuals get together to recruit others and to discuss controversial issues; issue committees that identify, prioritize, and select issues for action; lobbying committees that bring issues to elected officials; and negotiating teams that work at the bargaining table to bring about a change. Small groups are also used for many other social action purposes, such as fund raising and developing and coordinating special events.

A worker involved in a social action group can assume one of many leadership roles, depending on the nature of the change effort and the needs of the group. A worker assumes an enabler role to help the group acquire information or resources, determine priorities and procedures, and plan a strategy for action. For example, in working with tenants concerned about their rights, the worker might help organize a tenant-rights group to help the individuals pursue their common goals.

Alternatively, workers might take a directive role because of their expertise regard- ing the change effort. In a lobbying effort, for example, a worker might be particularly knowledgeable about techniques for inf luencing legislators. In this instance, the worker might be asked to speak for the social action group or might encourage the group to examine particular issues or use particular strategies, such as collaboration, bargaining, or conf lict.

Although directive approaches to leading social action groups are sometimes use- ful and appropriate, the worker should be guided by the purpose of the group and the preferences of group members. The worker should make sure that a directive approach does not inhibit indigenous leadership f rom developing among members. The ultimate

Policy Practice

Behavior: assess how social welfare and economic policies impact the delivery of and access to service delivery

critical thinking Question: Group workers help to plan social policy. How can groups assess changing community trends and needs?

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 54 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 55

goal of the worker should be to help social action groups function effectively and inde- pendently (McKnight & Plummer, 2015; Pyles, 2013).

The bond that holds members of action groups together is a shared perception of injustice, inequity, and a need for a change in the current social structure. Yet, Mondros and Wilson (1994) point out that less than 2 percent of a potential constituency ever be- comes involved in a social action group and that large numbers of individuals drop out after their initial enthusiasm fades. Five factors that help people stay involved in social ac- tion groups are (1) the importance of the work of the group, (2) the group’s effectiveness, (3) a sense of community and peer support, (4) interest in the task, and (5) the feeling of contributing (Mondros & Wilson, 1994). Methods to enhance and sustain membership based on these and other factors are described in Chapters 3 and 12.

The composition of social action groups can vary depending on the nature and circumstances of the change effort. Sometimes, workers take a leadership role in com- posing social action groups; in other cases, groups may form because of the interests of one or more concerned citizens. In the latter case, the worker is often asked to be a facilitator, an enabler, or a consultant to lend expertise to the change effort without necessarily inf luencing the composition of the group.

When the worker does have a role in composing the g roup, consider ation should be given to the level of support for the change effort among key community leaders. In some instances, the worker may seek members who can exert inf luence in the environment or who have the diverse skills and resources needed to empower the group.

Communication patterns in social action groups vary with the circumstances of the group. The worker helps the group develop open communication patterns so that all members have a chance to become involved. The worker also helps the group establish communication links with its environment. Good communication helps avoid misunder- standings and promotes a cooperative atmosphere among all those who may have some stake in the change effort (Hardina, 2013).

Coalitions Coalitions—or alliances, as they are sometimes called—are groups of organizations, social action groups, or individuals that come together to exert inf luence by sharing resources and expertise. Coalition members agree to pursue common goals, which they believe cannot be achieved by any of the members acting alone.

Examples of coalitions include the following:

• A group of family planning and community health-care clinics who have formed a pro-choice coalition to inf luence state and federal legislation on abortion

• Not-for-profit home-care agencies who gather to lobby for greater access to community care for the chronically ill elderly

• Community agencies that want to bring public attention to the need for a community teen center

• Business, community, and civic leaders who team up to explore ways to reduce racial tensions in a large urban area

The formation of coalitions as political and social forces to improve the respon- siveness of the social environment to human beings has a long tradition in social group

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 55 01/05/17 11:30 AM

56 Chapter 1

work. For example, Newstetter (1948) described principles for interagency collaboration that have formed the basis for more recent writings on the formation and development of coalitions (Brown, Feinberg, Shapiro, & Greenberg, 2015; Feinberg, Bontempo, & Greenberg, 2008; Meyer, 2013); Pyles, 2013; Winer & Ray, 2009; Yang, Foster-Fishman, Collins, & Ahn, 2012; Zakocs & Edwards, 2006).

Coalitions are often formed by a charismatic or dedicated individual who has high visibility and respect within the community. This individual helps organizations, groups, and individuals understand that they have common goals and purposes that could be better served by working together.

Because members of coalitions are often concerned about preserving their auton- omy while joining with others in the group, coalitions sometimes experience conf lict in establishing mutual goals, working agreements, plans of action, and equitable ways of sharing resources and accomplishments. Therefore, a primary task throughout coalition formation and development is building and maintaining consensus and a smooth partner- ship in which efforts can be focused on the goals to be achieved rather than on intragroup rivalry. Charismatic leaders are helped in their efforts by the coalition members who are bonded by their ideals, common ideology, and interest in a particular issue or set of issues.

Coalitions can take many forms. Freewheeling interaction often occurs during cau- cuses and in subgroup and one-to-one discussions between coalition meetings. Informal procedures are also f requently used in ad hoc, single-issue coalitions that do not have a long history of operation. Frequently, coalitions are loose, temporary confederations of organizations or social action groups that coalesce to share resources and gain strength in numbers. In such informal coalitions, the autonomy of the individual members is strictly protected. Over time, however, some coalitions become stable, long-term organizations with centralized staff and resources. These types of coalitions often have one or more elite decision-makers who have considerable inf luence on decision making and operations.

Meetings of coalitions are often characterized by ideologically fervent speechmak- ing and position taking. Much emphasis is placed on developing strategies to accomplish specific goals and coordinating activities involved in the action plan. Sometimes, coali- tion meetings are characterized by formal interactions following the rules of parliamen- tary procedure. Although parliamentary procedures are often not as strictly adhered to as they are in board meetings or delegate councils, they are used in coalitions to promote a sense of inclusion and belonging so that members feel they have the opportunity to fully participate in collective deliberations and decision making.

Delegate Councils Delegate councils are composed for the purposes of facilitating interagency communica- tion and cooperation, studying community-wide social issues or social problems, engag- ing in collective social action, and governing large organizations. Members of delegate councils are appointed or elected by a sponsoring unit. The members’ primary function is to represent the interests of their sponsoring unit during council meetings. A variation of the delegate council is the delegate assembly, which is usually larger. Examples of delegate councils include the following:

• A number of agency representatives who meet monthly to improve interagency communication

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 56 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Introduction 57

• A group of elected representatives f rom local chapters of a professional organiza- tion who meet to approve the organization’s budget

• A state task force to study family violence composed of members appointed f rom each county

• A yearly meeting of representatives f rom family service agencies throughout the county

Representation is an important issue in delegate councils. A member represents a group of people, an agency, or another system. The member is often given authority to speak for the represented unit. Because the unit has agreed to participate by sending a representative, the represented unit generally agrees to abide by decisions made by the delegate council.

There are differing ways to achieve representation. The number of representatives for each sponsoring unit can vary with the size or importance of the unit. For example, legislative bodies f requently determine the number of representatives by considering the population of each voting district, county, or state, and apportioning an appropriate number of representatives for each district.

Other councils’ representation may be dictated by a sanctioning authority to ensure control over policy decisions. For example, a consumer council for a large department of social services may have more employees than clients to ensure departmental control over the decisions made by the group.

Delegate councils are usually concerned with broad issues that affect several agencies, a large segment of a population, or a group of people in a wide geographic area. Delegate councils provide an effective communications link among groups of people who other- wise might not be able to communicate in a formal way. For example, delegate councils f requently serve as a forum for communication among diverse human service agencies within a city, state, or nation. Such agencies might not otherwise communicate effectively with each other. They may also form part of the governance structure of unions or pro- fessional organizations that represent a diverse and geographically dispersed membership.

Delegate councils can be either discussion-oriented or action-oriented, or they may have components of both orientations. The White House Conferences on Aging, for example, involve a series of delegate councils that discuss issues of concern to older U.S. citizens and make recommendations for government action.

Delegate councils are formed in a number of ways. Some councils are the product of ad hoc task forces or coalitions that have been meeting informally for some time. Other councils begin with the support and sponsorship of a particular agency and grad- ually establish their own identities, rules and procedures, and sources of funding. Repre- sentatives to delegate councils are either elected or appointed, and leadership is usually determined through an election.

Because council members are responsible for representing the views, interests, and positions of their sponsors to the delegate council, members often act formally on behalf of their constituencies. Delegates communicate with their sponsors regarding the pro- ceedings of the council. The effectiveness of the delegate council depends on the ability of each delegate to achieve two-way communication between the council and the represented unit. The individual delegates are not expected to engage in a high level of personal self-disclosure because they are bound by a mandate to present the collective views of the group of people they represent.

Assess your understand- ing of task groups by

taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 57 01/05/17 11:30 AM

58 Chapter 1


This introductory chapter provides a f ramework for studying and working with groups. Group work is a broad field of practice conducted by professional social workers with, and on behalf of, many different client groups in many different settings. A definition of group work is offered that encompasses the breadth of group work practice and is suffi- ciently f lexible to allow specialized approaches and objectives. To understand the types of groups that exist in practice, a distinction is made between treatment and task groups. Although some functions and objectives of task and treatment groups overlap, they are distinguished by a variety of characteristics.

This chapter also helps clarify the kinds of task and treatment groups often encoun- tered in practice and illustrates the commonalities and differences among these groups. The typology of treatment groups distinguishes among those with six primary purposes: (1) support, (2) education, (3) growth, (4) therapy, (5) socialization, and (6) self-help.

The typology of task groups distinguishes among nine types of task groups that are organized to serve three primary purposes: (1) meeting client needs, (2) meeting organi- zational needs, and (3) meeting community needs. Types of task groups that serve client needs include teams, treatment conferences, and staff development groups. Types of task groups that serve organizational needs include committees, cabinets, and boards of directors. Types of task groups that serve community needs include social action groups, coalitions, and delegate councils.

M01_TOSE0283_08_SE_C01.indd 58 01/05/17 11:30 AM

L e a r n i n g O u t c O m e s

• Identify the historical development of group work practice in treatment groups.

• Explain how group work practice developed in task groups.

• Cite examples of knowledge gained about groups from social science research.

• Differentiate among influential theories in group work.

2 Historical and Theoretical Developments

c h a p t e r O u t L i n e

Knowledge from Group Work Practice and Practice Research: Treatment Groups 59

Knowledge from Group Work Practice: Task Groups 69

Knowledge from Social Science Research 70

Influential Theories 72

Summary 81

To develop a broad perspective concerning the potential uses of groups in practice settings, it is helpful to understand the develop- ments that have occurred in the study of groups and in the prac- tice of group work over the years. This historical perspective gives group workers a firm foundation on which to build a knowledge base for effective group work practice.

Two general types of inquiries have enhanced the understand- ing of groups. One type has been made for over 100 years by group work practitioners and scholars f rom disciplines including, but not limited to, adult education, counseling, psychology, psychiatry, rec- reation, and social work. The other type has come f rom social sci- entists who have experimented with groups in laboratories. This inquiry has led to social science findings about basic properties and processes of groups. The results of both inquiries have led to im- proved methods for working with groups.

Knowledge From group worK practice and practice research: treatment groups

Although casework began in England and the United States in char- ity organizations in the late nineteenth century, group work grew up mainly in British and American settlement houses. Jane Addams founded the first settlement house in Chicago in 1889 to address is- sues of assimilation (Singh & Salazar, 2010). Most of the life and self-advocacy skills were taught in groups. Other early pioneers were Joseph Pratt, who worked in asylums for tuberculosis patients, and Jessie Davis who worked in the schools. Both pioneered social justice through group work using empowerment and advocacy skills (Singh & Salazar, 2010).


M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 59 01/05/17 11:30 AM

60 Chapter 2

The use of group work in settlement houses and casework in charity organizations was not by accident. Group work, and the settlement houses in which it was practiced, offered citizens the opportunity for education, recreation, socialization, and community involvement. Unlike the charity organizations that focused on the diagnosis and treat- ment of the problems of the poor, settlement houses offered groups as an opportunity for citizens to gather to share their views, gain mutual support, and exercise the power derived f rom their association for social change. Groups were a central component of clubs and social settlements. The focus was on promoting the well-being of individual members through acceptance, companionship, and solidarity, while at the same time promoting democratic participation, social justice, and social action in civic, industrial, and social institutions. For example, Grace Coyle’s Studies in Group Behavior (1937) pre- sented case studies of five club groups.

There were some exceptions to this trend. For example, as early as 1895, some peo- ple in the charity organization movement realized there was a need to organize the poor for social change as well as to work with them one to one (Brackett, 1895). Boyd (1935) reported how social group work was used for therapeutic purposes in state mental institutions.

Contributions to social group work also have been made by many other disciplines. For example, Dr. Pratt, a physician who worked with tuberculosis patients in 1905, is often attributed with being the first to use a group as a treatment modality. Early contributors with mental health backgrounds include Lazell (1921) who reported using psycho-educa- tional methods in the treatment of inpatients, Marsh (1931, 1933, 1935) who reported using milieu therapy, and Syz (1928) who reported using a here-and-now focus on patients with dementia. There were also early psychodynamic group therapists, such as Wender (1936), Schilder (1937), and Slavson (1940), who reported the results of their clinical work.

Interest in group work also stemmed f rom those who had led socialization groups, adult education groups, and recreation groups in settlement houses and youth service agencies (McCaskill, 1930). In fact, during these early years, the term club work was often used interchangeably with the term group work (Slavson, 1939a, p. 126).

It is often believed that group work is considerably younger than casework, but group work agencies actually started only a few years after casework agencies. There were courses for group workers in schools of social work in the early 1900s (Maloney, 1963), and both casework and group work were used by social workers in the early twen- tieth century.

Casework soon became identified with the social work profession, but group work did not become formally linked with social work until the National Conference of Social Work in 1935. The identification of group work with the social work profession increased during the 1940s (American Association of Group Workers, 1947), although group work- ers continued to maintain loose ties with recreation, adult education, and mental hy- giene until 1955, when group workers joined with six other professional groups to form the National Association of Social Workers.

Differences Between Casework and Group Work

Compared with caseworkers, who relied on insight developed f rom psychodynamic ap- proaches and on the provision of concrete resources, group workers relied on program

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 60 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 61

activities to spur members to action. Program activities of all types were the media through which groups attained their goals (Addams, 1909, 1926; Boyd, 1935, 1938; Smith, 1935). Activities such as camping, singing, group discussion, games, and arts and crafts were used for recreation, socialization, education, support, and rehabilitation. Unlike casework, which was mainly focused on problem solving and rehabilitation, group work activities were used for enjoyment as well as to solve problems. Thus, the group work methods that developed f rom settlement house work had a different focus and a different goal than did casework methods.

Differences between casework and group work can also be clearly seen in the help- ing relationship. Caseworkers sought out the most underprivileged victims of industrial- ization and diagnosed and treated worthy clients by providing them with resources and acting as examples of virtuous, hardworking citizens.

Although group workers also worked with the poor and impaired, they did not focus solely on the poorest people or those with the most problems. They preferred the word members rather than clients (Bowman, 1935). They emphasized members’ strengths rather than their weaknesses. Helping was seen as a shared relationship in which the group worker and the group members worked together for mutual un- derstanding and action regarding their common concerns for their community. As concerns were identified, group members supported and helped one another, and the worker mediated between the demands of society and the needs of group members (Schwartz, 1981).

Shared interaction, shared power, and shared decision-making placed demands on group workers that were not experienced by caseworkers. The number of group mem- bers, the fact that they could turn to one another for help, and the democratic deci- sion-making processes that were encouraged meant that group workers had to develop skills different f rom those of caseworkers. Group workers used their skills to intervene in complex and often fast-paced group interactions but remained aware of the welfare of all group members. Schwartz (1966) summed up the feelings engendered by the new group work method very well in the statement, “there are so many of them and only one of me” (p. 572).

Unlike the early writings of caseworkers that emphasized improving practice out- comes by careful study, diagnosis, and treatment (Richmond, 1917), the early writings of group workers (Coyle, 1930, 1935) emphasized the processes that occurred during group meetings. For example, Grace Coyle, one of the first social workers to publish a text on groups, titled her 1930 work Social Process in Organized Groups, whereas the first text on casework, published in 1917 by Mary Richmond, was called Social Diagnosis.

The emphasis on group processes has remained throughout the history of group work. Group workers have always been concerned with how best to use the unique pos- sibilities offered by the interaction of different people in a group. Thus, workers focus on the group as a whole as well as on individual members.

Intervention Targets

The importance of group work for enlightened collective action (Follett, 1926) and dem- ocratic living (Slavson, 1939b) was an essential part of social group work’s early roots. Grace Coyle’s work, for example, focused heavily on social action, social change, and

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 61 01/05/17 11:30 AM

62 Chapter 2

social justice (Coyle, 1935, 1938). Thus, social group work has its roots in both the indi- vidual change focus of early group therapists and the educational and social change foci of group workers with educational, recreational, club, and settlement house settings. Today, group work in the settlement house tradition is best seen in community centers, especially in developing countries (Yan, 2001).

During the 1940s and 1950s, group workers began to use groups more f requently to provide therapy and remediation in mental health settings. Therapy groups were in- sight-oriented, relying less on program activities and more on diagnosis and treatment of members’ problems (Konopka, 1949, 1954; Redl, 1944; Trecker, 1956).

The emphasis on the use of groups for therapy and remediation was the result, in part, of the inf luence of Freudian psychoanalysis and ego psychology and, in part, of World War II, which created a severe shortage of trained workers to deal with mentally disabled war veterans. It was also spurred on by Fritz Redl and Gisela Konopka who helped make group services an integral part of child guidance clinics. Interest in the use of groups in psychiatric settings continued into the 1950s, as can be seen in the proceed- ings of a national institute on this topic in 1955 (Trecker, 1956).

Although there was an increased emphasis in the 1940s and 1950s on using groups to improve the functioning of individual members, interest remained in using groups for recreational and educational purposes, especially in Jewish community centers and in youth organizations, such as the Girl Scouts and the YWCA. During the 1950s and 1960s, groups were also used for community development and social action in neighborhood centers and community agencies. At the same time, there was an increase in the study of small groups as a social phenomenon. For example, in 1947, Kurt Lewin and others founded the National Training Laboratories (NTL) that focused on group dynamics, us- ing t-groups (training groups) to help executives and other group leaders understand the power of group dynamics and to learn how to facilitate groups more effectively. NTL f lourished during the 1950s and 1960s and, after a period of decline during the 1970s, is effectively carrying out its mission today.

The Weakening of Group Work

During the 1960s, the popularity of group services declined. This can be seen in accounts of well-known projects, such as the Mobilization for Youth experiment (Weissman, 1969). Weissman stated, “The planners of Mobilization for Youth did not accord group work services a major role in the fight against delinquency” (p. 180). Work training pro- grams and educational opportunities were viewed as more significant than group work services— except in the area of community organization, in which the skill of group workers played an important role in organizing youths and adults around important social concerns.

In addition, during the 1960s, the push toward a generalist view of practice in schools of social work and the movement away f rom specializations in casework, group work and community organizations tended to weaken group work specializations in profes- sional schools and reduce the number of professionals trained in group work as their primary mode of practice. Taken together, these factors contributed to the decline of group work starting in the 1960s. The emphasis on generalist practice has unintention- ally favored individual work over group work and community organization.

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 62 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 63

During the 1970s, interest in group work continued to wane. Fewer professional schools offered advanced courses in group work, and fewer practitioners used it as a practice method. To increase awareness among practitioners about the potential benefits of groups, group workers throughout the United States and Canada came together in 1979 for the First Annual Symposium for the Advancement of Group Work. Each year since then, an annual group work symposium has been convened. The symposia bring together social group workers f rom the United States and other countries, who present clinical findings, research results, and workshops based on the work they have done with groups in their own communities.

During the last several decades, attempts to revitalize group work within social work have continued unabated. The Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups (AASWG) has expanded into an international association with many affiliated local chapters. In addition to the annual symposia it sponsors, the AASWG has a person who is a liaison to the Council on Social Work Education to promote group work cur- riculum in schools of social work. The AASWG has also developed standards on group work education and has submitted testimony to the Commission on Educational Policy of the Council on Social Work Education.

Despite the attempts at revitalization, Putnam (2000) points out that the decline of civic engagement in voluntary associations and participation in formed and natural groups of all sorts has continued into the twenty-first century. Putnam (2000) attributes this to a number of factors, including (1) time and money pressures, (2) mobility and sprawl, and (3) the availability of technology and the mass media. In describing the harm that this has caused, he stresses the importance of human capital and reengagement in all of our social institutions.

Some schools of social work are having trouble finding qualified group work in- structors even though agencies still rely heavily on all of the treatment group types de- scribed in Chapter 1. Task groups, such as teams and treatment conferences, have also remained important in practice. Their use may be growing because of the emphasis on care management and the increased demand for coordinated services f rom funding sources. The emphasis on Total Quality Management and other efforts to involve all members of organizations in participatory rather than hierarchical management has led to greater use of committees and other types of task groups ( Johnson & Johnson, 2013). Therefore, more should be done to revive the teaching of group work in schools of so- cial work and allied disciplines.

Current Practice Trends

Treatment Groups In an ar ticle that has had a profound effect on social work pr actice with g roups, Papell and Rothman (1962) outlined three historically important models of g roup work practice, shown in Table 2.1. These are the (1) social goals, (2) remedial, and (3) reciprocal models. Although these three models have been expanded to include many others in recent years, they still for m the basis for g roup work practice with treatment groups.

Research-Informed Practice

Behavior: use and translate research evidence to inform and improve practice and service delivery

critical thinking Question: Three historical models of group work are identified. How are these models used in groups that exist today?

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 63 01/05/17 11:30 AM

64 Chapter 2

Table 2.1 Three Models of Social Group Work

Selected Characteristics

Social Goals Model Remedial Model Reciprocal Model

Purpose and goals Social consciousness, social responsibility, informed citizenship, and informed political and social action

To restore and rehabilitate group members who are behaving dysfunctionally

To form a mutual aid system among group members to achieve optimum adaptation and socialization

Agency Settlement houses and neighborhood center settings

Formal agency setting, clinical outpatient or inpatient settings

Compatible with clinical inpatient and outpatient settings and neighborhood and community centers

Focus of work Larger society, individuals within the context of the neighborhood and the social environment

Alleviating problems or concerns

Improving coping skills

Creating a self-help, mutual aid system among all group members

Role of the group worker

Role model and enabler for responsible citizenship

Change agent who engages in study, diagnosis, and treatment to help group members attain individual treatment goals

Mediator between needs of members and needs of the group and the larger society

Enabler contributing data not available to the members

Type of group Citizens, neighborhood, and community residents

Clients who are not functioning adequately and need help coping with life’s tasks

Partners who work together sharing common concerns

Methods used in the group

Discussion, participation, consensus, developing and carrying out a group task, community organizing, and other program and action skills to help group members acquire instrumental skills about social action and communal living and change

Structured exercises, direct and indirect influence, both within and outside of the group, to help members change behavior patterns

Shared authority where members discuss concerns, support one another, and form a cohesive social system to benefit one another

Social Goals Model The social goals model focuses on socializing members to democratic societal values. It values cultural diversity and the power of group action. It was used, and continues to be used, in settlement houses and in youth organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, the YWCA, and Jewish community centers. The social goals model has also been used by community organization and development agencies to change societal norms and structures and improve the social welfare of all citizens.

The worker acts as an enabler who uses program activities, such as camping, discus- sions, and instructions about democratic processes, to socialize members. The worker also

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 64 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 65

acts to empower members by helping them make collective decisions and use their collec- tive strength to make society more responsive to their needs. For example, Macgowan and Pennell (2001) demonstrate how they use the social goals model to empower family members to make a plan for change in a model they refer to as family group conferencing.

The writings of Klein (1953, 1970, 1972) and Tropp (1968, 1976) helped to refine the social goals model. Tropp focused on how group development can be used to empower members to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. He was strongly opposed to the worker’s establishing goals for members, believing instead that groups could pro- mote growth only when the worker encouraged group self-direction toward common goals. Klein’s writings emphasized the importance of matching members’ needs to environmental opportunities for growth. Like Tropp, Klein emphasized the autonomy of group members and their f reedom to pursue their own self-defined goals. Middleman (1980, 1982) made important contributions to the model by emphasizing the importance of program activities. Breton (1994, 1995, 1999), Nosko and Breton (1997–1998), Cohen and Mullender (1999), Cox (1988), Cox and Parsons (1994), Lee (2001), Mondros and Wilson (1994), Mullender and Ward (1991), Parsons (1991), and Pernell (1986) have made significant contributions by focusing on empowerment strategies in social group work. The social goals model of group work is still being used in contemporary practice, par- ticularly in agencies that engage in community organization, empowerment, and mutual aid groups (see, for example, Pyles, 2013; Western, 2013).

Remedial Model The remedial model focuses on restoring or rehabilitating individuals by helping them change their behavior. The worker acts as a change agent and intervenes in the group to achieve specific purposes determined by group members, the group worker, and society. The remedial model uses a leader-centered approach to group work, with the worker actively intervening in the group’s process, often using systematic problem solving and task-centered or behavioral methods. Garvin (1997), Rose (1998), and Vinter (1967) are often associated with this approach to group work. With the increased attention to time-limited, goal-directed practice and measurable treatment outcomes, this model has received increasing attention in the group work literature in recent years (Conyne, 2010; Delucia-Waack, Kalodner, & Riva, 2014; Kleinberg, 2012; LeCroy, 2008). It is used widely in inpatient and community-based settings with individuals who have severe behavioral problems and social skills deficits.

Time-limited, highly structured remedial groups are also being used with increasing f requency in managed care settings as cost-effective alternatives to long-term individ- ual and group psychotherapy (Conyne, 2010; Delucia-Waak, et al, 2014; LeCroy, 2008). A survey of directors and providers in managed care companies suggests that this trend is likely to accelerate in future years (Taylor & Burlingame, 2001). Although the survey in- dicated that social workers were more familiar than psychologists and psychiatrists with short-term structured group work approaches, it also indicated that practitioners f rom all disciplines tended to be more familiar and more comfortable with traditional pro- cess-oriented, long-term group models, suggesting that more graduate and undergradu- ate education and more in-service training are needed about how to conduct short-term, structured, remedial model groups (Taylor & Burlingame, 2001).

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 65 01/05/17 11:30 AM

66 Chapter 2

Reciprocal Model The third model presented by Papell and Rothman (1962), the reciprocal model, is some- times referred to as the interactional model or the mutual aid model (Reid, 1997; Gitterman & Shulman, 2005; Shulman, 2016). The model derives its name f rom the emphasis on the reciprocal relationship that exists between group members and society. Members both inf luence and are inf luenced by the environment. The worker acts as a mediator, helping group members find the common ground between their needs and societal de- mands. The worker also acts as a resource person who facilitates the functioning of the group and helps members form a mutual-aid system and explore new ways of coping with and adapting to environmental demands.

As contrasted with the remedial model, in which the work of the group is often focused on helping individual members with specific problems, the reciprocal model encourages workers to use group processes to foster a therapeutic environment in the group as a whole. The reciprocal model also encourages the worker to help the agency and the wider community better understand and meet individual members’ needs. Gitterman and Shulman (2005), Schwartz (1976), and Shulman (2016) are best known for the group-centered, process-oriented approach to group work practice, but other au- thors such as Brown (1991), Glassman and Kates (1990), Steinberg (2014), and Wasserman and Danforth (1988) have made important contributions to this model of group work practice.

Divergent and Unified Practice Models

The different foci of current practice models are equally valid, depending on the pur- poses, practice situations, and tasks facing the group. Group work practice has an eclectic base that developed as a response to diverse needs for educational, recreational, mental health, and social services. A remedial purpose, for example, may be particularly appro- priate for some populations and in some settings, such as alcohol and drug treatment centers and residential centers for delinquent youth. In contrast, the reciprocal model is ideally suited for support groups designed to help members cope with distressing life events. It is also ideally suited to the facilitation of self-help groups in which recipro- cal sharing of mutual concerns and the giving and receiving of support are central. For example, in Make Today Count, a medical self-help group for cancer patients to help each other cope with their illnesses, members are encouraged to share their concerns, experiences, and the reactions of their family and f riends.

The usefulness and appropriateness of different practice models suggest that group workers should make differential use of group work methods, depending on the pur- poses, objectives, and goals of the groups they are leading. In a comprehensive review of the history of group work, Reid (1981) concluded that there has always been more than one model of group work operating in the United States and that there will continue to be several models in use to meet the many purposes and goals of group work.

There have also been attempts to integrate different models of group work prac- tice (Papell, 1997). For example, Papell and Rothman (1980) proposed a “mainstream model” of group work practice that incorporates elements of many different practice models. They pointed out that the fostering of a mutual-aid system among members is a common ingredient of many seemingly polarized approaches to group work practice.

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 66 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 67

They suggested that group development and the creation of group structures for in- creasing the autonomy of members as the group develops are also common elements of most current conceptualizations of group work practice.

Alissi (2001) has described the central tenets of the mainstream model. These include a commitment to (1) democratic values, including voluntary group association, collective de- liberation, decision-making and action, cultural pluralism, individual f reedom and liberty, and social responsibility to promote the common good; (2) the welfare of the individual and the betterment of society; (3) program activities that ref lect the needs, interests, and aspirations of members; (4) the power of small group processes; and (5) the inf luence of the group worker doing with rather than for the members of the group.

Similarly, in considering the past, present, and future of group work in social work, Middleman and Wood (1990) also concluded that in practice, there is a blending of mod- els of group work. They suggested that a mainstream model of social work with groups should include the worker (1) helping members develop a system of mutual aid; (2) un- derstanding, valuing, and respecting group processes as powerful dynamics for change; (3) helping members become empowered for autonomous functioning within and out- side the group; and (4) helping members “re-experience their groupness at the point of termination” (p. 11). They concluded that some clinical work with groups that focused exclusively on one-to-one attention to individual members is excluded f rom the main- stream model of social work with groups because this type of work does not utilize the dynamics of the group as a whole to bring about therapeutic change.

Evidence-based Group Work Practice

Knowledge of group work practice does not only come f rom workers’ experiences in field settings, published primarily as case examples or presented in workshops. It is also developed by group workers working cooperatively with practice researchers. Practice research has taken many forms including surveys of practitioners, qualitative research, and quantitative field trials of group work methods and programs. The gathering of data f rom practice ranges f rom easily implemented quick data gathering to sophisticated randomized controlled trials. For example, easily implemented methods include asking members about their experiences periodically, or during the last meeting of a group, whereas very rigorous, time-consuming methods include randomized field trials of group work practices. These methods are described in more detail in Chapter 14.

Some practice researchers have also developed ways of aggregating information f rom many different studies on the same or similar topics. These studies are referred to as “meta-analyses.” They provide summaries of data f rom many studies on particular topics, such as treating depression or trauma in groups. As more data become available for and f rom meta-analyses, evidence-based practice guidelines will follow. These can be very useful to busy practitioners who are often not afforded the time to do their own literature reviews. Group workers are encouraged to use evidence-based practices and guidelines whenever they are available. When there is scant or conf licting evidence, and multifaceted problems, critical thinking and use of supervision can help ref lective group workers to make the best use of whatever evidence is available.

If you work f requently with members with particular concerns, then you may want to do your own literature review both to judge the quality of the evidence yourself and

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 67 01/05/17 11:30 AM

68 Chapter 2

to identify field-tested group work programs that you might be able to use in your own practice. Many searchable databases are available through libraries to help you obtain articles, books, and book chapters. If you do not have ready access to these databases, you can use Google Scholar. You can also search the databases of government agencies for other sources in your area of practice. For example, there are very helpful Treatment Improvement Protocols (TIPS) and other resources developed by the United States Sub- stance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Evidence-based manuals have also been conveniently gathered in handbooks that are available in local libraries and through interlibrary loan systems (see, for example, LeCroy, 2008).

At the same time there continue to be barriers to the use of evidence-based data. Burlingame (2010), for example, notes that there has been little effort to aggregate and disseminate evidence-based information about group work practice to workers. Increas- ing demands for more practice and paperwork by funding agencies also interferes with group workers becoming evidence-based practitioners. Therefore, continuing efforts are needed to enable practicing group workers to use evidence-based practice methods.

The Popularity of Psycho-educational, Structured, Practice Models

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on short-term structured groups for persons with specific problems, such as depression, eating disorders, and a variety of other problems (Barlow, 2013; Bieling, McCabe, & Antony, 2006; Conyne, 2010; DeLucia-Waack, et al., 2014; Kaduson & Schaefer, 2015; Kellner, 2001; Langelier, 2001; LeCroy, 2008; McFarlane, 2002; Riess & Dockray-Miller, 2002; Roffman, 2004; Rose, 2004; Velasquez, Maurer, Crouch, & DiClemente, 2001; Waterman and Walker, 2009; White & Freeman, 2000). Some authors such as Bieling and colleagues (2006) make a concerted effort to pay attention to how group dynamics can be used when working on individual problems. Others, however, do not fit into the mainstream model because they use the group only as a vehicle for treating multiple individuals, rather than making use of the group and its dynamics as a vehicle for change. It is also important to be aware that funders of practice research often prefer or require structured short-term intervention protocols, so the litera- ture may underrepresent other group-centered, interactional, and longer-term approaches to group work practice.

In the first edition of this book, Toseland and Rivas (1984) had as a primary goal bridging the chasm between leader-centered, short-term structured approaches and member-centered, longer-term, less structured, interactional and reciprocal approaches to group work. The intent of the first edition, and this edition, is to elucidate a core body of knowledge, values, skills, and procedures that are essential for professional, competent group work practice, regardless of theoretical orientation. The intent of this book is also to show how the group as a whole can facilitate change. Working with individuals for a time on a one-on-one basis in the context of a group is sometimes desirable, but only when the worker pays attention to the group as a whole, and invites and encourages all the members to get involved in the work being done with a single individual.

It is also the intent of this book to present a broad range of groups and practice models and to emphasize that one model does not fit all. The choice of a model and

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 68 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 69

the degree of structure should depend on the nature of the problem and many other factors presented in the interactional model of leadership in Chapter 4. It is clear that evidence bases are needed for ethical practice, for insurance reimbursement, and for many other purposes. Nevertheless, mutual aid, reciprocal, psychodynamic, strengths- based and other practice models that have less rigorous evidence for their effectiveness should not be ignored. It is essential to recognize that there is great merit to evidence gathered by clinicians f rom actual practice experiences. Many problems do not yet have a clear evidence base for a particular problem approach. More importantly, practicing clini- cians recognize that the problems that people bring to group work can be very complex. They do not fall neatly into any diagnostic category. People may have adverse childhood events, adult trauma, attachment disorders, learning problems, medical conditions, cop- ing skills limitations, cultural styles, environmental deprivations, and many other factors that can play a role in how to intervene effectively. Evidence-based interventions can help immensely, but they are often targeted to very specific, narrowly defined problems that have been deliberately limited by careful screening criteria in randomized intervention trials. Specificity is essential in intervention research, but group members often have multifaceted, complicated syndromes that are only partially amenable to a single approach. The art of practice for experienced group workers involves critical thinking to blend, match, and tailor intervention strategies for each member and for the specific group dynamics that arise during every group meeting. Therefore, individualized, interactive, and changing care plans that consider the uniqueness of every member and the group as a whole are of- ten needed. Available evidence-based interventions are often only one part of excellent group work practice.

Knowledge From group worK practice: tasK groups

Task groups have operated in social agencies since settlement houses and charity organi- zations began more than 100 years ago. The distinction between task groups and treat- ment groups made today was not made in the earlier history of group work. Groups were used simultaneously for both task and treatment purposes. Earlier in the history of group work, the journals The Group, published f rom 1939 to 1955, and Adult Leadership, published f rom 1952 to 1977, devoted much space to articles about leading task groups.

With a few notable exceptions (Brill, 1976; Trecker, 1980) during the 1960s and 1970s, interest in task groups waned. However, interest was rekindled during the 1980s and 1990s with the renewed emphasis on the value of participatory management prac- tices (Gummer, 1991, 1995). For example, Dluhy (1990), Ephross and Vassil (2005), Fatout and Rose (1995), and Tropman (2014) have all made outstand- ing contributions to the task group literature. Still, the current need for ex- pertise and evidence bases for task group practices is becoming critical as more agencies are using participatory management practices and team ap- proaches to service delivery. This text is designed, in part, to address this gap in the literature.

Assess your under- standing of group work practice and practice re-

search with treatment groups by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

Assess your understand- ing of group work prac- tice with task groups by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 69 01/05/17 11:30 AM

70 Chapter 2

Knowledge From social science research

Practitioners sometimes criticize the findings of social scientists as not being generalizable to real-world practice settings. Some social scientists conducting their research in laboratory settings use analogue designs that may include short-term groups, artifi- cial problems, and students who are not always motivated. De- spite these limitations, the precision of laboratory studies enables social scientists to examine how different group dynamics oper- ate. Findings f rom these studies increase practitioners’ under- standing of how helpful and harmful group dynamics develop.

Social scientists also use naturalistic observations to study the functioning of com- munity groups. Some classic observational studies are those conducted by Bales (1955), Lewin (1947, 1948), Roethlisberger and Dickson (1939), Thrasher (1927), and Whyte (1943). Although not as precise as laboratory studies, naturalistic studies overcome some of the limitations of laboratory studies and provide many insights into the way groups develop.

According to Hare (1976), the scientific study of groups began at the turn of the century. A basic research question asked at that time, and continuing to receive much attention today, concerns the extent to which group participation inf luences individual members. Triplett (1898), for example, examined the effect that cyclists had on each other during races and found that a racer’s competitiveness appeared to depend on the activi- ties of others on the track. Taylor (1903) found that productivity increased among work- ers who were f reed f rom the pressure to conform to the standards of other workers. Those early findings suggest that the presence of others has a significant inf luence on an individual group member. The presence of others tends to generate pressure to conform to the standards of behavior that are expected of those who belong to the group.

Other early social scientists also recognized the inf luence of groups on individual behavior. LeBon (1910) referred to the forces that were generated by group interaction as “group contagion” and “group mind,” recognizing that people in groups react differ- ently than do individuals. McDougall (1920) extended the concept of the group mind. He noted the existence of groups as entities and pointed out a number of group-as-a-whole properties that could be studied as phenomena separate and distinct f rom properties af- fecting individuals working outside of a group.

The concept of a primary group was also an important contribution to the study of groups. Cooley (1909) defined a primary group as a small, informal group—such as a family or a f riendship group—that has a tremendous inf luence on members’ values, moral standards, and normative behaviors. The primary group, therefore, was viewed as essential in understanding socialization and development.

Few studies of small-group processes were published between 1905 and 1920, but activity in this area increased after World War I (Hare, 1976). Several experiments con- ducted during that time illustrated the powerful effects of group forces on the judgments and behavior of group members. Allport (1924), for example, found that the presence of others improved task performance, and Sherif (1936) and Asch (1952, 1955) found that members were highly inf luenced by the opinions of others in the group. For more

Research-Informed Practice

Behavior: apply critical thinking to engage in analysis of quantitative and qualitative research methods and research findings

critical thinking Question: A great deal of research on groups exists. How do social workers evaluate knowledge about groups from various sources?

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 70 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 71

about these and other studies of group inf luence, see Forsyth (2014) or go directly to the previously listed original sources.

After World War I, social scientists began to study groups operating in the commu- nity. One of the earliest social scientists to study groups in their natural environments was Frederick Thrasher (1927). He studied gangs of delinquents in the Chicago area by becoming f riendly with gang members and observing the internal operations of gangs. He noted that every member of a gang had a status within the group that was attached to a functional role in the gang. Thrasher also drew attention to the culture that devel- oped within a gang, suggesting there was a common code that all members followed. The code was enforced by group opinion, coercion, and physical punishment. Thrasher’s work and the works of Shaw (1930) and Whyte (1943) have inf luenced how group work is practiced with youths in settlement houses, neighborhood centers, and youth organi- zations. The naturalistic studies of boys in camp settings by Newstetter, Feldstein, and Newcomb (1938) were also inf luential in the development of group work services.

Later, Sherif and colleagues (Sherif, 1956; Sherif & Sherif, 1953; Sherif, White, & Harvey, 1955) relied on naturalistic observations of boys in a summer camp program to demonstrate how cohesion and intergroup hostility develop in groups. Groups of boys became more cooperative when they spent time together and had common goals, such as winning a tug-of-war. They developed a liking for one another and felt solidarity with their teammates. At the same time, antagonism between groups increased. Bringing boys f rom different groups together only increased the tension until tasks were assigned that required the joint efforts of boys f rom different groups.

Social scientists also learned more about people’s behavior in groups f rom stud- ies done in industry and in the U.S. Army. Perhaps the most famous of all industrial studies is the classic series of studies at Western Electric’s Hawthorne plant in Chicago ( Roethlisberger, 1941; Roethlisberger & Dickson, 1939, 1975). These studies were de- signed to test whether piece-rate wage incentives increased the output of workers who assembled telephone equipment. The incentives were designed in such a way that wage increases gained by one team member would also benefit other team members. Management believed such a system would encourage individual productivity and increase group spirit and morale because all team members would benefit f rom the increase in productivity.

It was found that an informal group had developed among team members. Despite the opportunity to improve individual and group wages, workers did not produce more under the new incentive system. Results of the studies suggest that informal norms of what constituted a fair day’s work governed the workers’ behavior. Members of a work group that produced too much were ridiculed as “rate busters” and those who produced too little were called “chiselers.” Occasionally, more severe sanctions called “binging” were applied by team members when a worker did not conform to the team’s notion of a fair day’s work. Binging consisted of striking a fellow worker as hard as possible on the upper arm while verbally asking the worker to comply with the group’s norms.

Studies conducted on combat units during World War II also helped identify the powerful effects that small groups can have on the behavior of their members. For exam- ple, in describing the fighting ability of combat soldiers, Shils (1950) and Stouffer (1949) found that the courage of the average soldier was only partially sustained by hatred of the enemy and the patriotic ideas of a democratic society. Their studies revealed that

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 71 01/05/17 11:30 AM

72 Chapter 2

soldiers’ loyalty to their particular unit strengthened their morale and supported them during periods of intense combat stress.

During the 1950s, an explosion of knowledge about small groups took place. Earlier experiments by Bales (1950), Jennings (1947, 1950), Lewin, Lippitt, and White (1939), and Moreno (1934) spurred interest in the study of both task and treatment groups. Some of the most important findings f rom this period are summarized in the work of Cartwright and Zander (1968), Forsyth, (2014), Hare (1976), Kiesler (1978), McGrath (1984), Nixon (1979), and Shaw (1976). Because these studies are ref lected in the models of group dynamics and leadership in Chapters 3 and 4, they are not presented in detail here.

The major themes of small-group research that were initially developed in the first half of the twentieth century—that is, cohesion, conformity, communication and inter- action patterns, group development, leadership, and social cognition and perception— continue to dominate the research efforts of social scientists investigating the dynamics of small groups today (Forsyth, 2014; McGrath, Arrow, & Berdahl, 2000). However, new themes have also emerged. These include an increased emphasis on the effects of gen-

der and diversity on group development (Forsyth, 2014, Yuli & Brewer, 2014). There has been a greater emphasis on research on teamwork (see, for exam- ple, Levi, 2014). There has also been an increased interest in the use of com- puter technology both for decision support systems (Forsyth, 2014), as well as to form virtual groups through telephone, video, and the Internet, for people who do not get together in person (Toseland, Naccarato, & Wray, 2007).

inFluential theories

From knowledge about small groups accumulated over the years in laboratory and natural settings, investigators of group phenomena began to develop comprehensive theories to ex- plain group functioning. An enormous variety of these theories exist (Douglas, 1979). This chapter considers six of the most important theories: (1) systems theory, (2)  psychodynamic theory, (3) learning theory, (4) field theory, (5) social exchange theory, and (6) constructivist, narrative, and empowerment theories. Although a thorough knowledge of systems theory is basic to all group work practice, the text also summarizes five other theories that have had an important inf luence on group work practice. As they become more experienced,

group workers should consider learning more about each of these theories to enrich their practice with group members with different backgrounds and needs.

Systems Theory

Systems theory attempts to understand the group as a system of interacting elements. It is probably the most widely used and broadly applied theory of group functioning (Anderson, 1979; Olsen, 1968). Several inf luential theorists have developed conceptualizations of groups as social systems.

To Parsons (1951), groups are social systems with several in- terdependent members attempting to maintain order and a stable

Assess your understanding of social science research

by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.


Behavior: apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multi- disciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies

critical thinking Question: A good deal of theory exists about how people act in groups. What are the main theories and how do they differ?

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 72 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 73

equilibrium while they function as a unified whole. Groups are constantly facing changing demands in their quest to attain goals and to maintain a stable equilibrium. Groups must mobilize their resources and act to meet changing demands if they are to survive. Accord- ing to Parsons, Bales, and Shils (1953), there are four major functional tasks for systems such as a group: (1) integration—ensuring that members of groups fit together; (2) adaptation— ensuring that groups change to cope with the demands of their environment; (3) pattern maintenance—ensuring that groups define and sustain their basic purposes, identities, and procedures; and (4) goal attainment—ensuring that groups pursue and accomplish their tasks.

Groups must accomplish these four functional tasks to remain in equilibrium. The work of carrying out these tasks is left to the group’s leader and its members. The leader and members act to help their group survive so they can be gratified as the group reaches its goal (Mills, 1967). To do this, group members observe and assess the group’s progress toward its goals and take action to avoid problems. The likelihood that a group will sur- vive depends on the demands of the environment, the extent to which members identify with group goals, and the degree to which members believe the goals are attainable. By overcoming obstacles and successfully handling the functional tasks conf ronting them, groups strive to remain in a state of equilibrium.

Robert Bales, another important systems theorist, has a somewhat different con- ception of groups as social systems. Whereas Parsons was interested in developing a generalizable systems model to explain societal as well as group functioning, Bales con- centrated his efforts on observing and theorizing about small task groups in laboratory settings. According to Bales (1950), groups must solve two general types of problems to maintain themselves. These include (1) instrumental problems, such as the group reach- ing its goals, and (2) socio-emotional problems that include interpersonal difficulties, problems of coordination, and member satisfaction. Instrumental problems are caused by demands placed on the group by the outside environment; socio-emotional problems arise f rom within the group.

The implications of Bales’ work is that the worker should be concerned about group processes and outcomes, that is, members’ social and emotional needs and the task ac- complishments expected of the group. Exclusive attention to tasks leads to dissatisfac- tion and conf lict within the group. Exclusive attention to members’ socio-emotional needs leads to the group’s failure to accomplish its objectives and goals.

Because instrumental and socio-emotional needs often conf lict, it is usually impos- sible to attend to both sets of problems simultaneously. Therefore, the worker is placed in the precarious position of attending alternately to task and socio-emotional needs to maintain a group’s optimal functioning.

In contrast with Parsons, who emphasized harmony and equilibrium, Bales’ systems model emphasizes tension and antagonism. Groups tend to vacillate between adaptation to the outside environment and attention to internal integration. Bales (1950) calls this the group’s “dynamic equilibrium.” Swings in attention are the result of the functional needs of the group in its struggle to maintain itself.

To study this “dynamic equilibrium,” Bales observed interactions in several different kinds of task groups, such as juries and teams (Bales, 1950, 1954, 1955). Bales found that, to deal with instrumental problems, group members asked for or gave opinions, asked for or gave information, and asked for or made suggestions. To handle socio-emotional prob- lems, group members expressed agreement or disagreement, showed tension or released

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 73 01/05/17 11:30 AM

74 Chapter 2

tension, and showed solidarity or antagonism. Through these interactions, group mem- bers dealt with problems of communication, evaluation, control, decision-making, ten- sion reduction, and integration.

Bales (1954, 1955) also suggests that groups go through a natural process of evolu- tion and development. Analysis of the distribution of interactions in each category in problem-solving groups suggests that typical task groups emphasize giving and receiving information early in group meetings, giving and asking for opinions in the middle stage, and giving and asking for suggestions in later stages (Shepard, 1964).

Bales (1950) developed a scheme for analyzing group interaction on the basis of his theory about how group members deal with instrumental and expressive tasks. This scheme is called Interaction Process Analysis. It puts members’ interactions into 12 cat- egories. Bales, Cohen, and Williamson (1979) have continued to develop and refine this system of analyzing group interactions. The newer system, Systematic Multiple Level Observation of Groups (SYMLOG), is explained in Chapter 8.

The final conception of systems theory relevant to our understanding of group dy- namics has been presented in Homans’ (1950) early work, The Human Group. It is also evident in the writings of Germain and Gitterman (2008) on ecological systems theory. According to these writers, groups are in constant interaction with their environments. They occupy an ecological niche. Homans suggests that groups have an external system and an internal system. The external system represents a group’s way of handling the adaptive problems that result f rom its relationship with its social and physical environ- ment. The internal system consists of the patterns of activities, interactions, and norms occurring within the group as it attempts to function.

Like Bales, Homans notes that the relative dominance of the internal system or the external system depends on the demands of the external and the internal environment of the group. Homans, however, denies the homeostatic idea of equilibrium proposed by Parsons and Bales, preferring to conceive of groups as ever-changing entities. Change and the constant struggle for equilibrium are always present.

The different conceptualizations of systems theory may at first appear confusing. How- ever, when one considers the vast array of groups in modern society and people’s different experiences in them, it becomes easier to understand how different conceptualizations of systems theory have developed. It is important to recognize that each conceptualization rep- resents a unique attempt to understand the processes that occur in all social systems.

Concepts derived f rom these differing views of systems theory that are particularly relevant for group workers include the following:

• The existence of properties of the group as a whole that arise f rom the interactions of individual group members

• The powerful effects of group forces on members’ behavior • The struggle of groups to maintain themselves as entities when conf ronted with

conf licts • The awareness that groups must relate to an external environment as well as

attend to their internal functioning • The idea that groups are in a constant state of becoming, developing, and

changing that inf luences their equilibrium and continued existence • The notion that groups have a developmental life cycle

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 74 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 75

Workers can use these concepts to facilitate the development of group processes that help treatment and task groups achieve their goals and help members satisfy their socio-emotional needs.

Psychodynamic Theory

Psychodynamic theory has had an important inf luence on group work practice. In his work Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego,Freud (1922) set forth his theoretical formulations about groups and their inf luence on human behavior. Many of Freud’s other works have also inf luenced group work practice. For exam- ple, commonly used terms such as insight, ego strength, and defense mechanisms originated in Freud’s work. Although psychodynamic theory focuses primarily on the individual, and Freud did not practice group psychotherapy, many of his followers have adapted psy- chodynamic theory for working with groups (Bion, 1991; Kauff, 2012; Klein, Bernard, & Singer, 2000; Kleinberg, 2012; Leszcz & Malat, 2012; Marmarosh, Dunton, & Amendola, 2014; Piper, Ogrodniczuk, & Duncan, 2002; Redl, 1942, 1944; Rutan, 1992; Rutan, Stone, & Shay, 2014; Yalom, 2005). Psychodynamic theory has also inf luenced the founders of other practice theories used in groups, such as Eric Berne’s transactional analysis, Fritz Perl’s gestalt therapy, and Jacob Moreno’s psychodrama.

According to psychodynamic theory, group members act out in the group unre- solved conf licts f rom early life experiences. In many ways, the group becomes a reenact- ment of the family situation. Freud (1922), for example, describes the group leader as the all-powerful father figure who reigns supreme over group members. Group members identify with the group leader as the “ego ideal” (Wyss, 1973). Members form transfer- ence reactions to the group leader and to each other because of their early life experi- ences. Thus, the interactions that occur in the group ref lect personality structures and defense mechanisms that members began to develop early in life.

The group leader uses transference and countertransference reactions to help mem- bers work through unresolved conf licts by exploring past behavior patterns and linking these patterns to current behaviors. For example, the group leader might interpret the behavior of two group members who are struggling for the leader’s attention as unre- solved sibling rivalry. When interpretations made by the group worker are timed ap- propriately, members gain insight into their own behavior. According to psychodynamic theory, insight is the essential ingredient in modifying and changing behavior patterns inside and outside the group.

Conceptions of psychodynamic group treatment (Kleinberg, 2012; Yalom, 2005) have adapted and modified classical psychodynamic theory to include a greater emphasis on the here-and-now experiences of group interaction. Because of this emphasis, this ap- plication is often referred to in the literature as interpersonal group therapy (Leszcz, 1992; Leszcz & Malat, 2012). Emphasizing the here-and-now experiences of group members is useful in ensuring that members deal with issues of immediate concern to them. From an analysis of here-and-now behavior patterns in the microcosm of the group, the leader can help members reconstruct unresolved childhood conf licts and have “corrective emo- tional experiences” (Leszcz, 1992, p. 48). Through direct, mutual interpersonal communi- cations, members build interpersonal skills, adaptive capacities, and ego strength, as well

Research-Informed Practice

Behavior: use and translate research evidence to inform and improve practice, policy, and service delivery

critical thinking Question: Many theories support group work. What empirical evidence supports psychodynamic theory?

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 75 01/05/17 11:30 AM

76 Chapter 2

as gaining insight into their behavior. The cohesiveness of the group encourages mem- bers to reveal intimate details about their personal lives and to describe and act out their conf licts in a safe, supportive environment. Closely related to the interpersonal model of group work is the functional group model that focuses on integrative, inter-subjective, and relationship-based group-centered processes (Schermer & Rice, 2012; Schwartzberg & Barnes, 2012).

Psychodynamic theory has also been inf luential in furthering our understanding of how individuals behave in groups. Wilf red Bion, who was psychodynamically trained, developed the Tavistock approach to help people understand the primitive emotional processes that occur in groups. He suggested that group members often avoid the work of the group by reacting to the leader’s authority with f light-fight responses and depen- dency (Bion, 1991).

A thorough discussion of psychodynamic theory of group functioning is beyond the scope of this book. For additional information about modern adaptations of psycho- dynamic theory to group work practice, see Kauff (2012), Kleinberg (2012), Leszcz and Malat (2012), Marmarosh, Dunton, and Amendola (2014), and Rutan, Stone, and Shay (2014).

Learning Theory

Perhaps no theory has stirred more controversy within social group work than learning theory. As with psychodynamic theory, the primary focus of learning theory is on the behavior of individuals rather than on the behavior of groups. Thus, learning theory has generally ignored the importance of group dynamics. In addition, like the early empha- sis on primitive drives in psychodynamic theory, the early emphasis on environmental contingencies and the de-emphasis of f ree will has led some group workers to conclude that learning theory is deterministic. For these reasons, some view learning theory as an- tithetical to the values and traditions of growth, autonomy, and self-determination that are so much a part of the heritage of group work practice.

Despite the controversy, learning theory has had an important inf luence on current methods of group work practice. The emphasis on clear and specific goal setting, con- tracting, the inf luence of the environment on the group and its members, step-by-step treatment planning, measurable treatment outcomes, and evaluation can be traced, at least in part, to the inf luence of learning theory. The importance of short-term, struc- tured psycho-educational groups attests to the important inf luence that learning the- ory principles have had on group work practice (Antony & Roemer, 2011; Burlingame, Strauss, & Joyce, 2013; Kalodner, Coughlin & Seide, 2014; Kazdin, 2013; LeCroy, 2008; Raczynski & Horne, 2014).

According to social learning theory (Bandura, 1977), the behavior of group mem- bers can be explained by one of three methods of learning. In the classical approach to learning theory, behavior becomes associated with a stimulus. For example, a worker responds by making a negative verbal comment each time a member turns and speaks to another member while the worker or other group members are speaking. After several times, the mere stimulus of the member’s turning, without speaking, will be enough to cue the worker to respond with a negative verbal comment.

A second and more common method of learning is called operant conditioning. In this paradigm, the behaviors of the group members and the worker are governed by

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 76 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 77

the consequences of their actions. Thus, if member A acts in a certain way and member B reacts positively, member A is likely to continue the behavior. Similarly, if a group worker receives negative feedback f rom group members about a particular behavior, the worker will be less likely to behave that way in the future (Antony & Roemer, 2011; Kazdin, 2013).

In the group, the worker might use praise to increase member-to-member commu- nications and negative verbal comments to decrease member-to-leader communications. To help a member with a problem he or she has experienced in the outside environment, such as being overweight, the group leader might ask the member to develop a plan that specifies self-imposed rewards for behavior that decreases caloric intake and self-imposed sanctions for behavior that increases caloric intake.

Several writers (Feldman, Caplinger, & Wodarski, 1983; Feldman & Wodarski, 1975; Rose, 1989, 1998, 2004; Rose & Edleson, 1987) use operant learning theory principles in their approach to group work. For example, Rose (1989) suggests that tokens, praise, or other reinforcers can be used to increase desired behavior and decrease undesired behav- ior in the group or in the external environment. Groups that focus on themes, such as social skills training, assertiveness, relaxation, and parenting skills, also f requently rely heavily on learning theory principles.

Bandura (1977) has developed a third learning paradigm called social learning theory. If group members or group workers were to wait for classical or operant conditioning to occur, behavior in groups would be learned very slowly. Bandura proposed that most learning takes place through observation and vicarious reinforcement or punishment. For example, when a group member is praised for a certain behavior, that group mem- ber and other group members reproduce the behavior later, hoping to receive similar praise. When a group member who performs a certain behavior is ignored or punished by social sanctions, other group members learn not to behave in that manner because such behavior results in a negative outcome.

In response to concerns that learning theory has not taken into consideration mo- tivations, expectations, and other cognitive aspects of behavior, Ellis (1992) and others have described cognitive-behavioral approaches to treatment (Beck, 2011; Leahy, 1996; Sheldon, 2011). Although learning theorists have not attempted to explain the functioning of groups as a whole, learning theory principles have been shown to be useful in helping members make desired changes. All group workers should be familiar with the basic principles of learning theory and cognitive behavior modification. Because of their par- ticular relevance to treatment groups, some principles of classical, operant, social learn- ing theory and cognitive-behavioral approaches are used in the discussion of specialized methods for leading treatment groups in Chapter 10.

Field Theory

Kurt Lewin, more than any other social scientist, has come to be associated with the study of group dynamics. He conducted numerous experiments on the forces that account for behavior in small groups. For example, in an early study investigating leadership, Lewin, Lippitt, and White (1939) created three types of groups: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership. The results of this study are reported in Chapter 4. Lewin and his colleagues were the first to apply the scientific method in developing a theory of groups.

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 77 01/05/17 11:30 AM

78 Chapter 2

In 1944, he and his colleagues set up laboratories and formed the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The unique contribution of field theory is that it views the group as a gestalt, that is, an evolving entity of opposing forces that act to hold members in the group and to move the group along in its quest for goal achievement. According to Lewin (1947), groups are constantly changing to cope with their social situation, although there are times in which a “quasi-stationary equilibrium” exists for all groups. In all cases, however, the behavior of individual group members and the group itself must be seen as a function of the total situation (Lewin, 1946).

In developing field theory, Lewin introduced several concepts to aid in understand- ing the forces at work in a group. Among these are (1) roles, which refer to the status, rights, and duties of group members; (2) norms, which are rules governing the behavior of group members; (3) power, which is the ability of members to inf luence one another; (4) cohesion, which is the amount of attraction the members of the group feel for one another and for the group; (5) consensus, which is the degree of agreement regarding goals and other group phenomena; and (6) valence, which is the potency of goals and objects in the life space of the group.

Lewin sought to understand the forces occurring in the group as a whole f rom the perspective of individual group members. He did this mathematically and topographi- cally, using vectors to describe group forces. Emphasizing the importance of properties of the group that act on the individual member, most field theorists have focused their research efforts on cohesion, which they define as the totality of forces acting on indi- vidual members to keep them in the group. Studies by field theorists have shown that cohesion is related to agreement on goals and norms, shared understanding, and similar demographic backgrounds of members, as well as to productivity, satisfaction, and coop- erative interaction patterns (Cartwright, 1951; Cartwright & Zander, 1968; Lippitt, 1957).

Along with his interest in formulating a theoretical model of group dynamics, Lewin was interested in the effect of groups on individuals’ psychological makeup. He devel- oped the t-group as a way to observe the effects of group processes on group members and as a means to help individual group members change their own behavior. Although he was not directly involved, he helped found the first National Training Laboratory in Group Development in 1947. Since then, t-groups have been used extensively at the Na- tional Training Laboratories as an experiential means to train group facilitators, to teach individuals about the effects of group dynamics, and to help individuals examine and change their own behavior.

Relying on a principle in Lewin’s field theory that suggests individuals will not change their own behavior unless they see their behavior and their attitudes as others see them, the t-group experience attempts to provide participants with extensive feedback about their own behavior. Members are conf ronted with the effects of their behavior on other group members and on the group’s facilitator. Role plays, simulations, and other experiential program activities are often used to illustrate how group processes develop and how they affect members.

Lewin (1951) is considered the founder of the action research approach to practice and evaluation described in Chapter 14 (Lawson, Caringi, Pyles, Jurkowski, & Bozlak, 2015). Lewin believed that the most effective way to understand a phenomenon was to try to change it in naturally occurring contexts. Action research is a practice and a research

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 78 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 79

method that engages community residents as partners in the process of developing pro- grams to meet their needs. The action research process is cyclical, so that participants engage in an iterative process of trying out new ways of doing things in community settings, collecting data about the effects, and then going back and making changes in programming based on the data collected. In this way, people affected by problems are treated with dignity and respect by being invited to participate fully in the design and intervention team. They are also encouraged to become fully involved in the implemen- tation of interventions to address their concerns and needs. As the cyclical process con- tinues, information and feedback about the new methods and programs are collected, and adjustments are made based on the feedback of all who are involved (Lawson, et al., 2015). Thus, Lewin’s scholarship many decades ago is still quite relevant to current day social work practice and research.

Social Exchange Theory

Although field theory emphasizes the group as a whole, social exchange theory focuses on the behavior of individual group members. Blau (1964), Homans (1961), and Thibaut and Kelley (1959) are the principal developers of this approach to groups. Deriving their theory f rom animal psychology, economic analysis, and game theory, social exchange theorists suggest that when people interact in groups, each attempts to behave in a way that will maximize rewards and minimize punishments. Group members initiate inter- actions because the social exchanges provide them with something of value, such as approval. According to social exchange theorists, because ordinarily nothing is gained un- less something is given in return, there is an exchange implied in all human relationships.

In social exchange theory, group behavior is analyzed by observing how individual members seek rewards while dealing with the sustained social interaction occurring in a group. For an individual in a group, the decision to express a given behavior is based on a comparison of the rewards and punishments that are expected to be derived f rom the behavior. Group members act to increase positive consequences and decrease nega- tive consequences. Social exchange theory also focuses on the way members inf luence one another during social interactions. The result of any social exchange is based on the amount of social power and the amount of social dependence in a particular interaction.

Guided Group Interaction (Empey & Erikson, 1972; McCorkle, Elias, & Bixby, 1958) and Positive Peer Culture (Vorrath & Brendtro, 1985) are two specialized group work methods that rely heavily on principles f rom social exchange theory. They are f requently used with delinquent adolescents in residential and institutional settings. In both ap- proaches, structured groups are used to conf ront, challenge, and eliminate antisocial peer-group norms and to replace them with prosocial norms through guided peer-group interaction.

Social exchange theory has been criticized as being mechanistic because it assumes people are always rational beings who act according to their analysis of rewards and pun- ishments (Shepard, 1964). For the most part, these criticisms are unfounded. Social ex- change theorists are aware that cognitive processes affect how people behave in groups (Keller & Dansereau, 1995; Knottnerus, 1994). Group members’ perceptions of rewards and punishments are inf luenced by cognitive processes, such as intentions and expec- tations. Thus, the work of social exchange theorists in psychology and of symbolic

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 79 01/05/17 11:30 AM

80 Chapter 2

interaction theorists in sociology has helped to account for the role of cognitive pro- cesses in the behavior of individuals in groups and other social interactions. The inf lu- ence of symbolic interaction theory and social exchange theory on social work practice with groups can be seen in the work of Balgopal and Vassil (1983) and Early (1992).

Constructivist, Empowerment, and Narrative Theories

Constructivist and narrative theories focus on how group members create and maintain their realities through life stories and subjective experiences. Empowerment is intricately related to narrative and constructivist theories because by understanding their own life stories, group members can be empowered to take on new ways of being and behav- ing (Western, 2013). Instead of focusing on problems and deficits, empowerment and strengths-based approaches focus on the positive aspects of members’ coping skills and their resiliency in the face of difficult and often hostile social environments. We place these theories together in one category because they are based on the premise that hu- mans attach unique meanings to life experiences based on their social experiences and dialogue with the world around them (Granvold, 2008).

Constructivist and narrative theories suggest that through language and experience, group members construct life stories or personal narratives. For members of treatment groups, these are often problem-filled stories (Walsh, 2013). The stories created shape members’ lives and have a profound effect on their self-concept and self-esteem. Con- structivists believe that members’ self-conceptions are imbedded in the way they are socialized and experience life and that meaning is created out of these experiences in conjunction with biological and temperamental qualities (Granvold, 2008).

These theories place a great deal of emphasis on understanding group members’ unique, subjective realities. This is basic to the long-held social work practice of “start- ing where the client is.” Once these realities are understood, the transformational and interactional leadership approaches discussed in Chapter 4 can be used to ref rame sto- ries, to empower members, and to bring out their strengths, resiliencies, and capacities. Members can then be helped by the leader and other group members to create new life stories, viewing their oppressive and negative life stories with more positive f rames of reference that build on the opportunities, capacities, and strengths available to them. The worker helps members view how they might be vulnerable to narratives of diminished status f rom oppression, such as sexism, homophobia, and racism. Other techniques that are described in this book that fit with narrative therapy are journaling, letter writing, mutual aid, visualization, cognitive imagery, and mindfulness mediation. When these are done in groups, members help empower each other and ref rame each other’s life stories particularly working on the way members used strengths and resiliency to go on living after surviving trauma.

Constructionist and narrative theories are newer approaches to group work practice than are the other theories already mentioned in this text. They are compatible with em- powerment and strengths-based approaches to social group work because they are based on helping members to overcome restrictive life narratives and social constructions of re- ality that not only are negative, but keep members oppressed and in low-status positions. By telling their stories verbally, keeping diaries, and journaling, members are helped to understand adverse childhood and adult experiences as products of an unsupportive

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 80 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Historical and Theoretical Developments 81

environment rather than as personal limitations and f laws. Ventilation, affirmation, and support help members gain new perspectives on their experiences, especially the dam- age done to their self-esteem. Then, members are empowered to help each other to get in touch with their resiliency and ways to overcome marginalization and oppression.

There is some research-based evidence for the theories, so in our view they are not antithetical to the evidence-based approach used in this text (see Buckman, Kinney, & Reese, 2008; Walsh, 2013). Although the theories do not view quantitative empirical methods in a favorable light, they rely on qualitative approaches (Buckman, Kinney, & Reese, 2008). For example, Teaching Empowerment through Active Means (TEAM) is a research-based group program that helps members build stories of competency and resiliency (Redivo & Buckman, 2004).

The notion of liberating members f rom externally imposed constraints, helping those who are oppressed to come to terms with socially imposed restrictions, and re- f raming and redef ining their lives through empowerment and strengths-based ap- proaches, these approaches are in keeping with the objectives of this text and the history of social group work. Although Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and di- alectical behavior therapy (DBT) are based on cognitive behavior theory (learning the- ory), they borrow some strategies f rom these perspectives as well. We will learn more about ACT and DBT in Chapter 10.

There are also some limitations to these approaches for social group work because they tend to avoid attempts to universalize experiences, emphasizing instead the unique stories and socially constructed realities of members. In addition, the externalization of problems as socially constructed may not be helpful for mandated and acting-out group members who have violated social norms and conventions and are at risk of reoffending (Walsh, 2013). At the same time, narrative, constructivist, and empowerment approaches are particularly helpful for survivors of incest, sexual abuse, and other types of adverse childhood and adult experiences leading to trauma. They also work well with identity issues and prejudice faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered members, those with low self-esteem and denigrated self-concepts, and those with mental and physical disabilities who view themselves as outsiders who carry destructive labels that keep them in oppressed roles and out of touch with their strengths and resiliency.


This chapter describes historical developments in the practice of group work and in the social sciences. A historical perspective is presented to help workers develop a broad un- derstanding of the uses of groups in practice settings and develop a knowledge base they can use to practice effectively with different types of groups.

The historical overview of group work practice presented in this chapter suggests that throughout the twentieth century, groups were used for a variety of purposes, such as education, recreation, socialization, support, and therapy. The early emphasis on the use of groups for education, recreation, and socialization has waned in recent years in favor of an increased interest in the use of groups for support, mutual aid, and therapy. This trend parallels the gradual transition during the 1930s and 1940s away f rom group

Assess your understand- ing of influential theories

by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 81 01/05/17 11:30 AM

82 Chapter 2

work’s amorphous roots in adult education, recreation, and social work to its formal in- corporation into the social work profession during the 1950s.

Currently, social group work is being revitalized in schools of social work and in practice settings. As current trends indicate, in recent years there has also been an in- creased recognition of the roots of social group work and the multiple purposes group work can serve.

This chapter also brief ly explores historical developments in social science research that have relevance for understanding group processes. Findings f rom these studies emphasize the powerful inf luence that the group as a whole has on individual group members. The chapter closes with a review of six theories: (1) systems theory, (2) psy- chodynamic theory, (3) learning theory, (4) field theory, (5) social exchange theory, and (6) narrative and constructivist theories, all of which have had an important inf luence on group work practice.

M02_TOSE0283_08_SE_C02.indd 82 01/05/17 11:30 AM


The forces that result f rom the interactions of group members are often referred to as group dynamics. Because group dynamics inf lu- ence the behavior of both individual group members and the group as a whole, they have been of considerable interest to group work- ers for many years (Coyle, 1930, 1937; Elliott, 1928).

A thorough understanding of group dynamics is useful for prac- ticing effectively with any type of group. Although many theories have been developed to conceptualize group functioning, fundamen- tal to all of them is an understanding of groups as social systems. A system is made up of elements and their interactions. As social systems, therefore, task and treatment groups can be conceptualized as individuals in interaction with each other. Groups are more than the sum of their parts (Forsyth, 2014). Group dynamic processes arise out of the interaction of the individual members of the group.

The DevelopmenT of helpful Group Dynamics

One of group workers’ most important tasks is to guide the devel- opment of dynamics that promote the satisfaction of members’ socio- emotional needs while facilitating the accomplishment of group tasks. Some years ago, Northen (1969) reminded group workers that this is not an automatic process.

Inattention to group dynamics can have a negative effect on the meeting of members’ socio-emotional needs and on goal attain- ment. Groups can unleash both harmful and helpful forces. The Hit- ler youth movement of the 1920s and 1930s, the Ku Klux Klan, the religious groups in Jonestown and at the Branch Davidians’ ranch in Waco, Texas, and other harmful cults are familiar examples of group dynamics gone awry. Studies over the past 30 years have clearly shown that harmful group dynamics can be very traumatic for group members, with some emotional effects lasting years after the group experience (Galinsky & Schopler, 1977; Lieberman, Yalom, & Miles,

C h a p t e r O u t l i n e

The Development of Helpful Group Dynamics 83

Group Dynamics 84

Stages of Group Development 108

Summary 112

l e a r n i n g O u t C O m e s

• Discuss strategies for promoting helpful group dynamics.

• Demonstrate an understanding of important group dynamics including communication and interaction patterns, cohesion, social integration and inf luence, and group culture.

• Describe the stages of group development.

• Identify practice principles that support effective group development.

Understanding Group Dynamics


M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 83 01/05/17 11:30 AM

84 Chapter 3

Assess your understanding of the development of helpful group dynamics

by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

1973; Smokowski, Rose, & Bacallao, 2001; Smokowski, Rose, Todar, & Reardon, 1999). Two extremes of group leadership, aggressive conf rontation and extreme passivity, seem to have particularly pernicious effects on members (Smokowski, Rose, & Bacallao, 2001; Smokowski et al., 1999). In contrast, appropriate development of group dynamics can lead to positive outcomes for the group and its members (Forsyth, 2014).

This chapter’s purposes are to help (1) group workers recognize and understand the dynamics generated through group processes in all types of treatment and task groups, (2) workers establish and promote group dynamics that satisfy members’ socio- emotional needs, and (3) groups to achieve goals consistent with the humanistic value base of the social work profession. Some strategies for doing this follow.

strategies for promoting helpful group Dynamics • Identify group dynamics as they emerge during ongoing group interaction • Assess the impact of group dynamics on group members and the group as a whole

• Assess the impact of current group dynamics on future group functioning • Examine the impact of group dynamics on members with different

backgrounds • Facilitate and guide the development of group dynamics that lead to mem-

bers’ satisfaction with their participation and that enable members and whole groups to achieve their goals

Group Dynamics

In this text, four dimensions of group dynamics are of particular importance to group work- ers in understanding and working effectively with all types of task and treatment groups:

1. Communication and interaction patterns 2. Cohesion 3. Social integration and inf luence 4. Group culture

In-depth knowledge of group dynamics is essential for understanding the social structure of groups and for developing beginning-level skills in group work practice.

Communication and Interaction Patterns

According to Northen (1969), “social interaction is a term for the dynamic interplay of forces in which contact between persons results in a modification of the behavior and atti- tudes of the participants” (p. 17). Verbal and nonverbal communications are the components of social interaction. Communication is the process by which people convey meanings to each other by using symbols. Communication entails (1) the encoding of a person’s per- ceptions, thoughts, and feelings into language and other symbols, (2) the transmission of these symbols or language, and (3) the decoding of the transmission by another person. This process is shown in Figure 3.1. As members of a group communicate to one another, a reciprocal pattern of interaction emerges. The interaction patterns that develop can be beneficial or harmful to the group. A group worker who is knowledgeable about helpful

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 84 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 85

communications and interactions can intervene in the patterns that are established to help the group achieve desired goals and to ensure the socio-emotional satisfaction of members.

Communication can be verbal, nonverbal, or written. Whereas members of face- to-face groups experience verbal and nonverbal communications, members of telephone groups experience only verbal communications, and members of computer groups experience only written messages. Communication can also be synchronous, that is, back and forth in real time, or asynchronous, that is, not within the same period. Asynchronous com- munications occur in computer groups where members may respond to messages after they are posted on bulletin boards or in chat rooms.

Communication as a Process The first step in understanding and intervening in interaction patterns is for the worker to be aware that, whenever people are together in face-to-face groups, they are commu- nicating. Even if they are not communicating verbally, they are communicating nonver- bally, their behaviors sending intended and unintended messages.

As shown in Figure 3.1, all communications are intended to convey a message. Silence, for example, can communicate sorrow, thoughtfulness, anger, or lack of interest. In addition, every group member communicates not only to transmit information but also for many other reasons. Kiesler (1978) has suggested that people communicate with such interpersonal concerns as (1) understanding other people, (2) finding out where they stand in relation to other people, (3) persuading others, (4) gaining or maintaining power, (5) defending themselves, (6) provoking a reaction f rom others, (7) making an im- pression on others, (8) gaining or maintaining relationships, and (9) presenting a unified image to the group. Many other important reasons for communication could be added to this list. For example, Barker and colleagues (2000) highlight the importance of rela- tional aspects of communication, such as cooperation, connection, autonomy, similarity, f lexibility, harmony, and stigmatization.

Workers who are aware that group members communicate for many reasons can observe, assess, and understand communication and interaction patterns. Because pat- terns of communication are often consistent across different situations, group workers can use this information to work with individual members and the group as a whole. For example, a worker observes that one member is consistently unassertive in the group. The worker might help the member practice responding assertively to situations in the

Figure 3.1 A Model of the Process of Communication

Meaning Message UnderstandingMeaning Message UnderstandingMeaning Message Understanding

Sender (encoding)

Transmission Receiver

(decoding) Sender

(encoding) Transmission

Receiver (decoding)

Sender (encoding)

Transmission Receiver

(decoding) Sender

(encoding) Transmission

Receiver (decoding)

Sender (encoding)

Transmission Receiver



Interference InterferenceInterference Interference

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 85 01/05/17 11:30 AM

86 Chapter 3

group. Because the pattern of a lack of assertiveness is likely to occur in situations out- side the group, the worker suggests that the member consider practicing the skills in situations encountered between meetings.

In addition to meanings transmitted in every communication, the worker should also be aware that messages are often received selectively. Selective perception refers to the screening of messages so they are congruent with one’s belief system. As shown in Figure 3.1, messages are decoded and their meanings are received. Individual group mem- bers have a unique understanding of communications because of their selective percep- tion. Selected screening sometimes results in the blocking of messages so that they are not decoded and received. Napier and Gershenfeld (1993) suggest that the perception of a communication can be inf luenced by (1) life positions that result f rom experiences in early childhood, (2) stereotypes, (3) the status and position of the communicator, (4) pre- vious experiences, and (5) assumptions and values. Thus, what might appear to a naive observer as a simple, straightforward, and objective social interaction might have consid- erable hidden meaning for both the sender and the receiver.

case example: Selective Perception in a Parenting Group

In a parenting group, one member began to talk about the differences between her son and her daughter. The member mentioned that her daughter was much more difficult for her to handle than her son. Another member of the group said in an angry voice, “You just never think your daughter can do anything good.” The group became silent and the original member said that even though her daughter was difficult it was not true that she “could never do any- thing right.” The worker asked the other members about their reactions to the interaction but no one volunteered. The worker then asked the second member to talk about her own relation- ship with her mother and her daughter. As the member talked, it became clear that she had a lot of resentment about the way her mother had treated her as a child, and now as an adult, she had compensated for that in her interactions with her own daughter. The worker then asked the member if the way she perceived the first member’s interaction with her daughter could have anything to do with how she was treated by her own mother. Before the member could answer, other members of the group began to talk about how they were treated by their own parents and how it made them especially sensitive to the way they interacted with their own children. Later, in the same session, the member who had gotten angry said to the mem- ber that she had confronted that she apologized if she had overreacted. The member who had been confronted said that she had learned a lot from the discussion and was going to think of some new ways that she could interact with her daughter when her daughter “pushed her but- tons.” This led to a discussion of the things that triggered members to act in angry ways toward their children and what they might do differently to avoid getting angry.

It is not possible, or even desirable, for workers to analyze each interpersonal com- munication that occurs in a group. However, with a little practice, workers can develop a “third ear,” that is, become aware of the meanings behind messages and their effect on a particular group member and on the group as a whole. Group workers are in a much better position to intervene in the group when they have a full understanding of the meanings of the messages being communicated and received by each member.

It is particularly important for the worker to pay attention to the nonverbal messages that are communicated by members. Body language, gestures, and facial expressions

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 86 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 87

can provide important clues about how members are reacting to verbal communications. Members may not want to verbalize negative feelings, or they may just not know how to express their feelings. When workers are attuned to nonverbal messages, they can verbalize the feelings conveyed in them. This, in turn, may en- courage members to talk about issues that they were previously only able to express nonverbally. For example, without identify- ing particular members who may be uncomfortable being associ- ated with a particular sentiment, the worker might say, “I noticed some tension in the group when we began to talk about. . . . I am wondering if anyone would like to share their feelings about this.” Similarly, the worker might say, “I thought I noticed a little bore- dom when we began talking about. . . . Has that topic been ex- hausted? Would you like to move on to the other issues we were going to discuss?”

Communications can also be distorted in transmission. In Figure 3.1, distortion is represented as interference. Among the most common transmis- sion problems are language barriers. In the United States, workers f requently conduct groups with members f rom different cultural backgrounds and for whom English is a sec- ond language. In addition to problems of understanding accents and dialects, the meanings of many words are culturally defined and may not be interpreted as the communicator intended. Special care must be taken in these situations to avoid distorting the meanings intended by the communicator.

Noise and other distortions inside or outside the meeting room can interfere with effective communication. Similarly, hearing or eyesight problems can create difficulties in receiving messages. For example, approximately 10 percent of adults are visually im- paired (American Foundation for the Blind, n.d.) and approximately 20 percent report at least some hearing impairment (Hearing Loss Association of America, n.d.). Thus, when working with groups, the practitioner should be alert to physical problems that may impair communication. Some strategies for working with members with visual impairments and hearing impairments are presented in Tables 3.1 and 3.2.

Table 3.1 Techniques for Communicating with Group Members Who Have Hearing Impairments

1. Position yourself so you are in full view of the person and your face is illuminated.

2. Speak in a normal voice.

3. Speak slowly and clearly. Stress key words. Pause between sentences.

4. Make sure no one else is talking when a group member is speaking to a hearing- impaired person or when a hearing-impaired person is speaking to a group member.

5. Make sure the room is free of background noises and has good acoustics.

6. Look for cues, such as facial expressions or inappropriate responses, that indicate the individual has misunderstood.

7. If you suspect that the individual has misunderstood, restate what has been said.

8. Speak to the individual, not about the person.

Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behavior: apply and communicate under- standing of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

critical Thinking Question: Members bring their communication styles to the group, and their styles are also affected by the nature of the group. How can the leader support and promote effective communications among members with different styles?

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 87 01/05/17 11:30 AM

88 Chapter 3

Table 3.2 Techniques for Communicating with Group Members Who Have Visual Impairments

1. Ask the individual whether assistance is needed to get to the meeting room. If the reply is yes, offer your elbow. Walk a half step ahead so your body indicates a change in direction, when to stop, and so forth.

2. Introduce yourself and all group members when the meeting begins. Go around the group clockwise or counterclockwise. This will help the group member learn where each member is located.

3. When you accompany a visually impaired person into a new meeting room, describe the layout of the room, the furniture placement, and any obstacles. This will help orient the individual.

4. Try not to disturb the placement of objects in the meeting room. If this is unavoidable, be sure to inform the person about the changes. Similarly, let the individual know if someone leaves or enters the room.

5. When guiding visually impaired individuals to their seat, place their hand on the back of the chair and allow them to seat themselves.

6. Speak directly to the visually impaired person, not through an intermediary.

7. Look at the individual when you speak.

8. Don’t be afraid to use words such as look and see.

9. Speak in a normal voice. Do not shout.

10. Visually impaired people value independence just as sighted people do. Do not be overprotective.

11. Give explicit instructions about the location of coffee or snacks during program activities. For example, state, “The coffee pot is 10 feet to the left of your chair,” rather than “The coffee pot is right over there on your left.”

Messages also are simplified by the receiver for easier memory storage. Complex messages are made shorter and more concise by the listener. The receiver sharpens some parts of messages and ignores others for parsimony and perceived relevancy and saliency. Thus, messages sent f rom one member to others are affected by how they are commu- nicated, how they are distorted in transmission, and how they are received. Although meaning is communicated in every verbal and nonverbal message, it is important for workers to be aware that problems in the sending, transmission, or receiving of messages can distort or obfuscate intended meanings.

Even when messages are clear, language barriers and cultural interpretations of the meaning conveyed in a message may mean that it is not received as intended ( Anderson & Carter, 2003). This can be a particularly vexing problem for members f rom bilingual backgrounds for whom English is a second language (Sue & Sue, 2013). It has been pointed out, for example, that white Americans have a significantly higher rate of verbal participation in groups than Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans of similar educational background (Gray-Little & Kaplan, 2000). Because higher rates of verbal participation in groups are associated with reduced attrition and other therapeutic benefits, lower levels of participation by minority members of multicultural groups is troubling (Gray-Little & Kaplan, 2000). Therefore, care should be taken to ensure that all

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 88 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 89

members feel comfortable contributing to the group discussion. Workers can help by en- suring that all members, including those who are marginalized and oppressed by society, have many opportunities to speak. The worker can point out and sharpen messages so that all members’ points of view are carefully considered by the group.

To prevent distortions in communications f rom causing misunderstandings and conf lict, it is also important that members receive feedback about their communications so that the true meaning of messages can be clarified. Feedback is a way of checking that the meanings of the communicated messages are understood correctly. For feedback to be used appropriately, it should (1) describe the content of the communication or the be- havior as it is perceived by the group member, (2) be given to the member who sent the message as soon as the message is received, and (3) be expressed in a tentative manner so that those who send messages understand that the feedback is designed to check for distortions rather than to conf ront or attack them.

Examples of feedback are, “John, I understood you to say . . .” or “Mary, if I under- stand you correctly, you are saying. . . .” Feedback and clarification can help to prevent communications f rom being interpreted in unintended ways. Feedback can also help members who were not paying attention for various reasons to get back into the com- munication processes and reconnect as contributing participants. For example, workers who observe members of trauma recovery groups’ loss of focus can tentatively point out the possible loss and invite members to refocus. There is no need to speculate about the reason for the lack of focus, unless members bring up issues like dissociation that might be beneficial for all members of a trauma recovery group to explore.

Interaction Patterns In addition to becoming aware of communication processes, the worker must also consider patterns of interaction that develop in a group.

patterns of group interaction • Maypole—when the leader is the central figure and communication occurs f rom

the leader to the member and f rom the member to the leader • Round robin—when members take turns talking • Hot seat—when there is an extended back-and-forth between the leader and one

member as the other members watch • Free f loating—when all members take responsibility for communicating, tak-

ing into consideration their ability to contribute meaningfully to the particular topic

The first three patterns are leader-centered because the leader structures them. The fourth pattern is group-centered because it emerges f rom the initiative of group mem- bers. The four patterns provide convenient and parsimonious ways to describe the over- all communications taking place in groups.

In most situations, workers should strive to facilitate group-centered rather than leader-centered interaction patterns. In group-centered patterns, members f reely inter- act with each other. Communication channels between members of the group are open. In leader-centered patterns, communications are directed f rom members to the worker or f rom the worker to group members, thereby reducing members’ opportunities to communicate f reely with each other.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 89 01/05/17 11:30 AM

90 Chapter 3

Group-centered communication patter ns tend to increase social interaction, group morale, members’ commitment to group goals, and innovative decision-making ( Carletta, Garrod, & Fraser-Krauss, 1998). However, such patterns can be less efficient than leader-centered patterns because certain communications may be superf luous or extraneous to group tasks (Shaw, 1964), and sorting out useful communications can take too much group time. Therefore, in task groups that are making routine decisions, when time constraints are important and there is little need for creative problem solving, the worker may deliberately choose to encourage leader-centered rather than group- centered interaction patterns.

Leader-centered patterns may also be useful at times in psycho-educational groups, but workers should always take care not to present too much information without in- teraction or applied learning experiences. For example, in support groups for family members of people with serious and persistent mental health problems, the worker may want to provide information about housing or care management resources. During such a presentation, the worker should invite members to talk about their experiences and thoughts about using these types of services and resources.

To establish and maintain appropriate interaction patterns, the worker should be familiar with the factors that can change communication patterns, such as:

• cues and the reinforcement that members receive for specific interactional exchanges

• the emotional bonds that develop between group members • the subgroups that develop in the group • the size and physical arrangements of the group • the power and status relationships in the group

Workers can change interaction patterns by modifying these important factors.

Cues and reinforcers. Cues, such as words or gestures, can act as signals to group members to talk more or less f requently to one another or to the worker. Workers and members can also use selective attention and other reinforcements to encourage benefi- cial interactions. For example, praise and other supportive comments, eye contact, and smiles tend to elicit more communication, whereas inattention tends to elicit less com- munication. So that all members may have a chance to participate fully in the life of a group, workers may want to reduce communication f rom particularly talkative mem- bers or encourage reserved members to talk more. Often, pointing out interaction pat- terns is all that is needed to change them. At other times, verbal and nonverbal cues may be needed.

Sometimes, even more action is needed. For example, reserved members may ben- efit f rom group go-rounds when they are provided an opportunity to speak when it is their turn. Similarly, directing communication to others may help to reduce the amount of time dominant group members talk. When these strategies do not work, other strat- egies may be used with the permission of members. For example, to ensure that a dom- inant member does not monopolize all the group time, the worker may seek permission to interrupt any member who talks for more than two or three minutes and to redirect the communication to other members. This can be done with the understanding of giv- ing all members a chance to participate. The worker can say things like, “Your thoughts

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 90 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 91

are important, but other members need time to share their thoughts as well. If it is okay with you, I would like to find out who else has something they would like to talk about,” or “That’s a good thought, but you have been talking for a while. Can you hold that thought for later and let someone else have a turn to share their thoughts now?” When this is done consistently by the worker, it is often sufficient to reduce the dominance of a single member.

emotional Bonds. Positive emotional bonds, such as interpersonal liking and attrac- tion, increase interpersonal interaction, and negative emotional bonds reduce solidarity between members and result in decreased interpersonal interaction. Attraction and in- terpersonal liking between two members may occur because they share common inter- ests, similar values and ideologies, complementary personality characteristics, or similar demographic characteristics (Hare et al., 1995).

Hartford (1971) calls alignments based on emotional bonds interest alliances. For ex- ample, two members of a planning council might vote the same way on certain issues, and they may communicate similar thoughts and feelings to other members of the coun- cil because of their common interests in the needs of the business community. Similarly, members of a minority group might form an interest alliance based on similar concerns about the lack of community services for minority groups.

subgroups. Subgroups also affect the interaction patterns in a group (Forsyth, 2014). Subgroups form f rom the emotional bonds and interest alliances among subsets of group members. They occur naturally in all groups. They help make the group attrac- tive to its members because individuals look forward to interacting with those to whom they are particularly close. The practitioner should not view subgroups as a threat to the integrity of the group unless the attraction of members within a subgroup becomes greater than their attraction to the group as a whole.

There are a variety of subgroup types, including the dyad, triad, and clique. In addi- tion, there are isolates, who do not interact with the group, and scapegoats, who receive negative attention and criticism f rom the group. More information about these roles, and other roles, is presented in Chapter 8.

In some situations, the worker may actively encourage members to form subgroups, particularly in groups that are too large and cumbersome for detailed work to be accom- plished. For example, subgroup formation is often useful in large committees, delegate councils, and teams because they lead to more effective meetings of the whole group (Tropman, 2014). Members are assigned to a particular subgroup to work on a specific task or subtask. The results of the subgroup’s work are then brought back to the larger group for consideration and action.

Regardless of whether the worker actively encourages members to form subgroups, they occur naturally because not everyone in a group interacts with equal valence. The formation of intense subgroup attraction, however, can be a problem in some cases. Sub- group members may challenge the worker’s authority. They may substitute their own goals and methods of attaining them for the goals of the larger group. They can disrupt the group by communicating among themselves while others are speaking. Subgroup members may fail to listen to members who are not a part of the subgroup. These types of subgroups can negatively affect the performance of the whole group (Forsyth, 2014).

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 91 01/05/17 11:30 AM

92 Chapter 3

When intense subgroup attraction appears to be interfering with the group as a whole, a number of steps can be taken to better integrate members into the life of the whole group.

strategies for addressing intense subgroup attraction • Examine whether the group as a whole is sufficiently attractive to members • Promote the development of norms that emphasize the importance of members’

listening to and respecting each other • Promote the development of norms restricting communication to one member

at a time • Change seating arrangements • Ask certain members to interact more f requently with other members • Use program materials and exercises that separate subgroup members • Assign tasks for members to do outside of the group in subgroups composed of

different members

If intense subgroup loyalties persist, it can be helpful to facilitate a discussion of the reasons for them and their effect on the group as a whole. A f rank discussion of the reasons for subgroup formation can often benefit the entire group because it can reveal problems in the group’s communication patterns and in its goal-setting and de- cision-making processes. After the discussion, the worker should try to increase the at- traction of the group for its members and help them reach out to one another to reopen channels of communication.

In some cases, the worker may wish to use subgroups for therapeutic purposes. For example, Yalom (2005) suggests that the worker can use relationships between members to recapitulate the family group experience. Transference and countertransference re- actions among members may be interpreted to help members gain insight into the im- pact of their early development on their current way of relating to others in the group and their broader social environment. Such here-and-now interventions are hallmarks of modern psychodynamic theoretical approaches to group work brief ly described in the previous chapter. For more about interpersonal, relational, and integrative psychody- namic approaches to therapy groups see Kleinberg (2012), Yalom (2005), or some of the other sources of information mentioned in the psychodynamic section of the previous chapter. Because these approaches are specialized, group workers will need additional education and training. They will also need assessment and critical thinking skills to identify for whom this approach might be helpful.

size and physical arrangements. Other factors that inf luence interaction patterns are the size and physical arrangement of the group. As the size of the group increases, the possibilities for potential relationships increase exponentially. For example, with three people, there are six potential combinations of relationships, but in a group with seven people, there are 966 possible combinations of relationships. Thus, as groups grow larger, each member has more social relationships to be aware of and to maintain, but less opportunity to maintain them.

With increased group size, there are also fewer opportunities and less time for mem- bers to communicate. In some groups, the lack of opportunity to participate might not be much of a problem. Members who are not actively participating may be actively

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 92 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 93

listening and engaged in the group process. It is the worker’s responsibility to assess whether all members are actively engaged in the group and to consider how to intervene when members appear not to be engaged.

Some group members welcome a chance for active involvement but speak only when they have an important contribution that might otherwise be overlooked. For these members, non-intervention may be the best worker option. For others, however, a reduced chance to participate leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of commitment to de- cisions made by the group. In these situations, workers should consider breaking large groups into smaller subgroups of members working together and then reporting the results of their work back to the larger group.

The physical arrangement of group members also inf luences interaction patterns. For example, members who sit in circles have an easier time communicating with each other than do members who sit in rows. Even members’ positions within a circular pat- tern inf luence interaction patterns. Members who sit across f rom each other, for exam- ple, have an easier time communicating than do members on the same side of a circle who are separated by one or two members.

Because circular seating arrangements promote face-to-face interaction and are one sign of equality of status and participation, they are often preferred to other arrange- ments. There may be times, however, when the group leader or members prefer a different arrangement. For example, the leader of a task group may wish to sit at the head of a rectangular table to convey his or her status or power. The leader may also wish to seat a particularly important member in proximity. In an educational group, a leader may choose to stand before a group seated in rows, an arrangement that facilitates members’ communi- cations with the leader and tends to minimize interactions among members of the group.

Physical arrangements can also be used to help assess relationships among members and potential problems in group interaction. For example, members who are fond of each other often sit next to each other and as far away as possible f rom members who they do not like. Similarly, members who pull chairs out f rom a circle, or sit behind other members, may be expressing their lack of investment in the group. Effective group work- ers pay attention to the symbolism that is expressed by different seating arrangements.

An interesting physical arrangement that often occurs in groups results f rom mem- bers’ tendency to sit in the same seat f rom meeting to meeting. This physical arrange- ment persists because members feel secure in “their own” seat near familiar members. To maintain and enhance comfort, security, and trust, these seating arrangements should not be modified by workers unless they are trying deliberately to change interaction pat- terns or other group dynamics. Thus, by monitoring physical arrangements, and inter- vening when necessary, the worker can improve both the socio-emotional climate and the ability of the group to accomplish its goals.

power and status. Two other factors affecting communication and interaction patterns are the relative power and status of the group members. Initially, members are accorded power and status because of their position and prestige in the community, their physical attributes, and their position in the agency sponsoring the group. As a group develops, members’ status and power change, depending on how important a member is in helping the group accom- plish its tasks or in helping other members meet their socio-emotional needs. When mem- bers carry out roles that are important to the group, their power and status increase.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 93 01/05/17 11:30 AM

94 Chapter 3

Members who come to groups feeling marginalized and oppressed are likely to have cognitive schema f rom the start that tell them they have little status or power in groups. Workers should be sensitive to status differentials among members and help those who may feel disenf ranchised and powerless to play important roles in the group. The impor- tance of equality within groups should be emphasized at the very beginning. Workers should continue to monitor how power and status are distributed within the group as it progresses and make interventions when necessary to ensure that each member feels like an important part of the group.

Principles for Practice With basic information about the nature of communication and interaction patterns in groups, workers can intervene in any group to modify or change the patterns that de- velop. Workers may find the following principles about communication and interaction patterns helpful:

• Members of the group are always communicating. Workers should assess com- munication processes and patterns continually to help members communicate comfortably and effectively throughout the life of a group.

• Communication patterns can be changed. Strategies for doing this start with identifying patterns during the group or at the end of group meetings during a brief time set aside to discuss group process. Workers then can reinforce desired interaction patterns; increase or decrease emotional bonds between members; change subgroups, group size, or group structure; or alter the power or status relationships in groups.

• Members communicate for a purpose. Workers should help members understand each other’s intentions by clarifying them through group discussion.

• There is meaning in all communication. Workers should help members understand and appreciate the meaning of different communications.

• Messages may not be clearly communicated. By clarifying messages and providing or soliciting feedback, workers can help to reduce distortions in how messages are sent.

• Messages may be distorted in transmission. Workers should help members clarify verbal and nonverbal communications that are unclear or ambiguous.

• Messages are often perceived selectively. Workers should help members listen for accurate and intended meanings and encourage dialogue and open communica- tion patterns when there is a chance that distortions or misunderstandings are taking place.

• Feedback and clarification enhance accurate understanding of communications. The worker should educate members about how to give and receive effective feedback and model these methods in the group.

• Open, group-centered communications are often, but not always, the preferred pattern of interaction. The worker should encourage communication patterns that are appropriate for the purpose of the group.

• Special attention should be paid to marginalized and oppressed members of groups. The worker should ensure that all members have sufficient power and status so that they feel they are an important and valued part of the group.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 94 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 95

Workers who follow these principles can intervene to help groups develop patterns of communication and interaction that meet members’ socio-emotional needs while ac- complishing group purposes.

Group Cohesion

Group cohesion is the result of all forces acting on members to remain in a group ( Festinger, 1950). According to Forsyth (2014), cohesion is made up of three components: (1) member-to-member attraction and a liking for the group as a whole, (2) a sense of unity and community so that the group is seen as a single entity, and (3) a sense of team- work and esprit de corps with the group successfully performing as a coordinated unit.

People are attracted to groups for a variety of reasons. According to the group dy- namics experts Cartwright (1968) and Forsyth (2014), the following interacting sets of variables determine a member’s attraction to a group.

reasons for members’ attraction to a group • The need for affiliation, recognition, and security • The resources and prestige available through group participation • Expectations of the beneficial and detrimental consequences of the group • The comparison of the group with other group experiences

Cohesive groups satisfy members’ need for affiliation. Some members have a need to socialize because their relationships outside the group are unsatisfactory or nonexis- tent. For example, Toseland, Decker, and Bliesner (1979) have shown that group work can be effective in meeting the needs of socially isolated older persons. Cohesive groups recognize members’ accomplishments and promote members’ sense of competence. Members are attracted to the group when they feel that their participation is valued and when they feel they are well liked. Groups are also more cohesive when they provide members with a sense of security. Schachter (1959), for example, has shown that fear and anxiety increase people’s needs for affiliation. It has also been found that when group members have confidence in the group’s ability to perform a specific task, the group is more cohesive and performs more effectively (Gibson, 1999; Pescosolido, 2001, 2003; Silver & Bufiano, 1996). Similarly, feelings of collective self-efficacy have been shown to have an important impact on actual performance (Bandura, 1997a, 1997b).

The cohesion of a group can also be accounted for by incentives that are sometimes provided for group membership. Many people join groups because of the people they expect to meet and get to know. Opportunities for making new contacts and associating with high-status members are also incentives. In some groups, the tasks to be performed are enjoyable. Other groups might enable a member to accomplish tasks that require the help of others. Prestige may also be an incentive. For example, being nominated to a delegate council or other task group may enhance a member’s prestige and status in an organization or the community. Another inducement to group membership may be access to services or resources not otherwise available.

Expectations of gratification and favorable comparisons with previous group expe- riences are two other factors that help make groups cohesive. For example, members with high expectations for a group experience and little hope of attaining similar satis- factions elsewhere will be attracted to a group. Thibaut and Kelley (1959) have found that

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 95 01/05/17 11:30 AM

96 Chapter 3

members’ continued attraction to a group depends on the “comparison level for alter- natives”—that is, the satisfaction derived f rom the current group experience compared with that derived f rom other possible experiences.

Members’ reasons for being attracted to a group affect how they perform in the group. For example, Back (1951) found that members who were attracted to a group pri- marily because they perceived other members as similar or as potential f riends related on a personal level in the group and more f requently engaged in conversations not fo- cused on the group’s task. Members attracted by the group’s task wanted to complete it quickly and efficiently and maintained task-relevant conversations. Members attracted by the prestige of group membership were cautious not to risk their status in the group. They initiated few controversial topics and focused on their own actions rather than on those of other group members.

High levels of cohesion can affect the functioning of individual members and the group as a whole in many ways. Research and clinical observations have documented that cohesion tends to increase many beneficial dynamics.

effects of Cohesion • Expression of positive and negative feelings (Pepitone & Reichling, 1955; Yalom,

2005) • Willingness to listen (Yalom, 2005) • Effective use of other members’ feedback and evaluations (Yalom, 2005) • Members’ inf luence over each other (Cartwright, 1968) • Feelings of self-confidence, self-esteem, personal adjustment, and collective

efficacy (Pooler, Qualls, Rogers, & Johnston, 2014; Seashore, 1954; Yalom, 2005) • Satisfaction with the group experience (Widmeyer & Williams, 1991) • Perseverance toward goals (Cartwright, 1968; Spink & Carron, 1994) • Willingness to take responsibility for group functioning (Dion, Miller, & Magnan,

1971) • Goal attainment, individual and group performance, and organizational com-

mitment (Bulingame, McClendon, & Alonso, 2011; Evans & Dion, 1991; Gully, Devine, & Whitney, 1995; Mullen & Cooper, 1994; Wech, Mossholder, Steel, & Bennett, 1998)

• Attendance, membership maintenance, and length of participation (Prapavessis & Carron, 1997)

Although cohesion can have many beneficial effects, workers should be aware that cohesion operates in complex interaction with other group properties. For example, al- though cohesive groups tend to perform better than less cohesive groups, the quality of decisions made by cohesive groups is moderated by the nature of the task (Gully, Devine, & Whitney, 1995) and by the size of the group (Mullen & Cooper, 1994). Cohe- sion has more inf luence on outcomes, for example, when task interdependence is high rather than when it is low (Gully, Devine, & Whitney, 1995). Cohesion also varies over the course of a group’s development. For example, Budman, Soldz, Demby, Davis, and Merry (1993) have shown that what is viewed as cohesive behavior early in the life of a group may not be viewed that way later in the group’s development.

Although cohesion often leads to higher levels of performance, Forsyth (2014) points out that it does not always have this effect. In groups with a culture of accepting

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 96 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 97

mediocre or low standards of performance, high levels of cohesion can lead to the con- tinuation and sustainment of these performance levels. Cohesion can have other nega- tive effects on the functioning of a group when it results in too much control (Hornsey, Dwyer, Oei, & Dingle, 2009). It can suppress personal expression and minority opinions. It can also deter any dissent or conf lict, even though these can be positive signs of grow- ing trust in maturing groups. Members should feel safe to express themselves, take risks, and disagree without the threat of sanctions or being ostracized. Deeper self-disclosure and improved idea generation and problem solving processes occur in groups where cohesion does not suppress members’ creativity or openness.

Cohesion is a necessary, albeit not suff icient, ingredient in the development of “group think.” According to Janis (1972), group think is “a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are deeply involved in a cohesive group, when the members’ striv- ings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative courses of action” (p. 9). When group think occurs, groups become close-minded and the pres- sure for conformity limits methodical search and appraisal procedures (Forsyth, 2014).

In addition to encouraging pathological conformity, cohesion can lead to dependence on the group. This can be a particularly vexing problem in intensive therapy groups with members who started the group experience with severe problems and poor self-images. Thus, while promoting the development of cohesion in groups, the worker should ensure that members’ individuality is not sacrificed. Members should be encouraged to express divergent opinions and to respect divergent opinions expressed by other group members. It is also important to adequately prepare members for group termination and indepen- dent functioning. Methods for this preparation are discussed in Chapter 14.

Reasons for Lack of Attraction to a Group Group workers are often asked to lead groups with members who are disinterested, re- luctant, or mandated. Those who abuse alcohol, drugs, or their spouses are just some ex- amples of members who may not want to attend groups. Even in task groups, members may feel pressured to attend.

There are many sources of pressure to attend. For example, in groups for children or adolescents, parents, school officials, and legal systems may urge attendance, and mem- bers may face stiff penalties for not attending. There are many in society who are margin- alized, oppressed, ignored, or targets of bigotry and intolerance. These individuals may be particularly apathetic or hostile about attending groups sponsored by systems that they perceive as perpetuating or abetting their diminished status and power in society. It is difficult enough to work on personal issues when members have supportive envi- ronments, but many individuals have little emotional, social, or material support within their families and communities. This also makes participation in treatment groups more difficult.

To attain high cohesion in groups with members who do not view the group as at- tractive before it begins, workers should focus on building caring and warm relationships as early as possible. Workers should strive to build trust between themselves and group members. They should also work to build trust among all members. In this way, the worker cannot only begin to help members, but can also encourage members to help each other. Building trust can take many forms. Examples include screening interviews that include careful attention to orientation issues, and direct talk with group members

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 97 01/05/17 11:30 AM

98 Chapter 3

about their reluctance to attend using stages of change (Prochaska, DiClimente, & Norcross, 1992) and motivational interviewing strateg ies (Hohman, 2012; Miller & Rollnick, 2013) described later in this text. Exposure of reluctant group members to suc- cessful group experiences of past members can also be a very effective strategy, but this involves workers staying in touch with alumni and asking them to come in to talk about their experiences with potential members prior to the first group meeting, or during the first session.

It is important for group workers to recognize challenges to engagement as early as possible in the life of a group. Continued focus on engagement should also be a pri- ority during subsequent group sessions. Workers can use a measure of engagement by Macgowan (2000) described in Chapter 14 or other measures described by Macgowan (2008) to measure engagement and cohesion.

Trust and Self-Care There is no substitute for building trust. Trust is at the heart of engagement. Some- times workers are “forced” because of short stays in inpatient and other settings to move quickly to therapeutic goals. In situations such as these, some intervention goals, such as disseminating information, can be done despite lacking full trust of members. Still, retention and use of this information will not be as good as it would be for committed, trusting members. It should also be recognized that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to engage members in highly emotional, psychological, and interpersonal issues without the formation of trusting relationships.

Trust takes time to build but f requently workers do not have a lot of time. Short inpa- tient stays for health and mental health problems are just one example. In these situations, workers can find themselves in an unsolvable conundrum because they want to establish trust, but short lengths of stay and many other reasons can block or diminish their at- tempts to accomplish worthy goals. In such situations, workers should try to be easy on themselves and engage in self-care, recognizing that some of the exigencies of the situa- tion, such as agency policy or funding requirements, may limit what they can accomplish. It is important to be realistic about possible accomplishments while still doing as much as one can to engage members who are not initially attracted to the group. In teams and treatment conference meetings, workers can talk with their colleagues about what might help to engage those who are reluctant to attend groups. Teams and treatment confer- ences often come up with innovative ideas for engagement and they also can be source of support for workers. Workers can also join with their colleagues to advocate for changes in agency policies or practices that may be making it difficult for people to attend groups. They are also encouraged to engage in self-care practices alone and with colleagues.

Principles for Practice Because cohesion has many benefits, workers should strive to make groups attractive to members. Workers may find the following principles helpful when trying to enhance a group’s cohesiveness:

• A high level of open interaction promotes cohesiveness. The worker should use group discussions and program activities to encourage interaction among members.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 98 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 99

• When members’ needs are met, they want to continue participating. Therefore, the worker should help members identify their needs and how they can be met in the group.

• Achieving group goals makes the group more attractive to its members. The worker should help members focus on and achieve goals.

• Noncompetitive intragroup relationships that affirm members’ perceptions and points of view increase group cohesion. The worker should help group members to cooperate rather than compete with each other.

• Competitive intergroup relationships help to define a group’s identity and purpose, thereby heightening members’ cohesion. The worker can use naturally occurring intergroup competition to build intragroup bonds.

• A group that is large can decrease members’ attraction to the group by obstruct- ing their full participation. The worker should compose a group that gives all members the opportunity to be fully involved.

• When members’ expectations are understood and addressed, members feel as if they are part of the group. The worker should help members clarify their expec- tations and should strive for congruence between members’ expectations and the purposes of the group.

• Groups that offer rewards, resources, status, or prestige that members would not obtain by themselves tend to be attractive. Therefore, workers should help groups to be rewarding experiences for members.

• Pride in being a member of a group can increase cohesion. The worker should help the group develop pride in its identity and purpose.

• Trust is essential for cohesion and engagement. The worker can use stages of change theory, motivational interviewing, and many other strategies to engage apathetic, reluctant, and resistant group members.

If the costs of participation in a group exceed the benefits, members may stop at- tending (Thibaut & Kelley, 1954). Although workers cannot ensure that all factors are present in every group, they should strive to make sure that the group is as attractive as possible to each member who participates.

Social Integration and Influence

Social integration refers to how members f it together and are accepted in a group. Groups are not able to function effectively unless there is a high level of social integration among members. Social order and stability are prerequisites for the formation and main- tenance of a cohesive group. Social integration builds unanimity about the purposes and goals of the group, helping members to move forward in an orderly and efficient manner to accomplish work and achieve goals.

Norms, roles, and status hierarchies promote social integration by inf luencing how members behave in relationship to each other and by delineating members’ places within the group. They lend order and familiarity to group processes, helping to make mem- bers’ individual behaviors predictable and comfortable for all. Norms, roles, and status dynamics help groups to avoid unpredictability and excessive conf lict that, in turn, can lead to chaos and the disintegration of the group. Too much conformity and compliance resulting f rom overly rigid and restrictive norms, roles, and status hierarchies can lead

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 99 01/05/17 11:30 AM

100 Chapter 3

to the suppression of individual members’ initiative, creativity, and intellectual contribu- tions. At the same time, a certain amount of predictability, conformity, and compliance is necessary to enable members to work together to achieve group goals. Therefore, it is important for workers to guide the development of norms, roles, and status hierarchies that achieve a balance between too little and too much conformity.

The extent of social integration and inf luence varies f rom group to group. In groups with strong social inf luences, members give up a great deal of their f reedom and individuality. In some groups, this is necessary for effective functioning. For example, in a delegate council in which members are representing the views of their organiza- tion, there is generally little room for individual preferences and viewpoints. Norms and roles clearly spell out how individual delegates should behave. In other groups, however, members may have a great deal of f reedom within a broad range of acceptable behavior. The following sections describe how the worker can achieve a balance so that norms, roles, and status hierarchies can satisfy members’ socio-emotional needs while simulta- neously promoting effective and efficient group functioning.

Norms Norms are shared expectations and belief s about appropriate ways to act in a social sit- uation, such as a group. They refer to specific member behaviors and to the overall pat- tern of behavior that is acceptable in a group. Norms stabilize and regulate behavior in groups. By providing guidelines for acceptable and appropriate behavior, norms increase predictability, stability, and security for members and help to encourage organized and coordinated action to reach goals.

Norms result f rom what is valued, preferred, and accepted behavior in the group. The preferences of certain high-status members might be given greater consideration in the development of group norms than the preferences of low-status members, but all members share to some extent in the development of group norms.

Norms develop as the group develops. Norms develop directly as members observe one another’s behavior in the group and vicariously as members express their views and opinions during the course of group interaction. As members express preferences, share views, and behave in certain ways, norms become clarified. Soon it becomes clear that sanctions and social disapproval result f rom some behaviors and that praise and social approval result f rom other behaviors. Structure in early group meetings is associated with increased cohesion, reduced conf lict, and higher member satisfaction (Stockton, Rohde, & Haughey, 1992). The emergence of norms as the group progresses, however, reduces the need for structure and control by the worker.

Because norms are developed through the interactions of group members, they dis- courage the capricious use of power by the leader or any group member. They also re- duce the need for excessive controls to be imposed on the group f rom external forces.

Norms vary in important ways. Norms may be overt and explicit or covert and im- plicit. Overt norms are those that can be clearly articulated by the leader and the mem- bers. In contrast, covert norms exert important inf luences on the way members behave and interact without ever being talked about or discussed. For example, a group leader who states that the group will begin and end on time, and then follows through on that “rule” each week, has articulated an explicit group norm in an overt fashion. In contrast, a covert, implicit norm might be for members of a parenting group to avoid any talk

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 100 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 101

of infertility or miscarriage. The implicit norm is that these topics are not discussed in this group.

case example A New Parents’ Group

During the fifth meeting of a support group for new parents, the group leader observed that although many members had mentioned that they had wanted to become parents for a long time, none had discussed miscarriage or any difficulties with conception. The leader asked if they would like to discuss any such issues and how these had impacted their journey toward parenthood. After a pause, a woman volunteered that she had two miscarriages before successfully carrying her child to term. Her husband added that this had led to both of them being overprotective of their child and, perhaps, being overly concerned about his mortality. A few others revealed that they had trouble conceiving and that this had led to anxiety about their parenting abilities. Later, the leader brought up the taboo topics of infertility and mis- carriage to lead a productive session about how brave the group members were to discuss difficult topics. The leader then asked if the discussions had made any member feel more comfortable with sharing. Some members said that it was helpful to acknowledge their expe- rience of miscarriage and that allowing themselves to mourn the losses they had experienced made them more grateful to be parents now. They agreed that they would be more open about this within the group in the future.

Norms vary according to the extent that people consider them binding. Some norms are strictly enforced whereas others are rarely enforced. Some norms permit a great deal of leeway in behavior, whereas others prescribe narrow and specific behaviors. Norms also have various degrees of saliency for group members. For some members, a particu- lar norm may exert great inf luence, but for others it may exert little inf luence.

Deviations f rom group norms are not necessarily harmful to a group. Deviations can often help groups move in new directions or challenge old ways of accomplishing tasks that are no longer functional. Norms may be dysfunctional or unethical, and it may be beneficial for members to deviate f rom them. For example, in a treatment group, norms develop that make it difficult for members to express intense emotions. Members who deviate f rom this norm help the group reexamine its norms and enable members to deepen their level of communication. The worker should try to understand the mean- ing of deviations f rom group norms and the implications for group functioning. It can also be helpful to point out covert norms and to help members examine whether these contribute to effective group functioning.

Because they are so pervasive and powerful, norms are somewhat more difficult to change than role expectations or status hierarchies. Therefore, a worker should strive to ensure that the developing norms are beneficial for the group. Recognizing the difficulty of changing norms, Lewin (1947) suggested that three stages are necessary for changing the equilibrium and the status quo that hold norms constant. There must first be disequi- librium or unf reezing caused by a crisis or other tension-producing situation. During this period, group members reexamine the current group norms. Sometimes, a crisis may be induced by the worker through a discussion or demonstration of how current norms will affect the group in the future. In other cases, dysfunctional norms lead to a crisis.

In the second stage, members return to equilibrium with new norms replacing previ- ous ones. According to Lewin (1947), the second stage is called freezing. In the third stage,

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 101 01/05/17 11:30 AM

102 Chapter 3

called refreezing, the new equilibrium is stabilized. New norms become the recognized and accepted rules by which the group functions. Norms can be changed in many ways.

Changing norms • Discussing, diagnosing, and making explicit decisions about group norms • Directly intervening in the group to change a norm • Deviating f rom a norm and helping a group to adapt a new response • Helping the group become aware of external inf luences and their effect on the

group’s norms • Hiring a consultant to work with the group to change its norms

Roles Like norms, roles can also be an important inf luence on group mem- bers. Roles are closely related to norms. Whereas norms are shared expectations held, to some extent, by everyone in the group, roles are shared expectations about the functions of individuals in the group. Unlike norms, which define behavior in a wide range of situations, roles define behavior in relation to a specific function or task that the group member is expected to perform. Roles continue to emerge and evolve as the work of the group changes over time (Forsyth, 2014).

Roles are important for groups because they allow for the divi- sion of labor and appropriate use of power. They ensure that some-

one will be designated to take care of vital group functions. Roles provide social control in groups by prescribing how members should behave in certain situations. Performing in a certain role not only prescribes certain behavior but also limits members’ f reedom to devi- ate f rom the expected behavior of someone who performs that role. For example, it would be viewed as inappropriate for an educational group leader to express feelings and emotional reactions about a personal issue that was not relevant to the subject material being taught.

case example A Social Work Task Group

Social workers from different organizations are tasked with creating a new policy manual for their region. They take on different roles within the group. Maryam becomes the or- ganizer, scheduling meeting times and ensuring that the latest version of the document is shared with all members. Tariq, whose office is nearest to the meeting location, becomes the host. He helps the group members find their way around the office building, arranges for refreshments, and makes sure that all have easy access to the building. Sara becomes the task leader, making sure that the group stays focused on policy and is meeting the deadline. Hina becomes the technology expert, using her computer skills to add graphics to the man- ual and to fix the malfunctioning projector screen. Aya becomes the diplomat, making sure that everyone’s points of view are heard and helping to find compromises when there are disagreements.

Changes or modifications of roles are best undertaken by identifying roles, describ- ing and discussing alternative roles, clarifying the responsibilities and the privileges of existing roles, asking members to assume new roles, and adding or modifying roles according to preferences expressed during the group’s discussion.


Behavior: select appropriate interven- tion strategies based on the assessment, research knowledge, and values and prefer- ences of clients and constituencies

critical Thinking Question: Role theory helps explain some aspects of people’s behavior. How do important roles in the group help members accomplish goals?

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 102 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 103

Status Along with norms and role expectations, social controls are also exerted through members’ status in a group. Status refers to an evaluation and ranking of each member’s position in the group relative to all other members. A person’s status within a group is partially deter- mined by his or her prestige, position, and recognized expertise outside the group. To some extent, however, status is also dependent on the situation. In one group, status may be de- termined by a member’s position in the agency sponsoring the group. In another group, status may be determined by how well a member is liked by other group members, how much the group relies on the member’s expertise, or how much responsibility the mem- ber has in the group. It is also determined by how a person acts once he or she becomes a member of a group. Because status is defined relative to other group members, a person’s status in a group is also affected by the other members who comprise the group.

Status serves a social integration function in a rather complex manner. Low-status members are the least likely to conform to group norms because they have little to lose by deviating. For this reason, low-status members have the potential to be disruptive of productive group processes. Disruptive behavior is less likely if low-status members have hopes of gaining a higher status. Medium-status group members tend to conform to group norms so that they can retain their status and perhaps gain a higher status. Therefore, workers should provide opportunities for low-status members to contribute to the group so that they can become more socially integrated and achieve a higher sta- tus. High-status members perform many valued services for the group and generally conform to valued group norms when they are establishing their position. However, be- cause of their position, high-status members have more f reedom to deviate f rom ac- cepted norms. They are often expected to do something special and creative when the group is in a crisis (Forsyth, 2014). If medium- or low-status members consistently devi- ate f rom group norms, they are threatened with severe sanctions or forced to leave the group. If high-status members consistently deviate f rom group norms, their status in the group is diminished, but they are rarely threatened with severe sanctions or forced to leave the group.

case example A Community Health Center Team

A multidisciplinary team at a community health center in Australia provides support to elderly people within the community. The team includes a doctor, three nurses, a social worker, and two physiotherapists. Initially, the doctor was perceived as the highest-status member of the team, while the social worker and nurses held middle-status positions. The physiotherapists, whose offices were on another floor, held lower-status positions. The doctor’s hours at the center were reduced due to budget cuts, and she took on more hours at a hospital elsewhere. This led to her being more rushed in her interactions with patients and less patient in her interactions with co-workers, who perceived her as rigid and impolite. Her status within the group gradually, though marginally, diminished as a result. Meanwhile, the status of one nurse practitioner in- creased as she took on some of the doctor’s administrative tasks. The status of the social worker and one of the physiotherapists increased somewhat over time as they were both perceived as being able to develop a strong rapport with difficult patients and to solve problems. The other physiotherapist’s status remained low as he frequently missed team meetings and sometimes made disparaging remarks about frail older patients to his co-workers.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 103 01/05/17 11:30 AM

104 Chapter 3

Status hierarchies are most easily changed by the addition or removal of group members. If this is not possible or desirable, group discussion can help members ex- press their opinions and feelings about the effects of the current status hierarchy and how to modify it. Changing members’ roles in the group and helping them to achieve a more visible or responsible position within the group can also increase members’ status. Program activity roles that are associated with higher status, appointments to leader- ship or other positions within the whole group or subgroups, and requesting that mem- bers take on certain roles, are among the many other strategies that workers can use to change status hierarchies, and empower members who are in lower-status rankings in the group.

Overall, norms, roles, and status are important components of the social inf luence groups have on members. Pioneering studies by Sherif (1936), Newcomb (1943), Asch (1952, 1955, 1957), and Milgram (1974) clearly demonstrated the power inf luence that the group has on the individual. It has also been shown, however, that individual group mem- bers with minority opinions can inf luence the majority (Moscovici, 1985, 1994; Moscovici & Lage, 1976; Moscovici, Lage, & Naff rechoux, 1969). Some methods that members with minority opinions can use to get their opinions heard and paid attention to follow.

expressing and getting minority Opinions adopted by the majority • Offer compelling and consistent arguments • Ask the group to carefully listen to and consider your thoughts • Appear confident • Do not rigidly cling to a viewpoint or be close-minded about other points of view • Take a f lexible stand; consider compromise • Use uncertainties and f lawed logic in the majority’s opinions to inform your own


Principles for Practice Norms, roles, and status are interrelated concepts that affect the social integration of individuals in the group. They limit individuality, f reedom, and independence, but at the same time stabilize and regulate the operation of the group, helping members to feel comfortable and secure in their positions within the group and with each other. There- fore, in working with task and treatment groups, workers should balance the needs of individuals and of the group as a whole, managing conformity and deviation, while en- suring that norms, roles, and status hierarchies are working to benefit rather than hinder or limit individual members and the whole group. Workers may find the following prin- ciples about these dynamics helpful when facilitating a group.

• The worker should help group members to assess the extent to which norms, roles, and status hierarchies are helping members feel engaged and socially integrated while helping the group to accomplish its goals.

• The worker should facilitate norms, roles, and status hierarchies that give the group sufficient structure so that interaction does not become disorganized, chaotic, unsafe, or unduly anxiety producing.

• The worker should avoid facilitating norms, roles, and status hierarchies that restrict members’ ability to exercise their own judgment and f ree will and to accomplish agreed-on goals. The worker should ensure that there is f reedom and

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 104 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 105

independence within the range of acceptable behaviors agreed on by the group. Empowerment of members should always be a fundamental goal.

• Norms, roles, and status hierarchies develop slowly in a group but are difficult to change once they are established. Therefore, workers should carefully attend to the development of helpful social integration mechanisms and should be vigilant about working to change unhelpful norms, roles, and status hierarchies as soon as they are observed to be developing in groups.

• Members choose to adhere to norms, roles, and status hierarchies in groups that are attractive and cohesive. Workers should help make the group a satisfying ex- perience for members.

• Members choose to adhere to norms, roles, and status hierarchies when they consider the group’s goals important and meaningful. Therefore, workers should emphasize the importance of the group’s work and the meaningfulness of each member’s contributions.

• Members choose to adhere to norms, roles, and status hierarchies when they desire continued membership because of their own needs or because of pressure f rom sources within or outside the group. Therefore, workers should consider the incentives for members to participate in a group.

• Rewards and sanctions can help members adhere to norms, roles, and status expectations. Workers should assess whether rewards and sanctions are applied fairly and equitably to promote healthy social integration that benefits each member and the group as a whole.

By following these principles, workers can ensure that the norms, role expectations, and status hierarchy that develop in a group satisfy members’ needs while helping to ac- complish individual and group goals.

Group Culture

Although it has often been overlooked in discussions of group dynamics, group culture is an important force in the group as a whole. Group culture refers to values, belief s, customs, and traditions held in common by group members (Yuki & Brewer, 2014). Ac- cording to Levi (2014), culture can be viewed as having three levels. At the surface, sym- bols and rituals display the culture of the group. For example, in Alcoholics Anonymous groups, members usually begin an interaction by saying their first name and by stating that they are an alcoholic. At a deeper level, culture is displayed in the way members in- teract with one another. For example, the way conf lict is handled in a group says much about its culture. The deepest level of culture includes the core belief s, ideologies, and values held in common by members.

Multicultural differences within the group can have an im- portant impact on the development of group culture and the social integration of all members. For example, individualism, competitiveness, and achievement are more valued in American and European cultures than are humility and modesty, which are more prevalent in some non-Western cultures. Similarly, experi- ences of group survival, social hierarchy, inclusiveness, and eth- nic identification can powerfully inf luence the belief s, ideologies,

Human Rights and Justice

Behavior: engage in practices that advance social, economic, and environmental justice

critical Thinking Question: Many people have firsthand experiences with injustices and human rights violations. How can the group address these issues?

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 105 01/05/17 11:30 AM

106 Chapter 3

and values that are held by racially and ethnically diverse members, but these same ex- periences may have little salience for members of majority groups who have long been acculturated to dominant societal values (Burnes & Ross, 2010; Hopps & Pinderhughes, 1999; Matsukawa, 2001). Insensitivity to these values, however, can isolate and alienate minority members and reduce their opportunity for social integration within the group.

When the membership of a group is diverse, group culture emerges slowly. Mem- bers contribute unique sets of values that originate f rom their experiences as well as f rom their ethnic, cultural, and racial heritages. These values are blended through group communications and interactions. In early meetings, members explore each other’s unique value systems and attempt to find a common ground on which they can relate to each other. By later meetings, members have had a chance to share and understand each other’s value systems. As a result, a common set of values develops, which becomes the group’s culture. The group’s culture continues to evolve throughout the life of the group.

case example A Caregivers’ Group for Latinos

In a caregiver support group for Latinos sponsored by a community agency, the worker, who was experienced in leading many caregiver groups, mostly for non-Latinos, noticed that when the members of this group talked about their elders, there was even more respect accorded to the elders’ status in the family than was true in groups of Anglo caregivers. The group leader also noticed that members were reluctant to volunteer comments unless specifically invited to do so by the leader. The leader decided to ask members about this, and she learned that among some Latinos the traditional norm of respect for the leader precluded them from volunteering comments. The leader explained to the group that in this context, spontaneity was welcome, and they should feel free to voice their opinions about caregiving issues and needs. The worker also noticed that the members would sometimes use Spanish-language words to describe their feelings to one another even though the group was being conducted in English. The worker had a discussion with the members about what to do when this hap- pened because she was afraid that not all the members might understand what was being said between two members. The group decided that this practice was acceptable and came to an agreement about how this would be handled. In this particular group, because some of the members did not speak fluent Spanish, it was decided that any member could ask for a translation of what was being said between members when they lapsed into Spanish.

Group culture emerges more quickly in groups with a homogeneous membership. When members share common life experiences and similar sets of values, their unique perspectives blend more quickly into a group culture. For example, members of groups sponsored by culturally based organizations, such as the Urban League or Centro Civico, and groups that represent a particular point of view, such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), are more likely to share similar life experiences and similar values than are groups with more diverse memberships. One of the attractions of these homo- geneous groups is that they provide an affirming and supportive atmosphere.

Culture is also inf luenced by the environment in which a group functions. As part of the organizational structure of an agency, a community, and a society, groups share the values, traditions, and heritage of these larger social systems. The extent to which these systems inf luence the group depends on the degree of interaction the group has

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 106 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 107

with them. For example, on one end of the continuum, an administrative team’s opera- tional procedures are often greatly inf luenced by agency policies and practices. On the other end, gangs tend to isolate themselves f rom the dominant values of society, the community, and local youth organizations. Group workers can learn a great deal about groups by examining how they interact with their environment.

Groups that address community needs often have much interaction with their envi- ronment. When analyzing a change opportunity, building a constituency, or deciding how to implement an action plan, groups that set out to address community needs must care- fully consider dominant community values and traditions. The receptivity of powerful individuals within a community will be determined to some extent by how consistent a group’s actions are with the values and traditions they hold in high regard. Whenever pos- sible, groups attempting to address community needs should f rame their efforts within the context of dominant community values. The practitioner can help by attempting to find the common ground in the values of the community and the group. When a group’s actions are perceived to be in conf lict with dominant community values, it is unlikely to receive the support of inf luential community leaders. In these situations, the group may rely on conf lict strategies (described in Chapter 12) to achieve its objectives.

Once a culture has developed, members who endorse and share in the culture feel secure and at home, whereas those who do not are likely to feel isolated or even alien- ated. For isolated members, the group is often not a satisfying experience. It is demor- alizing and depressing to feel misunderstood and left out. Feelings of oppression can be exacerbated. Those who do not feel comfortable with the culture that has developed are more likely to drop out of the group or become disruptive. More extreme feelings of alienation can lead to rebellious, acting-out behavior. Subgroups that feel alienated f rom the dominant group culture may rebel in various ways against the norms, roles, and sta- tus hierarchies that have developed in the group. This can be avoided by providing in- dividual attention to isolated members and by stimulating all members to incorporate belief s, ideologies, and values that celebrate difference and transcend individual differ- ences. The worker can also help by fostering the full participation and integration of all group members into the life of the group.

Principles for Practice The culture that a group develops has a powerful inf luence on its ability to achieve its goals while satisfying members’ socio-emotional needs. A culture that emphasizes values of self-determination, openness, fairness, and diversity of opinion can do much to facil- itate the achievement of group and individual goals. Sometimes members bring ethnic, cultural, or social stereotypes to the group and thus inhibit the group’s development and effective functioning. Through interaction and discussion, workers can help members conf ront stereotypes and learn to understand and appreciate persons who bring different values and cultural and ethnic heritages to the group.

In helping the group build a positive culture, the worker should consider the follow- ing principles:

• Group culture emerges f rom the mix of values that members bring to the group. The worker should help members examine, compare, and respect each other’s value systems.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 107 01/05/17 11:30 AM

108 Chapter 3

• Group culture is also affected by the values of the agency, the community, and the society that sponsor and sanction the group. The worker should help mem- bers identify and understand these values.

• Group members and workers can hold stereotypes that interfere with their ability to interact with each other. Workers should help members eliminate ste- reotypical ways of relating to each other and develop an awareness of their own stereotypes.

• Value conf licts can reduce group cohesion and, in extreme cases, lead to the de- mise of the group. The worker should mediate value conf licts among members and between members and the larger society.

• Group culture can exert a powerful inf luence on members’ values. The worker should model values, such as openness, self-determination, fairness, and

acceptance of difference that are fundamental to social group work and the social work profession.

• Groups are most satisfying when they meet members’ socio-emotional and instrumental needs. Therefore, the worker should balance members’ needs for emotional expressiveness with their needs to accomplish specific goals.

sTaGes of Group DevelopmenT

According to Northen (1969), “a stage is a differentiable period or a discernible degree in the process of growth and development” (p. 49). The rest of this text is organized around the skills that workers can use during each stage of a group’s development. A group’s entire social structure, its communication and interaction patterns, cohesion, social controls, and culture evolve as it devel- ops. Therefore, an in-depth understanding of group development is essential for the effective practice of group work. This section reviews some of the ways that group development has been conceptualized by other group work theoreticians.

Many attempts have been made to classify stages of group de- velopment. Table 3.3 lists some of the models of group development that have appeared in the literature. Most are based on descriptions of groups that the authors of each model have worked with or observed. Most models propose that all groups pass through similar stages of development. As can be seen in Table 3.3, however, different writers have different ideas about the number and types of stages through which all groups pass. For example, Bales’ (1950) model of group development has only three stages, but the model presented by Sarri and Galinsky (1985) has seven stages.

Relatively few empirical studies have been conducted of particular models, and little empirical evidence exists to support the notion that any one model accurately describes the stages through which all groups pass. The studies that have been conducted suggest that groups move through stages, but that the stages are not constant across different groups (Shaw, 1976; Smith, 1978). MacKenzie (1994), Wheelan (1994), and Worchell (1994) point out that both progressive and cyclical processes exist in groups; that is, although

Assess your understand- ing of group dynamics

by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

Research-Informed Practice

Behavior: use and translate research evidence to inform and improve practice, policy, and service delivery

critical Thinking Question: Understanding that groups go through stages helps the worker understand the behaviors and actions of members at different points in time. What evidence supports stage theory in group development?

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 108 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 109

Table 3.3 Stages of Group Development

Development Stage Beginning Middle End

Bales (1950) Orientation Evaluation Decision-making

Tuckman (1965) Forming Storming




Northen (1969) Planning


Exploring and testing Problem solving


Hartford (1971) Pregroup planning Convening

Group formation

Disintegration and conflict

Group formation and maintenance


Klein (1972) Orientation





Trecker (1972) Beginning

Emergence of some group feeling

Development of bond, purpose, and cohesion

Strong group feeling Decline in group feeling


Sarri & Galinsky (1985)

Origin phase

Formative phase

Intermediate phase I Revision phase

Intermediate phase II Maturation phase


Garland, Jones, & Kolodny (1976)


Power and control




Henry (1992) Initiating





Wheelan (1994) Dependency


Counter dependency and flight

Trust and structure



Schiller (1995) Preaffiliation Establishing a relational base

Mutuality and interpersonal empathy Mutuality and change


groups often move through stages of development f rom beginning to end, they also of- ten come back to readdress certain basic process issues in a cyclical or oscillating fashion. For example, there is often a cyclical movement of group members f rom feeling (1) in- vested in the task to emotionally divested f rom the task, (2) part of the group to autono- mous, (3) defended to open, and (4) isolated to enmeshed.

There is some evidence that stages of group development may be affected by the needs of the group members, the type of group, the goals of the group, the setting in which the group meets, and the orientation of the leader (Shaw, 1976; Smith, 1978). For example, a study of open-membership groups (Schopler & Galinsky, 1990) revealed that few moved beyond a beginning stage of development. Open-membership groups that are able to move beyond a beginning level of development are those that have a membership change less f requently than every other meeting and those with less than a 50 percent change in membership (Galinsky & Schopler, 1989). Most Alcoholics Anonymous groups would qualify under these criteria.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 109 01/05/17 11:30 AM

110 Chapter 3

Groups with f requent and extensive membership changes usually remain at a forma- tive stage. Such groups cope with problems in continuity and development by following highly ritualistic and structured procedures for group meetings. For example, a group in a stroke rehabilitation unit in a large teaching hospital in which a patient’s typical stay is three to four weeks might be structured to begin with a half-hour educational presen- tation, followed by a half-hour discussion. The group would meet three times a week. At least nine different topics could be presented before they are repeated. Therefore, pa- tients with typical hospital stays of three to four weeks could learn about all nine topics, yet begin and end their participation at any time. However, the intimacy that can be achieved during the middle stage of groups with closed memberships is rarely achieved in groups in which members are continually entering and leaving the group.

Despite the variable nature of the stages of group development described by differ- ent writers, many of the models contain similar stages. As can be seen in Table 3.3, the various phases of group development can be divided into three stages: beginning, mid- dle, and end. Each model of group development is placed in relationship to these three broad stages.

Most writers suggest that the beginning stages of groups are concerned with plan- ning, organizing, and convening. The beginnings of groups are characterized by an emergence of group cohesion, but it may not emerge without a struggle. There is a de- sire by members to get to know each other and share in a fellowship, but also to maintain autonomy. Garland, Jones, and Kolodny (1976) identified this tendency as an approach– avoidance conf lict. As the beginning stage progresses, norms and roles are differentiated, and members explore and test the roles they are beginning to assume in the group. Con- f lict may emerge. The leader can help by pointing out that encountering conf lict and dealing with it are normal steps in the development of smooth-working relationships in preparation for the work that characterizes the middle stage.

Although some work is accomplished in all stages of a group’s development, most occurs in the middle stage. At the beginning of this stage, the conf licts over norms, roles, and other group dynamics found in the later part of the beginning stage give way to es- tablished patterns of interaction. A deepening of interpersonal relationships and greater group cohesion begin to appear. After this occurs, groups concern themselves with the work necessary to accomplish the specific tasks and goals that have been agreed on. The terms used to describe this stage include problem solving, performing, maintenance, inti- macy, work, and maturity. Task accomplishment is preceded by a differentiation of roles and accompanied by the development of feedback and evaluation mechanisms.

The ending stage of a group is characterized by the completion and evaluation of the group’s efforts. Bales’s (1950) model of group development suggests that during this stage, task groups make decisions, finish their business, and produce the results of their efforts. Treatment groups, which have emphasized socio-emotional functioning as well as task accomplishment, begin a process of separation, during which group feeling and cohesion decline. Often, members mark termination by summarizing the accomplish- ments of the group and celebrating together.

Models of group development provide a f ramework to describe worker roles and appropriate interventions during each stage of a group. They also help workers orga- nize and systematize strategies of intervention. For example, in the beginning stage, a worker’s interventions are directed at helping the group define its purpose and helping

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 110 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 111

members feel comfortable with one another. Models of group development can also pre- pare the leader for what to expect f rom different types of groups during each stage of development. For example, models, such as the one by Schiller (1995) shown in Table 3.3, help the worker to focus on the development of dynamics in women’s groups.

The usefulness of theories of group development for group work practice, however, is limited by the uniqueness of each group experience. Narrative and constructionist the- ories would echo this point. The developmental stages of groups vary significantly across the broad range of task and treatment groups that a worker might lead. It should not be assumed that all groups follow the same pattern of development or that an intervention that is effective in one group will automatically be effective in another group that is in the same developmental stage. Nevertheless, organizing content into specific developmental stages is a useful heuristic device when teaching students and practitioners how to lead and be effective members of treatment and task groups.

The model of group development presented in this text includes four broad stages: (1) planning, (2) beginning, (3) middle, and (4) ending. The beginning stage includes sepa- rate chapters on beginning groups and assessment. The middle stage includes four chapters focused on generic and specialized skills for leading task and treatment groups. The ending stage includes chapters on evaluating the work of the group and on terminating with individual members and the group as a whole. The rest of this text is organized around the skills, procedures, and techniques that help groups function effectively during each stage.

Principles for Practice The worker should be knowledgeable about the theoretical constructs that have been proposed about the stages of group development. Knowing what normative behaviors are for members at each stage can help the worker to assess whether the group is making progress toward achieving its goals. It can also help workers to identify dysfunctional behavior in an individual group member and problems that are the responsibility of the group as a whole. The following practice principles are derived f rom an understanding of group development:

• Closed-membership groups develop in discernible and predictable stages. The worker should use systematic methods of observing and assessing the develop- ment of the group and should teach group members about the predictable stages of group development.

• The development of open-membership groups depends on member turnover. The worker should help open-membership groups develop a simple structure and a clear culture to help new members integrate rapidly into the group.

• Groups generally begin with members exploring the purpose of the group and the roles of the worker and each member. The worker should provide a safe and positive group environment so that members can fully explore the group’s purpose and the resources available to accomplish the group’s goals.

• After the initial stage of development, groups often experience a period of norm development, role testing, and status awareness that results in expressions of dif- ference among members and the leader. The worker should help members under- stand that these expressions of difference are a normal part of group development.

Assess your understand- ing of the stages of group development by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 111 01/05/17 11:30 AM

112 Chapter 3

• Structure has been demonstrated to increase member satisfaction, increase feel- ings of safety, and reduce conf lict in early group meetings. A lack of structure can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity, and can lead to acting out and projection. Therefore, the worker should provide sufficient structure for group interaction, particularly in early group meetings.

• Tension or conf lict sometimes develops f rom differences among members. The worker should help the group resolve the conf lict by helping the group develop norms emphasizing the importance of respect and tolerance and by mediating the differences and finding a common ground for productive work together.

• Groups enter a middle stage characterized by increased group cohesion and a focus on work and task accomplishment. To encourage movement toward this stage, the worker should help members stay focused on the purpose of the

group, challenge members to develop an appropriate culture for work, and help the group overcome obstacles to goal achievement.

• In the ending stage, the group finishes its work. The worker should help members review and evaluate their work together by highlighting accom- plishments and pointing out areas that need further work.

• Groups sometimes experience strong feelings about endings. The worker should help members recognize these feelings, review what they accom- plished in the group, and help members plan for termination.


Groups are social systems made up of people in interaction. This chapter describes some of the most important forces that result f rom the interaction of group members. In working with task and treatment groups, it is essential to understand group dynamics and be able to use them to accomplish group goals. Without a thorough understanding of group dynamics, workers will not be able to help members satisfy their needs or help the group accomplish its tasks.

Group workers should be familiar with four dimensions of g roup dynamics: (1) communication and interaction patterns; (2) the cohesion of the group and its at- traction for its members; (3) social controls, such as norms, roles, and status; and (4) the group’s culture. Communication and interaction patterns are basic to the formation of all groups. Through communication and interaction, properties of the group as a whole develop, and the work of the group is accomplished. This chapter presents a model of the communication process.

Groups are maintained because of the attraction they hold for their members. Mem- bers join groups for many reasons. The extent to which the group meets members’ needs and expectations determines the attraction of the group for its members and the extent to which a group becomes a cohesive unit. As cohesion develops, group structures are elaborated and norms, roles, and status hierarchies form. Norms, roles, and status hierar- chies are social integration forces that help to form and shape shared expectations about appropriate behavior in the group. Conformity to expected behavior patterns results in rewards, and deviation results in sanctions. Social controls help to maintain a group’s

Assess your under- standing of the practice principles that support

effective group development by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 112 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Understanding Group Dynamics 113

equilibrium as it conf ronts internal and external pressure to change during its develop- ment. However, social controls can be harmful if they are too rigid, too stringent, or if they foster behavior that is contrary to the value base of the social work profession.

As the group evolves, it develops a culture derived f rom the environment in which it functions as well as f rom the belief s, customs, and values of its members. The culture of a group has a pervasive effect on its functioning. For example, a group’s culture affects the objectives of the group, which task the group decides to work on, how members in- teract, and which methods the group uses to conduct its business.

Although properties of groups are often discussed as if they were static, they change constantly throughout the life of a group. Many writers have attempted to describe typ- ical stages through which all groups pass. Although no single model of group develop- ment is universally accepted, some of the major characteristics that distinguish group process during each stage of group development are discussed in this chapter. These characteristics can be a useful guide for group practitioners in the beginning, middle, and ending stages of group work, which are described in later portions of this text.

This chapter points out the power of group dynamics in inf luencing group mem- bers and in contributing to or detracting f rom the success of a group. As workers be- come familiar with properties of groups as a whole, their appreciation of the effects that natural and formed groups have on the lives of their clients is enhanced. In addition, workers can use their understanding of group dynamics to enhance their ability to work effectively with both task and treatment groups.

M03_TOSE0283_08_SE_C03.indd 113 01/05/17 11:30 AM


Leadership is the process of guiding the development of the group and its members. The goals of effective leadership are to help the group and its members to achieve goals that are consistent with the value base of social work practice and to meet the socio-emotional needs of members. Task leadership includes defining a structure for the group, setting standards, identifying roles, being goal-focused, planning and coordinating activities, working on solutions, moni- toring compliance, and stressing the need for efficiency and produc- tivity (Yukl, 2012). Relationship leadership includes giving support and encouragement, boosting morale, establishing rapport, show- ing concern and consideration for members, and reducing tension and conf lict (Yukl, 2012).

There is also process leadership. This is not a goal in itself, but rather an essential ingredient for the accomplishment of the two pre- viously described goals. Process leadership contributes by ensuring that group dynamics facilitate both goal-directed activities and the socio-emotional satisfaction of members. Workers guide group pro- cesses that help members feel that they can trust the worker and all members of the group. Workers use group processes to ensure that members are safe and secure during their participation. They help all members to build a supportive norm, where each member knows all members have their best interests in mind. There is a large litera- ture on the importance of therapeutic group dynamics on members’ attachment and engagement with the leader and other group mem- bers (Barlow, 2013; Burlingame, Whitcomb, & Woodland, 2014; Harel, Shechtman, & Cutrona, 2011; Joyce, Piper, & Ogrodniczuk, 2007; Kivlighan & Tarrant, 2001; Lieberman & Golant, 2002; Marmarosh, Dunton, & Amendola, 2014; Marshall & Burton, 2010; Ogrodniczuk, Joyce, & Piper, 2007; Tasca & Lampard, 2012). This literature also em- phasizes the importance of therapeutic group dynamics on positive outcomes ( Joyce, Piper, & Ogrodniczuk, 2007). Therefore, the first task of leadership is to ensure that members feel safe and supported in the group (Barlow, 2013).

Leadership is not a static process performed only by one per- son. Rather, leadership is a reciprocal, transactional, transfor- mational, cooperative, and adaptive process involving members (Forsyth, 2014). Leadership is reciprocal, because the leader does

C h a p t e r O u t l i n e

Leadership, Power, and Empowerment 115

An Interactional Model of Leadership 122

Group Leadership Skills 129

Co-leadership 148

Summary 151

Leadership l e a r n i n g O u t C O m e s

• Identify the factors that inf luence group leadership.

• Develop an interactional model of group leadership.

• Demonstrate leadership skills that lead to successful groups.

• Contrast the benefits and disadvantages of co-leadership.


M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 114 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 115

not just inf luence the members, but rather leaders and members inf luence each other. Leadership is transactional because leaders and members work together exchanging ideas, skills, and effort to increase rewards and attain goals. Leadership is transforma- tional because effective leaders motivate members, build their confidence and trust in one another, and unite them in common belief s, values, and goals. Leadership is also a cooperative process during which leaders do not use their power but gain the coopera- tion and mutual respect of members in shared goal-seeking activities. Leadership is an adaptive goal-seeking process whereby the leader helps members to change course and adapt to new situations to attain personal and group goals.

Although the leadership role is most often associated with the designated leader— that is, the worker—it is important to distinguish between the worker as the designated leader and the indigenous leadership that emerges among members as the group devel- ops. Leadership is rarely exercised solely by the worker. As the group unfolds, members take on leadership roles. Workers should do as much as possible to stimulate and support indigenous leadership. Encouraging indigenous leadership helps to empower members. Members begin to feel that they have some inf luence, control, and stake in the group situ- ation. Exercising leadership skills in the group increases members’ self-esteem and the like- lihood that they will advocate for themselves and for others outside of the group context.

Encouraging indigenous leadership also helps members to exercise their own skills and abilities. This, in turn, promotes autonomous functioning and ensures that mem- bers’ existing skills do not atrophy. Thus, this chapter emphasizes both the importance of the worker as group leader and the importance of members sharing in leadership functions as the group develops.

There is an increasing amount of evidence that gender roles play an important role in emerging leadership. In studies of emerging leaders, males are generally viewed more positively than females but this may change as women’s roles in society change (Forsyth, 2014). Currently, the same leadership behaviors are often viewed more positively when attributed to males than to females (Forsyth, 2014). These differences are entangled with societal role expectations and cultural stereotypes in the United States and many other countries. Traditionally in groups, men are rewarded for dominant, nonconforming ways whereas women are rewarded for acting in cooperative, communal ways (Forsyth, 2014). Group leaders who are aware of this evidence will be better prepared to provide female members with opportunities to assert their leadership abilities and to guard against male dominance of leadership roles. As societal attitudes change, gender norms and roles are changing. The ways that men and women participate in groups is a complex subject. Women and men have different styles of relating in some areas and the way that these styles interact with leadership and participation in groups is very complex and multi- faceted. For more information about the complexity of gender in group dynamics, see Forsyth (2014).

Leadership, power, and empowerment

Workers who are new to the leadership role are sometimes uncomfortable with their power and inf luence and react by denying their power or by trying to take too much con- trol. These strategies are rarely effective. Especially in early group meetings, members

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 115 01/05/17 11:30 AM

116 Chapter 4

look to the leader for guidance about how to proceed. Experi- enced leaders are comfortable with their power and inf luence. They use it to empower members, which gradually enables them to take increasing responsibility for the group as it develops.

Workers use their inf luence as leaders within and outside the group to facilitate group and individual efforts to achieve desired goals. Within the group, the worker intervenes by guiding the dy- namics of the group as a whole or by helping individual members reach a goal. Goal-directed activity takes many forms. The worker has to be f lexible when helping members to decide on goal- directed activities. Sometimes members’ goals correspond to what others want, but often, members’ goals are not coordinated with agency, community, or larger societal goals and expectations. In these situations, it is important for workers to respect and validate members’ goals, as long as they are not illegal or self- destructive. The worker has the delicate task of letting members know that their points of view about goals are valid, while at the same time helping members understand the expectations of others.

Workers should never impose goals on members or try to force members to accept the goals that others have for them. Instead, they should help members to be clear about the goals that others have for them and any consequences for not adhering to them. Workers should enable members to express their feelings and thoughts about this in the presence of attentive and supportive members. This does not mean that the worker has to accept members’ points of view. Encouraging and enabling members to tell their story and share their viewpoints builds trust and understanding. Validation demonstrates that workers and other group members genuinely hear and un- derstand members’ experience, not that they necessarily agree with a particular point of view.

The worker’s job is to explore members’ points of view and get background infor- mation for later attempts to be as helpful to all group members as possible. After this has occurred, workers might use the reciprocal model to help mediate any conf lict between members’ expressed desires and goals and the goals that others have for them. This should occur only after members begin to feel comfortable that they can express their opinions without penalty. A warm, supportive, affirming environment where trust is built-up is the key to any change effort. At the same time, workers should encourage members to speak about their abilities, capacities, coping skills, dreams, and resiliency. Gradually, in the trusting environment built in the group, workers can use what members say about their ambivalence about changing, discrepancies in their goals or viewpoints, and previous be- havioral consequences as motivational levers to help members grow and change in ways that are consistent with their own hopes and dreams for themselves. The overall goal is for workers to help members change in self-directed ways that are congruent with the healthy living expectations that they have for themselves and that others have for them.

In exercising leadership outside the group, the worker intervenes to inf luence the environment in which the group and its members function. For example, the worker might try to change organizational policies that inf luence the group or obtain additional resources f rom a sponsor so the group can complete its work. In exerting leadership

Ethical and Professional Practice

Behavior: make ethical decisions by apply- ing the standards of the nasw Code of eth- ics, relevant laws and regulations, models for ethical decision-making, ethical conduct of research, and additional codes of ethics as appropriate to context.

Critical thinking Question: Social group workers should use the power bases men- tioned in this chapter in a positive manner to facilitate individual member and group goal attainment. What ethical dilemmas could arise as a result of using the power bases available to the worker?

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 116 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 117

inside or outside the group, the worker is responsible for the group’s processes, actions, and task accomplishments.

In considering a worker’s power, it is helpful to distinguish between attributed power and actual power. Attributed power comes f rom the perception among group members or others outside the group of the worker’s ability to lead. Workers who take on the re- sponsibilities inherent in leading a group are rewarded by having attributed to them the power to inf luence and the ability to lead. Group members, peers, superiors, the spon- soring agency, and the larger social system attribute power to the leader.

The attributed power of the worker comes f rom a variety of sources. Among these sources are professional status, education, organizational position, years of experience, defined boundaries between worker and group members’ roles, fees for service, and the commonly held view that a group’s success or failure is the result of its leadership. Work- ers should recognize that attributed leadership ability is as important as actual power in facilitating the development of the group and its members.

Workers can increase the power attributed to them by group members. Studies have shown that members’ expectations about the group and its leader inf luence the group’s performance (Bednar & Kaul, 1994; Karakowsky & McBey, 2001; Piper, 1994). Preparing members with films, brochures, or personal interviews that offer information about the group, its leader, and the success of previous groups has been shown to be effective in increasing the change-oriented expectations of members and in helping individuals and groups accomplish their goals (Bednar & Kaul, 1994; Karakowsky & McBey, 2001; Kaul & Bednar, 1994). When formal preparation is impossible, informal preparation by word of mouth or reputation can be used.

As their attributed power increases, workers are more likely to be regarded with es- teem by group members and to be looked to as models of effective coping skills whose behaviors are emulated and whose guidance is followed. Workers should not, however, attempt to gain power for its own sake or unilaterally impose their own values, stan- dards, and rules concerning conduct inside or outside the group.

Actual power refers to the worker’s resources for changing conditions inside and out- side the group. Actual power depends on the sources of a worker’s inf luence. The power bases first described by French and Raven (1959) follow.

power Bases • Connection power—being able to call on and use inf luential people or resources • Expert power—having the knowledge or skill to facilitate the work of the group • Information power—possessing information that is valuable to and needed by others • Legitimate power—holding a position of authority and the rights that accrue to

that position in the organization or larger social system • Identification power—being liked and admired; the group members want to be

identified with the worker • Reward power—being able to offer social or tangible rewards • Coercive power—being able to sanction, punish, or deny access to resources and


Use of power can have both negative and positive consequences. For example, co- ercive power is sometimes used to compel clients to receive treatment. However, coer- cion can have negative effects, such as hostility, anger, rebellion, and absence f rom group

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 117 01/05/17 11:30 AM

118 Chapter 4

meetings. Therefore, the worker should exercise power judiciously, in a manner consis- tent with personal, professional, and societal values.

At the same time, the worker’s power as leader cannot, and should not, be denied, which sometimes occurs when suggestions are made that members should take total responsibility for leading the group. Groups need leaders to avoid disorganization and chaos; leadership and power are inseparable (Etzioni, 1961).

Anyone who has attended the first meeting of a new group recognizes the power the worker has as the designated leader. This power can be illustrated most vividly by examining members’ behaviors and feelings during the initial portion of the first group meeting. Members direct most of their communications to the worker or communicate through the worker to other group members. Members are often anxious and inquisi- tive, wondering what they can expect f rom the group and its leader. They comply readily with requests made by the worker. Although members may wonder about the worker’s

ability to help them and the group as a whole, they usually give the worker latitude in choosing methods and procedures to help the group achieve its objectives.

It is essential that workers move as rapidly as possible to share their power with members and the group as a whole, starting right f rom the first group meeting. This encourages members to begin to take responsibility for the group and makes members more potent. It empowers members to bring out their capaci- ties, strengths, and resiliencies (Saleebey, 2013). Some methods for sharing power are presented here.

methods for sharing power with the group • Enable members to tell their own story. • Affirm and validate members’ experiences of reality • Focus on members’ coping abilities, capacities, resilience, strengths, and their

own motivations and goals • Foster an atmosphere of trust and cohesion where members can help each other

by emphasizing members’ role in the power of the group to create change. • Encourage member-to-member rather than member-to-leader communications. • Ask for members’ input into the agenda for the meeting and the direction the

group should take in future meetings. • Support indigenous leadership when members make their first, tentative at-

tempts at exerting their own inf luence in the group. • Encourage attempts at mutual sharing and mutual aid among members. • Model and teach members selected leadership skills early in the life of the group. • Use naturally occurring events in the life of the group to “process” information

about leadership skills and styles and to empower members. • Encourage members to take leadership roles in struggling with the difficulty of

making changes and resolving difficult problematic situations.

Leadership, Empowerment, and the Planned Change Process

Whether in task groups or in treatment groups, one of the major roles of the leader is to empower members so that they are willing participants in the planned change process.

Human Rights and Justice

Behavior: engage in practices that advance social, economic, and environmental justice

Critical thinking Question: Sharing power and empowering members are important for effective group leadership. How can a leader contribute to the empowerment of members?

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 118 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 119

In task groups, the leader should start f rom the very beginning to help members own the agenda and the work of the group. Workers, as leaders, should not view themselves as commanders but rather as advisors and facilitators who help the members get the job done. Members should feel that they own the tasks they are being asked to accomplish because they have had a hand in shaping them and in executing the steps in the planned change process necessary to accomplish them.

In treatment groups, empowerment means helping members to see the possibili- ties of growth and change. Throughout the leadership of treatment groups, the worker should emphasize members’ choices, their resiliency in the face of obstacles, and their strengths and abilities to change and to overcome adverse living conditions. The worker should provide new f rames of reference and new ways of thinking about growth and change as opportunities for the members and those they love.

Theories of Group Leadership

Early theories about the best method to use in leading a group focused primarily on leadership style. Leadership was considered a trait rather than a cluster of behaviors that could be learned (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009). More recent evidence, however, clearly indicates that although certain personality factors may foster effective leadership, it can also be learned (Forsyth, 2014).

Three positions on a continuum of leadership behavior—laissez-faire, democratic, and autocratic—were the subject of early investigations (Lewin & Lippitt, 1938; Lewin, Lippitt, & White, 1939). The continuum can be seen in Figure 4.1. Findings f rom these studies indicated that there were more aggression, hostility, and scapegoating in au- tocratic groups than in democratic groups. There were no differences in the tasks

Figure 4.1 Participation in Decision Making by Leaders and Members in Groups Using Three Leadership Skills

Low HighMedium Low






Participation by Members

P a rt

ic ip

a ti

o n

b y

L e a d

e rs

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 119 01/05/17 11:30 AM

120 Chapter 4

completed by the groups, but there was some evidence that the quality of the products of democratic groups were superior to those of autocratic or laissez-faire groups. Group members also preferred the democratic group’s process—that is, they liked the leader better and felt f reer and more willing to make suggestions. These early findings seemed to suggest that allowing members to participate in the group’s decision-making process was the preferred leadership style.

Factors Influencing Group Leadership

The early theories that focused on leadership styles were found to be too simplistic to explain leadership in most situations (Chemers, 2000). Gradually, contingency theories became more popular. These theories emphasized that situational factors helped to de- termine what skills and leadership style are most appropriate and effective for a particu- lar group. For example, Nixon (1979) suggested considering seven factors before deciding on what leadership styles or behaviors are most effective.

inf luences on leadership • The leadership expectations held by group members • The way leadership has been attained • Whether there is competition between designated leaders and the leaders that

emerge as groups develop • The needs, tasks, and goals of members and the group as a whole • The task and socio-emotional skills of members • The nature of authority within and outside of the group • The environmental demands placed on the group and its leadership

To understand the dynamics of leadership in diverse treatment and task groups, several factors in addition to the personality and leadership style of the worker should be considered. In analyzing leadership in task groups, a number of investigators have shown that leaders develop different relationships with different members of a group (Dienesch & Liden, 1986; Graen & Schiemann, 1978; McClane, 1991). For example, an “in- dividualized consideration” of each member is one of the central components of Bass’s (1985, 1998) transformational leadership theory.

Others have suggested that leadership must be seen as a process within the context of the group and its environment. For example, Garvin (1997) emphasizes the role of the agency in inf luencing the work of treatment groups. When studying group leadership, Heap (1979) observed that the degree of activity of a worker is directly related to the social health of the group’s members. Thus, a worker should be more active in groups in which members are “out of touch with reality” or “withdrawn or very aggressive” (p. 50). For example, a worker might need to be directive and structured in a remedial group for severely mentally ill inpatients of a state hospital. The worker, as “expert,” may work with each member in turn for 5 or 10 minutes. Other members may be asked to offer opinions or provide feedback, but the primary focus is on helping an individual achieve particular treatment goals.

Similarly, Toseland (1995) noted that group workers have to be active when working with the f rail elderly in groups. The energy level of these group members is often low, and they are often preoccupied with their own physical functioning. In addition, f rail, older group

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 120 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 121

members tend to relate to the group leader rather than to each other. Being energetic and working hard to establish connections among members can counteract these tendencies.

In contrast, when working with interested, eager, and less f rail older members, the worker should take on a less active, enabler role. A group-centered leadership approach is more compatible with the goals of support, growth, and socialization groups in which members are eager to share their experiences and are not severely impaired. In using a group-centered method, the worker facilitates communication, interaction, understand- ing, and mutual aid and encourages members to help one another rather than to look to the worker as an expert who can solve their concerns or problems.

Overall, one conclusion that can be drawn f rom social science findings and f rom data accumulated f rom group work practice is that one method of leadership is not ef- fective in all situations. The worker’s leadership skills and intervention strategies should vary depending on the degree to which the group as a whole and its individual members can function autonomously. The less autonomous the group, the more the worker must play a central role in leading the group. Conversely, the more autonomous the group, the more the worker can facilitate the members’ own self-direction and indigenous lead- ership abilities. In all groups, however, to accomplish goals most effectively, a secure, supportive, and trusting environment must underlie group interaction.

Effective Leadership

Although research on contingency theories of leadership has continued, research on “transformational” leadership has taken preeminence in recent years. A major contri- bution to leadership theory was made by Burns in 1978 when he distinguished between transactional (contingency-based) leadership and transformational leadership. Trans- formational leaders are those who (1) display high levels of competency and trustwor- thiness, (2) inspire and motivate members with their vision, (3) stimulate independent and creative thinking among members, and (4) individualize members by understanding their personal needs and goals (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009; Bass, 1998; Bass & Avolio, 1990a, 1990b, 1993). Transformational leadership models suggest that the leader should be a charismatic role model with vision who helps members to align their own goals with group and organizational goals (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009). Trans- formational leaders empower members by affirming and reinforcing their autonomy and individuality as they pursue individual, group, and organizational goals. Members are en- couraged to question assumptions and to approach problems in new ways so that they are creative and innovative problem solvers (Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001). Thus, transformational leaders use the power bases available to them, but the focus is on inspiring and empowering members rather than inducing compliance (Sosik & Jung, 2002). Transformations occur as members embrace group and organizational goals and view their own personal goals as a part of these larger goals.

In an attempt to unify contingency theories and transformational theories of lead- ership, Chemers (2000) suggests that effective leaders first have to establish the legit- imacy of their leadership by being competent and trustworthy. He refers to this as “image management.” Thus, effective leaders are highly respected individuals who have a vision. They promote safe, welcoming environments that avoid the extremes of ag- gressive conf rontation of members or passive abdication of leadership to members who

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 121 01/05/17 11:30 AM

122 Chapter 4

attempt to dominate groups (Kivlighan & Tarrant, 2001; Smokowski, Rose, & Bacallao, 2001). Next, leaders have to understand the abilities, capacities, values, and personalities of members. They use this understanding to encourage and guide members as they contribute to group goal attainment, while at the same time helping members to satisfy their own needs and achieve their own personal goals. Effective leaders skillfully deploy the resources they have at their disposal. This includes empowering members and rein- forcing feelings of confidence and individual and group efficacy (Bandura, 1995, 1997b; Saleebey, 2013). It also includes making sure that the group engages in good information processing and decision making, so that when resources are deployed, the environmen-

tal demands on members and the group are carefully considered (Chemers, 2000). Overall, transformational leadership enables both workers and mem- bers to raise each other to higher levels of motivation and ethical conduct so that agreed upon goals can be achieved in a manner that is satisfactory to all (Forsyth, 2014). Transformational leadership has been positively associated with leadership effectiveness and better outcomes than traditional leadership (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009).

an interaCtionaL modeL of Leadership

Unlike contingency and transactional leadership theories that focus exclusively on the leader, the model of leadership presented in this book focuses on the group, the worker as designated leader, the members, and the environment in which the group functions. This “interactional model” is presented in Figure 4.2. Because this model views leader- ship as being derived f rom the interactions of the group, its members, the designated leader, and the environment, the model is closely related to the ecological systems per- spective of social casework proposed by Germain and Gitterman (2008) and Gitterman and Shulman (2005). Yet it also incorporates motivational interviewing, behavioral, cog- nitive, humanistic, interpersonal, psychodynamic, strengths-based, and transformational perspectives to enable members to work effectively together for change.

The interactional model represents leadership as a shared function that is not lodged solely in the designated group leader, but rather is empowering to members (Saleebey, 2013). In addition to the worker’s role as designated leader, the model in Figure 4.2 clearly shows that leadership emerges f rom a variety of interacting factors as the group devel- ops. These factors are (1) the purposes of the group, (2) the type of problem the group is working on, (3) the environment in which the group works, (4) the group as a whole, (5) the members of the group, and (6) the leader of the group.

Purposes of the Group

When one considers how leadership emerges in a group, it is essential to consider the purposes of the group. According to Browning (1977), a group may be formed (1) to per- form tasks that require more than one or two people, (2) to meet individual needs, (3) to bring people together who are involved in the same or similar problems, (4) to represent a larger collection of people, (5) to form the largest collection of people that can be man- aged together, (6) to help maintain an organization more economically than individuals,

Assess your understand- ing of leadership, power, and empowerment by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 122 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 123

(7) to increase motivation, or (8) as a result of physical factors, such as working together in the same office. Added to this list can be the purpose of using the group to change conditions or situations outside the group in an organization, a service delivery system, or an entire social system.

A group may have a single purpose or several purposes. The worker should consider how a group’s purposes are interpreted by all systems that interact with it. The worker should ensure that the purpose of the group and the type of problem to be worked on are consistent. For example, if the purpose of a group is to meet the needs of socially isolated individuals, the types of problems on which the group works should be related to group members’ needs for increased social interaction; that is, the group should not be working on problems of housing or finances unless they are linked to the primary purpose of decreasing isolation.

The purpose of a group helps determine how workers guide group processes. For example, in a group whose purpose is solely to complete a task or solve a problem, a worker might choose to encourage members to structure and focus the interactions more than in a group whose purpose is to have members share common concerns and ideas about an issue.

Type of Problem

The type of problem or task a group works on also has important implications for lead- ership. It has been found that groups do better than individuals on certain types of tasks,

Figure 4.2 An Interactional Model of Group Leadership

The Environment

1. Physical setting 2. Sponsor or organization 3. Social systems and the social environment

The Group as a Whole

1. Size and physical arrangements 2. Time limits 3. Group dynamics 4. Stages of group development

The Group Members

1. Members’ characteristics a. interpersonal skills b. information c. motivation d. expectations 2. Extent of participation a. amount of time worked together b. extent to which decision is implemented by the members c. reactions of participants

The Group Leader

1. Power base 2. Skill level 3. Personality 4. Service technology

Purpose of the Group Type of Problem

Group Leadership

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 123 01/05/17 11:30 AM

124 Chapter 4

but individuals working alone do better on others (Forsyth, 2014; Hare et al., 1995). Gen- erally, groups do better when the task is additive, such as collecting information. Thus, it would be better to form a treatment conference group to collect information about a cli- ent f rom all the professionals working with the client rather than to get the information f rom each professional separately. Groups are also more effective when they are choos- ing between clearly delineated alternatives. For example, Toseland, Rivas, and Chapman (1984) found that groups were more effective than individuals working alone when mak- ing decisions about funding priorities for medically underserved counties.

Groups also do better on tasks requiring a wide range of responses (Thorndike, 1938). For example, it is preferable to have group members and the leader generate alternative solutions with a woman who is having trouble expressing her anger rather than to have the woman generate the alternatives with just the leader. For these kinds of tasks, the leader should promote interaction, input, and feedback f rom all group members so that a wide range of responses is generated and evaluated, and members feel empowered in the process.

Individuals working alone solve some problems or accomplish some tasks faster and bet- ter than they would working in a group. Individuals working alone more readily solve techni- cal and complex problems requiring expert knowledge. In these cases, an individual working alone may make a better decision than the whole group working together (Forsyth, 2014).

Several other aspects of problems should be considered when leading a group. One is whether the problem is of concern to the group as a whole, to a subgroup, or to an individual. Not all members of the group might be affected to the same extent by a par- ticular problem or task being considered by a group. For example, when leading a group to teach parenting skills to foster parents, the worker should try to get all members in- volved in discussing parenting problems that are of interest to everyone in the group. When a member raises a problem unique to his or her particular situation, many re- sponses are generated. The worker should try to develop generalized principles of child rearing of interest to all group members f rom the responses to the specific problem. This technique is often called universalizing.

When considering the type of problem conf ronting a group, workers should also be aware of where their legitimate inf luence ends. It may not be appropriate for the worker to encourage discussion of certain topics. For example, a worker leading a task group planning for an emergency housing shelter may not want to encourage a group member to talk about his or her personal family life or his or her need for housing. In other situa- tions, however, workers may want to encourage discussion of taboo areas. For example, when the problem being discussed is child abuse, it might be helpful for the worker to en- courage all members to talk about how they were disciplined during their early childhood.

Case example Individual and Group Problem Solving

In preparing a countywide plan for distributing emergency allocation funds to communities affected by a recent tornado, a worker decided to use a nominal group procedure that en- couraged members to work alone before sharing their ideas with the group. In addition, the worker formed subgroups to work on specific ideas generated by the individual before they were considered in formal group discussion. By using both individual work and group interac- tion, the worker helped the group deal with a complex problem more efficiently.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 124 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 125

The Environment

The environment in which the group conducts its work has a profound effect on how leadership emerges in the group. Environmental inf luences come primarily f rom three interrelated sources: (1) the physical setting, (2) the sponsor, and (3) the community and larger social environment.

Setting The worker should ensure that the setting f acilitates the g roup’s work. The decor and comfort of the waiting room and meeting area and the availability of equipment and sup- plies, such as tables, black board, or newsprint, all inf luence the group’s leadership. It is important for the worker to match group members’ needs and preferences to a setting that facil- itates the g roup’s work. For example, sitting around a table may facilitate the work of a task group because members can spread out papers and write more easily. In contrast, a table may interfere with the observation of nonverbal communica- tion in a therapy group and hamper role playing and engage- ment in other program activities.

Sponsor In addition to the physical environment, the organization sponsoring the group in- f luences it in several ways. The worker, for example, must be aware of organization policies, rules, and regulations that apply to the work of the group. Funding, accred- iting, and regulatory organizations can play an important role in the organization’s mandate for the group service. The worker is g iven leg itimate authority by the or- ganization to help the group perform its tasks. The organization’s delegation of this authority to the worker often assumes the worker will use the method of service delivery that currently exists in the agency. For example, two group workers trying to help pregnant women stop abusing alcohol may use quite different means, de- pending on the type of program sponsored by each agency. One group leader may use a reality-therapy group approach; the other may use a group format based on cognitive-behavioral self-control procedures.

Community and Social Environment The third way the environment inf luences group leadership is through the commu- nity and larger social systems. The worker’s leadership is inf luenced by the norms of behavior in the community and the larger society. For example, in a group for abusive parents, the worker intervenes to help members comply with societal norms and val- ues concerning appropriate parenting behaviors. Smaller social systems can also affect a group’s work. For example, an agency committee might hesitate to become involved in a search for additional emergency housing if a delegate council formed by a com- munity planning agency is already looking at ways to develop additional emergency housing resources.

Policy Practice

Behavior: assess how social welfare and econimic policies impact the delivery of and access to social services

Critical thinking Question: Groups are partially the products of their environments. In what ways do sponsoring organizations influence groups?

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 125 01/05/17 11:30 AM

126 Chapter 4

The Group as a Whole

At least four properties of the group as a whole inf luence how leadership emerges. These are (1) size, (2) time limits, open and closed membership, and turnover, (3) group dynamics, and (4) the stage of a group’s development.

Size As the size of a group increases, the opportunity for member participation decreases. The number of rules may increase as workers use them to maintain order and control in the group. Subgroups are more likely to form. The leader is more likely to be in the f ront of a large group, and leader-to-member and member-to-leader interactions are more likely than member-to-member interactions to occur.

Time Limits, Open and Closed Membership, and Turnover Time limits may be voluntary or mandatory. A treatment group, for example, might decide to use a time-limited method, such as a behavioral group approach or a task- centered group approach. A task group, such as a delegate council, might feel respon- sible for making a speedy decision on an issue for an upcoming statewide meeting. In either case, time limits affect leadership behavior. Generally, time limits are associated with greater structuring of interactions, an increase in task-focused behavior, and fewer opportunities for indigenous leadership to emerge.

Closed and open membership has an important impact on group leadership. In closed membership groups, the original members stay with the group until completion or dropout, and the worker is able to get to know each person well. In these groups, workers are able to facilitate the growth and development of the group through the stages mentioned in Chapter 3. In open membership or rolling admissions groups when individuals come and go, the worker does not know members well and is more likely to rely on a structured format to help members feel welcome.

Membership turnover also makes a difference. Leadership varies based on whether there is a core group of members along with other members who come and go, and the duration of members’ participation. For example, the leadership of a group that is open to all members of a 28-day rehabilitation program in a hospital would be quite different f rom the leadership of a group in a rehabilitation program with an average length of stay of 7 days. This is especially true if there were a core group of attendees of the open group in the 28-day rehabilitation program.

Group Dynamics Another property that can inf luence leadership is the dynamics that operate in a group. As discussed in Chapter 3, these include communication and interaction patterns, co- hesion, social control, and group culture. Workers should use their skills to foster the development of group dynamics that help the group accomplish its tasks and contribute to members’ satisfaction. Interventions to change the dynamics of the group as a whole are described throughout this book.

Stage of Development The stage of a group’s development also affects leadership behavior (Brabender & Fallon, 2009). If the group is to develop successfully, the worker must be aware of the

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 126 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 127

developmental tasks that face the group during each stage. A large portion of this text focuses on the specific skills and methods that workers can use during each stage of a group’s development.

The Group Members

Group members inf luence how leadership emerges in three important ways: (1) through the unique characteristics and life experiences they bring to the group, (2) by the extent that they participate in the group, and (3) by the extent that they share in leading the group.

Member Characteristics Several characteristics of members affect their ability to inf luence the group. These include members’ interpersonal skills, access to information, perceived responsibility for the work of the group, motivations, and expectations about the process and out- come of the group. The importance of these characteristics should not be overlooked when considering how leadership develops in a group. It has been shown, for exam- ple, that member expectations inf luence outcomes in treatment (Gelso & Harbin, 2007) and task groups (Forsyth, 2014) and that interpersonal skill level and knowledge about a particular problem also help determine how well a group functions (Barlow, 2013).

Case example Group Activities for Children with Autism

In a self-contained classroom with eight children with autistic spectrum disorders, in order to help the children understand others’ feelings, a school social worker might use feelings charades. For example, the worker might first show pictures of people with different feelings and then act out or model the feelings. Then the social worker would ask for volunteers to role play a person with a feeling and to have another child guess the feeling. The worker might also play a movement game called the mirror to help students pay attention to each other and to practice following the lead of another child in a social situation. In this game, the worker might bring in a mirror and show the children how it reflects whatever action is performed in front of it. Then the worker asks the children to form pairs and for one child to follow or mirror the movements of the other. Next, the children reverse roles, and the child who initially was the mirror acts out or mirrors what the first child does.

Because members’ attributes differ, one member who is knowledgeable about a par- ticular topic may become the task leader while that topic is being discussed. Another member may serve as the group’s socio-emotional leader by expressing feelings and re- sponding to other members’ feelings. This suggests that the worker should remain aware of each member’s leadership potential as the group progresses and help members to take on appropriate leadership roles that match their interests and skills. This is in keeping with the transformational leadership model mentioned earlier in this chapter in which the leader individualizes and empowers members, helping them to use their unique in- terests and strengths and to view personal goals within the context of the larger group goal (Avolio, Walumbwa, & Weber, 2009).

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 127 01/05/17 11:30 AM

128 Chapter 4

Extent of Participation The extent of members’ participation also inf luences how a worker leads a group. Some members’ lack of interpersonal skills or motivation may prevent them f rom participating fully. In these situations, the worker may want to take on a more active stance by encourag- ing members to interact by using go-rounds to get each member’s feedback about particular topics and by using program activities and other expressive therapies, such as music, move- ment, or art, to involve and draw out members. In some groups, for example in school set- tings, members may also have developmental disabilities that limit their ability to participate.

Sharing Leadership Members’ willingness to share leadership responsibilities is determined by their feelings of competency, their previous leadership experiences, and their perceptions of the openness of the designated leader to sharing leadership functions. It is also affected, in part, by the amount of time the member has been a part of the group. A new group member often has difficulty exerting leadership in a group in which the relationship among members has been estab- lished. Similarly, a member of a street gang that has been together for several years has more inf luence with the gang than a worker who is just beginning to interact with the gang.

The Group Leader

When one examines how leadership emerges in a group, the power base, skill level, per- sonality, and choice of service technology of the designated leader all play important roles. As indicated earlier, seven types of power bases can be used to inf luence a group: connection, expert, information, legitimate, identification, reward, and coercive. Most workers draw on a variety of power bases; workers should realize the power bases at their disposal when they are considering leading a group.

Case example A Group of Persons with Alcoholism

A worker planning to lead a group of individuals referred from the court for driving-while- intoxicated offenses has several power bases to draw on in leading the group. The leader can present information about the harmful effects of alcohol, can connect the members of the group to other treatment resources, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and may even be able to connect members to sponsors within the AA program. The leader can also use some other power bases, such as the role of an expert who can certify if the person has completed the group successfully, which may have implications for the person getting their license back or on their probation status.

The level of skill that workers possess also inf luences their ability to lead. Experi- ence and training of workers have been correlated with effectiveness in working with individuals and groups (Barlow, 2013; Brown, 2010).

A worker’s personality, interpersonal style, and preferences for how to lead all inf lu- ence how leadership emerges in the group (Bauman, 2010; Trotzer, 2010). For example, a worker who is shy and sensitive about others’ feelings is less likely to use conf ronta- tion as a technique when leading a group. Therefore, it is important for workers to be aware of how their interpersonal style affects their attempts to analyze objectively what the group needs as they attempt to exert effective leadership. This is often referred to as

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 128 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 129

effective use of self in social work practice. Some methods for becoming aware of leader- ship styles and how to modify them are described later in this chapter.

The service technology that workers use also affects how they conduct their groups. Service technology refers to particular theories or methods of intervention used by a worker. Three leaders of groups for alcoholics, for example, may intervene in quite different ways— by using transactional analysis or behavior therapy or, perhaps, reality therapy. Workers’ choice of service technologies may be inf luenced by their personal preferences, their training, or the ideology of the agency in which they work.

A worker’s technological and ideological stance often helps in organizing interventions. Workers may wish to receive specialized instruction in a partic- ular service technology, such as behavior modification; however, it is essential that they become familiar with basic practice principles of leading groups be- fore they receive specialized training.

Group Leadership skiLLs

Group leadership skills are behaviors or activities that help the group achieve its purpose and accomplish its tasks, and help members achieve their personal goals. Both work- ers and members use leadership skills, although workers ordinarily use them more than other group members. Leadership skills are combined when conducting group meetings. For example, in using a problem-solving method, a worker calls on numerous leadership skills to help a committee arrive at a decision concerning personnel practices in a family service agency. Similarly, in an aftercare treatment group for recovering drug addicts, a worker relies on many different skills to help members remain drug f ree.

There has been long-standing interest in the skillful use of self in social work practice (Goldstein, 1983). Most evidence concerning the effect of skill level on desired outcomes has been gathered f rom the evaluation of work with individuals rather than f rom work with groups (Dies, 1994). Reviews of the literature suggest that skills can be learned and that skill level makes a difference in performance (Barlow, 2013). There is some evidence that specific skills leading to therapeutic factors, such as attending intently and respond- ing empathically, are directly connected to positive outcomes in therapy groups (Egan, 2013; Luke, 2014; Kivlighan & Kivlighan, 2014; Marmarosh, Dunton, & Amendola, 2014; Paquin, Kivlighan, & Drogosz, 2013). Results are tentative, however, because it is difficult to design studies to assess the independent effect of one particular skill.

Group leadership skills are somewhat different f rom skills used in working with an individual. Both members and the worker have greater choices regarding the level and focus of their interactions. For example, they may choose to be active or passive, and they may decide to interact with some members more than others. There is also a greater possibility of shared leadership and the delegation of various leadership responsibilities.

Some of the basic skills necessary for group leadership are categorized in Table 4.1. The skills are listed in three categories: (1) facilitating group processes, (2) data gather- ing and assessment, and (3) action. Skills are classified based on their most likely func- tion within the group. Skills listed under one category may, however, be used in another category, particularly if they are combined with other skills. For example, responding is classified as a skill in facilitating group processes. Although responding to another group

Assess your understand- ing of an interactional model of leadership by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 129 01/05/17 11:30 AM

130 Chapter 4

Table 4.1 A Functional Classification of Group Leadership Skills

Facilitating Group Processes Data Gathering and Assessment Action

1. Involving group members

2. Attending to others

3. Expressing self

4. Responding to others

5. Focusing group communication

6. Making group processes explicit

7. Clarifying content

8. Cuing, blocking, and guiding group interactions

1. Identifying and describing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

2. Requesting information, questioning, and probing

3. Summarizing and partializing information

4. Synthesizing thoughts, feelings, and actions

5. Analyzing information

1. Supporting

2. Reframing and redefining

3. Linking members’ communications

4. Directing

5. Giving advice, suggestions, or instructions

6. Providing resources

7. Disclosure

8. Modeling, role playing, rehearsing, and coaching

9. Confronting

10. Resolving conflicts

member’s actions or words facilitates communication, responding may also lead to addi- tional data gathering, assessment, or action.

Facilitating Group Processes

Table 4.1 lists several different skills in the category of facilitating group processes. All of these skills can be used by workers differentially, depending on their intentions when attempting to inf luence various group processes. In general, however, skills in facilitat- ing group processes contribute to positive group outcomes when they improve under- standing among group members, build open communication channels, and encourage the development of trust so that all members are willing to contribute as much as they can to the problem on which the group is working.

Involving Group Members Ideally, all members should be involved and interested in what is being discussed in the group. Yalom (2005) has called this universalizing a group member’s experience. Involv- ing members who have been silent helps identify commonalities and differences in their life experiences. As members become involved, they realize how particular problems affect them and how a solution to one member’s problem can directly or indirectly help them. Involving others is also essential for building group cohesiveness, developing a sense of mutual aid, and encouraging shared decision-making.

Involving group members also means helping them take on leadership roles within the group. The worker should be cautious about doing too much for members and thereby stif ling individual initiative. Instead of jealously guarding the leadership role, workers should encourage members to contribute to the content of group meetings and help shape group dynamic processes. This can be done by providing members with op- portunities for leadership roles during program activities, by praising members for their leadership efforts, and by inviting and encouraging members’ participation and initiative during group interaction. For example, the worker might say, “Mary, I know that you are knowledgeable about that; do you have anything to add to what Tom has said?” Similarly,

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 130 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 131

the worker might say, “Tom, you did such an excellent job in the role play last week. Would you be willing to play the part of the angry storekeeper?”

Attending Skills Attending skills are nonverbal behaviors, such as eye contact and body position, and verbal behaviors that convey empathy, respect, warmth, trust, genuineness, and honesty. At- tending skills are useful in establishing rapport as well as a climate of acceptance and cohesiveness among group members. Egan (2013) suggests that, in addition to body posi- tion and eye contact, skills that indicate that a worker has heard and understood a mem- ber are part of effective attending. Research has shown that effective attending skills are an important characteristic of successful leaders (Luke, 2014). Effective attending skills include repeating or paraphrasing what a member says and responding empathically and enthusiastically to the meaning behind members’ communications. They also include what Middleman (1978) has referred to as “scanning” skills. When scanning the group, the worker makes eye contact with all group members, which lets them know that the worker is concerned about them as individuals. Scanning helps reduce the tendency of workers to focus on one or two group members.

Expressive Skills Expressive skills are also important for facilitating group processes. Workers should be able to help participants express thoughts and feelings about important problems, tasks, or issues facing the group and to reiterate and summarize them when necessary. Mem- bers should also be helped to express their thoughts and feelings as f reely as possible in an appropriate and goal-oriented manner. Members of task and treatment groups can often benefit f rom an open discussion of formerly taboo areas that affect the group or its members. Self-disclosure is an expressive skill that can be used effectively for this pur- pose. Although self-disclosures should be made judiciously, according to their appropri- ateness for particular situations, they can often be useful in helping the worker promote open communication about difficult subjects. For example, a worker might say, “I just lost my mother, who also had been ill for a long time. I know what you mean, Bea, when you say that watching a loved one slowly decline right before your eyes is so hard. Your situation is different f rom mine, because it is your husband, but I can just imagine how terribly difficult it is for you. Do you want to share with us how you have been coping?”

Responding Skills Skillful responses help the group as a whole and individual members accomplish tasks. The worker might, for example, amplify subtle messages or soften overpowering mes- sages (Luke, 2014). The worker can also redirect messages that may be more appropriate for a particular member or the group as a whole.

Workers can use responding skills selectively to elicit specific reactions that will affect future group processes. For example, if a worker’s response supports a group member’s efforts, the member is more likely to continue to work on a task or a con- cern. If the worker disagrees with a member’s statement or action, the member is likely to react either by responding to the worker’s statement or by remaining silent. The member is not likely to continue to pursue the original statement. Thus, by re- sponding selectively to particular communications, the worker can exert inf luence over subsequent communication patterns.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 131 01/05/17 11:30 AM

132 Chapter 4

Focusing Skills The worker can facilitate group processes by focusing them in a particular direction. This can be done by clarifying, asking a member to elaborate, repeating a particular com- munication or sequence of communications, or suggesting that group members limit their discussion to a particular topic. Helping the group maintain its focus can promote efficient work by reducing irrelevant communications and by encouraging a full explora- tion of issues and problems. Tropman (2014), for example, describes the importance of focusing on task groups agendas.

Making Group Processes Explicit The skill of making group processes explicit helps members to become aware of how they are interacting. For example, a worker may point out implicit group norms, par- ticular member roles, or specific interaction patterns. The worker may ask members whether they observed a particular pattern or type of interaction, whether they are com- fortable with the interaction, and whether they would like to see changes in the ways members interact. Ward (2014) points out that it is important for the worker to verbalize therapeutic group norms and to encourage the development of traditions and rituals. For example, point out that at the beginning of each meeting members seem to take turns “telling their story” and receiving feedback about how they handled a particular situation. This encourages members to consider whether they want to continue this pattern of interaction.

Case example Pointing Out Group Dynamics

In order to help members understand how their interactions affected the group-as-a-whole, the leader of a support group for recovering alcoholics often took time out from the discus- sion of members’ issues to bring up group dynamics and processes. He noted that members sometimes ignored nonverbal reactions of other members and often asked members to observe what was going on with the group-as-a-whole. Eventually, members became more skilled at observing this and other communication dynamics within the group. The leader frequently asked members to evaluate the leadership behavior of other members, using this “processing” time to discuss both member and group strengths. As the group progressed, the leader and members structured these discussions into the final few minutes of the session, giving them time each week to discuss group processes.

Pointing out the here-and-now of group interaction is an underused skill (Ward, 2014). Sometimes, workers are so caught up in the content of interaction that they forget to pay attention to group processes. Other workers are reluctant to make their observa- tions public. Workers who have difficulty directing the group’s attention to group pro- cesses should consider practicing this skill by setting aside a few minutes at the beginning or end of each meeting for a discussion of group processes or by making a conscious effort to point out group processes in brief summary statements at intervals during meetings. Clinical and supervisory experience suggests that the process of pointing out here-and-now group interaction becomes easier with practice. A brief example of how to point out here-and-now interactions during group meetings is presented in the case example.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 132 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 133

Clarifying Content Just as it can be beneficial to make group processes explicit, it can also be beneficial to point out the content of members’ interactions. The worker’s purpose in clarifying con- tent is to help members communicate effectively. The skill of clarifying content includes checking that a particular message was understood by members of the group and help- ing members express themselves more clearly. It also includes pointing out when group interaction has become unfocused or sidetracked by an irrelevant issue.

The skill of clarifying content can also be used to point out the possible avoidance of taboo subjects. For example, in a support group for caregivers of the f rail elderly, the worker might point out that the subject of nursing home placement has not arisen.

Cuing, Blocking, and Guiding Group Interactions To help a group accomplish the goals it has set for itself, the worker will often find it help- ful to guide the group’s interaction in a particular direction. To start this process it is help- ful to scan the group to look for verbal and nonverbal cues about group processes. The worker should avoid getting too caught up in the content of the group and instead should focus on the processes that are occurring among members. Cuing can be used to invite a member to speak so that the group stays focused on a topic. It can also be used when the worker wants to move the group in a new direction by focusing on or cuing a member who has brought up an important new topic for the group to discuss. Blocking can also be used when a member is getting off topic or is saying something that is inappropriate. By encouraging a member to speak or by limiting or blocking a group member’s commu- nication, the worker can guide the group’s interaction patterns. Thus, blocking can both protect and energize members (Barlow, 2013). Blocking and drawing out members can be used to select communications patterns purposely to help groups to work with purpose and stay on goal (Barlow, 2013; Luke, 2014).

Case example A Support Group for Children Whose Parents Have Recently Divorced

In a support group for children of recently divorced parents, members are discussing feelings that arise from the divorce, and many mention feelings of guilt and blame. One member, Aseya, begins to talk about how she feels like she’s acting as a messenger between her parents and asks for suggestions on how to get them to communicate with each other instead of using her as a go-between. The group worker notices that another member, Nikhil, seems to be having a strong emotional reaction to the topic of guilt and blame. The worker turns to Aseya and asks if she would mind holding on to her thought until later in the discussion. He then asks if Nikhil or anyone else would like to discuss the feelings of guilt or blame arising from the divorce before the group moves on to communication strategies.

The skill of guiding group interactions has many uses. For example, the worker may want to correct a dysfunctional aspect of the group’s process, such as the development of a subgroup that disrupts other members. A worker who can skillfully guide group interaction patterns can limit the communication between subgroup members and in- crease their communication with other group members. The worker may also want to use guiding skills to explore a particular problem or help members sustain their efforts in solving a problem or completing a task. At other times, the worker may want to encour- age open communication. For example, by redirecting a communication, the worker can

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 133 01/05/17 11:30 AM

134 Chapter 4

help members speak to one another. The worker might say, “John, your message is really intended for Jill. Why don’t you share your message directly with her rather than through me?”

Data-Gathering and Assessment

Data-gathering and assessment skills are useful in developing a plan for inf luencing communication patterns as well as in decid- ing on the action skills to use to accomplish the group’s purposes. These skills provide a bridge between the process-oriented ap- proach of facilitating group processes and the task-oriented ap- proach of using action skills to achieve goals and satisfy members’

needs. Without effective data-gathering and assessment skills, workers’ interventions are not grounded in a complete understanding of the situation. This can result in the use of premature, oversimplified, or previously attempted solutions that have not been care- fully analyzed and weighed.

Identifying and Describing Skills Perhaps the most basic data-gathering skill is helping members identify and describe a particular situation. This skill allows elaboration of pertinent factors inf luencing a problem or task facing the group. In using this skill, workers should attempt to elicit descriptions that specify the problem attributes as clearly and concretely as possible. To understand the problem, it is often useful for the worker to identify or describe historical as well as current aspects of the problem. It may also be helpful to share alternative ways of viewing the situation to obtain diverse f rames of reference, alternative interpreta- tions of events, and potential solutions to a problem. For example, the worker might say, “You have given us a pretty complete description of what happened, Amy, but I wonder, what do you think Jim would say if I asked him to give an account of the same situa- tion? How do you think he would view this?”

Requesting Information, Questioning, and Probing The skills of identifying and describing a situation are essential to workers’ attempts to gather data by requesting information, questioning, and probing. Using these skills, workers can clarify the problem or concern and broaden the scope of the group’s work by obtaining additional information that may be useful to all members. The worker should be careful to ask questions that are clear and answerable. Double questions or value-laden questions may be met with resistance, passivity, anger, or misunderstand- ing. For some issues and for some group members, questioning or probing may be seen as a conf rontation or a challenge to what has already been stated, particularly in areas in which the member is reluctant to give additional information, because the information is perceived as emotionally charged or potentially damaging to the mem- ber’s status in the group. The worker should be particularly sensitive to these concerns when seeking additional information f rom a member. Helping the member explore fears or concerns about the potentially damaging effect of a disclosure can be a helpful intervention. Another is asking for feedback f rom other members about the realistic basis of personal fears.


Behavior: use empathy, reflection and inter- personal skills to effectively engage diverse clients and constituencies

Critical thinking Question: Group leaders continually gather information in the group. What skills are particularly important for gathering data about the group?

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 134 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 135

Summarizing and Partializing When information about the problems or concerns facing the group has been discussed, a worker can use summarizing or partializing skills. Summarizing skills enable a worker to present the core of what has been said in the group. It also provides members an op- portunity to ref lect on the problem. Summarizing skills give members and the worker an opportunity to consider the next steps in solving the problem and allow members to compare with the worker’s summary their perceptions about what has gone on in the group. Partializing skills are useful for breaking down a complex problem or issue into manageable bits. Partializing is also helpful in determining group members’ motivation to work on various aspects of the problem. For example, the worker might say, “John, I heard you talk a lot about your f rustration with the group’s not sticking to its purpose here. Would you tell us brief ly, what you would like to see the group do that we are not doing right now? . . . Okay, so you are suggesting that we could take three steps to stay on track better during future discussions. . . . Am I paraphrasing you correctly? Are these the three things you think would keep us on track?”

Case example A Single Parents Group

In a single parents group, the worker asks John, a member of the group with partial custody of an 11-year-old son who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, to elaborate on his feelings about his son who has many behavior problems both at school and at home. In response, John says spontaneously, “Sometimes I get so frustrated I just feel like bashing his head in,” but then immediately says he would not do such a thing. Sensing that John feels awkward about what he just said, the worker asks other members if they have had similar feelings in dealing with their own children. Several members talk about their frustrations and how they sometimes feel like they are about to lose control. A good interaction follows when members talk about how they handle situations when they fear they may lose control. The worker decides to join in and self-disclose a particular occasion on which she became so frustrated with her child that she had to leave the room before she did or said something she would regret later. In this way, John and the other members were able to disclose strong feelings without fear of how they would be perceived in the group.

Synthesizing Another useful data-gathering and assessment skill is synthesizing verbal and nonverbal communications. Examples of synthesizing skills include making connections among the meanings behind a member’s actions or words, expressing hidden agendas, making implicit feelings or thoughts explicit, and making connections between communications to point out themes and trends in members’ actions or words.

Synthesizing skills can be useful in providing feedback to members about how they are perceived by others. Because these skills often involve a considerable amount of judg- ment and conjecture about the facts available to the worker, they should be used cautiously, and all members should have the opportunity for input into the synthesis. Ideally, when the worker synthesizes a number of interactions or points out similarities in group prob- lem solving or in group communication patterns, all members should be able to give feed- back about their perceptions of the situation. For example, during a weekly staff meeting of an adolescent unit in a state mental hospital, a worker might mention the patterns of

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 135 01/05/17 11:30 AM

136 Chapter 4

interactions that have developed among team members. In describing these patterns, the worker would ask members for feedback on how they perceived the group’s interaction.

Analyzing Skills Once the data have been gathered and organized, the worker can use analyzing skills to synthesize the information and assess how to proceed (Ward, 2014). Analyzing skills include pointing out patterns in the data, identifying gaps in the data, and establishing mechanisms or plans for obtaining data to complete an assessment (Tropman, 2014). For example, in a treatment conference at a group home for adolescents, the worker can use analyzing skills to point out patterns used by staff members in previous work with a par- ticular youngster. The group can then explore new methods and techniques for future efforts to work with the youngster. In an educational treatment group for potentially abusive parents, the worker can use analyzing skills to link parents’ behavior patterns to the onset of physical abuse of their children.

Action Skills

Supporting Group Members Action skills are most often used by the worker to help the group accomplish its tasks. Perhaps the most basic skill in this area is supporting group members in their efforts to help themselves and each other. There is also evidence that providing support to others increases one’s own meaning and self-esteem (Sarason & Sarason, 2009) and mutual aid in the whole group (Shulman, 2014). Skills to support group members will not be effec- tive unless members perceive the group to be a safe place in which their thoughts and feelings will be accepted. Thus, it is essential to begin by helping the group develop a culture in which all members’ experiences and opinions are valued. The worker supports members by encouraging them to express their thoughts and feelings on topics relevant to the group, by providing them the opportunity to ventilate their concerns, by soliciting their opinions, and by responding to their requests and comments.

Support also means helping members respond empathically to each other, validating and affirming shared experiences. Skills in supporting members often involve pointing out their strengths and indicating how their participation in the group can help to resolve their problems. It also means providing hope for continued progress or success.

Ventilation and support are the primary goals of some groups. For example, sup- port groups are sometimes formed for the staff of neonatal intensive care units and burn units of regional hospitals. Such groups give staff a chance to talk about and ref lect on the emotionally draining situations they f requently face. Medical social workers who form and facilitate these groups encourage staff to ventilate pent-up emotions and pro- vide peer support for one another. Similarly, the therapeutic elements of a treatment group for recently widowed people include the ventilation of feelings about the loss of a loved one, the affirmation of similar feelings and experiences, and the encouragement to cope effectively with the transition despite feelings of grief.

Ref raming and Redefining Often, one of the greatest obstacles to the work of a group or an individual is failure to view a problem f rom different perspectives to find a creative solution (Forsyth, 2014;

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 136 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 137

Tropman, 2014). Redefining and ref raming the problem can help members examine the problem f rom a new perspective. Thus, a worker may want to ref rame or redefine an issue or concern facing the group. For example, in a group in which one member is being made a scapegoat, the worker might help members redefine their relationship to that member. Redefining can be done by having members talk about how they relate to the person who is being scapegoated and how they might improve their relationship with that person. In this case, ref raming the problem f rom one that focuses on the scape- goated member to one that is shared by all members is a useful way to change members’ interactions with this particular member. As the problem is redefined and group mem- bers change their relationship with the member being scapegoated, the problem often diminishes or disappears.

Linking Members’ Communications The sk ill of link ing members’ communications involves ask ing members to share their reactions to the messages communicated by others in the group. Middleman and Wood (1990) refer to this sk ill as reaching for a feeling link or an information link. Members have a tendency to communicate with the worker rather than with other members, especially in early g roup meetings. The worker can prevent this f rom becoming a pattern by ask ing members about their reactions to a particular communication. For example, in a group in a psychiatric inpatient setting designed to prepare the members for independent living, the worker might say, “Mary, how do you feel about what Joe just said? I recall that during our last meeting, you ex- pressed feeling anxious about living on your own.” Alternatively, the worker might say, “Have any of you had the same feeling?” When members of the group validate and aff irm each other’s experiences and feelings, they develop a sense of belong ing. Members no longer feel isolated or alone with their concerns. They stop question- ing and doubting their own inter pretations of a situation and their own reactions to it.

The skill of linking members’ communications also involves asking members to re- spond to requests for help by other members. Helping members respond to each other fosters information sharing, mutual aid, and the building of a consensus about how to approach a particular problem. For example, in response to a query f rom a group mem- ber about whether the worker knows of a resource for helping him or her take care of his or her f rail father while he or she is at work, the worker might ask whether any other members have used adult day care or respite care. Workers find that members are often more receptive to using a service or a resource when they hear positive reports about it f rom other members of the group.

Par ticularly when work ing with mandated and reluctant clients, workers who  suggest the use of a particular resource may be viewed with skepticism. Members sometimes believe that the worker has a stake in getting them to use a particular service. In contrast, the testimonials of one or more group members about the benefits of a par- ticular service are often viewed with less skepticism. Workers should also be aware that once they provide a response, other members are less likely to provide their own per- spective. Thus, although a direct response to a member’s communication is often war- ranted, it is often a good practice for workers to turn to other members of the group for their input before jumping in with their own responses.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 137 01/05/17 11:30 AM

138 Chapter 4

Directing Whether the worker is clarifying the group’s goal, helping members participate in a par- ticular program activity, leading a discussion, sharing new information, or assessing a particular problem, the worker is directing the group’s action. Directing skills are most ef- fective when coupled with efforts to increase members’ participation and input (Chen & Rybak, 2004; Saleebey, 2013). The worker should not use directing skills without obtain- ing members’ approval or without involving them in decisions about the direction the group should take to accomplish its goals. The worker should be aware of how each member reacts to being directed in a new component of the group’s work. For example, when directing a role play in a remedial group designed to help teenagers learn how to handle angry feelings more effectively, the worker should be aware of how the action will affect each member. Depending on the way they express their anger, some group members may benefit more than others f rom playing certain roles.

Advice, Suggestions, and Instructions Workers give advice, suggestions, and instructions to help group members acquire new behaviors, understand problems, or change problematic situations. Advice should only be given, however, after a careful assessment of what the member has tried in a situation. This avoids awkward situations when the worker provides advice or suggestions only to find that it has been tried without success. Advice should also be given in a tentative man- ner, such as “have you considered . . .” This type of phrasing enables members to express their opinion about the advice and whether they are ready to accept it. Group work ex- perts have suggested being cautious about giving advice, especially if it is not solicited by a member (Kottler & Englar-Carlson, 2015), and process analyses of treatment and sup- port groups indicate that it is not given often by professionals (Smith, Tobin, & Toseland, 1992). Nonetheless, advice is expected and wanted by many clients, especially those of lower socioeconomic status (Aronson & Overall, 1966; Davis, 1975; Mayer & Timms, 1970). Further, these skills appear to have some beneficial effect in helping clients formu- late new ideas and approaches to resolving problems (Davis, 1975; Ewalt & Kutz, 1976; Fortune, 1979; Reid & Shapiro, 1969; Smith, Tobin, & Toseland, 1992). For example, in a review of studies of various therapeutic mechanisms of change, Emrick, Lassen, and Edwards (1977) reported that advice giving was strongly associated with positive changes in clients. Effective ways to give advice, suggestions, and instructions follow.

giving advice, suggestions, and instructions • Should be appropriately timed • Should be clear and geared to comprehension level of members • Should be sensitive to the language and culture of members • Should encourage members to share in the process • Should facilitate helping networks among members

Advice, suggestions, and instructions should be timed appropriately so that group members are ready to accept them. They should also be clear and geared to the compre- hension level of the members for whom they are intended. A group of teenage parents who have not completed high school requires a presentation of ideas, advice, sugges- tions, and instructions quite different f rom a presentation to a group of highly educated women who have delayed child rearing until their early thirties.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 138 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 139

Workers should also be sensitive to the language and culture of the members of their groups. Certain words in English might not translate appropriately or with the same meaning in another language. Further, the cultural heritage of a population may inf luence how such individuals receive and decode messages sent f rom the worker.

The worker should not act alone in giving advice, suggestions, and instructions. This sets the worker off as an expert who may be seen as too directive. The worker should encourage members to share information, advice, and instructions with each other. Shulman (2014, 2016) refers to this as the worker’s reaching for feelings and in- formation that members may be hesitant to disclose. The aim is to deepen the level of disclosure in the group, thereby enhancing cohesion. It is also to empower members so that they get in touch with their own strengths and resiliencies and take ownership of the change process.

To encourage members to share information and advice with each other, the worker should facilitate the development of helping networks where members feel f ree to share their life experiences, information, and resources, as well as their opinions and views. One of the distinct advantages of group work over individual work is the ability of group members to rely on one another for help in solving problems and accomplishing goals. Experience suggests that well-established helping networks often continue outside the group long after the group experience has ended. For example, a worker who formed a support and parenting skills education group for single parents in an inner city later helped the group members form a child-care cooperative that f lourished for years after the 12-week parenting skills group ended. Similarly, the members of a support group for family members of patients recently discharged f rom inpatient settings in the inner city were helped by a worker to form a local chapter of a national welfare rights organization.

Providing Resources Organizations that sponsor groups have access to a wide variety of resources, such as medical treatment, home health care, financial assistance, job and rehabilitation counsel- ing, family planning, and financial management consultation that the worker can make available to members. Making skillful use of these resources through accurate assess- ment and referral can be helpful to members. The worker can also encourage members to talk about the resources and services they have found to be effective. In this way, the cumulative knowledge of all group members can be used for mutual aid. Members who talk enthusiastically about a resource or service can be more convincing than a worker providing the very same information.

In task groups, workers can also provide a variety of resources for members. They can inf luence the environment in which a group works, either directly or indirectly, to make it easier for the group to accomplish its tasks. Workers may have access to import- ant people or action groups that can give the group’s work proper consideration. In ad- dition, because task groups are often composed of members with a variety of skills and resources, members can also help one another achieve the group’s goals.

Disclosure Disclosure is an action skill that should be used sparingly by the worker for the specific purpose of deepening the communication within the group. Too often, novice work- ers disclose to join in and be a part of the group. Workers should remember, however,

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 139 01/05/17 11:30 AM

140 Chapter 4

that their main role is to facilitate communication among members. Therefore, it is of- ten more important to pay attention to the processes that are occurring in the group among members rather than to get involved directly in the content of the discussion. Being pulled into the content can have negative consequences, as the worker can be seen to be taking sides. It also distracts the worker f rom focusing on the verbal and nonverbal interaction occurring among members. The value of disclosure is in deepening commu- nication occurring in the group, empathizing with members, and letting the members know that the worker understands their situation. Disclosure can also model openness and risk-taking, demonstrating that the group is a safe place to talk about difficult emo- tional issues.

Modeling, Role Playing, Rehearsing, and Coaching The action skills of modeling, role playing, and rehearsing situations in the group can be helpful in both task and treatment groups. Modeling refers to the worker or a member demonstrating behaviors in a particular situation so that others in the group can observe what to do and how to do it. For example, the worker in an assertion training group might demonstrate how to respond to a spouse who has become quite angry. In another group, the worker might model caring and concern by going over to a group member who has begun to cry and placing an arm around the member’s shoulder.

Case example Disclosure in a Couple’s Group

During the interaction in a couple’s group, members began to talk about how difficult it was for them to take responsibility for their own actions within their marriage and how it was easier to blame their partner for situations. Members went on to talk about how they could carry around anger at their spouse for hours and even days at a time. At one point, the worker stepped in and said that he had had similar experiences in his own relationship with his wife and how hard it was for him to step back and think about his role in the situation. The worker then asked the members to think about what happened when they stepped back and examined the situation and their role in it. This led to a productive discussion of how to step back from situations when one blamed one’s partner for a situation and how this could be done without holding the anger in for hours or even days.

Role playing refers to having group members act out a situation with each other’s help. The two primary purposes of role playing are to assess members’ skill in respond- ing to an interpersonal situation and to help members improve particular responses. Responses can be improved through feedback, rehearsal of a new response, or coaching.

Role playing can be a very useful tool when trying to help members improve their responses to stressful situations. For example, in a group for couples trying to improve their relationships, the worker might ask each couple to role play an argument they had during the past week. During the role play, the worker asks each couple to switch roles so that each partner could experience how the other felt, thought, and acted in the situa- tion. Role plays can help members understand their partner’s behavior in relationship to their own behavior. The couples can use the feedback they received to experiment with new and better ways to communicate during an argument. In this way, the couples learn new communication skills and begin to use improved ways of responding to each other during disagreements.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 140 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 141

Rehearsing refers to practicing a new behavior or response based on the feedback received after a role play. Because it is difficult to learn new behaviors or to diminish less adaptive but habituated behavior patterns, a member may have to practice a new response several times.

Coaching is the use of verbal and physical instructions to help members reproduce a particular response. For example, members of a group for the mentally retarded might practice expressing their feelings during interpersonal interactions. As members practice, the worker coaches them by giving instructions and demonstrating how to improve their responses. Additional information about different role-playing techniques is presented in Chapter 9.

Conf rontation Skills Conf rontation is a useful action skill for overcoming resistance and motivating members. Conf rontation is the ability to clarify, examine, and challenge behaviors to help members overcome distortions and discrepancies among behaviors, thoughts, and feelings (Chen & Rybak, 2004; Egan, 2013). Conf rontation skills should be used only when the worker has carefully assessed the situation and decided that what is said will not be rejected by a member. If a member is not ready to examine thoughts, behaviors, or feelings, the member may react negatively to a conf rontation by becoming passive, angry, or hostile.

Because conf rontations are potent and emotionally charged, workers should be pre- pared for strong reactions. In certain circumstances, workers may want to make gentle or tentative conf rontations to explore a member’s reactions before making direct, full- scale conf rontation. Although conf rontations are often associated with pointing out a member’s f laws or weaknesses, they can be used to help members recognize strengths and assets. For example, in a remedial group for psychiatric inpatients, a depressed group member who is self-deprecating might be conf ronted and challenged to begin to rec- ognize his or her strengths and assets. Similarly, a member of a growth group might be conf ronted by pointing out how her words differ f rom her actions.

Resolving Conf licts One of the most important action skills is helping resolve conf licts among the members of the group and with individuals and social systems outside the group. Group members may conf lict with one another for a variety of reasons. For example, in a delegate coun- cil, members may represent constituencies that have quite different concerns, interests, and goals. In a treatment team, group members’ responsibilities for different work func- tions and tasks may cause conf lict or competition, particularly if resources for accom- plishing a task are limited.

Many of the models of group development described in the previous chapter indi- cate that conf lict may arise among members as the group develops. The worker should help the group view conf lict as a healthy process that can clarify the purposes and goals of the group and the way members can work together.

Although conf licts inevitably arise, skillful group facilitation can help avoid unnec- essary conf licts and resolve disagreements before they turn into hostile disputes. To help avoid unnecessary conf licts, workers can suggest that the group develop and maintain rules for participation. These rules are f requently expressed in early contractual discussions with members. Sometimes these rules, which should be developed with the participation of all

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 141 01/05/17 11:30 AM

142 Chapter 4

group members, are stated in a written agreement that all members sign at the beginning of a new group. An example of such a written agreement is shown in Figure 4.3. Having agreed-on rules clearly written and displayed on a blackboard or f lip chart is particularly helpful in children’s groups. Children enjoy setting rules for their group, and, with the guid- ance of a leader, they can help each other follow rules they have made.

When conf licts arise among members, the worker may also use moderating, ne- gotiating, mediating, or arbitrating skills to resolve disagreements before they turn into hostile disputes. Moderating skills help workers keep meetings within specified bounds so that conf lict is avoided. Negotiating skills are used to help members come to an agree- ment or an understanding when initial opinions differ. Mediating skills are used when two or more members are in conf lict, and action is necessary to help them reach an agreement and resolve the dispute. Arbitration skills involve having an authoritative third person meet with the group. This person listens to the dispute and binds the members to a settlement. Arbitration is sometimes used in task groups that have reached an impasse when working on a labor contract. Specific methods that workers can use to help resolve conf licts in groups are described in detail in Chapters 9 and 11.

Members may also come into conf lict with forces outside the group. The members of therapy groups, for example, often expect workers to provide guidance about how to resolve conf licts with spouses, other family members, f riends, fellow workers, and acquaintances. In attempting to be more assertive, a member of a therapy group might receive hostile, angry, or aggressive responses f rom family members or f riends. In such a case, the worker might attempt to reduce the conf lict by intervening directly in the situation or by helping the member develop the skills necessary to overcome the conf lict alone. When the conf lict is an inevitable by-product of a change the member wishes to make outside the group, the worker can help the member feel comfortable with the conf lict until a new state of equilibrium is achieved.

Sometimes it is helpful for the worker to meet with people outside the group to resolve a member’s conf lict. For example, a worker might meet with the parents of an adolescent group member to discuss how the parents set limits and rules for their child.

Figure 4.3 Rules for Group Participation

I, the undersigned, agree to:

1. Attend each group session or call one day before the group meeting to explain my absence.

2. Not talk about anything that occurs in the group to anyone outside the group, unless it applies only to me and no other group member.

3. Carry out all assignments agreed to in the group between group sessions.

4. Speak in turn, so that everyone gets a chance to talk.

5. Give the group two weeks’ notice before terminating my participation.





M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 142 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 143

In other cases, workers can prepare members for the reactions they may encounter outside the group. For example, a worker can help members learn how to respond to potential rejection or hostility when they are more assertive than usual with a particular person. Preparing members for what to expect in a wide range of situations and settings also helps ensure their success when they are using newly learned behaviors in unfamiliar settings or situations.

Workers may also need to resolve conf licts between the group as a whole and the larger society. For example, workers may help resolve conf licts between tenants’ associ- ations and housing authorities, welfare rights groups and county departments of social services, or support groups for individuals with chronic illnesses and health-care pro- viders. Moderating, negotiating, mediating, and arbitrating skills can often be used suc- cessfully in these situations. However, in some situations, mobilization and social action skills (described in Chapter 11) may have to be used to resolve a conf lict.

Learning Group Leadership Skills

Persons who are training to become group workers should begin by becoming thor- oughly familiar with the theoretical knowledge about groups as a whole and the way members and leaders function in groups. However, to integrate theoretical knowledge about group dynamics with practical experience, trainees should (1) participate in exer- cises and role plays illustrating how group dynamics operate, (2) observe others leading and being members of groups, (3) examine their participation as members of natural or formed groups, and (4) lead or colead a group in a supervised field practicum. It is also essential for trainees to have excellent supervision (Riva, 2014b).

In the classroom, trainees can learn to lead groups under a variety of conditions and circumstances by combining didactic and experiential methods of learning. Didactic material should expose trainees to the array of groups they may be called on to lead. Therefore, lectures, discussions, and examples should include groups in several settings with different purposes and clientele. Lecture material can be supplemented with films and videotapes of different social work groups in action.

Cognitive knowledge is, by itself, insufficient for effective group work practice. Training should include exercises and role plays to illustrate and demonstrate the ma- terial presented during lectures. Often laboratory groups can be formed to help trainees practice the material that has been presented. Lab groups give trainees a sense of what it is like to be a member of a group. In addition, leadership can be rotated in a lab group so that all members are responsible for leading a group at least once.

Laboratory group experiences can be enhanced by the use of video and audio equip- ment. These devices give trainees feedback about their verbal and nonverbal behavior as they participate in or lead a meeting. Tapes made during labs can be reviewed by trainees and the lab leader during supervisory sessions to help members develop their leadership skills.

Trainees can also learn how to lead a group by observing a group or by becom- ing a member of an existing group in the community. The trainee learns vicariously by observing the leader’s behavior. The leader acts as a model of leadership skills for the member.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 143 01/05/17 11:30 AM

144 Chapter 4

Learning also occurs through critiques of the group’s process. Analyzing the group helps ensure that trainees do not accept all the activities of the group’s leader without question. It gives trainees an opportunity to examine the development of a group over time and to observe the effects of leadership skills in action. It is relatively easy to struc- ture lab groups so that part of the group’s time is spent analyzing the group process, but trainees may not have this opportunity in community groups. Therefore, to achieve maximum benefit f rom participation in a community group, trainees should have an op- portunity to discuss their experiences in supervisory sessions or in the classroom.

When trainees become familiar with basic skills in leading a group through these ex- periences, they are ready for a field practicum. The field practicum may include leading several sessions of a group, coleading a group, or leading an entire group while receiving supervision. For purposes of learning about group leadership skills, group supervision is preferable to individual supervision because the supervisor models group leadership skills while reviewing a trainee’s work with a group. Rivas and Toseland (1981) have found that a training group is an effective way to provide supervision. Methods for con- ducting group supervision are discussed by Rose (1989). If not enough practicum sites are available, trainees can form their own task or treatment groups by providing group services to students or community residents (Rivas & Toseland, 1981).

Before leading a group, it is helpful for trainees to discuss their concerns about the first meeting. Lonergan (1989) reports that these concerns can include (1) unmanageable resistance exhibited by members, such as not talking; (2) losing control of the group because of members’ excessive hostility or acting out; (3) inability to deal with specific behaviors, such as a member dropping out of the group capriciously, members dating each other, or individuals making sexual advances within the group or between group meetings; (4) overwhelming dependency demands by members; and (5) lack of atten- dance and the disintegration of the group. Because trainees react differently to their first group experience, supervisors should explore each individual’s concerns and help them deal with their anxiety by discussing likely group reactions and reviewing what could be done in the unlikely event that a trainee’s worst concern is realized. For additional infor- mation about effective methods for learning group leadership skills, see Riva, (2014a) and Stockton, Morran, & Chang (2014).

Leadership Style

It is important to recognize that, although leadership skills can be learned, they are not applied in a mechanical, objective fashion. Group work is a subjective encounter among the members of the group, all of whom have distinct personalities, viewpoints, and methods of relating to objective reality. Workers and members bring expectations, preferences, and styles of relating to the group (Bauman, 2010). Although these may be modified during the course of interaction, they continuously color and shape the evolving interaction and the skills that workers use to facilitate the group. For example, a feminist approach to group work with abused women would emphasize power differen- tials, identity formation, and equality of participation more than other approaches to the same problem (Pyles, 2013).

As Goldstein (1988) states, “As people enter into a group and take part in shaping its purpose and goals, the underlying premises that they bring to the encounter and their

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 144 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 145

ways of perceiving, thinking and interpreting will inexorably determine how the process unfolds” (p. 25). Reid (1997) aptly points out that in therapy groups, “Each [person] brings to the [group] experience a history of relating to others, sometimes with success and at other times without. In this therapeutic alliance group, members may react to the ther- apist as if he or she were a significant figure f rom their own family. Similarly, the leader may react in exactly the same way, projecting onto others his or her own unresolved feel- ings and conf licts” (pp. 105–106). In the psychoanalytic tradition, the projection of feelings by members onto the leader is called transference. Projection of feelings onto members by the leader is called countertransference.

To become an effective group leader it is not sufficient, therefore, to learn group leadership skills without paying attention to how they are applied. It is essential for lead- ers to become self-ref lective practitioners who consider carefully the meaning of their interactions with all members of the group. One of the hallmarks of an effective leader is the ability and willingness to examine the effect of personal belief s, expectations, pref- erences, personality, style of relating, and subjective experience of reality on a partic- ular group. Effective leaders are not af raid to explore with members, supervisors, or colleagues the possible ramifications of their behavior in a group (Okech, 2008). They observe carefully and think deeply about the meaning of members’ reactions to a partic- ular interaction.

The first step in helping leaders become more aware of the effect of their style of in- teraction is for them to do a self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. One way to do this is by asking participants to complete the Leadership Comfort Scale (LCS) shown in Figure 4.4. The LCS allows participants to rate their degree of comfort with 10 situations that group leaders f requently experience. Participants are also asked to write down their responses to a series of open-ended questions, such as:

• Describe what you perceive to be your major strengths and weaknesses as a leader. • What types of group members make you feel uncomfortable?

Figure 4.4 Leadership Comfort Scale

Indicate your feelings when the following situations arise in the group. Circle the appropriate feeling.

1. Dealing with silence Comfortable Uncomfortable

2. Dealing with negative feelings from members Comfortable Uncomfortable

3. Having little structure in a group Comfortable Uncomfortable

4. Dealing with ambiguity of purpose Comfortable Uncomfortable

5. Having to self-disclose your feelings to the group Comfortable Uncomfortable

6. Experiencing high self-disclosure among members Comfortable Uncomfortable

7. Dealing with conflict in the group Comfortable Uncomfortable

8. Having your leadership authority questioned Comfortable Uncomfortable

9. Being evaluated by group members Comfortable Uncomfortable

10. Allowing members to take responsibility for the group

Comfortable Uncomfortable

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 145 01/05/17 11:30 AM

146 Chapter 4

• What situations or events during group meetings do you find particularly difficult to deal with?

• What feedback have you received f rom others about your leadership skills? • What steps have you taken to improve your leadership skills? What steps have

you considered but not taken?

Participants’ anonymous answers to the LCS are tabulated, and the aggregate answers are presented on a f lip chart or blackboard. Volunteers are asked to share their answers to the open-ended questions, which inevitably lead to a lively discussion of difficult leadership situations and participants’ strengths and weaknesses in dealing with them. The discussion also helps point out the diversity of responses to challenging leadership situations.

Completing the Belief s About Structure Scale (BASS), shown in Figure 4.5, can fur- ther the process of self-assessment. When completing the BASS, participants sometimes state that their answers depend on the purpose of the group, the types of group mem- bers, and so forth. Leadership is interactive, but individuals have preferences about the degree of structure with which they are most comfortable. Participants should be asked to respond to the inventory in a way that best describes their natural tendencies and preferences.

After completing the BASS, participants can be asked to total the number of items they circled in column A and column B and to form two groups—one for those who had higher column A scores favoring a higher level of structure and one for those who had higher column B scores favoring a lower level of structure. Participants in each group are asked to discuss why they preferred a higher or lower level of structure. They may also

Figure 4.5 Beliefs About Structure Scale (BASS)

Circle the statement in Column A or B that best describes your preference when running a group.

Column A Column B

Time-limited group Open-ended group

High structure/rules Low structure/rules

Formal contract Informal contract

Leader sets group purpose Members decide purpose

Focus on member goals Focus on group process

Leader-centered authority Shared authority

Closed membership Open membership

Homogeneous membership Heterogeneous membership

Use of program activities Use of open discussion

Focus on member behavior Focus on meaning of communication

Directive leadership Nondirective leadership

Summarize what you have learned about your style from the above choices. What are the major themes that emerge about your preferences for a particular level of structure within a group?

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 146 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 147

be asked to prepare for a debate with members of the other group about the benefits of their approach to structuring the work of the group.

Participants can also be asked to complete the How Members Achieve Change Scale, which is presented in Figure 4.6. Once this scale is completed, different approaches to helping members change are discussed. For example, the importance of insight in psy- choanalytic group psychotherapy is contrasted with the importance of identifying here- and-now feelings in gestalt therapy. Similarly, the importance of cognition in cognitive therapy is contrasted with the importance of action in behavior therapy. Participants can also be asked to provide examples of the methods they use to help members change. For example, participants who prefer to help group members change through action strate- gies might describe role-playing or psychodrama procedures that they have found to be particularly effective.

Figure 4.6 How Members Achieve Change Scale

Group leadership style is partly a function of how one believes members achieve change in their lives and how one believes the group should take responsibility for helping members change. Answer the following questions about these dynamics. Avoid using the term “it all depends.” Instead, choose the answer that best expresses your natural preference or inclination.

1. Do people achieve change best through insight or action?

2. Do people achieve change best by focusing on their affect (feelings) or their cognition (thoughts)?

3. When helping a member to achieve change,would you concentrate on changing the member’s behavior or the member’s thoughts?

4. When evaluating whether a member was making progress in the change efforts, would you assess whether the member did what the member wanted, what you wanted, or what society wanted?

5. Is it more important to give your attention to group content or group process?

6. Do you think the responsibility for the functioning of the group rests with the leader or the members?

Choose the statement that best characterizes your opinion. (circle one)

7. The purpose for group work is: a. Raising social consciousness, social responsibility, informed citizenship, and social and political


b. Restoring and rehabilitating group members who are behaving dysfunctionally. c. Forming a mutual aid system among members to achieve maximum adaptation and socialization.

8. The role of the worker is to be a: a. Role model and enabler for responsible citizenship. b. Change agent, problem solving with members to meet their goals. c. Mediator between the needs of the members and the needs of the group and larger society.

9. Which methods would you tend to use in the group? a. Discussion, participation, consensus, group task b. Structured exercises, direct influence in and out of group c. Shared authority, support, building a positive group culture

Based on your responses to the previous nine questions, summarize your preferences for how to help members change.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 147 01/05/17 11:30 AM

148 Chapter 4

Participants can also discuss preferences for process-oriented or outcome-oriented leadership styles and preferences for member-centered or leader-centered leadership

styles. Discussion is not intended to promote a particular style of leadership or even to help leaders identify what style of leadership they prefer. Rather, the aim is to encourage participants to become more self-ref lective, to con- sider their natural tendencies and preferences, and to gain greater insight into how their natural tendencies and preferences affect their interaction with group members.


Co-leadership presents a dilemma for the practicing group worker. Do the benefits of co-leadership exceed its potential disadvantages? Although there is little empirical evi- dence to suggest that two leaders are better than one (Luke & Hackney, 2007; Yalom, 2005), there are many clinical reports of the benefits of having two leaders (Luke & Hackney, 2007; Okech, 2008).

Co-leadership allows greater coverage of the dynamics of the groups, especially if co-leaders sit opposite each other. Because it is hard to see what is going on with mem- bers to your immediate right and left, co-leaders who sit across f rom each other can more easily monitor members on both sides of the group. In addition, co-leaders can specialize in attending to some facets of group behavior over others. For example, co-leaders can take turns focusing on process and content issues. Some of the other most f requently cited benefits of having a co-leader follow.

Benefits of Co-leadership • Leaders have a source of support. • Leaders have a source of feedback and an opportunity for professional

development. • A leader’s objectivity is increased through alternative f rames of reference. • Inexperienced leaders can receive training. • Group members are provided with models for appropriate communication, inter-

action, and resolution of disputes. • Leaders have assistance during therapeutic interventions, particularly during role

plays, simulations, and program activities. • Leaders have help setting limits and structuring the group experience.

This list suggests several ways in which co-leadership can be helpful. For the nov- ice worker, probably the greatest benefit of co-leadership is having a supportive partner who understands how difficult it is to be an effective leader. As Galinsky and Schopler (1981) point out, “The support of a compatible co-leader lessens the strains of dealing with difficult and often complicated group interactions” (p. 54). During group meetings, co-leaders help each other facilitate the work of the group. Between group meetings, they share their feelings about the group and their roles in it. In addition to supporting each other’s efforts at group leadership, co-leaders can share feedback with each other about their mutual strengths and weaknesses and thereby foster each other’s professional growth and development.

Assess your understanding of group leadership skills by taking a brief quiz

at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 148 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 149

Co-leadership can also be helpful because it allows workers to share alternative f rames of reference regarding the interaction that has taken place in the group (Okech, 2008). This helps fill in gaps in each worker’s memory of events and helps each view the interaction f rom a different perspective. This process, in turn, may lead to a more com- plete and accurate assessment as well as to more adequate planning when the co-leaders prepare for future group meetings.

Co-leadership provides a group with the benefit of having two workers who can help with problem solving. It provides two models of behavior for members to iden- tify with and helps in role plays, simulation, and program activities engaged in by the group. Co-leaders can increase workers’ abilities to establish and enforce limits as long as they share common goals. Co-leaders also have the opportunity to structure their roles to meet the needs of members. For example, one worker can focus on members’ so- cio-emotional needs and the other worker can focus on members’ task needs. In its most refined form, co-leadership can be used strategically to promote therapeutic goals in a powerful and effective fashion. For example, when describing the benefits of male and female co-leadership of spouse abuse groups, Nosko and Wallace (1997) point out that male and female co-leaders who are perceived as different but equal can be effective at structuring their leadership and interactions to promote the resolution of faulty gender socialization among members. Effective co-leaders use their relationship with each other to model effective interpersonal interactions that members can emulate both within and outside of the group.

Despite the benefits, co-leadership has some potential disadvantages.

Disadvantages of Co-leadership • Can be more expensive than solo leadership • Coordination needed for planning meetings • Leaders not functioning well together are poor role models • Training new leaders by placing them in groups with experienced leaders may

create conf lict and tension • Conf lict between leaders can negatively affect group outcomes

Because it requires the time of two leaders, co-leadership is expensive. Leaders must coordinate their actions in planning for the group. Between group sessions, communi- cation can be a problem if workers do not make a concerted effort to find the time to discuss their work together (Luke & Hackney, 2007; Miles & Kivlighan, 2010). If leaders do not function well together, they may not serve as therapeutic role models for mem- bers (Davis & Lohr, 1971). Yalom (2005) recommends that co-leaders have equal status and experience. He suggests that the apprenticeship format—that is, training new group leaders by placing them in groups with experienced leaders—may create conf lict and tension.

Conf lict between co-leaders can have detrimental effects on the outcome of a group (Miles & Kivlighan, 2010; Yalom, 2005). Members may be able to side with one leader against the other or avoid working on difficult issues. When co-leaders experi- ence conf lict with one another, it can be helpful to resolve the conf lict in the group. This lets members know that the leaders are comfortable with conf lict and are able to work together to resolve it. It also enables the co-leaders to act as models by demon- strating appropriate conf lict-resolution strategies. In some situations, it may not be

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 149 01/05/17 11:30 AM

150 Chapter 4

helpful to resolve a conf lict between co-leaders in the group. For example, when con- f licts are deep-seated and when there is little hope of a successful resolution, they may be better handled in supervisory sessions. The decision about whether to resolve a con- f lict in a group should depend on its potential effect on members. Because members are usually aware of conf licts between co-leaders, it is generally preferable to resolve them within the group, especially if the resolution process is amicable and not too distressing for members. When conf lict is resolved outside the group, some members may not be aware that a resolution has occurred, and it does not model conf lict-resolution skills for them.

Because of the lack of empirical evidence about its effectiveness, the benefits and drawbacks of co-leadership should be carefully considered before two leaders are used in a group. Wright (2002) points out that the decision to have co-facilitators should be based on the needs of the group rather than on worker preferences for solo or co-leadership. In situations in which it is especially important to have models that represent different points of view, it may be important to have co-leaders. For example, in a group of cou- ples, it can be useful to have both male and female leaders. In other situations, however, the expense of co-leadership or the incompatibility of potential co-leaders may negate any potential benefits.

When the decision is reached to colead a group, it is essential that co-leaders meet together regularly to plan for the group and to discuss group process issues that arise as the group develops (Okech, 2008). To avoid co-leaders becoming too busy to meet together, it is helpful if they schedule a specific time to meet after each group meet- ing. During these meetings, co-leaders should review what they did well in working together, what difficulties they experienced, how they plan to work together during the next meeting, and how members and the group as a whole are progressing. In partic- ular, they should discuss their reactions to members and their perceptions of any diffi- culties or resistance that members may be experiencing. They should review the overall development of the group as it moves through the phases of group development to hopefully more cohesive and productive forms of interaction. Co-leaders should also discuss their own relationship, such as their division of responsibility in the group and their feelings about their equitable contributions in the group. This type of ref lective co-leadership practice is essential for making the experience successful and productive (Okech, 2008).

Okech and Kline (2006) point out that competency concerns strongly inf luence co-leaders’ relationship and performance in a group. Therefore, it is essential for co-leaders to talk about their respective roles in the group between meetings. Co-lead- ers should be particularly aware of any attempts to divide their effort that could result in working toward different purposes or on behalf of different group factions. Co-lead- ers should schedule their review meeting soon after a group meeting because they are more likely to remember what has occurred, and they have more time to prepare for the next meeting.

Experience has shown that it is worse to have a co-leader with whom one does not agree than to lead a group alone. Therefore, group workers should be cautious in choos- ing a co-leader. Difficulties may arise when workers agree to colead a group without carefully considering whether they can work together effectively. Potential co-leaders

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 150 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership 151

may want to examine each other’s styles while leading a group or during team meetings before agreeing to colead a group. Figure 4.7 presents some issues to discuss before deciding to colead a group.


This chapter focuses on leading task and treatment groups effectively. Although leader- ship is sometimes viewed as a function executed exclusively by the worker, leadership functions should be shared with group members. In this regard, the text distinguishes between the worker’s role as the designated leader of the group and the leadership roles of group members that emerge as the group develops.

Leadership is the process of guiding the development of the group and its members to achieve goals that are consistent with the value base of social work practice. A work- er’s ability to guide group members depends on the power attributed to the worker by group members, by the supporting agency or organization, and by the larger society that sanctions the work of the group. It also depends on workers’ abilities to use an in- teractional model of leadership described in the chapter. This model creates transforma- tional possibilities, empowering members to use their own capacities, resiliencies, and strengths to accomplish group and individual goals.

Leadership is affected by a variety of situational factors that act in combination. Thus, there is no one correct way to lead all groups. Rather, leadership methods should vary according to the particular group a worker is leading. This chapter reviews the re- medial, social goals and reciprocal models of group leadership and examines several vari- ables that affect group leadership. To help workers examine situational variables, the text

1. Describe your leadership style. Discuss whether your style is characteristically nurturing or con- frontational, whether you tend to be a high-profile or a low-profile leader, and to what extent you are comfortable with spontaneity as contrasted with sticking with a planned agenda.

2. Describe your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. What makes you feel uncomfortable when leading a group?

3. Describe your beliefs about how people change and grow, and how you will intervene in the group. For example, discuss your favorite interventions, and whether you typically intervene quickly or slowly, waiting for members of the group to engage in mutual aid.

4. Share your expectations for group accomplishments.

5. Discuss your respective roles in the group. Discuss specifically (1) where you will sit, (2) starting and ending group meetings, (3) how you will divide responsibility for any content you will be pre- senting, (4) what you will do about talkative and silent members, (5) scapegoating and gatekeep- ing, and (6) what you will do about lateness and absenteeism.

6. Discuss where, when, and how you will deal with conflict between you, and between either of you and the members of the group.

7. Discuss how you will deal with strong expressions of emotion such as crying and anger.

8. Is there anything that is nonnegotiable regarding your co-leadership of a group?

Figure 4.7 Issues to Talk Over with a Potential Co-leader

Assess your understand- ing of co-leadership by taking a brief quiz at

www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 151 01/05/17 11:30 AM

152 Chapter 4

describes an interactional model of group leadership. The model includes (1) the pur- pose of the group, (2) the type of problem the group is working on, (3) the environment in which the group is working, (4) the group as a whole, (5) the members of the group, and (6) the leader of the group.

It is essential that workers be familiar with a range of leadership skills that can be applied in many different types of groups and in many different settings. Skills in- clude (1) facilitating group processes, (2) data gathering and assessment, and (3) action. Together, these skills constitute the core skills needed for effective leadership of task and treatment groups.

It is also essential that workers be aware of their leadership styles. A number of ex- ercises are presented to help workers identify their preference for a particular leadership style and understand how their preferences inf luence their practice with treatment and task groups.

The chapter ends with an examination of co-leadership. The benefits, drawbacks, and pitfalls of co-leadership are described.

M04_TOSE0283_08_SE_C04.indd 152 01/05/17 11:30 AM


Group leaders often work with people f rom a wide range of backgrounds. Diversity within the group can be based on a vari- ety of characteristics, such as culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and social class. When differences exist among members or between the leader and members, leadership can be particularly challenging. There is some empirical evidence that training in diversity and multicultural competence helps group leaders to be more effective, but more is needed ( Barlow, 2013).

When working with diverse members, workers should try to identify with each one, always seeking a fuller appreciation of the combined effects that adverse childhood events, lack of resources, marginalization, oppression, social stigmatization, trauma, victim- ization, and other factors may have had on them (Hays, 2007). At the same time, it is equally important to identify the accomplish- ments, capabilities, resiliency, resources, and strengths of each member. This is especially true in early group meetings when trust has not been established, and assessments of members’ abilities and strengths have only just begun.

An empirically based approach to learning about issues of race, gender, and class in groups was presented by Davis and Proctor more than 25 years ago (1989). Although knowledge about issues of race, gender, and class has continued to expand since then (For- syth, 2014), evidence-based group work practices with diverse pop- ulations remains very limited. For example, the number of studies about groups for women is increasing (Holmes, 2002; Kurtz, 2014; Pure, 2012; Western, 2013), but more evidence-based research on the effectiveness of these groups is needed. Similarly, there is literature on group work with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, ques- tioning, and intersex members (LGBTQI) (Debiak, 2007; dickey & Loewy, 2010; Horne, Levitt, Reeves, & Wheeler, 2014; Pure, 2012; Ritter, 2010), but evidence about the effectiveness of these groups is needed. Group work practice research with other vulnerable populations, such as immigrants, is also limited (Akinsulure-Smith, 2009; McWhirter & Robbins, 2014; Weine et al., 2008). This chapter

C h a p t e r O u t l i n e

Approaches to Multicultural Group Work 154

A Framework For Leading Diverse Groups 155

Summary 175

l e a r n i n g O u t C O m e s

• Discuss approaches to group work that promote social justice and culturally sensitive practice.

• Explain guidelines for developing cultural sensitivity in groups.

• Describe ways to assess cultural inf luences on group behavior.

• Discuss how a group leader can intervene with sensitivity to diversity issues.

Leadership and Diversity


M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 153 01/05/17 11:30 AM

154 Chapter 5

presents a f ramework for leading diverse groups that can be used by practitioners and researchers to address these limitations.

ApproAches to MulticulturAl Group Work

Because there is at least some diversity in all groups, it is essential for group workers to develop a perspective on how to work with people whose backgrounds are different f rom their own. Many perspectives have been offered: (1) social justice (Finn, & Jacobson, 2008; Hays, Arredondo, Gladding, & Toporek, 2010; Ratts, Anthony, & Santos, 2010; Ratts & Pedersen, 2014; Smith & Shin, 2008), (2) racial/cultural identity (D’Andrea, 2014), (3) anti-oppressive (Brown & Mistry, 1994), (4) ethnic-sensitive (Devore & Schlesinger, 1999), (5) process stage (Lum, 2003, 2011), (6) cross-cultural and multiethnic (Green, 1999; Pinderhughes, 1995; Sue & Sue, 2013), and (7) cultural/multicultural competence (Diller, 2015).

Common elements of multicultural approaches • Personal comfort with differences • Openness to new information about members’ backgrounds and willingness to

change or modify ideas and behaviors based on it • Perceiving others through their own cultural and social lens rather than through

workers’ perspectives • Seeking information and understanding about the specific belief s and values

members hold that may affect their behavior in groups • Flexibility and adaptability when working with members who have backgrounds

that are unfamiliar to workers • Sorting through and synthesizing diverse information about specific communities

to understand how it might apply to particular members of a group

Social Justice and Empowerment Ratts, Anthony, and Santos (2010) and Barlow (2013) argue that social justice should pervade group work practice because many members experience oppressive environ- mental conditions. The goal of social justice is to ensure that every member has an equal opportunity to be a contributing members of society. Group work should help members to cope more effectively with oppressive situations, but also to change oppressive situa- tions whenever possible. When describing skills for social justice practice, Hays, Arre- dondo, Gladding, and Toporek (2010) suggested identifying a common struggle among members that they all can work on in the group and in advocacy outside the group. For example, this might include focusing on the just and equitable allocation of resources and advocating for the greatest good for the whole society (Crethar, Torres, and Nash, 2008). It might also include consciousness raising and empowerment for those who have been traumatized by social injustices. Recovery groups for women who are battered or who have suffered adverse childhood experiences and adolescent and adult traumas are examples of this approach (Kurtz, 2014). Ratts, Anthony, and Santos (2010) have devel- oped a social justice model for group work that includes five dimensions: (1) naiveté, (2) multicultural integration, (3) libratory critical consciousness, (4) empowerment, and

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 154 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 155

(5) social justice advocacy. Each dimension describes the degree to which social justice is actualized in a group, f rom complete naiveté to social justice advocacy. In the na- iveté dimension, context and cultural variables are ignored when considering members’ problems. In the multicultural integration dimension of the model, members are en- couraged to consider each other’s cultural backgrounds and worldviews. The libratory critical consciousness dimension of the model goes one step further by helping members understand how their experiences have historical, political, and social roots. Members’ stories are ref ramed so that the problem is not the person but the environment. In this dimension, members can externalize and ref rame problems, such as bullying, incest, rape, and family and community violence as environmentally caused. In the empow- erment and strengths dimension of the model, members are helped to find their voice, identify and build on strengths, and develop self-advocacy skills. In the last dimension of the model, members and workers are asked to step out of their roles within the group to advocate for a social justice cause or issue.

Burns and Ross (2010) have developed some strategies to implement the social jus- tice tenets of empowerment. These include:

social Justice tenets of empowerment • Be intentional about having a diverse group membership whenever possible by

avoiding having only a token member of a marginalized community participate. • Separate socially constructed biases f rom actual psychological problems. • Facilitate consciousness raising about social justice by addressing and processing

issues of oppression as they arise during meetings. • Use structured program activities to highlight issues of privilege and oppression.

Understanding the dynamics of race, ethnicity, and culture is essential for effec- tive group work practice, but people also differ f rom each other in gender, social class, geographic background, educational and disability level, language, sexual orientation, level of acculturation and assimilation, age, and many other factors. Thus, in addition to learning practice principles for use with particular groups such as Native Americans (McWhirter, & Robbins, 2014; Ratts & Pedersen, 2014; Weaver, 1999), Af rican Americans (Aponte, Rivers, & Wohl, 2000; McRoy, 2003; Ratts & Pedersen, 2014; Steen, Shi, & Robbins, 2014), Latinos (Rivera, Fernandez, & Hendricks, 2014); persons with disabilities (Brown, 1995; Ellis, Simpson, Rose, & Plotner, 2014), and other groups that are more likely to experience oppression and privilege (Delu- cia-Waack, Kalodner, & Riva, 2014; Lum, 2004, 2005; Ratts & Pedersen, 2014; Sue & Sue, 2013), leaders can benefit f rom using a broader conceptual f rame- work about diversity within groups.

A FrAMeWork For leAdinG diverse Groups

The following f ramework is useful for leading diverse treatment and task groups:

• Developing cultural sensitivity • Assessing cultural inf luences on group behavior • Intervening with sensitivity to diversity

Assess your understanding of the approaches to group work that promote social

justice and culturally sensitive practice by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 155 01/05/17 11:30 AM

156 Chapter 5

Developing Cultural Sensitivity

The terms identity and culture are often used to refer to the many ways people can differ. To develop a perspective on effective work with people of diverse cultural backgrounds, the group leader should engage in a process of self-exploration that leads to cultural competence (Diller, 2015; Sue & Sue, 2013). Workers who are culturally competent have an awareness of their own cultural limitations, are open to cultural differences, and ac- knowledge the integrity of other cultures. Steps in the process of developing cultural sensitivity follow.

Developing Cultural sensitivity in groups • Explore your own cultural identity. • Learn how members define and identify themselves culturally. • Frame discussions of differences by emphasizing the strengths of various

cultures. • Provide members with opportunities to describe how they experience their

cultural backgrounds and identities. • Become familiar with the backgrounds of client groups with whom you

f requently work. • Gain knowledge about particular cultural communities. • Become immersed in a particular culture. • Model acceptance and a nonjudgmental attitude about the values, lifestyles,

belief s, and behaviors of others by recognizing the value of diversity. • Acknowledge the effect of societal attitudes on members of diverse groups. • Honestly explore prejudices, biases, and stereotypical assumptions about working

with people f rom diverse backgrounds.

Workers can become more culturally sensitive by exploring their feelings about their own identity. Sometimes leaders fail to take into account how they experience their iden- tity and how this might affect their interactions with members f rom other backgrounds. Among both leaders and members, there may be little acknowledgment of identity is- sues and how these issues affect values, belief s, and skills, perhaps because of discomfort with the subject of identity or because leaders fear that raising identity issues may reduce cohesion within the group. However, to ignore differences within the group denies the background and self-identity of each member. Davis, Galinsky, and Schopler (1995) note, for example, that “whenever people of different races come together in groups, leaders can assume that race is an issue, but not necessarily a problem” (p. 155). This can be ex- panded to include not only race, but disability, sexual orientation, and other forms of difference in groups. Diversity should be celebrated in all its forms, and workers should welcome all the different perspectives that it brings to group interaction.

Group workers benefit f rom knowledge about how members define and identify themselves. Because the manifestation of racial, cultural, ethnic, and other identity vari- ables is the prerogative of the member rather than of the leader, the leader should pro- vide opportunities for members to discuss their identities. For example, the leader can ask, “How do our cultural backgrounds affect how assertive we are in our daily lives?” or “How can we use our differing ethnic backgrounds to brainstorm some innovative solutions to the problem we are discussing here?” It is also essential for group workers to

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 156 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 157

appreciate the context in which members grew up, and how that affects their identities. For example, are they f rom a privileged background or one f raught with oppression and social injustice?

Acculturation and assimilation are two other important factors to consider when de- veloping cultural sensitivity. The theory of assimilation views minority status as tempo- rary, with everyone living in the United States, regardless of ethnicity or race, gradually acquiring the cultural values of the mainstream culture. Although the assumption that everyone eventually assimilates is deeply rooted in U.S. society, it is clear that some mi- nority groups continue to practice traditional, culturally bound norms for generations. Therefore, cultural pluralism theory may provide a better theoretical f ramework for cul- turally competent workers (Pillari, 2002). Cultural pluralism’s main premise is that dif- ferent ethnic and racial groups can interact in the larger society while maintaining their cultural distinctiveness and integrity (Parrillo, 2014). The cultural pluralism f ramework encourages workers and members to view differences in attitudes, norms, structures, and values positively as distinctive and defining elements of a person’s identity. Workers can also read about the struggles of immigrants to acculturate, and how to work with them in groups (Akinsulure-Smith, 2009; McWhirter & Robbins, 2014; Weine et al., 2008).

It is often helpful for the worker to f rame the discussion of differences in ways that help members see the strengths in their backgrounds. Diversity should be viewed as an asset to the group. After reviewing the empirical evidence about the performance of homogeneous versus heterogeneous groups, Forsyth (2014) pointed out that “diverse groups may be better at coping with changing work conditions, because their wider range of talents and traits enhances their f lexibility” (p. 364). McLeod, Lobel, and Cox (1996) found that groups that included Asian Americans, Af rican Americans, Latinos, and whites outperformed groups that included only whites. Similarly, Watson, Johnson, and Merritt (1998) found that diverse teams performed better than non-diverse teams. For- syth (2014) noted that organizations should take steps to minimize the potential negative effects of diversity and maximize its benefits. Diverse teams need time to work through superficial first impressions based on gender, skin color, age, and other factors. Leaders should help members to appreciate and harmonize differences in values and principles by emphasizing how different perspectives can be an asset. The whole organization may need a culture shift to encourage collectivist values that minimize distinctions and dis- tractions based on surface-level characteristics. Leaders should help members to engage, listen to, and respect each other, replacing competitive or denigrating interactions with cooperative working alliances.

Members may also have a variety of self-identity issues that affect their participation in groups (Forsyth, 2014). For example, some members may clearly identify with a single racial or ethnic background whereas others may identify with more than one, or none. It can be helpful if the leader provides members with opportunities to describe how they experience their background and whether they experience any identity conf licts.

Self-identity may be especially important when working with LGBTQI group mem- bers. Groups can provide an important support network and can be helpful in conscious- ness raising and problem solving regarding issues such as isolation, marginalization, oppression, prejudice, stereotyping, and coming out (Mallon, 2008). There is a substan- tial body of information for working with LGBTQI individuals in groups that group workers may find helpful to review (see, for example, Debiak, 2007; dickey & Loewy,

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 157 01/05/17 11:30 AM

158 Chapter 5

2010; Lev, 2009; Mallon, 2008; Nystrom, 2005; Pure, 2012; Ritter, 2010; Rothman, 2008); Walters, Longres, Han, & Icard, 2003).

Although it is not possible to know all the complexities of diverse cultures and back- grounds, it is helpful to become familiar with the cultural and racial backgrounds of members who are seen f requently by group workers. Listing characteristics of particular racial and cultural groups has been avoided here because members who may be thought of by others as coming f rom a single group often have unique, blended identities and may be acculturated to different degrees. Among Hispanic Americans, for example, there are wide differences in life experiences of people f rom Mexican American backgrounds and people f rom Puerto Rico (Moreno & Guido, 2005). Similarly, there are differences among Af rican Americans with ancestry f rom different regions of Af rica and Af rican Americans with ancestry f rom different regions of the Caribbean and South America. Even members with similar backgrounds can differ significantly on the valance of cer- tain normative attitudes. For example, many Latinos may agree on the importance of familism, but differ when it comes to other concepts, such as fatalism or a sense of ex- tended family hierarchy. Still, it is helpful for group workers to become familiar with the broad cultural heritages of client groups with whom they f requently work.

Knowledge can be gained in a variety of ways. For example, the leader can research literature and other information to develop a personal knowledge base about people f rom different cultures. Even better, when working with groups composed of members f rom a particular culture, workers can visit that cultural community, interview commu- nity leaders and key informants, or become participant observers in the community. This knowledge can be quite helpful to group workers, but it is also essential to attend to how members self-identify because this individualizes members, and avoids stereotyping them.

It is also important to assess social class and status hierarchies, especially the extent to which members have experienced exclusion, marginalization, and oppression ( Rothman, 2008). These are sensitive topics that members may not want to talk about, particularly in early group meetings where trust is lacking. Therefore, it is important to take time to get to know members individually, and it is often best to start out without preconceived notions, trying to build trust within the group at every opportunity. Opening a dialogue among members about any value-laden interactions that may reduce trust and under- standing in the group is essential. Workers can also use these interactions as teachable moments, gently exploring and getting feedback f rom members about how they perceive their own identity and their experiences in society. In this way, workers become role mod- els for open dialogue and the exploration of core issues at the heart of members’ identi- ties and cognitive schema. The following case example illustrates one worker’s attempt to model cultural sensitivity through open dialogue and exploration of self-identity.

case example Cultural Sensitivity

Alice works as a support worker in a housing association in England that provides tempo- rary shelter for young people who are waiting for a permanent home. The residents are from diverse backgrounds. Alice noticed that many residents, particularly those belonging to Asian or African minority groups, had disengaged themselves from the staff and other residents and spent most of their time in their own room. She decided to hold a group workshop to encourage the residents to talk about themselves and their past. It was not a success. She then decided to speak to a few Asian and African members individually. The conversations revealed that these members found it difficult to share their experiences in

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 158 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 159

a group with which they did not have a strong trust relationship. Alice decided on group work that would be more structured, creative, and interactive, and which would enable them to feel in control. Along with a few residents, Alice co-produced a leaflet that invited everyone to paint the door of their room. The invitation was successful. Alice encouraged residents to help each other and to explain to others what they wanted their door painting to look like and why. Many of them were able to link the design of their door painting to their past and self- identity, and in the process, revealed them to others. Alice also facilitated a discussion among the members about how their cultural identity affects their readiness for a new home.

The leader can also gain knowledge about a particular cultural community through the process of social mapping, in which formal and informal relationships among mem- bers of a community are systematically observed and analyzed. For example, a leader assigned to conduct an after-school group that included several Latina members visited the local parish priest serving the Hispanic community and interviewed several members of the parish to gain a better understanding of the needs of young people in the commu- nity. In addition, the leader attended several social functions sponsored by the church and met with parents and other community members who provided the worker with new insights into the needs of Latina and Latino youth.

Devore and Schlesinger’s (1999) community profile provides a helpful tool to com- plete the social mapping of a community. Lum’s (2004) “culturagram” can be used to individualize social mapping by diagramming group members’ individual experiences, their access to community resources, and their support networks. Rothman (2008) points out that assessments are also more productive and beneficial when they are conducted using a strengths and needs perspective rather than a problems and deficits perspective.

It is particularly important for leaders to demonstrate, verbally and nonverbally, that they are accepting and nonjudgmental about the values, lifestyles, belief s, and behaviors that members express as the group progresses. Recognition and acknowledgment of the value of difference and diversity is a key ingredient in building trust and cohesion in the group as it progresses (Diller, 2015). By taking opportunities throughout the group expe- rience to encourage members to share their self-identities, leaders express their interest in members and their desire to get to know them individually.

Similarly, it is also important to continually acknowledge the effect of societal atti- tudes on members as the group progresses and they become more open about sharing experiences of marginalization and oppression. Leaders should keep in mind that mem- bers of minority groups continually experience prejudice, stereotyping, and overt and institutional discrimination. The reality of ethnic and racial superiority themes in society, as well as classism, sexism, and the history of depriving certain groups of rights and resources, should all be considered when attempting to develop greater cultural sensi- tivity. The following case example illustrates how one worker attempted to help a group discuss discrimination and develop a positive perspective on diversity.

case example Discrimination and Diversity

During an educational group for parents of children with developmental disabilities, the worker asked members to discuss the effects on themselves and their children of societal attitudes toward children with disabilities. Members were very willing to discuss examples of prejudice and incidents of discrimination. The worker used these discussions to help members

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 159 01/05/17 11:30 AM

160 Chapter 5

share experiences about other forms of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, culture, and sexual orientation. These discussions helped members understand the universality of these experiences in the group and the dynamics behind prejudice and discrimination. The worker helped the group examine the strengths in their backgrounds and how negative experiences had helped them to grow strong and cope more effectively. The discussion also helped to empower members who began to talk about how they could best confront stereotypes and challenge discriminatory practices when they encountered them outside of the group.

Williams (1994) suggests that leaders themselves may go through stages of ethno- cultural development in which they experience cultural resistance and “color blindness” before ac- knowledging the importance of cultural inf luences and achieving cultural sensitivity. Attend-

ing workshops on cultural sensitivity, doing self-inventories, researching one’s own cultural heritage, attending specific cultural activities in the community, and join- ing cultural associations and organizations can help group workers gain greater cultural self-awareness and a better sense of their strengths and weaknesses when working with diverse members. McGrath and Axelson (1999) and Hogan-Garcia (2013) also present helpful exercises that can be used to increase leaders’ awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity when working with multicultural groups.

Assessing Cultural Influences on Group Behavior

Assessing cultural inf luences on group behavior requires con- stant vigilance throughout the life of a group. Diversity among members f rom differing cultural backgrounds as well as among members f rom the same cultural background requires careful consideration. Rothman (2008, p. 45) suggests using a “cultura- gram” and considering four items in additon to the traditional biopsychosocial assessment: (1) immigration history, (2) accultur- ation, (3) school adjustment, and (4) employment. Some issues that should be considered when assessing cultural inf luences on group behavior are described below.

Factors to Consider When assessing Cultural inf luences on group Behavior • The match between member and leader backgrounds • The inf luence of member backgrounds on group participation • Members’ views of the agency sponsoring the group • The cultural sensitivity of outreach and recruiting efforts • The formation of relationships among persons f rom diverse backgrounds • The inf luence of the larger environmental context where members live on their

behavior in the group • Preferred patterns of behavior, values, and languages within the group • Members’ experiences with oppression and their feelings about themselves, their

group identity, and the larger society • Members’ acculturation and the way they have fit into the society through work

and school

Assess your understanding of guidelines for develop- ing cultural sensitivity in

groups by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behavior: Apply and communicate under- standing of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in prac- tice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

critical thinking Question: Group work- ers are advised to consider the cultural influences on members’ behaviors. How do workers use this information during the planning stage of the group?

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 160 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 161

Early in the planning stage of a group, the benefits of matching member and leader backgrounds should be considered. There is some evidence that minority clients express a preference for ethnically similar workers (Atkinson & Lowe, 1995; D’Andrea, 2004), but there is mixed evidence about whether matching client and worker backgrounds actually leads to more effective treatment (Hays, 2007; Yuki & Brewer, 2014). Also, there are often practical difficulties with matching workers and members in real-world settings (Forsyth, 2014; Yuki & Brewer, 2014).

Regardless of whether matching is attempted, some differences in the backgrounds of members and between members and the leader are likely. Therefore, when one plans a group, it is important for the leader to consider how members’ backgrounds are likely to affect their participation in it. For example, it is helpful to assess how potential members’ differing cultural backgrounds and levels of acculturation and assimilation affect their understanding of the purpose of the group. Members with different backgrounds bring differing expectations and experiences, and that can affect how they view the group’s pur- poses and the way work is conducted in the group. Confusion about the purpose of the group can lead to members’ f rustration and anxiety in the group’s early stages. Similarly, the level of written materials to achieve educational objectives or when engaging in pro- gram activities should be carefully assessed not only for members who speak English as a second or third language, but also when working with those f rom poor socioeconomic backgrounds who may have dropped out of school for economic or other reasons.

The leader should also consider how members’ backgrounds are likely to interact with the sponsorship of the group. The worker should consider, for example, how the sponsoring agency is viewed by members f rom different backgrounds. It is also import- ant to consider how accessible the agency is, both physically and psychologically, to po- tential members. As Davis, Galinsky, and Schopler (1995) note, ethnic and socioeconomic boundaries of neighborhoods may be difficult for members to cross. When the sponsor- ing agency is perceived as being in a neighborhood that does not welcome persons f rom differing cultures, the leader may need to hold meetings in welcoming communities. Key community members, such as clergy, political leaders, and neighborhood elders, may play an important part in helping the worker to gain support for the group and to reach potential members.

When composing a diverse group, the worker should con- sider how members f rom differing cultural groups are likely to relate to each other. A marked imbalance among members with one type of characteristic can cause problems of subgrouping, isolation, or domination by members of one particular back- ground (Burnes & Ross, 2010). For example, Pure (2012) has noted that same-sex groups have advantages when the group task is associated with issues of personal identity, social oppression, empowerment, and issues of personal and political change.

A complete assessment of group members should consider the larger environmental context in which members live and how that context might inf luence behavior within the group (Ramos, Jones, & Toseland, 2005; Ratts, Anthony, & Santos, 2010; Rothman, 2008). The direct experience of racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression can have profound effects on members’ behavior,


Behavior: Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multi- disciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies

critical thinking Question: Members are influenced by the environments where they live. How can group workers gain an appreciation and understanding of these environments?

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 161 01/05/17 11:30 AM

162 Chapter 5

but social impact theory suggests that minorities cluster together in groups, thereby up- lifting and empowering themselves in the face of a dominant culture (Forsyth, 2014). The following case example describes the impact of one type of experience on open commu- nication and self-disclosure among a group of resettled refugees f rom Myanmar.

case example Communication and Self-Disclosure

Despite his efforts to model the skills of open communication and self-disclosure, the leader of a group for resettled refugees from Myanmar often encountered members who were silent when discussions turned to conditions in their homeland. During these discussions, several members had difficulty talking about their experiences and seemed unable to confide in other members of the group. Through encouragement and honest interest, the worker helped several quiet members identify that they had been exposed to a variety of extreme conditions in their homeland, including torture, civil unrest, and government-sponsored violence. One member bravely told her story of watching members of a different ethnic and religious group kill her parents. Her courage in disclosing this to the group helped other silent members to develop trust in the group and to gradually share their own stories. The worker learned how external oppression can profoundly influence communication and interaction within a group.

When problems such as member dissatisfaction or conf lict among members oc- cur, the leader should keep in mind that the problems may be caused by cultural differ- ences, not by an individual member’s characteristics or f laws in group processes. For example, some members of a group became upset when two Af rican American group members became animated when talking about oppression. The other members talked about their reactions to the anger expressed by these two members. The worker helped the group discuss what it was like to live with racism and prejudice on a daily basis and the anger that this causes. She acknowledged the white members’ difficulty in knowing how to react when this anger is expressed. The worker also helped the group to see that, in some ways, the group ref lected difficult and unresolved issues in the commu- nity. The interaction that followed the worker’s intervention helped all members to be- come more empathic and understanding almost immediately, and it gradually increased group cohesion.

Several factors can interfere with the process of learning about how cultural back- ground affects members’ behavior in the group. The leader may fail to recognize that

cultural differences exist or may diminish their importance. Fac- ing difference is a difficult process. Leaders may think recogniz- ing and expressing difference among members will cause conf lict within the group. The leader may also fail to recognize differences among members of the same cultural group by assuming that all members of that culture have common behavioral characteristics and thereby overgeneralize and stereotype members with a com- mon cultural heritage. Even if members share a common cul- tural background, major differences in acculturation, economic status, and other factors inf luence members’ group experiences (Lum, 2011; Ratts & Pedersen, 2014; Sue & Sue, 2013). Informa- tion on how members’ cultural backgrounds can inf luence group dynamics follows.

Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behavior: Apply and communicate under- standing of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

critical thinking Question: Group work involves work with people from many cultural backgrounds. How do cultural factors influence group dynamics?

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 162 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 163

Cultural inf luences on group Dynamics Communication and Interaction • Language, symbols, and nonverbal communication patterns of persons f rom

different cultural backgrounds • Language sensitivity and knowledge of words appropriate to various cultural

contexts • Stylistic elements of communication among diverse groups • Nonverbal communications and how cultural groups differ in their use of space

and distance • Interaction patterns specific to different cultural groups

Cohesion • Subgroup patterns among various cultural groups • Expectations and motivations among persons f rom diverse backgrounds • Cultural characteristics that inf luence common group goals • Level of openness and intimacy that is comfortable for various cultural groups

Social Integration • Culturally determined normative behavior • Inf luence of culture on task and socio-emotional role development in groups • Inf luence of discrimination and oppression on how members experience norms,

roles, status, and power within groups

Group Culture • Shared ideas, belief s, and values about the dominant culture held by members

f rom diverse cultural backgrounds • Level of group feeling expressed by members as inf luenced by cultural norms

that are a part of their identity • World views about the value of material wealth and spiritual practices by

members f rom diverse cultures

The leader should assess how members’ backgrounds are likely to affect the way they experience communication and interaction patterns, cohesion, social integration, and the overall group culture. To assess communication and interaction patterns, it is im- portant for the leader to understand the language, symbols, and nonverbal communica- tion patterns of people f rom different cultural backgrounds (Lum, 2011; Ramos, Jones, & Toseland, 2005). For example, in leading her first group with Chinese American mem- bers, a worker learned that some members felt uncomfortable with the type of attending behaviors she had learned in her social work education. Through some gentle probing and consultation with persons f rom that community, she learned that her direct eye con- tact, forward body position, and open body position could be perceived as intimidating and disrespectful by these members.

D. W. Johnson (2014) suggests that assessing communication and interaction patterns requires language sensitivity and knowledge of words and expressions that are appro- priate and inappropriate in communicating with diverse groups. The leader should also have an awareness of the stylistic elements of communication, including how members of diverse cultural backgrounds communicate. For example, because of their respect for the authority of the leader’s status and position in the group, some Asian Americans

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 163 01/05/17 11:30 AM

164 Chapter 5

relied heavily on the group leader, especially in the first few sessions. Some groups of Native Americans may consider it impolite to give opinions in the group, and such atti- tudes may be mislabeled as resistance by the leader or by non-Native American members.

The group leader should strive to become aware of the nuances of messages sent by members, including how nonverbal messages differ across various cultures (Ramos, Jones, & Toseland, 2005). People f rom different backgrounds use body language, ges- tures, and expressions to accompany and define the meaning of the verbal messages they send. In addition, the leader should consider how cultural groups differ in their use of space, that is, whether distance or closeness is the norm, and what other nonverbal com- munication norms govern interaction in the culture. It is also helpful for leaders to learn the language of members f rom diverse cultures. Earnest attempts to learn even rudi- mentary language skills are often respected by group members, an important factor in developing a trusting, professional, helping relationship with members.

The leader should be aware that culture can affect interaction patterns. Members f rom some cultural backgrounds favor member-to-leader patterns of interaction while others favor member-to-member patterns. The following case example illustrates how culture can inf luence interaction in a group.

case example Culture and Group Interaction

A committee in a community center in a Chinese American section of the city was charged with planning a fundraising event. The leader observed that the Chinese American members of the group hesitated to criticize the behavior of an elderly gentleman who was monopo- lizing the group. The leader, who was not Chinese American, asked a member after a group meeting about this behavior. The leader learned that the Chinese American members were hesitant to bring up their feelings because the monopolizing member was a person of ad- vanced age and status in the community. According to Chinese American cultural heritage, interactions with older, high-status persons require respect. Criticism was not an acceptable behavior. The leader asked the member for advice about how to handle the situation, and it was suggested that using go-rounds and an agenda that designated other members to give reports could help to reduce the elderly member’s dominance, because he would then not feel that he had to fill voids or take the lead in loosely structured group discussions. This was tried successfully in subsequent meetings.

Cohesion can also be inf luenced by the cultural background of members. For ex- ample, in a support group for caregivers, some members with Hispanic backgrounds did not expect to divulge private family matters or publicly complain about their role as caregivers, and this affected how they bonded with other group members. If the cultural characteristics of members differ widely and are not explicitly taken into consideration, a climate of togetherness and a common sense of group goals can be difficult to achieve, and the overall cohesion of the group is affected.

Group workers should assess how members’ cultural characteristics may affect norms, roles, status hierarchies, and power within the group. Group norms are often the result of the expectations that members bring to the group f rom previous experiences. The leader should assess how members’ cultural backgrounds inf luence the norms that are developed in the group. For example, in many Af rican American communities there is a strong belief in the power of spirituality and the “good” Christian life as antidotes

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 164 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 165

to problems, such as substance abuse, marital disharmony, difficulties in child rearing, depression, and alienation (Diller, 2015). Members’ role expectations, developed within their particular cultural context, also often guide their behavior within the group. Gender- specific role expectations, for example, are prominent among certain ethnic groups. Thus, the leader should consider how members’ cultures inf luence their role expectations.

Workers should be sensitive to how members f rom diverse backgrounds experience power and control within the group. Many members of minority groups have had direct experience with oppression, discrimination, and prejudice, which can affect how they feel about the use of power within the group, and how they react to it.

Group workers should also assess how the backgrounds of individual members con- tribute to the overall group culture. Shared ideas, belief s, and values held by group mem- bers are, in part, a ref lection of what experiences individual members bring to the group. The group culture can include, for example, a heightened sense of spirituality when the group is composed of Native Americans or Hispanic Americans. The strengths of some cultural backgrounds can reinforce other important aspects of group culture. For example, in a caregivers group composed of Af rican Americans, the cultural strength of the extended family as a natural helping network can help create a group culture of networking and mutual aid among members.

The expression of affect may also be a function of the cultural background of mem- bers. In a group composed of Latinas, a higher level of expression of group feelings and emotions may occur than in a group composed of Asian Americans, because in the latter group, members may be more likely to believe that strong expressions of emotion out- side the family are not appropriate (Gray-Little & Kaplan, 2000). However, acculturation and many other factors should be considered along with this possibility, as workers expe- rience members’ actual interactions during meetings.

In addition to having an impact on group dynamics such as the culture of the group, it is important for workers to be aware that members’ backgrounds can have a profound impact on group development and how leadership emerges in the group. Consider, for example, the impact of gender. Regarding group development, Schiller (1997) points out that affiliation and intimacy often appear earlier in women’s groups and that conf lict occurs later. Using Garland, Jones, and Kolodny’s (1976) model of group development, Schiller (1995, 1997) proposes that the f irst and last stages of group development— preaffiliation and termination—remain the same, but that the three middle stages of group development—power and control, intimacy, and differentiation—would be con- ceptualized better as establishing a relational base, mutuality, interpersonal empathy, and challenge and change. Schiller (1997) goes on to describe the implications for practice of this alternative conceptualization of group development, which she refers to as the relational model.

Forsyth (2014) points out that women’s leadership skills are often undervalued be- cause they are viewed as socio-emotional experts rather than as instrumental experts. Because of gender stereotypes and leadership prototypes, men are often viewed by both genders as having more leadership potential, and men more often emerge as leaders of groups, even in groups that are composed largely of women (Forsyth, 2014). There is evidence, however, that by pointing out these dynamics in task and treatment groups, workers can provide greater opportunities for women to take on leadership roles ( Forsyth, 2014).

Assess your understand- ing of cultural influences on group behavior by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 165 01/05/17 11:30 AM

166 Chapter 5

Intervening with Sensitivity to Diversity

There are many ways for a group leader to intervene with sensitivity to issues of diver- sity in the group. Many of these are based on established principles of social work prac- tice. Others are culturally specific practices that can be especially helpful in culturally competent group work practice. Some of these methods follow.

intervening with sensitivity to Diversity • Using social work values and skills • Using a strengths perspective • Exploring common and different experiences among members • Exploring meanings and language • Challenging prejudice and discrimination • Advocating for members • Empowering members • Using culturally appropriate techniques and program activities • Raising members’ awareness and consciousness about social justice issues • Developing a liberation critical consciousness by understanding the deeper

political, social, and historical roots of exclusion, marginalization, and oppression

Using Social Work Values and Skills Developing a culturally sensitive approach to group leadership means using social work values to guide interventions. The values of being nonjudgmental, genuine, and ac- cepting can often compensate for wide differences in cultural backgrounds between the leader and members. These and other therapeutic factors described elsewhere in this text are essential for a culturally competent approach to group work.

Effective communication skills can also make a big difference. For example, good questioning skills, which stress open, nonjudgmental questions, can encourage members to respond in their own cultural styles. Similarly, the leader should be aware that for listening skills to be effective, the skills should be tailored to the cultural background of members. This is illustrated in the following case example.

case example Culture and Communication

A leader in a group for substance abusers used active listening skills with a Native American member, often paraphrasing and summarizing the content of the member’s statements. When the member’s participation became less frequent, the leader wondered if the member was experiencing a relapse of his substance abuse. Despite these initial impres- sions, the leader learned from his supervisor that his paraphrasing and summarizing might be viewed as offensive by the Native American member. Recognizing that his leadership style might not be the most effective in this situation, he used non-verbal listening skills such as attention and head nodding that conveyed to the member that he was being heard and that his participation was being carefully considered. The member’s participation in the group increased. The leader learned that depending on the cultural style of the member, the leader might use verbal listening skills for some members and non-verbal listening skills for others.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 166 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 167

Using a Strengths Perspective The leader should explore and use the strengths inherent in the cultural backgrounds of members (Appleby, Colon, & Hamilton, 2011; Saleebey, 2013). All cultures have strengths that can be tapped to empower members. Assessments and interventions should be focused on members’ strengths and needs rather than on their problems and deficits (Rothman, 2008). A case example of a leader using a strengths-based approach with a group of older adults follows.

case example A Strengths-Based Approach

In a group for adults who care for relatives with Alzheimer’s disease, the leader discussed the strong natural helping networks of several African American members and how these net- works supported the efforts of the caregivers. The African American members acknowledged that their networks were resources that were used for respite care. As other members learned about some of the strengths of the African American extended family, some became more willing to call upon family members and other relatives for respite care.

In the same group, a woman of Latino background was criticized by another mem- ber for passively accepting the sole responsibility for caregiver in her family. The leader intervened, stressing that the role of caregiver was a culturally assigned one, usually given to a female in the household. The leader pointed out that the commitment to the care of family members by Latinas was viewed as a core value in Latino culture. Such strong familism is viewed as a strength both within and outside the Latino community (Flores, 2000; Rivera, Fernandez, & Hendricks, 2014). Other group members agreed with the leader’s perspective. Because she felt her cultural heritage had been acknowledged positively, the woman became more active in the group.

In both task and treatment groups, it is important to point out how the group is strengthened by having members with diverse experiences and perspectives. It can be helpful for workers to mention to members the accumulating evidence supporting the positive effects of diverse perspectives on problem solving in groups (Forsyth, 2014). The worker can then go on to encourage members to express diverse perspectives and to help the group to consider fully the implications of each perspective. The worker’s ultimate aim is to ensure that the alternative perspectives that diversity brings to the group are viewed as benefiting all members.

Exploring Common and Different Experiences Among Members When working with members f rom diverse backgrounds, it is often useful to acknowl- edge and explore the differences and commonalities among members. This process can begin in orientation sessions and first group meetings by acknowledging diversity in the group and exploring how the cultural backgrounds of members may contribute to that diversity. For example, in a support group for parents who have experienced the death of a child, the leader began by self-disclosing that she was of Irish American background. She explained that, in her family, death was characteristically dealt with by planning large family gatherings that sometimes took on a festive atmosphere. She said that having a party after a person’s death might seem strange to some members and she encouraged them to talk about the practices in their own families. The members then proceeded to explore their own cultural reactions to death and grieving.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 167 01/05/17 11:30 AM

168 Chapter 5

Exploring common and different experiences can also help overcome barriers to members’ self-disclosure. Members are sometimes reluctant to disclose when they believe others may be judgmental about their cultural values, behavior, or lifestyle. As described in the following case study, exploring cultural differences and fostering cultural appreciation can help members feel more secure in disclosing their thoughts and feelings.

case example Exploring Cultural Differences

In a support group for parents, it seemed particularly difficult for participants who came from a Chinese American background to share intimate details of their family life. The worker tried to model self-disclosure and also encouraged other members to openly discuss difficult issues that they faced with their children. The developing norm of high self- disclosure continued to be difficult for the Chinese American parents. After one meeting, the father met briefly with the worker and noted that in his culture, certain family matters were considered private, to be discussed only among close family members. The worker acknowledged this and promised to help members show sensitivity to this cultural difference during the meetings. The Chinese American family felt more comfortable after that and participated more frequently.

There are also invisible and chosen affiliations that should be carefully considered by the group worker (Rothman, 2008). Although some group affiliations, such as gender and race, are obvious, others may be much less obvious. Some group affiliations, such as sexual orientation, religious and political affiliations, and certain disabilities such as AIDS, are not easily recognized in a group unless they are self-reported (Ellis, Simpson, Rose, & Plotner, 2014). Disclosure of these identities varies f rom group to group based on trust level, cohesion, subgroup size, and many other variables. The worker should be sensitive to the fact that hidden group affiliations may exist and strive to ensure that all members feel welcome and are helped by the group (Rothman, 2008).

Exploring Meanings and Language Meaning is expressed through language. Many cultures do not attach common meanings to certain phenomena, such as social problems or medical diseases (Dinges & Cherry, 1995). There may be no clear equivalent in the Spanish language, for example, for some psychiatric diagnoses. Likewise, an illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease, may be defined in Spanish using nonmedical terms. The leader should help group members explore the differences in meaning ref lected in different languages. Some rudimentary knowledge of other languages is an asset, and the leader should realize that language helps to shape reality. There are instances in which common terms and idiomatic expressions in English have no clear equivalent in another language. Members who speak English as a second language can define social situations, problems, and other conditions in culturally bound ways. It can be very helpful and interesting for all group members to discuss and explore culturally bound definitions, as the following case example indicates.

case example The Impact of Language

In a socialization group for new parents, one of the members had a mobility disability that required her to use a wheelchair. Although other members seemed to be sensitive to the needs of the member with the mobility disability, they used a variety of terms to refer to her

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 168 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 169

during group discussions, including “the handicapped person” and “the disabled person.” The leader asked the members to consider using a “person-first” formulation when referring to the member. She suggested that the member was a person with a disability, rather than a disabled or handicapped person. In group discussions, the leader noted that most persons with disabilities are offended when language suggests that they should be primarily defined by the nature of their disability rather than as people first, with all of the same strengths, capabilities, and potential as others. Through this intervention, members became more sensitive to the meanings inherent in language and how language can promote the strengths or weaknesses of people with disabilities.

The leader can help members interpret the significance of certain aspects of their culture to members of the group. In some instances, members may not understand the reasoning behind a cultural practice or phenomenon, which can lead to criticism or in- sensitivity among members. For example, in a rehabilitation group for spine-injured peo- ple, a member f rom Central America noted that he had visited the local curandero who prescribed native herbs and other remedies. The initial reaction of several members was to discount this practice and accuse the member of going outside the traditional medi- cal establishment. However, the leader and other members explained the importance of folk medicine and traditional healing in the member’s culture and how the local healer contributed to the member’s mental and physical well-being. Members learned the im- portance of this cultural practice and the significance of different sources of folk healing for some members (Koss-Chioino, 2000).

Similarly, spirituality may contribute signif icantly to the well-being of members of a group. It is important to acknowledge the importance of spirituality for particular members of a group and to explain the significance of different religious orientations. Group workers sometimes ignore spirituality because of the belief that it is linked to a specific religious denomination. It is important to take an ecumenical view and emphasize how spirituality tran- scends organized religion. The worker should avoid proselytizing about a particular religion but should acknowledge the importance of spirituality in the lives of many members (Abernethy, 2012).

Challenging Discrimination, Oppression, and Prejudice Because the realities of discrimination, oppression, and prejudice experienced in the larger society can be expressed in the group, challenging biases, prejudice, and stereo- types is an important leader skill (Burnes & Ross, 2010). Everyone has some prejudicial attitudes that they may not be aware of holding. Some members may deny their biases. Members may come f rom backgrounds with very different levels of social privilege and oppression and belief s about social justice that vary considerably. It can be difficult to find a common ground among members who have only known social privilege and members who have experienced a lifetime of oppression, inadequate resources, and dominance by a privileged group. Socially privileged members may be completely oblivious or actively hostile to other worldviews and realities, and oppressed group members may be hyper- vigilant about real and perceived slights by more privileged members. Group leadership can be very challenging in these situations, even when leaders are aware of the chasm.

Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behavior: present themselves as learners and engage clients and constituencies as experts of their own experiences

critical thinking Question: Many members have experience with discrimination and oppression. How can the worker explore these issues in the group?

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 169 01/05/17 11:30 AM

170 Chapter 5

There are many hurdles to overcome as groups begin to meet and workers guide members to develop trust in each other and group processes. Workers should start where members are, being careful not to bring members along so quickly that they re- ject views that they perceive as too radical. It is important for the leader to challenge all members to more realistically understand how they feel about people who are different f rom themselves, but in these situations workers must take special care to hear what is being said with empathy and openness.

Ultimately, workers aim to help members develop a liberator’s critical consciousness by understanding the deeper political, social, and historical roots of marginalization and oppression and how these factors may have a significant impact on fellow group members (Hays, Arredondo, Gladding, & Toporek, 2010; Ratts, Antony, & Santos, 2010). To do this, the leader helps members understand the discrimination that members have experienced in the past, and continue to experience. Almost all minority groups have experienced discrimina- tion. Burwell (1998) notes that extermination, expulsion, exclusion, and assimilation have all been used against minority group members. On a more subtle level, society often ignores the views of minorities and marginalizes their contributions. Schriver (2011) and Rothman (2008) indicate, for example, that minorities do not partake of the privileges often accorded to members of the majority group. Access to a privileged status results in unearned advan- tages accruing to a particular group because of race, gender, socioeconomic status, or some other characteristic. In the United States, for example, white males have a more privileged status than do Af rican American males, which has profound consequences for both groups.

The leader can help members understand the effects of privilege and discrimination by asking members to identify a situation in which they felt discriminated against and to discuss the experience with other group members. After this exercise, members are often better able to appreciate each other’s experiences in dealing with discrimination and the effect it has had on their views of themselves, others, and their life position.

The process of challenging discrimination, oppression, and prejudice continues as needed throughout the life of treatment groups. Experience suggests that it is important to take a gentle but firm stand, assuming that members who hold stereotypical ideas about other members need to be educated about the realities that these members have faced, and continue to experience. Attitudes are difficult to change, but workers must persist in an understanding manner to help members grow more open and accepting. Group interaction and program activities with diverse members can promote greater understanding, and workers should always be looking for new opportunities to help members better understand each other.

Experience also suggests that task groups can help to overcome prejudice. Differ- ences in cultural belief s (Maznevski & Peterson, 1997; Diaz, 2002), attitudes toward in- terpersonal interactions (Goto, 1997), differences in attitudes and judgments about the self and others (Earley & Randel, 1997), and language differences (Orasanu, Fischer, & Davison, 1997) can all be addressed in task groups. The following case example focuses on attitudes toward and judgments about group members based on age stereotypes.

case example Overcoming Prejudice

In a coalition planning a homeless shelter for teenagers and young adults, several of the younger members seemed to discount or ignore the suggestions made by older members.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 170 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 171

This developed into a pattern over the course of the early meetings of the group. Noting this, the leader asked members at the end of the third meeting to spend time giving attention to the group’s processes, particularly asking members how age differences might be inhibit- ing the group’s work. By discussing what she had observed in the group, the leader helped younger members confront their behaviors toward the older members. Initially, the younger members professed unawareness of their behavior. They said that it was not their intention to ignore the views of older members. They said they valued older members’ views and wel- comed them. As the coalition continued its work, the interaction changed and the group became more cohesive and appreciative of everyone’s viewpoints.

Advocating for Members Members f rom minority groups may need special assistance in negotiating difficult ser- vice systems. Also, they may need help obtaining benefits and services. In a parenting skills group, for example, the leader became concerned about the absence of several Native American members. In investigating the reasons for their absence, she noted that these group members felt guilty about leaving their child-care duties to attend group ses- sions. The leader secured the support of her agency in providing child care at the agency during group meetings. Because of her efforts, members attended more regularly, and their commitment and bond to the parenting group was greatly enhanced.

Leaders may wish to consider engaging in other advocacy activities on behalf of group members, such as working with family members and community support sys- tems. For example, in a socialization group for the f rail elderly at a senior citizens center, absenteeism was high although members seemed to enjoy the group. The worker sur- veyed the membership and found that many members depended on transportation f rom family or f riends who were often busy. The leader used this information to advocate on members’ behalf, with the local Office for the Aging and the county, for transportation to and f rom group meetings. Funding was in short supply so the worker also enlisted the support of local businesses. Eventually, with the help of all the partners, a senior van was bought and assigned to provide transportation for group members, and for other events sponsored by the senior citizens center. In another instance, a worker built a coalition of members f rom various gay, lesbian, and bisexual support groups to bring political pres- sure on city officials to pass adequate antidiscrimination legislation.

Advocating for group members, within and outside the group, is especially import- ant for populations and groups who experience prejudice and discrimination. Persons who are diagnosed with AIDS, for example, often have difficulty obtaining housing, health care, social services, and other community-based services to which they are enti- tled. Leaders of groups for members experiencing high levels of discrimination should be prepared to spend time outside group sessions to help members gain access to needed services.

It is also important to facilitate consciousness raising in the group and helping members to feel better about their identities and affiliations (Burnes and Ross, 2010). In some groups, especially those used in community organization practice, workers can also encourage members to be self-advocates outside the group. This can be done either by individual members or by the group as a whole. Ratts, Anthony, and Santos (2010, p. 165) suggest that in addition to helping members develop a liberator’s consciousness,

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 171 01/05/17 11:30 AM

172 Chapter 5

members should also be empowered to go outside the group and “advocate with and on behalf of a cause or issue.”

Empowering Members Group intervention can help empower members by raising their cultural consciousness and by developing mutual aid within the group. Personal, interpersonal, and political power can be fostered by constructive dialogue among all members and by discussions that foster cultural identity and consciousness (Rothman, 2008). The leader can help members gain greater personal power and self-worth by reinforcing positive feelings about their identity and encouraging all members to interact with each other. Through consciousness raising, members can also be encouraged to advocate for themselves (Burnes & Ross, 2010; Rothman, 2008). All levels of system intervention, including larger systems such as institutions and communities, should be included in these efforts. The following case example provides a brief illustration of how a social support group en- gaged larger systems.

case example Engaging the Community

A social support group sponsored by Centro Civico decided to sponsor a “senior expo” featuring the contributions of Latino elderly to the local community. The senior expo included ethnic foods, arts and crafts, exhibitions, workshops, and volunteer opportunities. Two other important aspects of the senior expo were a voter registration drive and an opportunity for members of the community to discuss their concerns about public transportation and safety with city council members.

Using Culturally Sensitive Techniques and Program Activities Culturally sensitive techniques and program activities value diversity within the group, acknowledge how members of minority groups have unique sets of experiences, and allow members to appreciate both minority and majority cultural contexts (Burnes & Ross, 2010). The use of culturally sensitive program activities and intervention tech- niques helps members to develop mutual respect for each other. When members have ethnicity or some other characteristic in common, they often feel understood by each other and gain validation for a similar heritage and a similar experience.

Developing culturally sensitive intervention skills can be fostered by reviewing spe- cialized formats reported in the literature for groups composed of members f rom spe- cific cultures. Pearson (1991), for example, suggests that leadership skills need to ref lect a more structured approach for some Asian and Asian American people. Adopting a tradi- tional Western style, with less structure and reliance on members to take responsibility for group interactions, would cause discomfort for these types of members. In contrast, feminist group workers suggest encouraging unstructured out-of-group contact, the minimization of the power distance between leader and member, and a focus on the societal and political factors that contribute to members’ problems (Holmes, 2002; Pure, 2012; Western, 2013). Other writers have also developed culturally sensitive formats for particular minority groups. For example, Misurell & Springer (2013) have developed a cul- turally sensitive program for working with sexually abused children. Similarly, Shea and

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 172 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 173

colleagues (2012) have developed a cultural adaptation of a cognitive behavior therapy program for Mexican American women with binge eating disorders.

Overall, group interventions should be directed at helping members enhance eth- nic consciousness and pride, develop ethnic resource bases and sources of power, and develop leadership potential. The following case example provides a brief illustration of how one agency adapted treatment services for Native Americans.

case example Culturally Sensitive Treatment Services

A group facilitator in an organization that helps African women develop peer support made meal time the focus for a small group she was working with. Each week, the group facilitator asked a different woman to buy ingredients and prepare a traditional meal from her homeland. During the cooking and feasting, the group facilitator encouraged the members to talk about the food, which led the group to think about and discuss their countries, culture, family life, and food preferences. After the meal, the group would move on to storytelling, which is traditional in many African countries. In the early ses- sions, the stories tended to be traditional ones as well as histories from their homelands. As trust developed, the members gradually started narrating their personal experiences. Their personal stories led to displays of empathy and support from others who shared similar life experiences.

Principles for Practice The group worker has a dual responsibility with regard to diversity. The worker should differentiate among members and individualize each member’s strengths but also uni- versalize members’ common human characteristics and goals. The worker should help to ensure cultural pluralism, that is, the right of persons f rom all cultures to adhere to their practices and worldviews. In addition, the worker should seek to promote harmony among members who are different f rom each other.

The research literature on working with persons f rom diverse backgrounds is char- acterized by suggestions for working with particular categories of persons. Group work practitioners can benefit f rom studying this body of knowledge and applying specific suggestions to their practice with particular groups of people. More broadly, however, workers should challenge members to acknowledge, understand, and celebrate diversity. Often, members are the best source of teaching and learning about diversity. Although this should not be seen as the sole responsibility of members who are f rom different backgrounds, they can be invited to share their experiences.

To understand diversity and be sensitive to work ing with persons who come f rom different backgrounds, group workers should consider the following practice principles:

• Some form of diversity is always present in groups. Workers should acknowledge the diversity in the groups they lead and help members to explore the differences they bring to the group experience.

• Sensitivity to diversity is important for both workers and members of groups. Workers who engage in their own process of self-assessment and an exploration

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 173 01/05/17 11:30 AM

174 Chapter 5

of feelings about their own identity are in a better position to deliver culturally sensitive interventions than are those with less self-awareness.

• The process of becoming culturally sensitive is an ongoing obligation of all group workers. Thus, it is important for workers to continuously seek knowledge about how members define themselves and how their identities affect their participation in the group.

• Being culturally sensitive requires an open mind. Workers should be nonjudgmental about the differences they encounter among group members and should welcome the richness and positive potential that diversity offers to the group as a whole.

• Workers should be aware that exclusion, oppression, entitlement, power, and privilege operate in covert, subtle ways as well as openly, and that these phenom- ena occur on both individual and institutional levels.

• Persons f rom diverse backgrounds often have firsthand experience with preju- dice, stereotyping, discrimination, and oppression. Workers should understand and acknowledge the effects of these phenomena and help members understand how such treatment can affect group participation.

• Diversity and difference can have a profound effect on how groups function. Workers should recognize that the dynamics of groups vary because of differ- ences in the identities and backgrounds of their members and should consider how diversity is likely to affect the development of groups.

• Member identity and background affects how members work toward their goals. A complete assessment—of group members, the group as a whole, and the group’s environment—should consider the diverse characteristics of members and the cultural context in which they have developed.

• Differences in communication styles and language affect the members’ overall ability to communicate. Workers should monitor the effects that language and communication have on the conduct of the group and attempt to understand how members f rom differing cultural groups communicate.

• On the basis of their experiences with environments outside the group, certain members may lack power and may be denied access to society’s resources. Empow- ering members on both an individual and a community-wide basis by using empa- thy, individualization, support, and advocacy is an important group work skill.

• Persons f rom different cultures are often sustained by their cultural and spiritual practices and traditions. It is important for workers to acknowledge and support these traditions.

• There are members of groups whose identities are not always obvious and may be hidden (e.g., gay, transgendered, HIV infected). The worker should build a trusting group climate where these identities can be revealed if members choose to do so. The worker should also keep in mind that members have multiple iden- tities that may not all be revealed in the group.

• It is important to empower members of the group by doing consciousness raising and other transformational leadership activities. The ultimate goal is for workers to help members develop a liberation critical consciousness that f rees them to understand the effects of exclusion, marginalization and oppression, to examine the internalization and externalization of these experiences, and to embrace the capacities, resilience, and strengths of all participants.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 174 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Leadership and Diversity 175

• Members who stereotype each other or discriminate against each other should be challenged to conf ront their biases, prej- udices, and stereotypes. These behaviors should not be allowed to continue within the group.

• There are a variety of specialized cultural formats appropriate for use in groups. It is helpful for workers to develop a reper- toire of intervention techniques and program activities relevant to particular cultural groups with whom they are likely to work.


This chapter focuses on leading task and treatment groups with members f rom diverse backgrounds. It is important for the group leader to develop a perspective f rom which to work effectively with members f rom differing backgrounds. The group leader should develop cultural sensitivity through a process of self-exploration. The leader can also benefit f rom exploring the identity of others and by gaining knowledge about differing cultural and ethnic groups. An important prerequisite to these activities is openness to differences exhibited by diverse cultures. In planning and composing groups, the leader should consider how persons of differing backgrounds will experience the group and how the group will be affected by their membership. The cultural backgrounds of mem- bers can have a profound effect on how members participate in the group. A complete assessment of the group and its members should consider the larger environmental con- text in which members live and how that context can inf luence group dynamics.

This chapter also discusses how leaders can intervene with sensitivity to diversity. Suggestions developed in this regard include using social work values and skills, em- phasizing a strengths perspective, exploring common and different experiences among members, exploring meanings and language, challenging prejudice and discrimination, advocating for members, empowering members, and using culturally appropriate tech- niques and program activities. The chapter ends with a description of practice principles to assist leaders working with diverse groups of people.

Assess your understand- ing of intervening with sensitivity to diversity by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M05_TOSE0283_08_SE_C05.indd 175 01/05/17 11:30 AM


Planning Focus

Planning marks the beginning of the worker’s involvement in the group endeavor. The planning process has two distinct parts. The first is directed at forming the group, the aspect with which this chapter is primarily concerned. The second part of planning in- cludes the ongoing adjustments and forward-looking arrangements that are made by the leader and the members as the group pro- gresses through its beginning, middle, and ending stages.

In forming the group, the worker focuses on the individual member, the group as a whole, and the environment. In focusing on individual members, the worker considers each person’s moti- vations, expectations, and goals for entering the group. The worker focuses on the group as a whole by considering the purpose for the group and the dynamics that may develop because of the members’ interaction. The worker also focuses on the environment of the group by considering the likely inf luence on the group of the spon- soring organization, the community, and the larger society.

The second aspect of planning is carried out throughout the life of the group. During the beginning stage, the worker and the members plan in more detail how to accomplish the overall group purpose. The worker carries out detailed assessments of individual members of the group. These assessments lead to additional plan- ning activities in the middle and ending stages of the group. For ex- ample, in treatment groups, the worker and the members engage in an ongoing assessment of the extent to which the group is helping members accomplish their goals. This assessment, in turn, leads to the refinement, adjustment, and reformulation of treatment plans, as well as contracting with individual members for modified treat- ment goals.

In task groups, the worker uses data collected during assess- ments to formulate procedures for accomplishing the group’s work. This includes selecting members with the right expertise for the group, developing session agendas, dividing labor and responsibil- ity, and determining methods to be used in making decisions and solving problems. For example, when helping to select members for

C h a p t e r O u t l i n e

Planning Focus 176

Planning Model For Group Work 178

Summary 211

l e a r n i n g O u t C O m e s

• Identify the important planning elements that lead to successful group outcomes.

• Develop guidelines for recruiting members and composing the group.

• Determine plans for orienting and contracting with members.

• Illustrate how various aspects of the environment affect the planning process.

Planning the Group


M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 176 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 177

boards, a worker might consider inviting a lawyer, fund-raiser, accountant, and member who have expertise in the services offered by the organization.

Although this chapter emphasizes the need for pregroup planning, there are many times when the worker’s ability to plan a group is constrained. It is common, for exam- ple, for the recruitment process to yield a pool of potential group members that is large enough to form only a single group. In this case, a worker faces the choice of accept- ing all applicants, delaying the group for additional recruitment, or screening out some applicants and beginning a group with few members. It is also common for workers to inherit leadership of existing groups or to form a single group f rom all clients of a par- ticular program or residential setting. In this case, the worker has little choice about the membership.

The planning of task groups may be constrained for a variety of reasons. For ex- ample, recruitment may be constrained by organizational bylaws or dictated by admin- istrative structure. Likewise, the members of a delegate council are often selected by the organizations that are represented by the council, thereby constraining pregroup planning about the composition of the group. Despite constraints, workers still have the responsibility to think carefully about how they will guide the group’s development to ensure that it is productive and that it provides a satisfying experience for members. Workers should plan for the group as carefully as possible within any existing constraints. Such planning helps foster the achievement of positive group and member outcomes and avoids unanticipated difficulties later in the life of the group.

case Example Planning for an Advisory Group

Mike is a school social worker who works with students aged 7 to 12 with behavioural and concentration difficulties. He wanted to try therapies besides the ones he was already using to maximize the students’ learning. In his consultation with the head master and his doctoral supervisor, it became clear that Mike needed to find an alternative intervention approach to empower the students through self-awareness and self-regulation; implement it; and measure the outcomes. In order to do so, Mike needed an advisory group to help him.

Mike spent time with his head master and his doctoral supervisor discussing who should be invited to join the advisory group. They decided that the advisory group would need members with a range of expertise. First, his doctoral supervisor would advise him on research into the alternative intervention approach. Second, he would need an expert in the field who knows how to implement the intervention they iden- tified. Third, the head master would advise on the implementation of the inter- vention in the school. Fourth, the school teachers would advise on the outcome evaluation of the alternative intervention. Fifth, students and their parents would provide feedback on what they thought of the alternative intervention after a taster event. Mike, the head master, and his doctoral supervisor also discussed how to implement the plan and a list of resources the group would need to con- duct its work.

Assess your under- standing of the focus of important planning

elements that lead to successful group outcomes by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 177 01/05/17 11:30 AM

178 Chapter 6

Planning ModEl For grouP Work

We have developed a model of planning that can be used for both treatment and task groups. This model includes the following:

• Establishing the group’s purpose • Assessing the potential sponsorship and membership of the group • Recruiting members • Composing the group • Orienting members to the group • Contracting • Preparing the group’s environment • Reviewing the literature • Selecting monitoring and evaluation tools • Preparing a written group proposal • Planning distance groups

This planning model describes an orderly set of procedures to guide workers. In actual practice, however, workers may not plan for the group in a systematic fashion. Instead, the worker may find that it is necessary to engage in several aspects of planning simulta- neously. For example, recruiting, contracting, and preparing the environment can occur at the same time. Similarly, determining purpose and assessing potential membership can sometimes be done together. Carrying out one step may also inf luence how another step is handled. For example, in assessing the potential membership of a committee, the worker may realize that a budget item for travel is required for certain members of the group. Thus, the information gained in carrying out one procedure (assessing membership) inf luences action taken in another (securing financial arrangements).

Establishing the Group’s Purpose

The first and most important question that can be asked about a proposed group is “What is the group’s purpose?” A statement of the purpose should be broad enough to encompass different individual goals, yet specific enough to define the common nature of the group’s purpose. A clear statement of purpose helps members answer the ques- tion, “What are we doing here together?” It can help prevent a lack of direction that can be f rustrating for group members and can lead to an unproductive group experience.

A brief statement of the group’s purpose generally includes information on the prob- lems or issues the group is designed to address, the range of individual and group goals to be accomplished, and how individual members and the group as a whole might work together.

Some examples of statements of purpose follow.

• The group will provide a forum for discussing parenting skills; each member is encouraged to bring up specific issues about being a parent and to provide feed- back about the issues that are brought up.

• The group will study the problem of domestic violence in our community, and each member will contribute to a final task force report on how to address the issue.

• The group will review and assess all proposals for improving services to youth f rom minority communities and decide what projects to fund.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 178 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 179

These statements are broad, but they provide information that will help members understand the nature of the group endeavor. As discussed in Chapter 7, the members of the group usually discuss and clarify the group’s purpose in early group sessions and produce more specific aims and goals through their interactions with each other and with the worker. It is nonetheless helpful for the worker to prepare for the first meeting by anticipating questions that members might raise, identifying potential agenda items, clarifying the roles that the members and the worker will play in the group, and identify- ing potential obstacles to effective group functioning.

The purpose of a group can f requently be clarified by considering how the idea for establishing it was generated. The idea may have come f rom several sources, such as the group worker, agency staff members, potential clients, or the larger community. The following examples illustrate how ideas for groups are generated.

group Worker-generated • The worker proposes an educational group for children based on the worker’s

perception of the need for adolescent sex education. • The worker proposes an advising delegate council in a hospital based on a survey

of employees’ job satisfaction, which indicates the need for better communica- tion among professional departments.

agency staff-generated • Several agency caseworkers, concerned with rising rates of family violence, sug-

gest that clients f rom their caseloads participate in a remedial group for child abusers.

• The chairperson of the agency board of directors requests that a committee be established to study and suggest alternative sources of funding for the agency.

member-generated • The parents of children in a day-care center request a series of educational group

meetings to discuss concerns about their children’s behavior at home. • Several clients receiving subsidized housing suggest to the director of the agency

that a social action group be formed to combat poor housing conditions in a neighborhood.

Community-generated • A group of ministers representing community churches approaches a community

center about developing an after-school program for children of the working poor.

• A coalition of community groups requests a meeting with the administrator of a community center to explore ways to reach out to young people before they are recruited by gangs.

Assessing Potential Sponsorship and Membership

Although assessment of potential sponsorship and membership for the group might be seen as separate, in reality, the agency and its clients are intrinsically linked. The worker must assess both the sponsoring agency and the potential membership base to plan for the group. Agency sponsorship determines the level of support and resources available

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 179 01/05/17 11:30 AM

180 Chapter 6

to the group. The assessment of potential membership helps the worker make an early estimate of the group’s potential viability.

Assessing Potential Sponsorship The nature of the sponsoring organization has a significant effect on the formation of the group. The following aspects of the potential sponsor should be considered when planning a group.

elements in assessing the potential sponsorship of a group • The mission, goals, objectives, and resources of the organization • The fit between the policies of the organization and the goals of the proposed

group • The level of potential support for the group within the organization • The nature of the unmet and ongoing needs of the group • The costs and benefits of the group in relation to the sponsoring organization • The level of community need for the group and the level of community interest

and support • The role that federal, state, and local funding mandates and regulatory bodies

play in the focus of the group

In treatment groups, the sponsoring organization may be affected by federal, state, and local funding mandates, licensing bodies, or other entities. It is important for work- ers to understand that funding and legal mandates, medical necessity, and other factors may come into play, especially when potential members are severely impaired. For ex- ample, treatment groups rely on agency administrators and staff for financial support, member referrals, and physical facilities. Funding mandates often play a part in both who can be served and the shaping of the purpose of the group.

Task groups are intrinsically linked to their sponsoring organizations and must con- tinually refer to the organization’s mission, bylaws, and policies for clarification of their task, charge, and mandate. In assessing an organization as sponsor for the group, the worker should pay careful attention to the fit between the organization’s policies and goals and the purpose of the proposed group. The proposed group should fit within

the overall operating goals of the organization. If the group rep- resents a new form of service or suggests a problem area or a population that has not been the focus of the potential sponsor, the worker will have to be prepared to justify the request to be- gin a group.

The worker’s assessment of the sponsoring organization is carried out to determine the overall level of support for the pro- posed group service and to garner any additional support that may be needed to begin the group. It is essential to identify key areas of mutual interest and perceived need within the organiza- tion and the community where the group will be held. This in- cludes funding and regulatory agencies that may have subtle but strong inf luences on how a new group service should operate.

An early step that is often helpful is to meet with line staff and program administrators to obtain their ideas about the need


Behavior: apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multi- disciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies

critical Thinking Question: The sponsoring organization can greatly influence a group’s purpose and goals. What organizational fac- tors should be considered in planning?

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 180 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 181

for a particular group service. In interdisciplinary settings, it is important to test the idea for a new group service beyond the social work staff. The idea for a new group service should be presented through appropriate channels to staff f rom other disciplines. High- lighting common perceptions of unmet needs and pointing out how the new group service could support and enhance the work of other disciplines can be useful ways of garnering support. This process has the added benefit of reducing interdisciplinary com- petition, fostering a sense of mutual mission, and developing a bond with staff on which the new group program may depend for referrals or other assistance. For example, a new group service in an outpatient health clinic for those with post-traumatic stress disorder should seek the support of psychologists who may be asked to do testing, physicians who may be asked to prescribe medications, and other allied health professions who may be asked to be guest speakers or referral resources.

The worker may wish to carry out a needs assessment or gather data to document unmet needs. Workers can identify public and private funding sources for the effort by searching the Internet, speaking with representatives of private foundations, and local, state, and national nonprofit and public agencies. Administrators and boards of direc- tors may be particularly interested in the costs and potential benefits of the proposed group service. A brief review of similar group work efforts can help clarify the possible costs and benefits associated with a new group program. An organization may decide to offer the group service on a trial basis while conducting a cost analysis, such as the one described in Chapter 14.

It is also helpful to gather support for the idea for a new group service f rom the larger community. This can be done by encouraging consumers within a geographical region to express their interest in a new group service or by urging community leaders and others who have inf luence within community social service organizations to express their interest in and support for the new service. The relevance of the proposed group program to the sponsoring organization’s mission and the visibility it could bring to the organization should also be highlighted.

In some instances, the potential sponsoring organization may decide that the pro- posed group is not central enough to its core mission. In a county-funded rape crisis cen- ter, for example, a worker proposed a group service for battered women who had been victims of family violence but who have not been raped. Such an expansion of services, although appropriate and related to the agency’s purpose, may be viewed as beyond the scope of the agency’s mission, beyond staff resources, or not reimbursable within the agency’s current funding sources.

When workers encounter a lack of support they should determine whether the proposal can be modified to increase support and alleviate the concerns that have been expressed or whether a different sponsor should be sought. For example, with the previ- ously mentioned domestic violence group, the worker joined with her supervisor and met with other agency administrators to highlight the need for the group and to seek additional funding for it. Together the group decided to explore the idea for the group service with a family service agency that had expressed interest in providing service for domestic violence victims.

Garnering support for the idea of a new group service both within and outside the organization helps ensure the success of the group when it is implemented. A summary of how to gather support follows.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 181 01/05/17 11:30 AM

182 Chapter 6

gathering support for a new group • Identify the extent to which the problem or issue that the group intends to work

on fits the mission and goals of the sponsoring organization. • Identify the extent to which a resolution of the problem or issue to be addressed

by the group is valued by the sponsoring organization and the larger community. • Obtain the support of the administration of the organization to explore the possi-

bility of a new group service. • Find out if the need is being met, or should be met, by any other organization in

the community and contact that organization to avoid any possible duplication of service and to check the possibility of joining forces for co-sponsoring a group service.

• Identify and resolve any differences in perspectives among staff that may lead to hidden agendas and thereby jeopardize the group service being planned.

• Obtain staff consensus about the goals of the program and the group work meth- ods that will be used to achieve them.

• Assess the willingness of the sponsor to provide external support, such as trans- portation, childcare, or supplies needed to conduct the group.

• Identify sources of funding and regulatory requirements for the new group service.

Assessing Potential Membership Along with assessing agency sponsorship and garnering support for a new group work endeavor, the worker should begin to assess the potential membership of the group. Such a beginning assessment does not involve extensive procedures, such as arriving at goals for members or agreeing on individual contracts. Rather, in this early assessment, the worker thinks about who should be recruited by considering the following elements for developing harmonious, hardworking groups.

elements in assessing the potential membership of a group • The extent of the problem or need addressed by the group • Members’ recognition and shared perceptions about the purpose of the group • Cultural and other differences that could inf luence perceptions about the

purpose of the group • Members’ perceptions of the sponsoring organization • Potential effects of ambivalence, resistance, or the involuntary nature of the

group on members’ participation • Specialized knowledge needed for understanding and working with members • Demographic differences and commonalities of potential members • Potential benefits to members of participating in the group • Barriers, obstacles, and drawbacks to member participation • Resources needed f rom the organization and community to ensure members’

interest and participation • Guidelines and mandates f rom funding sources about who is eligible to


When planning treatment groups, workers should start by collecting data about the extent of the problem and the need for a new group service. If possible, the worker can

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 182 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 183

also collect data about potential clients by observing or interviewing them directly, by phone, or by talking with collateral contacts, such as family members or agency staff. The permission of the potential member has to be obtained for this to occur. Making collateral contacts is sometimes neglected in practice but can be a rich source of data about how to tailor the group to meet members’ needs.

When planning task groups, the worker considers potential members according to their interest in the task, their expertise, and their power and position to help the group accomplish its purposes (Tropman, 2014). Members might also be sought because of their importance to the sponsoring agency, their status in the community, or their polit- ical inf luence.

An important aspect of assessing potential membership is determining whether potential members share the worker’s perception of the tasks facing the group. Shared perceptions lead to group cohesion and increase members’ satisfaction with group func- tioning. In addition, the worker spends less time overcoming obstacles and resistance to accomplishing the group’s goals when members share similar perceptions of the con- cerns facing the group.

Information should be gathered about the extent to which potential members rec- ognize the need for the group, its purpose, tasks, and goals. This process helps workers anticipate the degree of member commitment to the group. It also helps to coalesce divergent views of the purpose of the group and the methods used to accomplish the work of the group. Shulman (2016) refers to this as “tuning in” to the members of the group.

It is also important to assess potential members’ views of the sponsor. Is there any stigma attached to receiving service f rom a particular organization? Is the organization known to the potential client group? What is the organization’s reputation with the group to be served? The worker should carefully consider what qualities of the potential sponsor are likely to attract clients and what obstacles may interfere with the successful initiation of a group program. For example, a family service agency may have the re- sources to sponsor a group for Af rican American single mothers but may have difficulty recruiting members because potential members perceive the staff of the agency to be culturally insensitive. If the agency sponsoring the group is perceived to be unable to relate to particular segments of the community, it will encounter considerable resistance when trying to initiate a group service.

case Example A Parenting Group for Single Mothers

The previously mentioned family service agency contacted local community leaders, a com- munity center, and a health clinic serving primarily African Americans. The family service agency also reached out to a coalition of ministers from Baptist churches in the area serving the African American community. After meeting with individuals from these organizations separately, a series of three planning meetings was held. It was decided to host the group for single mothers in the health clinic and that each of the organizations at the meeting would publicize the group and encourage single mothers to attend. A worker from the family ser- vice agency led the group, but speakers on educational topics related to health and nutrition came from the health care clinic, and a worker from the community center provided childcare while the members attended the group.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 183 01/05/17 11:30 AM

184 Chapter 6

Often, the worker must plan for leading a group of reluctant participants. The extent of reluctance can range f rom ambivalence about seek ing assistance to active resistance. The ter m involuntary is often applied to individuals who are ordered by the courts to receive treatment. Working with involuntary clients requires special expertise. During the planning stage, the worker should become thoroughly familiar with the legal statutes and ethical issues that apply. The dignity and rights of individuals who find themselves in these situations must be protected while the individual is in the care of the worker (Rooney, 2009).

Workers may also be called on to plan groups for reluctant members who are given the choice between treatment and a negative alternative, such as incarceration, probation, or the suspension of driving privileges. In these situations, the worker should become thoroughly familiar with the specialized methods developed to moti- vate clients to make productive use of the group experience (Rooney, 2009). For example, in a residential program for substance abusers, information and techniques to conf ront denial may be used in combination with powerful incentives, such as the return of driving privi- leges. Within the residential setting, information about the damaging effects of alcohol, peer interaction focused on sobriety, and access to certain privileges may be combined to help members make productive use of a group program. More information about working with reluctant and resistant clients is presented later in this text.

Workers planning a group for a new population are unlikely to have information read- ily available about what strategies are most effective for working with individuals who have specialized problems. Gathering information by reviewing the literature and f rom practi- tioners experienced with the population can be invaluable in preparing for a group. Obtain- ing information about specialized groups is particularly important when planning groups for people f rom diverse cultural backgrounds and when the worker’s background differs significantly f rom that of group members. Such information helps workers recognize their own biases, develop tolerance for their own and others’ perceptions, and enhance their abil- ities to perceive clients’ needs accurately. It is also good evidence-based practice.

In assessing potential membership, the worker should consider the demographic dif- ferences and commonalities of potential members and how these affect other steps in the planning process. For example, when planning a support group for Latino caregivers of elderly parents, the worker might print announcements in Spanish, post announcements in newspapers for speakers of Spanish, contact civic and social service organizations serving Latino communities, and reach out to Latino community and religious leaders.

To prepare for recruiting and orienting members in both voluntary and mandatory groups, the worker may list the potential benefits of participating and share them with potential members. Some workers are reluctant to describe the potential benefits of par- ticipating in a group because they fear they will be perceived as boasting about their own skills or because they fear raising the expectation for service among members of vulner- able groups. However, individuals who are considering whether to participate in a group welcome a clear description of the potential benefits of participation. A worker’s enthu- siasm and optimism can be contagious, increasing members’ motivation to participate and their enthusiasm for what might be accomplished. Yalom (2005) refers to this process as the “instillation of hope.”


Behavior: use empathy, reflection, and interpersonal skills to effectively engage diverse clients and constituencies

critical Thinking Question: Workers often work with involuntary members. What tech- niques can the group worker use to involve them in the group?

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 184 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 185

Workers should also identify barriers, obstacles, and drawbacks to group participa- tion. In their zest to recruit members, workers sometimes minimize the difficulties in- dividuals can encounter when joining a group. Experience suggests that it is better to acknowledge barriers to participation and try whenever possible to resolve them so they do not prevent individuals f rom participating. Often, discussing disadvantages with po- tential members during an orientation interview and planning ways to resolve them can be helpful. For example, practical barriers are overcome if the sponsoring agency can provide transportation, childcare, or a sliding fee scale.

case Example Planning for Resistant and Reluctant Members

Although she was enthusiastic about starting a new group for college students who had vio- lated the college dormitory’s alcohol policy, Beth was worried about how members would feel about being mandated to attend this short-term group. During preparations for the group, she became familiar with the college policies that prohibited alcohol use in the dorms. She hoped that knowledge of the policies would prepare her to answer members’ questions about why they needed to attend the group. She prepared a clear statement about her role in the group and the expectations for attendance and participation. In addition, Beth prepared a list of group goals for members’ consideration during the first meeting. Beth also consulted the literature about how to deal with involuntary group members. Based on what she learned, she prepared what she would say during the opening of the first meeting. The statement acknowledged the mandatory nature of the group and members’ ambivalence about participating. She noted that it was ultimately up to members to decide how they would participate in the group and whether the group would be a positive and productive experience for each of them. She hoped that these beginning preparations, along with her enthusiasm and genuine desire to help, would overcome some of the resistance she anticipated from the members during the begin- ning stage of the group. Beth also asked a willing former member to be available to answer any questions that potential members might have about the benefits of participating in the group.

Recruiting Members

Recruitment procedures should ensure an adequate number of potential members for the g roup. In recruiting members, the worker considers sources f rom which potential members can be identif ied and referred to the group. Members can be re- cruited within the worker’s agency, other organizations, or the community.

Within a social service agency, potential members can be identif ied f rom the caseloads of colleagues, f rom records, or f rom mailing lists. In some groups, current members may be able to identify potential members. Potential members might also in- troduce themselves to the worker, individually or in a group, to suggest that the agency initiate a particular group service. Finally, the worker might consider reviewing the agency’s waiting list to determine whether any persons waiting for service would benefit f rom group treatment.

For certain treatment groups, such as for men who batter, the worker’s own agency may not have a large enough potential


Behavior: apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidis- ciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage with clients and constituencies

critical Thinking Question: Recruiting mem- bers requires creative community action. What methods can workers use to recruit members for a group?

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 185 01/05/17 11:30 AM

186 Chapter 6

membership base. In planning for these groups, the worker can contact other social ser- vice and health agencies to obtain referrals. The worker should also become familiar with the community to locate concentrations of potential members. Talking to commu- nity and religious leaders, politicians, police officials, and schoolteachers may be helpful to identify ways to contact potential members.

For task groups, the type of group and its purpose often determine the best sources for recruiting members. For example, members of a committee to study an agency’s employee benefit package can be recruited f rom employees of the agency and f rom the agency’s board of directors. A task force to study the problem of refugee resettle- ment can recruit members f rom all agencies serving that population in the community. Similarly, team members can be selected for their specific expertise and professional background. Boards recruit members f rom community constituents because the board “stands in” for the community and is accountable to the community for the services the agency provides.

Methods of Recruiting Members When the worker has identified recruitment sources, decisions must be made about how to reach them. A variety of recruitment techniques will help potential members under- stand the purpose of the group and help them decide whether to join.

methods of recruiting members • Contacting potential members directly through interviews and phone contacts • Contacting key people in the networks of potential members • Sending announcements through direct mail • Posting announcements in community organizations • Using websites to advertise the group • Speaking at public meetings and appearing on radio and television shows • Issuing press releases, publishing announcements in organizational and asso-

ciation newsletters, and working with reporters to prepare feature newspaper articles

Direct personal contact with potential members is often the most effective recruit- ment method. When potential group members can be identified f rom agency records or f rom caseloads of colleagues, the worker may wish to set up initial appointments by letter, email, or phone. The worker can then interview prospective members in the of- fice or at home. However, person-to-person contact, particularly in-home contact, can be quite expensive in terms of the worker’s time and therefore may not be feasible.

Workers can also recruit members by contacting key people in the informal net- works of a particular population. For example, in recruiting for a group composed of Native Americans, the worker may first discuss the idea with important Native American community elders to gain their acceptance for the group. When recruiting Chinese Americans, the worker might identify cultural associations that provide support for this population, which could provide the worker with a means for assessing the viability of the group and the potential for recruiting members. Since trust is a key issue when re- cruiting members of culturally diverse groups, workers also should spend time getting to know the community and to become known to its members before attempting to organize and lead a group.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 186 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 187

Brief, written announcements can be an effective recruitment tool. However, care must be taken to ensure that announcements are sent to the correct audience. To be ef- fective, mailed and posted announcements must be seen by potential members or poten- tial referral sources. Therefore, careful targeting of the pool of potential group members is essential. Too often, workers rely on existing mailing lists developed for other purposes or post announcements where they will not be noticed by the target group. Computer- ized record systems and Internet list serves are becoming more widely available and can be useful in identifying and targeting individuals who may need a particular service.

If the worker has a list of potential members, announcements can be mailed di- rectly to them. The worker may also mail announcements to workers in other social service agencies who are likely to have contact with potential group members. Experi- ence suggests that a follow-up phone call to those who have received announcements increases the probability that referrals will be made. Announcements can also be posted on community bulletin boards, in housing projects, public gathering places, and local businesses. In rural locations, announcements can be posted at firehouses, church halls, schools, general stores, and post offices. Such locations are usually the best places to post announcements because people gather in those places to discuss information about their community. The worker also can ask that announcements be read at meetings of com- munity service groups, church groups, business associations, and f raternal organizations.

The increase in computer literacy, the availability of local area networks, and the Internet have improved accessibility for potential members. Group announcements can be posted on local area networks or community computer bulletin boards or be sent to targeted users of particular computing services. It is also possible for local organizations as well as nationally federated groups to create their own web pages that are accessible to millions of persons who may be interested in learning more about particular services.

Appendix B contains two examples of announcements for groups. An announce- ment should include a clear statement of the group’s purpose. The proposed meeting place, dates, times, length and f requency of meetings, and any service fees should also be clearly specified. The sponsoring agency and the group leader’s name should be listed along with phone numbers for potential members to call for more information. It is sometimes helpful to list any special arrangements that are planned, such as childcare services, transportation, or ref reshments.

The worker might also want to make information about the group available through public speaking and through local television or radio stations. Many civic and religious or- ganizations welcome guest speakers. A presentation on the need for the group, its purpose, and how it would operate can be an effective recruitment tool. Commercial television and radio stations broadcast public service announcements deemed to be in the public interest, and the proposed group program might be eligible for inclusion in such broadcasts.

Commercial television and radio stations f requently produce their own local public interest programs, such as talk shows, public discussions, special news reports, and com- munity news announcements. Although public access cable television channels generally have smaller audiences, they can also be used by the worker to describe a group service and to invite members to join.

Press releases and newsletter articles are another way to recruit members. Many local newspapers publish a calendar of events for a specified week or month; brief an- nouncements can be placed in the calendar. An article in the features section of a local

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 187 01/05/17 11:30 AM

188 Chapter 6

newspaper can reach many potential members. Online and print-based newspapers f re- quently publish stories about new group services or particular social problems. The worker should consider whether the group is newsworthy and, if so, contact a local editor and request an interview with a reporter. We have found that feature newspaper stories are the single most important source for recruiting new members to groups in community settings.

Composing the Group

Rolling admissions, sponsor organizations’ missions, funding sources, and other factors may make it difficult or impossible for workers to select members. When workers are able to select members, they should consider member and group needs and goals, as well as their own capacity to work with those who may be in the group. Sometimes, the Group Selection Questionnaire or other measures can be helpful when deciding whom to include (Burlingame, Cox, Davies, Layne, & Gleave, 2011). For example, in therapy groups, the Group Therapy Questionnaire may be helpful for selecting appropriate members (MacNaire-Semands, 2002). In general, however, three broad principles should guide workers’ selections.

principles of group Composition • Homogeneity of members’ purposes and certain personal characteristics • Heterogeneity of member coping skills, life experiences, and expertise • Complementary overall structure that includes a range of the members’ qualities,

skills, and expertise to achieve the right balance of members who can work well together and help each other achieve individual and group objectives

In addition to these principles, the worker should consider demographic and socio- cultural factors, group size, and whether the membership will be open or closed.

Homogeneity The principle of homogeneity suggests that members should have a similar purpose for being in the group and have some personal characteristics in common. Homogeneity facilitates communication and bonding and helps members to identify and relate to each other’s concerns.

Members should accept and identify with the major purpose for the group so they can use the meetings to their full advantage. The worker should assess the extent to which members’ purposes coincide with one another and with the purpose of the group. Without some common purposes for being in the group, members will have little basis for interacting.

Members should share some personal characteristics, such as age, level of education, cultural background, and expertise relative to the group task, communication ability, or type of problem. The worker should determine that all members have enough charac- teristics in common to facilitate the work of the group. The extent to which members should possess common characteristics varies with the type of group. In an educational group for new parents, it might be important that all members be able to read English at a sixth-grade level to understand program materials recommended for reading at home. In a program-oriented group for youngsters in a treatment center, the most important

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 188 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 189

common characteristic may be their living situation. Groups of alcoholics, drug abusers, and delinquents all have a problem in common.

In a study of selection criteria for new members of treatment groups, Riva, Lippert, and Tackett (2000) found that a national sample of leaders mentioned compatibility with the group theme as the most important variable, followed by the client’s motiva- tion for personal change, enthusiasm about being in the group, and expectations that the group would help. Other important selection criteria included clients’ (1) reality testing, (2) self-awareness, (3) ability to express feelings, (4) ability to tolerate anxiety, (5) ability to self-disclose, and (6) sensitivity to others’ needs. In studies that compared those who dropped out of group treatment to those who completed, it was found that the ability to express oneself and the ability to trust and relate to others were the important predic- tive factors (Blouin et al., 1995; Oei & Kazmierczak, 1997). Thus, personality factors are important in screening and selecting members. Forsyth (2014) provides evidence that ex- troversion, agreeableness, and openness are three particularly desirable personality traits.

Heterogeneity For most groups, there should be some diversity of members’ coping skills, life experiences, and levels of expertise. This helps members to learn about new options, different alterna- tives, and varying perspectives, which they may choose to adapt to their own circumstances. In support groups, for example, it is helpful for members to learn what coping skills other members have found to be effective and what strategies they have used to solve problems.

In some groups, the worker chooses members with differing life experiences or diverse characteristics to foster learning among members. A growth group, for example, might be composed of members f rom different cultures, social classes, occupations, or geographic areas to expose individuals to the benefits of differing viewpoints and lifestyles. Differences among members can provide multiple opportunities for support, validation, mutual aid, and learning.

Workers should also consider building heterogeneity into the membership of task groups to ensure an adequate range of resources and provide an efficient division of labor when dealing with complex tasks. For example, agency boards of directors are usually composed of members who represent a variety of professions, agencies, and oc- cupations. These members bring legal, financial, marketing, and other kinds of exper- tise to the board. Other task groups, such as delegate councils, are also often composed of members who represent differing constituencies with diverse interests and needs. For example, a coalition formed to study the problem of juvenile delinquency might be composed of members f rom diverse parts of a city, that is, members f rom the busi- ness district, the inner city, and suburban neighborhoods. Such heterogeneity can be an important asset to the group in accomplishing its tasks.

Complementary Group Structure Workers should also consider selecting members who have complementary attributes that can lead to group synergies when working on accomplishing goals (Forsyth, 2014). Guidelines include selecting members who:

• Have the ability and desire to communicate with others in the group • Can accept each other’s behavior

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 189 01/05/17 11:30 AM

190 Chapter 6

• Can get along with each other despite differences of opinions, viewpoints, or positions

• Have some capacity to understand one’s own behavior • Are open to sharing their experiences and listening to others

In treatment groups, members who are ineffective in communicating with peers can engender more antagonism than support f rom fellow members. These individuals fare better if they are seen individually to begin with or are placed in groups with others who have similar communication difficulties. Similarly, people who cannot accept or use feed- back and those who are highly opinionated and unwilling to consider other viewpoints are poor candidates and may be better served in individual treatment until they gain greater awareness of how their behavior affects others. In task groups, the same princi- ples apply, but there is greater emphasis on recruiting members who have the expertise and dedication to accomplish specific goals (Tropman, 2014).

It is desirable to recruit members who are able to put the needs of the group or the requirements of the task before their own personal needs. The worker also should seek members who demonstrate the ability to cooperate with one another. No matter what the level of expertise or ability of members, task groups can be hampered by a lack of cooperative effort. Although it is not always possible to predict how people will work together, it is helpful to consider personality characteristics, such as agreeableness, coop- erative spirit, and openness, when workers have the ability to compose task groups.

Demographic and Sociocultural Factors When selecting members, the worker should pay particularly close attention to three major characteristics: age, gender, and sociocultural factors.

It is not sufficient to consider only age when composing a group. The worker should seek members who are similar in their stage of development and their life tasks. The level of maturity, self-insight, and social skills can vary considerably within age groups. Neither children nor adults acquire these characteristics solely because of age, but rather through multiple experiences with their environment, family, peer group, and culture. For example, in composing a children’s group, it is helpful to consider the level of mem- bers’ social and emotional development as well as the children’s ages.

Research suggests that the behavior of members varies with the gender composition of the group (Forsyth, 2014). In a men’s or women’s support group, for example, an at- mosphere of support and openness can often be enhanced through homogeneity of gen- der composition. In a remedial group for children, a mixed-gender group may interfere with interaction because of the tendency of children at certain ages either to impress or ignore members of the opposite sex.

In other situations, mixed groups are more effective. For example, in a task group, such as a teen-club planning meeting, a mixed group is most appropriate to help members of one sex learn to relate to those of the opposite sex. Similarly, an assertiveness group might include both men and women so that members can realistically role-play exercises.

The importance of the sociocultural background of potential members has already been described in Chapter 5. When planning a group, the worker should assess differ- ences and commonalities among members in sociocultural factors and should be sen- sitive to the needs of each member as well as to the overall needs of the group. The

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 190 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 191

level of support and interaction is often increased when members have a common socio- cultural background. The worker may decide that similar backgrounds will help mem- bers deal with certain problems or issues better when they share them with members f rom similar backgrounds. For example, a worker may restrict membership in a cultural awareness group to members of a single ethnic group. Similarly, in a support group for parents of terminally ill children, the worker may restrict membership to people f rom the same cultural background to ensure that members will have similar belief systems and values about death, loss, and grieving.

In other situations, the worker may deliberately plan a group composed of mem- bers with diverse sociocultural backgrounds. Diversity can foster mutual understanding and learning among members. For example, socialization groups in neighborhood cen- ters and youth organizations might be composed by the worker so they encourage mem- bers f rom different ethnic, cultural, and racial groups to interact. Sometimes, differences among members can be a real source of strength. For example, in planning for a social action group concerned with increasing neighborhood police protection, membership drawn f rom people of different cultural backgrounds can demonstrate a broad base of support for the group’s cause. Some writers, however, suggest not having only a sin- gle minority member in a group to avoid token representation (Burnes & Ross, 2010). Common mistakes in composing a group are presented in the following case example.

case Example Composing a Group

David, a new school social worker, was asked by the assistant principal to compose a group for seventh-grade students who were having trouble at school because their parents were in the process of separation or divorce. Students were identified by teachers, the school nurse, and the school guidance counselor as potentially benefiting from a group experience. After the first meeting, David did not understand why the group was such a disaster. The members did not want to follow his directions and would not work on the tasks and activities he had prepared for them. Members teased each other and failed to follow the group rules. In addition, the group divided into subgroups that interfered with meaningful discussion. David had followed all of the rules of composition, as far as he could tell. Nevertheless, the group just was not co- hesive. He assumed that members would have a common bond based on their home situation. He also felt that since they were in the same grade that they would have sufficient homogene- ity to work well together. Their ages were all within one year of each other, and they all lived in the same affluent suburban community. After thinking more about it, he realized his mistakes. He had composed a co-ed group, without considering the differences that might be influential between girls and boys at that grade, age, and stage of life. Same sex groups are often pref- erable for middle school students. He failed to ask students if they wanted to be in the group. He also failed to screen out two verbally and physically aggressive students who had really acted out in the group and who were much better behaved when they were seen individually by David. By way of a solution, David planned shorter program activities that would engage and interest members more effectively than the activities used in the first session.

Size The worker determines the size of the group according to several criteria. The worker should consider how many members are needed to accomplish pur poses and tasks efficiently and effectively. When determining the size of treatment groups, the worker

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 191 01/05/17 11:30 AM

192 Chapter 6

should consider how the members might be affected. Will members feel satisfied with the attention given to their concerns or problems? This is an issue for workers leading treatment groups because members may need time to get to know one another and share personal information. In general, the literature indicates that about seven members are ideal, but absents should be considered so that group meetings do not become too small (Yalom, 2005).

In large treatment groups, members have greater potential for learning because of the presence of additional role models. Members have more opportunity for support, feedback, and f riendship, yet there is also less pressure to speak or to perform. Members can occasionally withdraw and ref lect on their participation. In addition, in larger groups, fewer difficulties arise when one or more members are absent. There is also less danger that the group will fall below the size needed for meaningful interactions (Yalom, 2005).

Larger groups, however, also have disadvantages. The larger the group, the less in- dividualized attention each member can receive. Close, face-to-face interaction is more difficult. There is more danger of harmful subgroups forming. Large groups also en- courage withdrawal and anonymity by silent members. They create less pressure to attend because members’ absence is less conspicuous than in smaller groups. Larger groups are also more difficult for the worker to manage. They f requently require more formalized procedures to accomplish their meeting agendas. Large groups have more difficulty achieving cohesiveness and more difficulty reaching consensus (Forsyth, 2014).

In task groups, workers should consider the advantages and disadvantages inherent in different group sizes. Larger groups offer more ideas, skills, and resources to members than do smaller groups, and they can handle complex tasks (Forsyth, 2014). Overall, de- cisions about the number of members to include in a treatment or task group should be based on the purpose of the group, the needs of the members, their ability to contribute to the work of the group, practical considerations, such as whether a potential member will be able to attend meetings, and any constraints imposed by the sponsor. Following is a summary of some of the major planning considerations related to deciding on the size of the group.

group size: large Versus small Large Groups • Offer more ideas, skills, and resources to members • Can handle tasks that are more complex • Offer members greater potential for learning through role models • Provide members with more potential for support, feedback, and f riendship • Allow members to occasionally withdraw and ref lect on their participation • Help to ensure that there will be enough members for meaningful interaction

even if some members fail to attend

Small Groups • Provide members with a greater level of individualized attention • Enable closer face-to-face interaction • Present less opportunity for the formation of harmful subgroups • Present fewer opportunities for members to withdraw f rom participation • Allow for easier management by the worker • Tend to have more informal operating procedures

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 192 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 193

• Provide more opportunities for achieving cohesiveness • Can achieve consensus more easily

Open and Closed Membership Often, the choice between open or closed membership is affected by the purpose of the group or by practical considerations. Some groups have rolling admissions where the worker does not have the opportunity to decide if the group should be open or closed to members. A treatment group based in a residential treatment facility, for example, adds members as they are admitted. In many situations, open membership is the only practical alternative. Because of rapid patient turnover in hospitals, for example, workers would find it impractical to form a group and expect the same patients to attend a fixed number of meetings and then be discharged all together.

In some open membership groups, it is possible to add members periodically on a planned basis. For example, a committee formed to study the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric patients might discover it needs to add representatives f rom local community group homes to make recommendations that are more comprehensive, but it can do so at a time that is not disruptive to the ongoing business of the groups. In treatment groups, it may be possible to add members once each month. This gives members a chance to bond before new members are added.

When workers have the opportunity to determine whether the group will be open or closed to new members they have to carefully consider the benefits of each type of group. Open groups maintain a constant size by replacing members as they leave (Yalom, 2005). Members enter and terminate throughout the life of the group, ensuring the group’s continuance.

Often, closed groups are preferable to open groups because they can attain greater cohesion and move through the group development stages to the middle stage of work more quick ly. For this reason they can often get more accomplished. In treatment groups, there is more privacy, trust can be developed, and members are often able to disclose emotionally charged and potentially stigmatizing experiences within a support- ive environment (Yalom, 2005). An anger management group, for example, might find it helpful to begin and end with the same membership so that new members will not impede the progress of the original members. A closed group might also be helpful for teenage mothers learning parenting skills so that a prescribed curriculum that covers the content in a competency-based, systematic manner can be followed.

A disadvantage of closed groups is that when members drop out or are absent, the number of members in the group may become too small for meaningful group inter- action. Without the benefit of new ideas, viewpoints, and skills f rom new members, a closed group runs the risk of engaging in what Janis (1982) refers to as “group think,” or what Kiesler (1978) calls “the avoidance of minority or outside opinions” (p. 322). Such avoidance can create an extreme form of conformity within the group that can reduce its effectiveness (Forsyth, 2014).

Therefore, in some situations open group membership is preferable. Open member- ship allows new ideas and new resources to be brought to the group through new mem- bers. New members can change the entire character of the group. The difficulties involved in adding new members to an already functioning group are surmountable. Yalom (2005), for example, notes that members can join a group, learn the group norms, and participate

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 193 01/05/17 11:30 AM

194 Chapter 6

in meaningful ways without requiring the group to regress to an earlier stage of its de- velopment. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), for example, are comforted by the knowledge that they can attend, without notice, any open AA meeting in the community. Open-membership groups provide people who are experiencing crises in their lives with a timely alternative to treatment. They do not have to wait for a new group to form.

There are, however, potential disadvantages to open group membership. Mem- bers of open groups may experience less cohesion because the stability of roles, norms, and other social integration mechanisms have not been firmly established. There may be less trust and willingness to disclose and less commitment to regular attendance or work during meetings (Forsyth, 2014). The instability of membership also makes it more difficult for the worker to plan effective group meetings.

What modif ications should the worker consider when planning for an open- membership group? If the worker can control when members begin and leave a group, the worker should consider during the planning process when it is optimal to add new members. For example, the worker may decide it is best to add new members during the first few sessions and then close group membership. Alternatively, the worker might plan to add no more than one or two new members in any given meeting.

In Chapter 3, it was mentioned that when membership change is f requent and ex- tensive, group development is adversely affected. To cope with the effects of a changing membership, planners of open groups should consider ensuring that there is a well- publicized, fixed structure for every group meeting (Galinsky & Schopler, 1989; Keats & Sabharwal, 2008; Schopler & Galinsky, 1984, 1990; Turner, 2011). Each meeting, for example, might feature a guest speaker followed by small-group discussion. It is help- ful to publicize the topic for each meeting and to stress that meetings are open to new members. In groups with high turnover, each meeting should be independent; that is, an individual should not need to have attended a previous meeting to understand or partic- ipate in a current meeting. In addition, consideration should be given to rotating a cycle of topics in a fixed period so that all clients or patients who have an average length of stay in inpatient or outpatient programs can attend a full cycle of meetings before their discharge. Overall, workers should plan structured activities for open groups while at the same time enabling members to adapt and modify them to their preferences and needs (Turner, 2011; Keats & Sabharwal, 2008).

There is only a little evidence about the effectiveness of open as compared to closed membership treatment groups. Clinical experience suggests that workers prefer closed

groups, but what evidence exists suggests that open groups are as effective as closed groups (Tourigny & Hebert, 2007; Turner, 2011). Therefore, more evidence is needed because many groups in practice settings are open membership when members come and go as their treatment plans are completed and new members are added on a rolling basis. Renewing the group in this manner can also be cost efficient since it is easier than starting an entirely new group (Tasca et al., 2010).

Orienting Members

After potential members have been recruited, the worker should screen them for appro- priateness and orient them to the group. The primary orientation method for treatment

Assess your understanding of guidelines for recruiting members and composing

the group by taking a brief quiz at toseland.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 194 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 195

groups is the intake interview. Generally, intake interviews are conducted individually. Intake interviews are important because they offer workers and members their first impressions of each other.

Alternatively, members of treatment groups can be oriented by listening to streaming or DVD recordings of a previous group, through didactic instruction or by rehearsal of membership skills, such as how to communicate effectively one’s thoughts and opinions. Role-induction strategies can take a single half-hour session or several sessions lasting sev- eral hours. They can enhance group outcomes, reduce dropout rates, and increase mem- bers’ satisfaction with the subsequent group experience (Barlow, 2013; Conyne, 2010).

Orientation for new members of task groups is sometimes done in small groups. For example, new board members may be asked to participate in a board training program that consists of several small group sessions on governance and the bylaws of the organi- zation, fiduciary responsibilities, fund-raising, and public relations.

Orientations may be designed for many pur poses, but three primary ones are (1)  explaining the purpose of the group, (2) familiarizing members with group proce- dures, and (3) screening members for appropriateness.

Explaining the Purpose of the Group The worker should begin orienting members by stating the group’s purpose. The state- ment should be specific enough to allow members to ask questions about the group and clarify what will be expected of them. However, the statement should also be broad enough and tentative enough to encourage input and feedback. This can help potential members discuss and work through any ambivalence they might have about participat- ing in the group.

Familiarizing Members with Group Procedures Group members f requently have questions about how the group will work. Through these questions, members try to understand some of the general rules of group func- tioning. During the orientation interview, it is helpful for the worker to explain proce- dures for member participation and for how the group will conduct its business.

Leaders of both treatment and task groups often establish routine procedures for meetings during either the planning stage or the beginning stage of the group. Some treatment group meetings, for example, use a short review period for the first few min- utes to discuss the major points of the last session. Time is then allotted for identifying particular member concerns to be discussed during the current session. Some groups use the final few minutes to summarize, to discuss between-meeting assignments, or to talk about the group’s progress.

Task groups f requently follow routine procedures, such as reading the minutes of the previous meeting; having reports f rom officers, like the treasurer; discussing old business; and bringing up new business. Many of these procedures are decided on by the group in its early meetings, but discussion of group procedures during the planning stage helps members see how they can participate in and contribute to the group.

Screening Members for Appropriateness During the orientation, the worker screens members to ensure that their needs are matched with the purposes of the group. The worker observes members and collects

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 195 01/05/17 11:30 AM

196 Chapter 6

impressions and information about them. Workers also apply any criteria developed for inclusion or exclusion of potential mem- bers. Members with impaired functioning can often be identified during the orientation interview, which gives the worker a chance to decide whether their membership in the group is appropriate.

Factors that may render people inappropriate for group mem- bership include (1) problems with scheduling transportation or other practical considerations, (2) personal qualities, such as level of social skills, that are extremely dissimilar to those of other group members, and (3) needs, expectations, or goals that are not congruent with those of the other group members. Such factors have been linked to members’ dropping out of treatment pre- maturely (Barlow, 2013; Brabender & Fallon, 2009; Conyne, 2010; Yalom, 2005).


During the planning stage, the worker begins the contracting process. Contracts usually result f rom the dynamic interaction of the worker and the members during the begin- ning stage of the group, but certain contracting procedures are initiated before the group begins.

A contract is a verbal or written agreement between two or more members of a group. In a legal contract, each party agrees to provide something, although what is pro- vided by each does not have to be equal, and penalties are specified if either party does not fulfill the contract.

Two forms of contracting take place during the planning stage: contracting for group procedures and contracting for individual member goals. The worker should make some preliminary decisions about group procedures before beginning. These deci- sions include the duration and f requency of group meetings, attendance requirements, procedures to ensure confidentiality, and other considerations, such as time, place, and any fees for meetings. The worker should also begin the process of contracting for indi- vidual member goals, although most of this type of contracting takes place during the beginning stage of group work.

In most task and treatment groups, contracts are verbal agreements. For example, the leader of an educational treatment group for foster parents may agree to meet with the group for five two-hour sessions to explain the process of becoming a foster par- ent and parents’ ongoing responsibilities. The leader may also agree to explain the help that the agency can offer and how the legal rights of foster children can be safeguarded. Members may agree to attend each session and use the information that is provided to become effective foster parents. Similarly, the leader of a treatment conference may ver- bally agree with group members about the procedures for reviewing cases, the responsi- bility of each staff member in the review process, and the ways in which the information presented during the meeting will be used in case planning.

At times, a written contract may be used. A written contract helps to clarify the group’s purpose. It also helps members clarify expectations about the worker and the agency and allows the worker to specify what is expected of group members (Figure 6.1).

Diversity and Difference in Practice

Behavior: apply and communicate under- standing of the importance of diversity and difference in shaping life experiences in practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels

critical Thinking Question: The worker should consider how diversity in demo- graphic characteristics can affect the group. What does diversity contribute to groups?

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 196 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 197

A written contract can be referred to in group meetings if either the members or the worker needs to be reminded of the purpose, expectations, or obligations to which they agreed. Generally, written contracts specify ground rules for participation that do not change during the life of the group. However, contracts can be renegotiated by mutual agreement at any time during the group’s life.

Written contracts are rarely used in task groups. The meeting agenda and the bylaws or other governance structures under which the task group operates is usually the only written agreements binding group members. Ordinarily, task groups rely on verbal con- tracts about the tasks to be accomplished, the roles of group members, and the division of labor in the group.

Contracting for Group Procedures The worker begins to determine group procedures by deciding on the duration and f re- quency of meetings. These decisions are closely related to the group’s purpose and the needs of its members. In treatment groups, the optimal length of time for each meeting varies. Meetings of groups of individuals with dementia in a nursing home may last only 30 to 45 minutes, but meetings of outpatient support groups may last for one hour or

Figure 6.1 Example of a Treatment Group Contract

As a group member I agree to:

1. Attend all group sessions.

2. Arrive on time for each group session.

3. Refrain from repeating anything that is said during group sessions to anyone outside of the group meeting.

4. Complete any readings, exercises, treatment plans, or other obligations that I agree to in the group before the next group session.

5. Participate in exercises, role plays, demonstrations, and other simulations conducted during group meetings.

As the group leader I agree to:

1. Be prepared for each group session.

2. Begin and end all group sessions on time.

3. Provide refreshments and program material needed for each session.

4. Discuss the group only with my colleagues at work and not outside of the work context.

5. Evaluate each group session to ensure that the group is helping all members resolve their problems and is personally satisfying to all group members.

6. Provide members with appropriate agency and community resources to help them resolve their problems.

______________________________ ______________________________

Group member Date

______________________________ ______________________________

Group leader Date

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 197 01/05/17 11:30 AM

198 Chapter 6

longer. Some groups, such as encounter or sensitivity training groups, meet for even longer periods and within a short time f rame to achieve high communication levels and reduce member defensiveness.

The f requency of group meetings should also be considered when contracting for group procedures. In general, weekly sessions are recommended for treatment groups, although this does not preclude meeting more often when needed. The f requency of task group meetings depends on the requirements of the task and any time limits or deadlines that need to be considered. The worker must also consider how much time each member can devote to the group.

Specification of other group procedures should also be considered. The worker can specify attendance requirements, confidentiality of discussions, or other rules governing behavior in the group, such as how discussions will take place and how decisions will be made. Additional details include the time and place for meetings, any attendance fees involved, and the monitoring and evaluation procedures to be used by the worker.

Contracting for Member Goals During the planning stage, workers also begin contractual arrangements with individ- ual members. During orientation meetings, workers should help members describe what they would like to accomplish through group participation. Workers should de-

scribe the broad goals they have for the group and invite members to do the same. Questions such as “What do you hope to accomplish through your participation in the group?” can stimulate members to think about their roles in a group, what goals they want to accomplish, and how the goals fit with the broad purposes described by the worker. Methods that can be used when contracting with members of both treatment and task groups are explained in more detail in Chapter 7.

Preparing the Environment

Three factors that should be considered when preparing a group’s environment are the physical setting, arrangements to accommodate members who have special needs, and financial support. The extent of worker control over these factors is sometimes limited, but incor porating them into the planning process whenever possible enhances the chances for successful group development. Environmental factors to consider are pre- sented in the following checklist.

Checklist for preparing the environment • Room size: adequate for size of group and activities associated with meetings • Furnishings: seating requirements, work and activity spaces, population-specific

needs • Technology: audiovisual, computer, and telecommunications needs • Atmosphere: lighting, heating and air conditioning, overall effect created by the

meeting space • Special needs: physical accessibility of meeting space, assistive technology,

childcare, transportation, interpreter • Financial support: cost of group activities and materials, technology, duplicating,

advertising, mailing, hospitality (food, beverages), other special arrangements

Assess your understanding of guidelines for orient- ing and contracting with

members by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 198 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 199

Preparing the Physical Setting The setting for the group can have a profound effect on the behavior of group mem- bers and the conduct of group meetings. Room size, space, seating arrangements, fur- nishings, and atmosphere should all be considered. Difficulties encountered in early meetings, inappropriate behavior by members, and unanticipated problems in the de- velopment of the group can sometimes result f rom inadequate attention to the group’s physical environment.

Room size can inf luence how active or involved members become with the business of the group. Generally, a small room engenders positive feelings of closeness among members and limits potential distractions. A large room can put too much distance among members and thus may encourage some members to tune out. A small group of people meeting in a large room may be distracted by the open space around them and have difficulty concentrating on the group process.

On the other hand, a room may be too small and doesn’t allow enough space be- tween members, which can lead to discomfort, irritability, anxiety, or acting out. Certain populations are particularly reactive to the size of the meeting room. Young children, for example, often benefit f rom a large, open area in which to engage in activities. Similarly, disabled older adults benefit f rom a room with wheelchair access; comfortable, high- back chairs that are not difficult to get in and out of; bright, glare-f ree lighting; and good acoustics (Toseland & Rizzo, 2004).

Comfortable seating should be available. Sometimes, group members prefer to sit on the f loor to create an informal atmosphere. Carpets, lamps, worktables, and other fur- nishings can also help create a comfortable atmosphere. A comfortable physical environ- ment conveys a message to group members about the agency’s regard for them as clients.

Overall, the worker should consider the total effect of the physical setting on a group’s ability to accomplish its tasks. If a group is to engage in informal discussion, the worker can create an informal atmosphere with comfortable couches or pillows for sit- ting on the f loor. If a group is to work on formal tasks, such as reviewing priorities for a five-year plan, the worker should create a more formal atmosphere. For example, a room in which the group can sit around a well-lighted table may be most appropriate.

Making Special Arrangements The worker should be particularly sensitive to any special needs of group members and should be sure that special needs will not prevent members f rom being able to at- tend meetings. For example, when working with the physically challenged, the worker should plan a barrier-f ree location for meetings or should consider phone or computer groups as an alternative to face-to-face meetings. When planning a group for parents, the worker should consider childcare arrangements. For a children’s group, the worker should discuss transportation arrangements and obtain parental consent for the chil- dren’s involvement in the group. When working with individuals for whom English is a second language, the worker may wish to arrange for the services of an interpreter or may wish to co-facilitate the group with a bilingual worker.

The worker should pay particular attention to the resources needed by members who experience specific forms of disability. For example, the worker might want to en- sure that persons who have hearing impairments have access to interpreters. In an ed- ucational group, it might be necessary for a person with severe physical disabilities to

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 199 01/05/17 11:30 AM

200 Chapter 6

include his or her personal care attendant in meetings to ensure the member’s full par- ticipation in discussions and activities. Members who have visual impairments may need reading materials converted to Braille.

The worker may not know that a potential member experiences a particular disabil- ity. For example, certain hidden disabilities, such as asthma, might preclude a member f rom participation in certain group activities or in certain environments. Insofar as possi- ble, the worker should assess all potential members of a group during the intake process to determine their special needs.

Securing Financial Support The worker should be concerned about how the expenses associated with the group will be met. For this reason, the worker should explore the financing arrangements with the group’s sponsoring agency, beginning with an assessment of the agency’s total financial statement. The costs associated with treatment and task groups vary, but major items include the salary of the worker, the use of the meeting room, and the expense of super- vision for the worker. Other expenses may include duplicating, phone, mailings, ref resh- ments, and transportation.

Using information about costs and income, the worker can determine what financial support must be obtained for the proposed group. Expenses, such as the worker’s salary and the meeting room, are often routinely paid by the agency. For expenses requiring an outlay of cash, the worker should submit a budget request to the sponsoring agency. A petty-cash fund can provide a f lexible means to cover expenses incurred by the group.

For some treatment groups, income may be generated by fees collected f rom mem- bers, or it may be produced f rom contracts or grants. Although most task groups do not usually generate income, some are formed specifically to generate money for new programs or to raise funds for the agency. Others generate financial savings for their sponsoring organization through creative problem solving or decision-making.

Reviewing the Literature

When planning a treatment group, it is important to review the literature. An essential part of evidence-based group work is to search the literature about the group that is being planned. There are at least four bodies of literature that should be searched by anyone planning a group. The first type is articles and book chapters that present case examples or qualitative studies of similar groups. These can be helpful in providing expe- riential information about what it might be like to lead a similar group and what issues and themes should be considered during the planning process.

A second type of literature is the empirically based article or book chapter that pres- ents findings about a similar group. These articles not only present evidence for certain approaches to the problem or issue to be addressed by the planned treatment group but also can point out measures that might be used to evaluate the group being planned. There may also be literature reviews or meta-analytic studies that summarize the liter- ature on empirically based approaches to similar groups. These summary articles pres- ent accumulated evidence for different approaches to the planned group and can let the worker know if similar groups have already been conducted and evaluated. If there is strong evidence for a particular approach, the worker planning the group should give the

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 200 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 201

findings of this literature strong consideration in formulating the way they will conduct their own planned group.

Third, the worker can go to the World Cat and other database sources to see if books have been written about similar group work efforts focused on the planned topic of the group. Even if the worker does not find books on group work with the population planned for the group, there may be books addressing individual, family, or other treat- ment approaches that may be helpful. There may also be psychological and sociological books that may be helpful in conceptualizing the problem and formulating a treatment strategy for the planned group.

Fourth, the worker can search for f ield-tested and evidence-based manuals and curricula that may exist about how to conduct a similar group. Sometimes, these evidence-based manuals and curricula even include work books for participants. Frequently, f ield-tested curricula are found in catalogues and other printed mate- rial f rom for-profit publishing companies that specialize in work with certain popula- tions, for example, children or adolescents. Searching the web or asking colleagues if they know about these catalogues are ways to find curricula so that the worker does not have to start planning a treatment group without any background information. The curricula that are found can be modified to fit the needs of the particular situations and agency-based needs conf ronting the worker. Another approach is to email or call lead authors of articles who have conducted a similar group to see if they have an agenda and curricula for the group they led. There are also compendiums of group treatment manuals for children and teens (LeCroy, 2008), and government agencies, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, that offer f ree treatment improvement protocols for many different substance abuse and mental health problems.

Selecting Monitoring and Evaluation Tools

It is never too early to consider how to monitor and evaluate the progress of a group. Therefore, during the planning stage, the worker should consider how the progress of the group will be monitored and evaluated. Monitoring the group can be as simple as the worker using a recording form to take notes on the main features of what occurred during sessions. A group recording form is shown in Figure 14.1. Members can also self-monitor their progress toward treatment or task goals, and they can give their feed- back on individual sessions. Methods for doing this are described in Chapter 14.

Monitoring the group’s change process and progress can help it stay on track and make sure agreed-upon goals are explicit and being accomplished. It is our experience, f rom listening to hundreds of group tapes and CDs in clinical research studies, that goals can often be lost or forgotten by well-meaning workers who do not make explicit attempts to refocus the group when it is getting off track. This causes the whole group to drift f rom its stated purpose or to completely lose its focus. We were surprised, when listening to tapes and CDs of groups, how often this occurred. There is a socio-emotional aspect to groups that should not be neglected. We are not trying to insinuate that groups always have to remain on task and simply focus on goals. Balancing socio- emotional and task needs is essential to the proper functioning of a group. At the same time, getting off track because the group is drifting aimlessly should be avoided and monitoring the group’s progress is an important way to keep this f rom happening.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 201 01/05/17 11:30 AM

202 Chapter 6

The worker should also decide during the planning phase in what way goal accom- plishment will be ascertained. In treatment groups, the worker may simply want to check in with members at the beginning or end of each session to find out how they are progressing toward their goals. At the end of a group, members can be asked to rate their goal attainment and what aspects of their goals remain to be accomplished. In task groups, this might mean reviewing at each group meeting what the group has accomplished and what tasks remain. Workers may want to do a more formal evaluation by giving a measure at the beginning of the group and then again at intervals or at the end of the group to see if goals are being accomplished. These more ambitious plans for evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment and task groups are discussed in detail in Chapter 14. The primary point that we are trying to make here during the plan- ning phase is not to leave monitoring and evaluation tasks until the last group meetings. Monitoring and evaluation are ongoing processes that should happen throughout the life of a group. They are often more useful and effective when planned early than when left to later group meetings.

Preparing a Written Group Proposal

In planning for a group, the worker might f ind it useful to prepare a written pro- posal. Such a proposal is sometimes required for obtaining agency sponsorship or for obtaining funding f rom various sources. A written proposal can also inform potential members about the group. Spending time to organize and write a group proposal can also aid the worker in preparing for meetings. For most groups, a brief summary of one or two pages, following the outline presented in Appendix C, is sufficient. Two sample proposals, one for a treatment group and one for a task group, are presented in Appendices D and E.

Planning Distance Groups

Distance groups are those where members do not meet face-to-face. Instead, they meet over the phone or through the Internet. Phone groups and Internet groups are becom- ing more and more popular as we move further into the twenty-first century.

Distance groups are an important alternative to face-to-face groups for many rea- sons. In some situations, it is just not possible for people who could benefit f rom social group work to meet face-to-face. For example, people who suffer f rom debilitating ill- nesses, such as the f rail elderly and persons with terminal illnesses, often are not able to attend group meetings. In addition, it is often very difficult for those with rare diseases to find face-to-face support groups composed of people with the same illnesses.

Transportation and distance can also be barriers to attending face-to-face meetings. In many rural and suburban areas, public transportation is poor, and people who lack private transportation find that it is difficult or impossible to attend face-to-face group meetings. Others find it difficult to avail themselves of a group service because they live such a long distance f rom the organization offering the service. For example, in rural communities, health and social service agencies often serve large geographic areas. Even in urban and suburban communities, some health and social service agencies, such as regional hospitals, serve the needs of special populations dispersed over a large area. The

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 202 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 203

inconvenience of the meeting location along with time pressures and transportation costs can make attending face-to-face meetings difficult.

There are also many situations when it is possible for individuals to attend face-to- face groups, but they prefer not to attend. For example, some issues are socially stig- matizing, and members may not want to take the risk of disclosing their concerns in a face-to-face group. Hectic schedules and time constraints can make attending face-to- face groups unattractive for potential members (McKenna & Green, 2002). For others, social anxiety and high levels of introversion can make attending face-to-face groups ex- cruciatingly difficult. Some also see distance groups as safer, because such groups offer greater control over the timing and pace of written and verbal interactions and direct physical contact (McKenna & Bargh, 1999, 2000).

Contrary to what is commonly expected, some research suggests that distance groups may actually be more cohesive than face-to-face groups, and they exert greater inf luence on members’ behavior (McKenna, Green, & Gleason, 2002; Postmes, Spears, & Lea, 1999; Postmes, Spears, Sakhel, & de Groot, 2001; Smith & Toseland, 2006). Because members are not present, there are no visual cues to distract them f rom the core issues that motivated them to participate in the group (McKenna & Green, 2002). Members no longer focus on personal features, such as skin color, or social status cues, such as the way members are dressed (McKenna & Bargh, 2000). They focus more on the shared issues that bring them into contact. For example, a research project studied the impact of psycho-educational phone support groups on caregivers to f rail and disabled older adults. It was found that adult children caregivers f rom very different socioeconomic backgrounds were able to interact easily with each other. Bonds were formed because of similar caregiving issues and concerns, rather than because of personal appearance or socioeconomic status (Smith & Toseland, 2006).

Although there are many advantages to distance groups, there are also disadvantages that should be carefully considered. Some research suggests that there may be greater hostility and aggression in distance groups (Siegel, Dubrovsky, Kiesler, & McGuire, 1986; Weinberg, 2001). For example, the term f laming is often used by Internet users to de- scribe the activity of sending emotionally charged, hostile messages without clear provo- cation or advance warning (Oravec, 2000). It may be that the anonymity of these groups encourages this type of behavior. Text-only messages without nonverbal cues in Internet groups and tonal inf lections and verbal messages without visual cues in phone groups enable group members to project negative meanings onto messages that were intended to have more positive connotations (Smokowski, Galinsky, & Harlow, 2001).

Privacy can also be an issue, particularly in online interactions that are open to the public (Oravec, 2000; Smokowski et al., 2001). Even in groups that use passwords, “lurk- ers” may sign up, but not interact. Active members may leave computer messages on screens that are open to public viewing. It is also easier for members of distance groups to conceal or mask their identities in order to form relationships with vulnerable group members who are seeking interaction with those who have similar life experiences.

Another concern is the quality of the information and services offered during dis- tance group interaction (Glueckauf & Noel, 2011). Information shared on the Internet is not subject to the same standards as information printed in scientific journals. Online and phone counseling and support can be given by individuals without professional de- grees who have not agreed to abide by the professional standards of accrediting bodies.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 203 01/05/17 11:30 AM

204 Chapter 6

Distance group leaders may respond too quickly to text messages with little context or background. Exacerbating this problem, some members of distance groups may expect quick fixes. Because of the open nature of the medium, it is not always feasible to pre- vent harmful interactions or to provide valid information that tempers or contradicts bad advice.

Another potential disadvantage of distance groups is the problem of making sure the site for phone and online groups is secure. Members will need to be careful about viruses and other security issues that are the result of previous use of their computers as well as ongoing security threats f rom hackers f rom outside the site. Spyware and other viruses must be cleaned f rom members’ computers. Passwords should be hard to hack and kept secure. There also should be a packet of information provided to members with clear instructions about how to use the online site. This includes screen captures of computer settings to ensure privacy (Page, 2010).

Another issue is how to provide emergency care. Page (2010) presents several steps that should be taken to ensure enough information is available in an emergency. First, it is recommended that potential members send a photos to the leader with signed forms with emails, physical addresses, and phone numbers. Second, have each member send two emergency contacts who can be easily reached. Third, a form should be developed that contains the names and contact information of members’ physicians, medicines taken, and any chronic or acute illnesses that may affect participation. Fourth, a written safety plan should be prepared by members, and an emergency care document should be prepared by workers with specific local resources tailored to each member’s situation and community and national resources, such as hotlines, that all members can benefit f rom possessing. Fifth, workers should make sure that appropriate releases of informa- tion are in place so that the worker can share information with emergency service pro- viders, if necessary (Page, 2010).

Despite the disadvantages and the changes in practice needed to conduct distance groups, phone and Internet services providing help for group members have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. For many members and leaders of treatment and task groups, the advantages of distance groups outweigh their disadvantages. The following sections describe specific issues when working with phone and computer- mediated distance groups.

Special Considerations: Phone-Mediated Groups Technological advances have made it possible to have phone conversations among a number of individuals. This has been referred to as teleconferencing or making a conference call (Kelleher & Cross, 1990). Until recently, the use of this technology was largely lim- ited to task group meetings in large organizations with members who were geographi- cally dispersed, but it is being used more widely now in social service agencies who are trying to reach out to individuals who either cannot get to in-person groups or prefer phone groups to other forms of service.

Some of the special considerations in setting up a phone group are (1) teleconfer- encing capacity of the organization’s phone system or sufficient funds to purchase the service, (2) a speaker phone if there will be more than one leader, (3) teleconferencing equipment, and (4) a willingness of participants to stay on the phone for a long dura- tion. One of the authors has explored the use of hands-f ree headsets and ear buds for

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 204 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 205

participants, but we have found that these are not necessary, and some participants find purchasing and using them difficult. Many phones have speakers, but there are issues of sound quality for other members, and the privacy of members who are using them when other family members are at home.

A review of the literature reveals that there are phone support groups for people with many types of disabilities, ranging f rom those with AIDS to those with visual im- pairments. Although few rigorously controlled studies are reported in the literature, the results of our review indicate that outcome studies are overwhelmingly positive. There are a number of advantages of phone groups, some of which follow.

advantages of phone groups • Convenience and accessibility of meeting in one’s own home • Reduced time needed to participate because there is no travel time • Reduction of stigma because of greater privacy • Ability to reach persons living in rural areas and those who lack transportation • Ability to reach people who are homebound or caring for someone who cannot

be left alone • Greater willingness to share issues that might be taboo in in-person groups

At the same time, phone groups have potential disadvantages. One disadvantage can be the cost of conference calling, which can be quite expensive if the group is using a major landline provider. Costs can be reduced substantially by using low-cost voice-over-Internet teleconference providers, such as Skype. It is also possible to pur- chase equipment called a teleconference bridge necessary to make conference calls, but then an agency needs to have suff icient phone lines to run a call center. This is cost effective for very large organizations because the costs can be spread over many employees who may use the technolog y for administrative and clinical pur poses as well. To help def ray costs, teleconferencing capabilities can also be rented to other or- ganizations and private practitioners. The following is a list of potential disadvantages of phone groups.

Disadvantages of phone groups • Difficulties in assessing members’ needs and the impact of interactions without

the benefit of facial expressions and other nonverbal cues • The difficulty of including members with hearing problems • Distortions caused by technological problems, call waiting, or background noises

f rom other persons in the household • Concerns about confidentiality because of a lack of privacy within callers’

households • Changes in group dynamics caused by the lack of visual and nonverbal cues • The difficulty of using program activities, f lip charts, and other visual media • Expressions of hostility or insensitivity that can sometimes be greater when

members are not meeting face to face

Some disadvantages of phone groups are not inherent in the technology itself, but rather in how it is used. For example, phone groups that last over an hour can lead to fatigue, especially when members are f rail (Stein, Rothman, & Nakanishi, 1993; Wiener, Spencer, Davidson, & Fair, 1993). For this reason, and because the amount of time for a

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 205 01/05/17 11:30 AM

206 Chapter 6

phone conference is often predetermined by arrangements with the teleconference pro- vider, leaders must be vigilant about preparing members properly for the duration of the meeting. Although one hour is ideal for most treatment group meetings, we have been able to have successful treatment group meetings for 75 minutes and even as long as 90 minutes depending on the membership of the group. For example, members of support groups can often meet for 90 minutes without a problem as long as they are not too f rail. There is a need for additional research on the ideal length of group meetings, but it is noteworthy that task group conference call meetings often last for 90 or 120 minutes or even longer without members becoming too tired to continue.

Another disadvantage of phone groups is that they do not offer informal time for members to get together with each other before or after the meeting. With members’ consent, swapping phone numbers for between-session contact is one solution. In our current research on phone support groups for caregivers, members have gotten together between meetings, after the time-limited groups ended over coffee at a diner, and in members’ homes. There is also the possibility of having an informal time before or after meetings where members can call in to talk to other members before or after the official start of the meeting.

Because members lack visual cues during phone meetings, the worker must be par- ticularly attentive to tone of voice, inf lection, silences, and other cues, such as members becoming less responsive or completely dropping out of the discussion over time. It is helpful to have members (1) identify themselves each time they communicate, (2) an- ticipate f rustrations, such as missed cues or interruptions during group meeting times, while at the same time appreciating the benefits of the medium, (3) clarify statements and give clear feedback to each other, and (4) check on emotional reactions and make these clear to all group members (Schopler, Galinsky, & Abell, 1997). In general, lead- ers of phone groups should plan to be more active than in in-person groups, helping members communicate effectively without visual cues. Despite these limitations, phone groups offer a promising alternative to face-to-face interacting groups for f rail or isolated individuals.

Workers who are planning phone groups may also consider some of the following things that we have learned f rom our experiences with phone groups (Smith & Tose- land, 2006; Toseland, Naccarato, & Wray, 2007). For example, it works better for the worker to call each member than to have members call in to the group using an access code. When members call in, they are more apt to call late or call f rom inconvenient locations. If members know we are going to call at a certain time, the chances of starting a group on time with all members present are enhanced. The Internet provider that we use enables us to set amplification levels for each caller so that the voices of callers with soft voices can be amplified and those with loud voices can be softened. However, we still occasionally have to remind members not to use speaker phones, cordless phones, and cell phones with poor voice quality. Although it is a good practice for members to identify themselves each time they speak, members get to know each other’s situations and voices quick ly and can f requently identify each other without the need for self- identification. Our experience also suggests that the leader has to take a more active role in directing the action than in face-to-face groups. For example, in an opening go-round, the leader has to indicate who should introduce themselves next, because the physical cues that indicate a particular member is next in line are not present in phone groups.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 206 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 207

Leaders of phone groups have to be active in directing questions f rom one member to another member. Repeating or paraphrasing questions is often useful because members may not realize they are expected to respond. It is a good practice to meet with each member of a phone group at least once before the start of the group. Sometimes, how- ever, this is not practical because of the long distances separating members. In these cases, we have found that it is helpful to mail each member of a phone group a work- book with all the handouts, worksheets, and other materials that will be used during meetings. In that way, members can follow along in their workbook when the leader is speaking about a particular topic or asking the members to engage in an exercise. This helps to overcome the inability to use f lip charts or other visual media that are com- monly used in in-person groups. We have also found that members of phone groups like to get together in person after the group has been meeting for a while. Therefore, if a series of phone group meetings is planned, it is a good idea to try to have mem- bers f rom similar geographic locations in the same group. This enables them to get together in person more easily. It also helps the leader to link members to convenient community services when needed. We have not found distractions within members’ home environments to be a major problem. Most members are good about explicitly stating when they have to stop their participation for a brief period when they have to deal with an interruption or a chore that could not be avoided, and they readily let the group know when they have returned and are reengaged in the teleconference. Overall, we have found that participants really enjoy phone groups, and few have experienced any problems with being on the phone for the hour and fifteen minutes it takes us to start and conduct a group session.

Phone groups are still not widely used and there are some issues that will need to be resolved in coming years. For example, reimbursement for phone group services is not widely available, and practitioners will have to check prior to starting a group whether private or public insurers will reimburse for the service. There has also been little dis- cussion in the literature about the professional standards for delivering phone services (Glueckauf, Pickett, Ketterson, Loomis, & Rozensky, 2003; Maheu, Whitten, & Allen, 2001; Nickelson, 2000). The American Psychological Association has developed an ethics statement about phone psychotherapy (Haas, Benedict, & Kobos, 1996), but the focus of it is more on one-on-one phone therapy with patients with mental health problems than on group intervention focused on support, education, or coping skills for dealing with chronic illnesses. Recently, however, some standards for distance services have been developed, and these can help those who lead phone, video, and other computer- mediated groups (National Board For Certified Counselors, 2012). For more information about phone groups, see Glueckauf and Ketterson, (2004); Glueckauf and Loomis, (2003); Glueckauf, Nickelson, Whitton, and Loomis, (2004); Martindale-Adams, Nichols, Burns, and Malone, (2002); Rosswurm, Larrabee, and Zhang, (2002); Toseland et al., (2007).

Special Considerations: Computer-Mediated Groups There has been a shar p increase in the popularity of computer-mediated groups in recent years. There are now literally thousands of computer-mediated groups for persons with many different types of health, mental health, and social concerns. Research on the outcomes of computer-mediated groups has also increased but there are not yet any evidence-based standards (Page, 2010).

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 207 01/05/17 11:30 AM

208 Chapter 6

Workers must have access to a computer and an online service to become a developer, leader, or member of a computer-mediated group. The online service is used to access search services, such as Bing, Google, or Yahoo, which, in turn, are used to find desired sites on the Internet. For example, Alcoholics Anonymous groups can be accessed online.

Some computer-assisted group meetings occur in real time; that is, everyone partic- ipates at a specific time and the discussion is interactive. Other group meetings require members to post messages to which other members can respond at any time. Although the terminology can vary and is f requently updated, there are three distinct and broad ways to plan and conduct computer-mediated groups: (1) email/list serves, (2) instant messaging, chat rooms, and other forums, and (3) discussion boards. Email/list serves allow groups of individuals to receive messages, information, and news. The posting of new messages and information may be limited to certain members, and communica- tions occur whenever people with permission post new information. Instant messaging enables the formation of real time, synchronous, interactive groups that are typically limited to a specific time period, for example, every Friday f rom 1PM to 2PM. Discussion boards are usually open 24 hours a day. They enable individuals to post and answer mes- sages at any time, i.e., asynchronously.

Sites on the Internet are also excellent sources of information and education for group members who may be meeting in-person or at a distance. For example, members of a computer-mediated, synchronous communication support group for cancer patients might be encouraged to visit a site sponsored by a reputable source, such as the National Cancer Institute, to obtain current information about diagnoses and treatment options.

In recent years, social networking sites, such as Alliance Health Networks, Cure Together, Diabetic Connect, Health Central, Inspire, Ning, PatientsLikeMe, and Wet- paint, have brought together people who have similar chronic health problems. They can connect with one another and get the latest information on treatments, and living with chronic illnesses. Some of these sites encourage the formation of new groups to meet the needs of people with health problems who are not being served by support groups.

Video groups can also be created. Members all must have web cameras attached to their computers and have access to Skype, Google Hangouts, Go To Meeting, or similar technological platforms. Using this technology, the image of the person speaking lies in the middle of the computer screen and images of participants are on the edges of the screen in boxes so that everyone can be seen at the same time. When new members speak, their image moves to the center of the screen and that of the person who was in the center of the screen moves to the side. This allows nonverbal cues to be observed, unlike when using phone group technology. Video conferencing technology is in its in- fancy in social group work, but it will grow in coming years.

Computer-mediated groups offer many advantages to participants. Like phone groups, they offer a variety and diversity of support, especially for f rail group members and persons with very specialized concerns who may not be sufficiently numerous in any one geographic area to form a group (Page, 2010). They also offer the same anonymity as phone groups but have particular appeal to those who enjoy written communication

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 208 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 209

or the convenience of 24-hour access. Although they require an initial investment in hardware and software, some online service charges are less expensive than some phone conferencing services. In addition, they eliminate time and distance barriers even more effectively than do phone groups.

There are numerous reports that members of computer-mediated support groups experience many of the same therapeutic factors commonly associated with face- to-face support groups (Barlow, 2013; Glueckauf & Loomis, 2003; Page, 2010). There is also a growing body of empirical evidence about the effectiveness of computer- mediated groups (Coulson & Greenwood, 2011; Fukkink & Hermanns, 2009; Golkaramnay, Bauer, Haug, Wolf, & Kordy, 2007; Haberstroh & Moyer, 2012; Owen, Goldstein, Lee, Breen, & Rowland, 2010; Riper et. al., 2011; Spek et al., 2007; Spek, Nyklicek, Cuijpers, & Pop, 2007). Still, this literature is in its infancy, and there is more outcome research on some types of groups, such as breast cancer and self-injurious behaviors, than for other problems (Haberstroh & Moyer, 2012; Merchant & Yozamp, 2014; Page, 2010).

There are potential disadvantages to computer-mediated groups. Computer-medi- ated groups sometimes lack clear and accountable leadership. This, in turn, has the po- tential to lead to destructive interactions, superficial self-disclosure, and the compounding of isolation by persons with interpersonal difficulties (Barlow, 2013). Other problems such as unsecured sites, blurred boundaries leading to ethical issues, and lack of access to emergency services have also been mentioned (Barlow, 2013; Page, 2010). Computer-medi- ated groups tend to limit access by individuals in lower socioeconomic groups who have less access to computer hardware, software, and high-speed services. In addition, certain types of distance group services may not be covered by private, nonprofit, or government health plans.

There are a number of other issues besides reimbursement that should be consid- ered by workers who plan to lead computer-mediated groups. There can be a lack of formal facilitation by social workers and other trained helping professionals that may make referring to certain types of computer-mediated groups risky. There is also a lack of professional standards regulating how to conduct groups at a distance or how to bill for services privately or through social and health service agencies (Glueckauf et al., 2003). The previously mentioned standards for distance professional services by the National Board For Certified Counselors are one important step to address this problem, but more needs to be done by national organizations of social workers and allied health professionals.

Overall, more research is needed about the benefits and limitations of computer-mediated groups before any definitive conclusions can be drawn about their effectiveness. Also needed are ethical and practice standards about service accountability, legal requirements, record keeping, reimbursement, and other aspects of computer- mediated group work.

Assess your understand- ing of how various as- pects of the environment

affect the planning process by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 209 01/05/17 11:30 AM

210 Chapter 6

case Example

Cathy worked for a university counseling center that stressed preventive services. She per- ceived that there were an increasing number of women being referred to her by the univer- sity’s health center with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many had successfully raised children and were seeking further education to start a new career after their children left home. In addition to having concerns about returning to school as nontraditional-aged stu- dents, many did not receive much encouragement from their spouses or partners, rendering their efforts to seek a new career even more difficult. Cathy wondered if a support group would be the best way to help these women. She conveyed her plans for a possible group to her supervisor in the form of a group proposal and began planning for the group.

She talked with colleagues in the counseling center and the health center about their experiences with older students to assess the need for a support group. She found that they too had been seeing a number of women who were beginning second careers and who were in need of supportive services. To learn more about the types of problems older students might be encountering, she called the local community college and discussed the group with several academic advisors from Start Again, an educational program designed to assist non- traditional-aged students. In addition, she spoke with a few women on her caseload to see if they shared her perception of the need for a support group. They seemed very interested. Cathy also spoke to her supervisor and discussed her preliminary ideas about the group. Her supervisor said that a support group would fit the mission and goals of the organization. She thought the group could help Cathy’s clients with the transition back to school. It could also prevent more serious psychological, social, and physical problems later, as the women pur- sued life changes associated with starting a second career.

Informed by her initial assessment, Cathy concentrated on defining the purpose of the group. She recognized that the initial statement of purpose should provide basic information that would help members understand the nature of the group and how it would work. She decided that the purpose would be to bring women together to discuss issues about starting a second career, going to college as a nontraditional-aged student, and dealing with family issues related to life changes. Members would share their experiences and support each other through discussion and social activities. Cathy hoped that the group would help eliminate or reduce members’ depression and anxiety and increase their coping skills.

Cathy developed a two-pronged recruitment plan that she hoped would ensure the group had an adequate number of members. She described the purposes of the proposed group during weekly staff meetings in both the counseling center and the health center and asked her colleagues to refer potential members to her. In addition, she wrote a short article about the group for a monthly student newsletter that was widely distributed on campus. In it, she listed the purpose of the group and suggested that potential members call her at the office to discuss their interest in attending.

Despite these efforts, only a few persons contacted her about the group. In her phone conversations with potential members, she learned that many felt overwhelmed by the demands of returning to school. Despite their perception that the group could be helpful, they seemed reluctant to commit their time to another new endeavor. Cathy suggested that potential members meet once to assess whether the group would meet their needs and be worth attending. Twelve women agreed to a first meeting, but the most convenient meeting time for the majority accommodated only nine women’s schedules.

During the first orientation meeting, Cathy took notes on the women’s individual sit- uations. She noted that all potential members were over 40 years old, and all but one had children who were in either high school or college. All seemed to be having some difficulty balancing the academic demands of college with the time demands of their families. They

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 210 01/05/17 11:30 AM

Planning the Group 211


This chapter stresses the need for planning in group work. Workers consider many vari- ables and exercise control over as many of them as possible. The planning process should be guided by the purposes of the group, the needs of the members, and the require- ments of the task.

The chapter presents a model for planning treatment and task groups. Steps in the model include (1) establishing the group’s purpose, (2) assessing the potential sponsor- ship and membership, (3) recruiting members, (4) composing the group, (5) orienting members, (6) contracting, (7) preparing the group’s environment, (8) planning of dis- tance groups, and (9) preparing a written group proposal. The model can be useful in planning for the many different types of groups a worker may lead. All planning models represent an idealized, systematic set of procedures that may vary, depending on the realities of agency practice, but following a logical planning model can assist workers in helping groups meet members’ needs and accomplish established goals.

displayed an interesting range of diversity based on income level as well as racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. They also seemed to use differing coping strategies for dealing with their spouses, or partners’ lack of supportiveness, suggesting that they could learn much from each other. Cathy also felt that all potential members were articulate, had good insight into their personal and family situations, and had potential for helping others in the group. Despite having only eight members attending the orientation session, Cathy felt that the composition of the group would promote the development of therapeutic group processes.

Cathy described the purpose of the group, answered members’ questions about how the group would work, and helped members discuss and shape how the group would function. After this discussion, members seemed genuinely interested in attending more sessions, and they seemed relieved to meet others who were experiencing similar life transitions. Cathy and the members agreed that the group could be an open one, adding members from time to time, but that the size of the group should not exceed eight members. In addition, members discussed some initial thoughts about attendance, confidentiality, length and time of meet- ings, and Cathy’s role in the group. After this discussion, Cathy noted that they had started to form the elements of an informal contract that could be discussed more fully in the next meeting of the group. She added that in the early sessions, members could also begin to work on their individual goals and contracts with the group and with each other. Overall, the orientation session seemed quite successful.

Behind the scenes, Cathy spoke with the counseling center that was supporting the new group. She identified a comfortable meeting space for the group, one that was accessible and private. Although members had no special childcare or transportation needs, she asked the counseling center to provide some funds for refreshments.

Cathy also considered carefully how she would monitor the progress of the group, decid- ing to ask members at the beginning of each session about their goals and the progress to- ward them. She decided that she would make notes immediately after each session about the progress of members and asked members to evaluate the group using a session evaluation form (see Chapter 14). She also planned on spending time, at the end of the group, asking group members what they had accomplished, what remained for them to do, and what plans they had to accomplish these, as of yet, unaccomplished goals.

M06_TOSE0283_08_SE_C06.indd 211 01/05/17 11:30 AM


The beg inning of a group is often characterized by caution and tentativeness. The members have certain expectations about the group based on experiences in other groups. They may have met with the worker before the first group meeting or received infor- mation on the purpose of the group through other agency workers or f rom other group members. Nevertheless, at the beginning of any group, members are not fully certain about its purposes. Mem- bers wonder about what will be expected of them and what the leader and the other members will be like. Thus, f rom the very first contact, participants assess each other, mainly based on nonverbal cues, such as dress and personal appearance. The first interchanges are often stereotypical conversations in which participants attempt to become familiar with one another through mutual interests in places, people, events, leisure and work pursuits, and other com- mon experiences.

As the group meeting progresses, an approach-avoidance con- f lict often becomes more evident (Garland, Jones, & Kolodny, 1976). Members approach each other in their striving to connect with one another, but they avoid getting too close because they fear the vulnerability that such intimacy implies. Members are concerned about the way they present themselves early in a group and often prefer to proceed with caution. Members often do not feel secure about what they can expect f rom the group or their own ability to perform in the group. Therefore, they are often cautious about what they reveal.

Discussion of emotionally charged issues can be detrimental in the beginning of a group. When a member self-discloses emo- tionally charged issues very early in the group’s development, other members sometimes feel threatened and may disclose little for a time. This occurs because few norms have developed about how to behave, and members are unsure about how to respond. Members may feel threatened if they think they will be asked to self-disclose at similar levels. They may not be ready to do so, or they may think others will not be receptive or supportive.

Through their initial interactions, members attempt to find their places within the group. As the group develops norms, members begin to find out what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. The tentative

C h a p t e r O u t l i n e

Objectives in the Beginning Stage 213

Summary 245

l e a r n i n g O b j e C t i v e s

• Explore the objectives and skills that are useful in the beginning stage of group work.

• Describe the techniques used to introduce members and to begin the group.

• Explain guidelines for helping members feel a part of the group.

• Understand the possible challenges to member participation in the group.

The Group Begins


M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 212 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 213

interactions found at the beginning of most groups are a testing ground for developing re- lationships. Group members attempt to reach out to find whom in the group they can trust with their thoughts and feelings and with whom they can form continuing relationships.

Members’ experiences can affect their reactions in a new group. A useful exercise that can be done early in the group’s life is to have all members describe an experience they had in a previous group and emphasize how that group experience affects their par- ticipation in the current group.

Members react in different ways to groups. Some remain silent, taking a wait-and-see stance. Others try to reduce their anxiety by engaging in conversation or by asking ques- tions to help them clarify their position in a group. Those with mental health problems, social relationship problems, or other disabilities may feel that their symptoms worsen at the beginning of the group because of performance anxiety. Gradually, a pattern of relating develops within the group, and the pattern crystallizes as the group develops.

Workers should try to remain aware of the patterns of relating as the group devel- ops. The worker can point out patterns of relating as they form and can encourage the development of patterns that will help to accomplish group and individual goals. For example, the worker may want to model and reinforce open-interaction patterns that encourage all members to participate.

Objectives in the beginning stage

The beginning stage is often considered, by both novice and experienced workers, to be a difficult stage of group work because members often seek direction about how to pro- ceed but are ambivalent about following any suggestions. Members struggle to maintain their autonomy but, at the same time, to fit in and get along with others in the group. The worker’s primary goals are to help members feel comfortable in the group, to work together in a cooperative and productive manner, and to feel that their unique contribu- tion to the group is respected and appreciated. To accomplish these goals it is helpful to:

• Ensure a secure environment where members begin to bond with the leader and with each other

• Facilitate member introductions • Clarify the purpose and function of the group, as it is perceived by the worker,

the members, and the sponsoring organization • Discuss and clarify the limits of confidentiality within the group • Help members to feel that they are an important part of the group • Guide the development of the group • Balance task and socio-emotional aspects of the group process • Set goals • Contract for work • Facilitate members’ motivation and ability to work in the group • Address ambivalence and resistance • Work with involuntary members • Anticipate obstacles to achieving individual and group goals • Monitor and evaluate the group as the change process begins

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 213 01/05/17 11:30 AM

214 Chapter 7

In the following pages, these tasks and the corresponding skills necessary to carry them out are presented sequentially. In actual practice, of course, the group worker should be concerned about these tasks simultaneously.

Ensuring a Secure Environment

No work can be accomplished in groups unless members feel secure when participating. Therefore, a fundamental and essential role for the worker in the beginning stage is to make sure that members are feeling comfortable, safe, and secure with their participa- tion in the group. New workers should recognize that members of groups might come f rom environments that are not comfortable, safe, or secure. In fact, some members may be hypervigilant, expecting the worst in all or most environments. This could be because of any number of adverse childhood events, or current bio-psycho-social-environmental assaults on their integrity. For example, members could have witnessed or experienced repeated trauma during childhood, such as neglect, or emotional and physical abuse. They could have experienced severe poverty, racism, or violence. They may have been bullied as a child or adolescent or learned that the way to survive in their neighborhood was to become a gang member. As adults they may continue to experience violence, marginalization, exploitation, oppression, or other factors that make them wary of par- ticipating in a group.

Workers should display patience and equanimity, gradually demonstrating to these traumatized members that the group is a positive place for support, healing, and rejuve- nation where they can trust the worker and fellow members to work together to accom- plish meaningful goals. Workers have to spend time to build security and trust before proceeding with agendas and goals. Workers who do not build a secure and safe envi- ronment early in the group will not be successful over the long-term. It is a mistake to pursue mandated goals without physical and emotional safety and security assured to members. Proceeding without safety and security also violates ethical principles.

There are too many settings where workers are expected to work on mandated goals before members are ready. Workers should keep in mind members’ rights to self- determination and social justice. There are limits to what can be accomplished with some members. Workers need to recognize and be comfortable with the limits of what they are able to accomplish in some situations and engage in self-care. The goal should be engagement and respect, using a positive, relaxed pace where members are encour- aged to gradually share their stories, and reveal what help they would like f rom the group. Workers should listen intensely, learning all they can while encouraging mem- bers to use their resilience, skills, and strengths to overcome adversity and move toward healthier lifestyles. Group leaders may have an immediate or delayed impact on some members, and may not be able to help others. It is often difficult for workers to know what if any impact they have had on members. Therefore, they should remain positive and self-soothing even when they question whether they are having a positive impact.

There are many ways to build a safe and secure environment. First, the worker should acknowledge that members might not feel secure or be ready to self-disclose. In some families and cultures, showing vulnerabilities, such as insecurity, may not be acceptable. Therefore, members may not want to risk sharing feelings at first, and this should be acknowledged by the worker. Workers can beg in by ask ing members to

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 214 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 215

present whatever information about themselves they are willing to share. Workers can be role models sharing information about themselves first. After this occurs, members can be encouraged to talk about their aspirations, goals, and dreams. Workers can tie these aspirations to what the group may be able to help them accomplish.

Another step is to take every opportunity to support members’ goals, paying close attention to both their immediate and longer term needs and wants. Workers should be role models, describing their previous positive experiences in similar groups and how they might be able to help members have better lives. They can ask for members help to make the group a safe, enjoyable place to heal and grow.

In the early stages, conf lict, criticism, and other forms of negative feedback should be avoided. If any verbal or nonverbal interactions occur that are not supportive or en- couraging, workers should intervene, gently modeling supportive interactions that are uplifting and self-esteem building. Workers should remember that time will be available later in the development of the group to focus on problems and issues and to use con- f rontation or other strategies that are more appropriate in later group meetings when respectful, trusting relationships have been established.

The beginning of groups should be reserved for pointing out and building on mem- bers’ strengths and resiliencies, helping them to become empowered and vital contrib- utors to the success of the group. A positive, upbeat, and warm manner that praises and encourages members for their unique contributions is essential in early group meet- ings, especially when working with members who are reluctant, resistant, or mandated participants. As members tell their stories, and have them affirmed, they begin to grow more trusting and open with their fellow group members. By affirming and validating members’ experiences, workers show that they are attentive and understand- ing, starting with the members and staying with them. This, in turn, can help to form therapeutic alliances with members, where trust grows. As genuine and warm interactions continue, members begin to bond with the worker and each other, and can begin to feel safe to tackle some of the difficult issues they face as they move forward. Building a base of trust, and feelings that the group can be helpful, is of utmost importance when reluctant members first begin to participate and engage in beginning group meetings.

Introducing New Members

When the participants have arrived and the group is ready to beg in, the f irst task of the worker is to introduce members to one another. Introductions help members share their mutual concerns and interests, and they develop trust. The worker should decide what information is important for members to share with the group. Beyond each member’s name, the information revealed by each member should depend on the pur pose of the group. For example, if the group is an interagency task force to study the problems of battered women, members might be expected to share their position in their agency, their experiences with services for battered women, and their reasons for becoming involved in the task force. If the group is for parents with children who have behavior problems, in addition to information about themselves, members might brief ly describe their children and the behavior problems they are experiencing.

Assess your understand- ing of the objectives and skills that are useful in

the beginning stage of group work by taking a brief quiz at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 215 01/05/17 11:30 AM

216 Chapter 7

Introductions can give members a starting point for interaction. Therefore, the in- formation that is shared should attempt to bring out commonalities. The worker can facilitate this process by noting common characteristics and shared concerns disclosed by different members. Rather than proceeding through the introduction mechanically, the worker should encourage members to discuss commonalities. This process helps members feel at ease with one another. It also helps develop group cohesion and demon- strates to members that they are not alone with their problems and concerns.

case example A Support Group for Caregivers of Persons with Dementia

The worker asked each member in turn to talk about themselves, the person for whom they were caring, and the problems they were experiencing. One member, Mary, mentioned how concerned she was about her husband driving even though he refused to give it up. The worker stopped the group introductions at this point and asked if anyone else had ex- perienced a similar problem and how they handled it. Several members began to talk about the problem and their concerns about it. The worker suggested that since this seemed to be a concern for many members that they continue with the introductions, but take up the topic of driving later during the group meeting. Later during introductions, another member brought up the topic of her husband’s agitated behavior and how he paced and followed her from room to room. Again, the worker asked if any other group members had experienced that problem, and several said they had. The worker said that they would also talk about that behavior later in the group meeting or during the next group meeting if there was not time to get to it in today’s meeting.

The opportunity for members to share common concerns and issues with one another is one of the unique aspects of social group work practice. Yalom (2005) has called this phenomenon universality. People who come to treatment groups often believe that they are alone with their problems. In reality, although they may have been experi- encing their problems in isolation, other people experience similar concerns. The first group meeting provides them with feelings of support and comfort as they realize they are not alone.

A similar process occurs in task groups. For example, workers f rom different com- munity agencies often experience the same f rustrations and problems in serving clients with particular social service needs. Alone, workers may think they can do little to make the system more responsive to clients. Together, in a task force, a treatment conference, or in any other task group, workers can share their concerns, coordinate their efforts, and work to change problematic situations.

Round Robin The most common method of introducing members to one another is to have them speak in round robin fashion. If this method is used, it is helpful for the worker to go first. In the early stages of the group, members take many of their cues f rom the worker who can serve as a model by disclosing personal characteristics. Once members hear the worker’s introduction, they are likely to focus on the disclosures as they introduce themselves.

Sometimes, the worker may want members to disclose information about areas of concern that the worker does not share. For example, in a group of parents, the worker

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 216 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 217

may not have children. Workers should note the absence of this characteristic in their own lives, state how it might affect their work in the group, and ask members to com- ment on this factor in their introductions. For example, the worker might say, “I don’t have any children of my own, but I’ve worked with children in the past at summer camp, in foster care, and for the past four years in my current position.”

When they introduce themselves, members rarely disclose more than the worker has disclosed. In fact, they initially tend to disclose less than the worker. Therefore, if workers expect a certain level of self-disclosure or want to foster disclosures in a cer- tain area, their introductions should ref lect what is expected. This is not to suggest that the introductions should call on members to reveal in-depth, personal life experiences. Pressing for such disclosures at the beginning of a group is likely to increase rather than decrease barriers to open communication.

Communication styles and expectations about self-disclosure are inf luenced by our cultural heritage. Pearson (1991) suggests, for example, that clients who identify with the cultural imperatives in Chinese society may believe that close, personal relationships are usually reserved for family and that high levels of self-disclosure are not as desirable as a “balance and restraint in the experience and expression of emotions” (p. 51).

Variations on Round Robin Several variations on the round robin may be useful in opening different types of groups. To increase interaction, for example, members can be divided into pairs. One member of each pair interviews the other for five minutes by asking for details specified by the worker. When time is up, members reverse roles and continue for another five minutes. When the group reconvenes, members introduce their partners to the group by recalling the facts learned during their conversation. In addition to helping members develop a relationship with a partner, group workers find that this method of introduction some- times leads to a greater depth of self-disclosure than round robin because new group members are likely to reveal more about themselves on a one-to-one basis than when they face the entire group.

A variation on this opening is what Shulman (2016) has called “problem swapping” (pp. 444-445). Members volunteer to discuss their problems or concerns openly before the group. This opening promotes group interaction, leads to the identification of shared problems and concerns, and helps members consider how they might proceed.

An opening that is useful in growth-oriented groups is known as top secret. Members are asked to write down one thing about themselves that they have not or would not or- dinarily reveal to new acquaintances. The leader collects the top secrets and reads them to the group. Members attempt to identify the person who made each revelation, giving a reason for their choice. This exercise can be repeated in a later group session to illus- trate the extent to which trust and cohesion have increased in the group. Members often reveal more intimate or personal top secrets after they come to know and feel comfort- able with the members of their group. Variations on this opening exercise are my most embarrassing experience and my greatest success.

Another opening exercise that can help members disclose something about them- selves or their family of origin is called my name. Members can be asked to discuss how they got their names and what meaning the name has for them and for their family of origin. For example, a member might state that his father felt strongly that he should be

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 217 01/05/17 11:30 AM

218 Chapter 7

named Samuel, after an uncle who had died. The member goes on to discuss the uncle and other facts about his family of origin. He might also mention that he disliked being called Sam by his parents and decided at age 13 to insist that his parents and f riends call him by his middle name, Allen. This exercise can often lead to interesting discussions of members’ feelings about themselves now and in the past. It also helps members learn each other’s names, which is important for open and personal interaction.

Other openings, such as treasure hunt, can be useful. Members are asked to find two or three facts about each of the other group members. This activity offers much struc- tured but informal interaction, helping members overcome initial anxieties and shyness about participating. The facts obtained are shared when the group reconvenes.

Program activities can also be used in opening a group. Such activities help mem- bers share important information about themselves while working on an assigned task or activity. In addition to increasing members’ self-disclosure, program activities can build cohesion in the group. For example, in children’s groups, members may be asked to pick an animal that represents them. When introducing themselves, members can name the animals they have selected and state what characteristics of the animal they identify with. Another program activity for children or adolescent groups is to have members stand in a circle and hold hands with two members who are not next to them. Members are then asked to untangle themselves and form a circle without letting go of each other’s hands.

Variations in Group Beginnings A number of factors can change the way a worker begins a group. Sometimes workers become involved with groups of people who have known each other before the group was formed. This can occur when the members are clients of a neighborhood center, a residential treatment facility, or are f riends in the community. Similarly, in task groups, members may be familiar with one another as coworkers in the same agency or as co- workers in a network of agencies working with similar clients or a similar social prob- lem. When members know one another, the challenges for the worker are different f rom the challenges that occur in a group of strangers.

Members who have had previous contact with one another are more likely to relate in ways that are characteristic of their previously established patterns. Roles and relation- ships established earlier may be carried into the new group, regardless of their functional or dysfunctional nature in the current group situation. In groups in which only a few members know one another or in which previous relationships between members vary f rom f riendly to neutral or unf riendly, subgroups are likely to develop more often than they would in groups composed of strangers. There is also a natural tendency for f riends or acquaintances to interact with one another and exclude strangers.

When it is possible to obtain information about potential group members, the worker should try to find out about any relationships that may exist among them. This will give the worker some indication of what form members’ relationships are likely to take as they begin the group. It also gives the worker an opportunity to plan strategies to intervene in dysfunctional relationship patterns. The worker may wish to use informa- tion about members’ previous relationships to reconsider the composition of the group and to understand members’ interactions as the group unfolds. For example, a worker in a group home might use knowledge about the relationships that have developed among

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 218 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 219

residents when deciding how to intervene to change communication patterns in a group that has just been established within the facility.

Another common variation in beginning a group occurs when the worker becomes involved in a previously formed group (see, for example, the following case example). This can happen when a worker (1) reaches out and works with a gang of adolescents, (2) is a consultant for a self-help group, (3) is asked to staff a previously formed commit- tee, or (4) is asked to replace the leader of an intact treatment group. These situations are different f rom one in which all members are new to the group. Instead of members looking to the leader for direction, as in a new group, the worker in a previously formed group is the newcomer in a group with established patterns of relating. Members of previously formed groups are concerned with how the worker will affect the group, what they will have to do to accommodate the worker, and what the worker will expect of them. Members may also act on feelings resulting f rom termination with a previous worker. This is demonstrated in the following case example.

case example Dealing with Feelings About a Worker Leaving the Group

In assuming leadership for an existing substance abuse prevention group, the new worker began the meeting by asking members to discuss how they felt about her replacing their for- mer worker. Because the group had been meeting together for over a year, members freely discussed their concerns about changing group leaders. They also asked very direct questions about the new worker’s credentials, experiences, and leadership style. During these discus- sions, the new worker listened carefully to what members were saying. She chose to be less verbal so that members had more opportunities to talk. By encouraging members to be more verbal, the worker was able to make a preliminary assessment of the group’s structure and was able to identify the informal leadership structure that had previously developed in the group.

In working with previously formed groups, the worker should become familiar with the group’s structure and its current functions and processes. It is especially important that the worker become familiar with the formal and informal leadership of the group, with members’ relationships with one another, and with the tasks that face the group. Information obtained f rom a previous leader or f rom agency records may offer some indication of how to approach the group. In working with gangs or other community groups for which little information is available, the worker may find it helpful to gather information about the group. Any information obtained before contact with the group should be considered tentatively, however, because it is difficult to predict how an ongo- ing group is likely to react to a new worker. The worker may also want to observe the group before attempting to intervene.

The worker’s presence in a previously formed group will cause adjustments. A process of accommodation to the new worker and assimilation of the worker into the culture of the group will occur. In general, cohesive and autonomous groups that have functioned together for some time will find it difficult to accommodate a new worker and will expect the worker to become assimilated into the ongoing process of the group. For example, a worker f rom a neighborhood center who is interested in working with a closely knit gang of adolescents who grew up together may have to spend a considerable amount of time developing trust and rapport with the group before members will seri- ously consider participating in a recreational activity at the neighborhood center.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 219 01/05/17 11:30 AM

220 Chapter 7

Defining the Purpose of the Group

Opening Statement After introductions, the worker should make a brief statement about the group’s pur- pose and the worker’s function in the group. When members are not clear about the purpose of the group or the motives of the worker, their anxiety increases, and they are less likely to become involved in working toward group goals. Evidence suggests that workers often fail to define the purposes of the group they are leading (Fuhriman & Burlingame, 1994). Even if the purpose has been explained to members during pre- group intake interviews, the worker should be sure to restate the purpose during the first meeting and in subsequent meetings.

Workers should take the lead and make a broad but concise statement of purpose to members. These statements help members to become aware and focus on goals enabling them to ref lect on, and determine, whether they want to become involved in the group. When stating purposes, workers should be clear about the role of the sponsoring orga- nization, legal and funding mandates, and any other factors that may affect group mem- bers’ participation. Members should be fully informed about what their participation entails. Workers should use simple straightforward language, interpreting complicated mandates in terms of what they mean for members’ participation in a group.

Demonstrating that workers are open and willing to inform members fully is one way to build trust and a working alliance. Encouraging members to have input is also essential because it enables members to feel that they are partners with the worker in de- ciding how to proceed. Workers should do as much as possible to develop a climate that helps members feel that they “fit in” and are welcome in the group (Paquin, Kivlighan, & Drogosz, 2013). This includes fostering complementary interactions, when members are helped to identify with their fellow members’ situations rather than contrasting or comparing their situations to those of other members. Identification with other mem- bers’ situations helps everyone to feel that they have commonalities that build cohesion, whereas contrasting or comparing situations can lead to alienation, competition, or the enhancement of perceptions of difference (Maxwell, et al., 2012).

case example Statement of Purpose in a Domestic Violence Group

The following statement of purpose was made by a worker in a new group for female vic- tims of domestic violence at a shelter: “This group will provide support, empowerment, and resources to all of you who have experienced domestic violence and homelessness as a result of having to flee from the person who abused you. This domestic violence shelter has a long history of helping people like you in similar situations. Here we encourage you to keep con- fidential all that is shared while at the same time being supportive and empathic as we help one another heal and transition to a better life path. Remember, this is a safe space where you can share whatever you want, to the extent that you want. It is expected that you will help each other and that we will also do our part to support you in your path to a better life.”

Notice how this statement of purpose encourages members to trust that the worker and fellow members will engage in a process of healing and growth through mutual aid and support in the safe environment of the group. The statement illustrates the work- er’s attempt to foster a therapeutic alliance among all participants. It emphasizes safety,

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 220 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 221

security, f reedom to participate, and mutual aid, and explicitly acknowledges members’ rights to share only as much as they are comfortable with disclosing. The worker can then go on to discuss confidentiality and the safety features in the sponsoring organization that protect anonymity, which are so important to members of these kinds of groups.

helping the group Define its purpose • Construct a brief statement of purpose and clearly articulate it to the group. • Present the purpose as a positive statement that includes what members can

accomplish. • When possible, have members present and discuss their views of the group’s

purpose, especially when orienting new members to the group. • State the purpose in a manner that enhances members’ “fit” within the group. • Mention the importance of members feeling secure and safe during emotional

disclosures. • Emphasize the importance of identifying with members’ situations. • Encourage mutual aid and complementary interactions that build camaraderie

and dispel distrust. • Do not focus on differences and conf licting viewpoints in early group meetings • Highlight commonalities and shared visions for a better future. • Discuss the role of the group in relation to its sponsoring agency, stressing the

mutual contributions that can be made by both the group and the agency. • Involve members by asking for feedback, and use this feedback to refine or

modify the purpose.

The group’s purpose should be presented in a positive and hopeful manner. In a clas- sic book, Frank (1961) pointed out the importance of persuasion, expectancy, and placebo effects in psychotherapy. These factors are also present in group work practice. Presenting a positive, hopeful image of what can be accomplished in the group makes use of the ben- eficial effects of these cognitive expectancies. Rather than focusing on members’ problems or concerns, the worker can express the group’s purpose in terms of members’ strengths and resiliency and the goals to be accomplished. Thus, statements that focus on positive objectives and goals, such as “Through this group experience you can learn to build on your. . .,” “With the assistance of fellow group members you can get in touch with your strengths to overcome. . .,” or “Through all of our efforts in this task force we can. . .,” are preferable to statements that focus on the negative aspects of problems or concerns.

If the worker has successfully led a previous group that focused on similar concerns, the worker can mention this success. In treatment groups, such as a statement by the leader offers members the hope that the group will help them to achieve their goals. In task groups, members are more likely to be motivated and to persist in goal achievement.

In open-ended treatment groups, when new members replace old ones, it is often helpful to have those who have been in the group for some time state how the group has been helpful to them. Professional group workers can learn f rom the way that self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, rely on the testimony of successful members as a major component of their group program. In task groups, members who have had some experience in the group can be asked to orient new members.

The opening statement about the group’s purpose should include a brief description of the functions of the agency sponsoring the group. Notice, for example, in the previous

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 221 01/05/17 11:30 AM

222 Chapter 7

example of the domestic violence group, there was a very brief mention of the agency’s purpose. In treatment groups, the opening statement should define the limits of service so that members will have a clear notion of what services they can expect and what ser- vices are beyond the scope of the agency. There is nothing more f rustrating for members than having their expectations go unfulfilled. The opening statement should include a brief statement about how the worker will help the members accomplish their goals.

In task groups, relating the agency’s function and mission to the group’s purpose helps members understand why they were called together to participate in the group. The opening statement allows members to see how the agency’s functions are related to the group’s task. It is not uncommon, for example, for members of task groups to ask about how the results of their work will be used. Task group members may be inter- ested, for example, in the extent to which their group can make permanent changes in policies, procedures, and practices through its findings and recommendations.

Involving Members The opening statement focuses the group on considering the purposes for meeting. It should be presented as a starting point for further discussion rather than as an im- mutable definition that is not open to negotiation, modification, or change. Attempting to impose a definition of the group without input f rom members tends to reduce their commitment and motivation and to increase their suspicions that their autonomy may be threatened.

The stated purposes and goals should be broad enough that members can formulate their own purposes and their own goals, but not so broad that almost any purpose or goal can be contained within it. Statements about improving members’ social function- ing or coping ability may be too abstract for members to comprehend. Opening state- ments should be presented in clear, jargon-f ree language. However, the leader should avoid being overly specific. Instead, the worker should solicit members’ ideas and sug- gestions about how to operationalize particular purposes and goals.

In the beginning stage, members are often reluctant to risk their own tentative po- sition within the group by expressing opinions that differ f rom those expressed by the worker or other members. Therefore, in addition to providing members with opportu- nities to express their opinions and concerns regarding the group’s purpose and goals, the worker should actively reach out for members’ input. This can be done in a variety of ways. In treatment groups, the worker should state clearly that the group is meant to serve the needs of its members, who ultimately determine the group’s purpose and goals. Members can then be asked to state their own purposes and goals and to comment on the broad purposes and goals articulated by the worker. During this process, workers can encourage feedback by taking comments seriously and praising the members for sharing their feelings and thoughts. In task groups, the worker should encourage mem- bers to comment on the group’s charge f rom the sponsoring organization, and discuss with members how any suggested changes will be brought to the attention of adminis- trators or others who formulated the initial charge.

Members can sense whether the worker’s call for feedback is genuine or perfunctory. If the worker makes a continuous effort to solicit feedback by encouraging all members to express their thoughts and feelings, members are more likely to feel that their input is welcome. For example, members can be asked to make a statement about how the

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 222 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 223

group’s purposes and goals meet their needs and to suggest how the group could be improved. Members can also simply be asked about their goals, as illustrated in the following example.

case example A Mandated Group for Men Who Batter

During the opening statement the worker mentioned that one of the primary goals of the group was to help the men in the group control their tempers. The worker asked the members what else they wanted to accomplish. This was first met by silence. The worker did not say anything, and after a minute, one member stated that he wanted to get back together with his girlfriend. Another member began to talk about how he had done things that he regretted and wanted to “make things right.” At the same time, several members said that they felt backed into a corner by their partners and finally “ex- ploded.” They had tried to get out of the situation but their partner kept at them. The worker acknowledged these statements and indicated that the group was there to give them the tools to help them deal with these situations.


In treatment groups and certain task groups, it is important for the worker to lead a discussion of confidentiality during the opening portion of the group meeting. This will be the first time that many of the members may have been asked to keep the proceed- ings of a group meeting confidential. Therefore, it is important for workers to empha- size the need for confidentiality and the harmful and destructive effects that can result when breaches occur. Trust among group members is essential for cohesion and the smooth functioning of the group. When workers reassure members that the group is a safe haven, a place where they can discuss emotionally charged issues in confidence and without fear of reprisal, trust deepens and cohesion develops. In treatment groups, members are often concerned about how information they share with the group will be used outside the group meeting by the worker and other group members. Members cannot be expected to disclose intimate concerns or develop a sense of trust unless they can be assured that discussions within the group will not be shared outside of meetings. It can be helpful to remind members about the confidentiality of meetings periodically throughout the life of the group. This is particularly important in residential settings be- cause f requent interaction outside the group may promote violations of confidentiality.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, in some cases, the worker may be obligated to share in- formation discussed in the group with law-enforcement officials. Workers are also likely to share information with supervisors and fellow staff members during treatment con- ferences. Therefore, workers have an ethical obligation to be clear about the limits of confidentiality and with whom and under what circumstances data may be shared.

Confidentiality is also an important issue in many task groups. Members are often unsure about what issues, proposals, and facts can be shared with colleagues and others outside of the group. Because sensitive personal information is usually not discussed in task groups, it is especially important for the leader to mention if the content of group

Ethical and Professional Behavior

behavior: Make ethical decisions by applying the standards of the nasW code of ethics, relevant laws and regulations, models for ethical decision-making, ethical conduct of research, and additional codes of ethics as appropriate to context

critical thinking Question: Group rules often have ethical implications. How can the group worker help members to observe confidentiality in groups?

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 223 01/05/17 11:30 AM

224 Chapter 7

meetings should be kept confidential or if it can be shared with others outside the group to get their input, as illustrated in the following example.

case example A State-Level Task Force

A state-level task force designed to study ways to improve services to older people trying to live independently in the community deliberated for six months about a single-point-of-entry system that could be used to assess all individuals who might need long-term care services in the community or in a nursing home. The leader of the task force emphasized the confidential nature of the proceedings, letting members know that premature or partial release of the in- formation discussed in the task force could hinder its work and upset various stakeholders who now screened older people for long-term care services. The leader pointed out that another reason for keeping the report of the task force confidential was because it was preliminary and advisory. It would not be released by the governor until it was approved after extensive delib- eration and hearings by the legislature in consultation with the governor’s office.

The time set aside for the discussion of confidentiality also provides an ideal op- portunity for the worker to bring related value issues to the attention of the group. For example, the worker might engage the group in a discussion of how social group work values, such as democratic participation, respect for the individuality of each member, self-determination, cooperation, mutual decision making, and the importance of indi- vidual initiatives will be operationalized in the group. Depending on the type of group, workers might also talk about the problems that may arise when group members form intimate relationships outside of group meetings. These dangers include (1) distraction f rom the group’s purpose, (2) side conversations, alliances, and other effects of being a couple on group dynamics, and (3) dealing with conf lict and the breakup of relationships that developed in earlier group sessions.

It is helpful for the worker to assist the group in formulating a set of principles—a code of behavior for its operation—to which each member agrees to adhere. These are sometimes referred to as group rules. For example, members might agree to the following group rules.

group rules • Come to the group on time. • Give the worker prior notice if you are unable to attend. • Listen without interruption when another group member is talking. • Avoid dominating the group discussion. • Be respectful of each other’s thoughts and feelings. • Be sincere and honest when communicating thoughts and feelings. • Make positive, cooperative, helpful, and trustworthy contributions in response to

each other’s comments.

Group rules should not be imposed unilaterally by the worker. Instead, members should help formulate the rules so that they take ownership of them. Group rules should not be confused with norms. They may become norms if they are adhered to by the group over time. However, norms develop gradually, and it is the workers’ roles to guide group development to embrace norms that foster socio-emotional well-being and task accomplishment. Rules may be a first step in this process but they need to be

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 224 01/05/17 11:30 AM

The Group Begins 225

gently enforced and followed if they are to become the norms that govern the group’s work.

Helping Members Feel a Part of the Group

When a group begins, there is little sense of belonging or cohesion. As mem- bers begin to feel secure and safe, an important early objective is to help a diverse collection of individuals, who may be apprehensive and ambivalent, begin to identify themselves as a collective of supportive partners in a common enter- prise. The worker aims to build a fellowship where mutual aid and respect are normative.

To empower members and build self-esteem, it is important to ensure that the de- mands of participating in the group do not exceed members’ abilities. Thus, workers may have to tone down expectations for intimate disclosures implied by a member’s early disclosure or scale back unrealistic expectations about what can be accomplished in a given period. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) (Hays, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2011) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT; Linehan, 2015), for example, no expectations or judgments are made about a person’s disabilities. The member is helped to practice acceptance of past and current events.

Pointing out shared interests and common goals among members helps them to feel that they are a part of the group. Members are comforted by the familiar. Knowing that they are not alone with their concerns or issues helps them feel closer to other partici- pants in the group. There is also a growing body of evidence that members f rom similar backgrounds, who share complementary life views and values, develop trust faster than members with clashing backgrounds, interests, and values (Forsyth, 2014). Careful plan- ning can help, but workers also need to draw out members, helping them to identify with each other and emphasizing commonalities and complementary skills, while simul- taneously steering clear of comparisons that focus on difference or conf lict.

Differences and conf licts should be acknowledged rather than ignored. Workers can ref rame them as opportunities to understand how other members see the problems or issues facing the group. They can also encourage members to postpone discussions of differences and conf licts until they have gotten to know one another more fully and de- veloped enough trust to tackle these more difficult issues in a productive manner.

In early group meetings, the leader can use several techniques to help members ac- knowledge and begin to appreciate differences that can be addressed more fully later in the group. For example, the leader can point out the contributions that different back- grounds and different perspectives make to the group. They can encourage members to welcome or at least be open to new perspectives and to explore differences gradually as therapeutic alliances and member-bonding occur as the group progresses. The leader can ask nonthreatening, direct questions that help members explore, understand, and appreciate the different perspectives that are present within the group.

The leader can also use program activities or exercises to help members explore differences in an entertaining and lively fashion. For example, a leader might help the group plan a dinner to which members would bring a dish representative of their cul- ture, ethnicity, or nationality. Another activity is for each member to design a coat of arms that represents something about his or her personal background and to present the coat of arms to the group for discussion. The leader might also ask each member

Assess your understand- ing of the the techniques used to introduce mem-

bers and to begin the group by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 225 01/05/17 11:31 AM

226 Chapter 7

to create a self-disclosure collage that artistically represents elements of them not known to other members of the group. Overall, differences among members in their back- grounds and life experiences should be neither magnif ied nor ignored. Instead, the worker’s task is to help members appreciate and respect differences in early group meetings and explore them in more depth as the group meets and becomes more comfortable.

The worker also helps members feel that they are a part of the group by protecting them f rom injury. Thus, misinformation should be corrected, and personal attacks should not be condoned. In addition, the worker should con- tinually scan the group to ensure that the content of the meeting is not having an adverse emotional effect on members. Empowering members by fostering active participation in group decision making can also help members feel that they have an important and meaningful role to play in the group.

Guiding the Development of the Group

Different theoretical writings suggest a range of possibilities for guiding the development of a group. Some writers suggest that the worker should provide little or no direction at the beginning of a group and prefer an approach that encourages members of the group to struggle with purposes and goals until mutual agreements about them can be achieved. Unstructured approaches to group beginnings are often used in t-groups (group dynamic training groups) and other growth groups when the purpose of meeting is to learn about group dynamics and one’s own interpersonal interaction style. The process of struggling to develop purposes and goals without any direction f rom the leader, however, is often anxi- ety provoking. Therefore, workers should be cautious about using unstructured approaches with members who are not functioning at optimal levels, when time to achieve particular outcomes is limited, and when exploration of one’s interpersonal style is not a primary goal.

Structure in Treatment Groups Humanistic and mutual aid approaches to group work practice often have limited struc- ture. They aim to empower members in early group meetings by ensuring that con- sensus building is used during the decision-making processes about how groups will operate. Techniques can be used to shape interaction and self-expression processes, but these approaches should take care not to manipulate, coerce, or control members (Glass- man & Kates, 1990; Steinberg, 2004). Humanistic and mutual aid approaches to lead- ership during the beginning stage is especially appropriate in support, self-help, social action, and coalition groups in which the empowerment of members and the mobiliza- tion of their collective energy and wisdom are primary goals (Saleebey, 2013). However, elements of humanistic and mutual aid approaches, such as respect for the dignity and individuality of each member and the belief in each member’s potential for growth and development, are essential in all group work efforts.

Writers within the humanistic tradition point out that techniques such as “direct- ing” and making a “demand for work” can help members develop and implement mu- tually agreed-on purposes (Gitterman & Shulman, 2005; Shulman, 2014, 2016). Yet, few writers within the humanistic and mutual aid traditions spend time addressing issues of limit setting, socialization, and structure in groups of severely impaired individuals and

Assess your understand- ing of the techniques used to help members

feel a part of the group by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 226 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 227

in groups with members who have been ordered into treatment because of delinquent or criminal behavior. Yet there are many practice situations in which the sponsoring organization and the larger society expect that workers will use their authority to help members function as more productive members of society. Ya- lom (1983), for example, points out the need for limit setting and a clear structure when working with psychiatric inpatients. Levine and Gallogly (1985) suggest methods for dealing with challenges to the worker’s authority when working with groups of alcohol- ics in inpatient and outpatient settings. Similarly, DBT and other practice methods described in Chapter 10 designed for work with individuals who have borderline personality disorders, suicidal be- havior, and other severe psychiatric disabilities prescribe active structuring of the work of the group by the leader.

In many practice settings, short-term psychoeducational groups, such as social skills for children, life skills training groups for psychiatric inpatients, groups to help new par- ents learn parenting skills, and anger control groups, are offered because workers have specific information and specific skills they think will benefit members (see, for example, Walsh, 2010). In these groups, the worker is designated by society and the sponsoring organization as an expert who provides direction and structure so that the members can learn new skills. Of course, even in these groups, members should have the opportunity to shape individual goals, group goals, and meeting agendas, and to share their concerns and learn f rom one another. Too often novice group workers try to stick to structured psycho educational group agendas without first taking the time to build trust and to help members feel comfortable and safe in the group.

An example of a session agenda for a time-limited, structured, psychoeducational parenting group is presented in Figure 7.1. The agenda provides the organizing f rame- work for the first meeting. It indicates the goals for the session, the material to be cov- ered during the group meeting, and the reading assignments and tasks required of each parent during the following week. Similar session agendas are prepared by the worker for each of the 10 sessions in the time-limited parenting group.

In structured, time-limited groups, it is quite common for the agenda to be de- veloped before the group session. As compared with less structured, process-centered approaches, structured group approaches give the worker greater responsibility for group goals and the way the group conducts its work. In process-centered approaches, members are encouraged to take informal leadership roles and develop their own goals, agendas, and contracts, whereas in time-limited psychoeducational groups, members’ in- put is sometimes limited to modifying goals, agendas, and contracts that the worker has already developed.

There are many types of time-limited, structured groups for acquiring skills, man- aging anxiety, coping with life transitions, and learning parenting skills (see, for example, Bauer & McBride, 2003; Bieling, McCabe, & Antony, 2006; Garvin, Guterrez, & Galinski, 2004; LeCroy, 2008; McKay & Paleg, 1992; Passi, 1998; Rose, 1989, 1998; Shapiro, Peltz, & Bernadett-Shapiro, 1998; White & Freeman, 2000). These groups often use evidence-based manuals or field-tested curricula, specifying agendas for 6 to 20 meetings. Structured psy- choeducational groups using manuals and field-tested curricula usually contain a mixture


behavior: critically choose and implement interventions to achieve practice goals and enhance capacities of clients and constituencies

critical thinking Question: Group workers use multiple skills during the life of the group. What skills are used by group work practitioners during the beginning stage?

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 227 01/05/17 11:31 AM

228 Chapter 7

Figure 7.1 Sample Session Agenda for a Time-Limited, Structured Parenting Group



Session I


By the end of this session, each parent will be able to

1. Describe the purpose of the group program

2. State how behavior is learned

3. Describe specifically one behavior of his or her child

4. State the behavior he/she will monitor during the next week

5. Describe how each behavior will be monitored


1. Introduction

A. Leader introduces self to group

B. Each member introduces self to group (name, number of children, current problems you would like to work on)

2. Orientation to the group program

A. Purpose of the group session

1. Goals

2. Why should parents be trained in parenting skills?

3. Who is responsible for what?

B. Group contracts—read, modify, sign

3. Introduction to behavior modification—lecture

A. Behavior is learned

1. Reinforcement

2. Extinction

3. Punishment

B. Role-play demonstration

4. Break

5. Assessment

A. Discuss behavior checklist

B. Describe one behavior of your child

C. Develop monitoring plan: what, who, how, when

6. Buddy system

A. Description

B. Choose buddy, exchange numbers, arrange calling time

7. Assignment

A. Monitor chosen behavior and begin to chart it

B. Call buddy

C. Read units 1 and 2 (exercises at the end of each chapter are optional)

8. Evaluation

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 228 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 229

of (1) educational materials; (2) exercises to help members practice the material; (3) dis- cussions of the material and the problems members are experiencing outside the group; (4) weekly assignments for members to do outside the group; and (5) a very brief evaluation of the meeting. The following case example illustrates one type of psychoeducational group.

case example A Healthy Heart Group in a Medical Setting

A medical social worker decided to form a group for patients who had recently undergone heart bypass surgery. Family members were invited. This six-session daily group meeting was structured so that there was a speaker followed by a discussion period. Topics included nu- trition, diet, exercise, keeping a positive mood, engaging in sexual activity, and other lifestyle issues, such as a moderation in drinking alcoholic beverages and stress reduction techniques. After the speaker’s presentation, each meeting provided the members with a chance to talk about their specific concerns and issues and to practice stress reduction techniques.

Studies about the efficacy of group work found that groups with specific purposes, homogeneous concerns, clear agendas, and structured group meetings were more effective than groups with less structure (Bauer & McBride, 2003). Members reported appreciating that the leader provided specific information and effective strategies to help them with their concerns as the case example illustrates. Workers should keep in mind, however, that members’ concerns and needs are not always most appropriately served by a time-limited, structured group approach. In support groups, for example, a f lexible structure that maximizes member input may be more effective than a structured approach in helping members to ventilate their concerns and to give and receive help f rom fellow group members. In these groups, members are encouraged to reach out to one another as much as possible. Goals and specific agendas for each meeting are determined based on feedback and mutual agreement among all members during meetings.

It is unfortunate that there is not more dialogue among scholars who promote short-term, structured, behavioral, and task-centered approaches to treatment groups and those who promote long-term, process-oriented, humanistic approaches. Scholars who promote one approach over another often fail to acknowledge the value of alter- native approaches, actively dismiss important contributions of alternative approaches, and ignore the core skills that form the base for all group work. It is the thesis of this text that both approaches have much to offer and that social work practice situations fall along a continuum. At the ends of the continuum, pure approaches may be effectively applied, but in most practice situations, a blending of approaches makes the most sense. Structure should be viewed as a tool to be used differentially in practice situations to help members and the group as a whole achieve agreed-on objectives. The work of McKay and colleagues (2011) is one encouraging attempt to bridge the divide.

To find protocols for leading specific types of groups for individuals with the types of concerns you encounter in practice settings, it is best to search databases, subscribe to book publishing catalogues, and search for websites with the latest information in your area of group work expertise. For example, World Cat can help to identify books and chapters that contain evidence-based manuals and field-tested protocols, and Psych Info, Medline, and Google Scholar can be used to identify articles that describe evidence-based interventions, programs, and practices. Macgowan (2008) and Barlow (2013) have written books that can also help group workers to conduct evidence-based group work.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 229 01/05/17 11:31 AM

230 Chapter 7

Structure in Task Groups Written agendas are f requently used in task groups to keep groups focused on the work that is to be accomplished. Figure 7.2 shows an example of an agenda for a meeting of a delegate council. The example agenda shown in the figure follows a standard outline as shown in the following:

Meeting agenda Outline • Approve the minutes of the previous meeting • Call for new agenda items • Make announcements • Receive reports f rom standing committees and administrative officers • Work on current business • Discuss any new agenda items that might have been introduced earlier in the

group meeting • Adjourn

Agenda items can be divided into three categories: information, discussion, and action. Often, agendas are accompanied by attachments to explain the agenda items. Agendas with their attachments are usually given to all group members several days be- fore the meeting so they can become familiar with the business that will be discussed during the meeting.

In task groups, feedback is encouraged in several ways. Members might be encour- aged to submit formal agenda items before group meetings. The items are then placed

Figure 7.2 Sample Agenda for a Delegate Council

Meeting date ______________

cYPRUs hiLLs DeLegate cOUnciL

Order of Business

Information Discussion Action

1. Call to order X

2. Approval of the minutes of the previous meeting X

3. Call for new agenda item X

4. Announcements X

5. Treasurer’s report X

6. Program committee’s report X

7. Director’s report X

8. Emergency housing proposal X

9. Proposed changes in bylaws (see attachment A) X

10. Election of members of the women’s issues task X force (see attachment B for slate of candidates)

11. Proposal to develop an ad hoc committee on X community health care

12. New business X

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 230 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 231

on the agenda. When the item is considered by the group, it is often helpful for the mem- ber who submitted the item to present it to the group. During meetings, members’ feed- back is usually limited to a discussion of the specific task or agenda item currently being discussed. Members have a chance to add new agenda items during a meeting only if the group’s predetermined order of business can be concluded in time to discuss new busi- ness at the end of the meeting. For additional information about leading task groups in the beginning stage, see Levi (2014) and Tropman (2014).

Balancing Task and Socio-emotional Foci

Another objective of the worker in the beg inning stage is to balance the task and socio-emotional aspects of the group process. Through systematic observation of lead- ership training groups, committees, juries, classes, therapy groups, and labor relations teams, Bales (1950) established a set of 12 categories to describe group interactions. Half the categories are in problem solving or task-focused areas and the other half pertain to socio-emotional areas. Bales’ scheme for observing a group is instructive because it points out that in all groups the worker must be conscious of both the task and socio-emotional aspects of group process.

In task groups, it has been found that about two-thirds of group interactions are fo- cused on task accomplishment and one-third on socio-emotional aspects, such as giving support and releasing tension (Bales, 1955). Evidence concerning treatment groups sug- gests that they often spend more time on socio-emotional aspects than on task-focused discussion (Munzer & Greenwald, 1957). Despite the difference in emphasis, pioneering studies by Bales (1950, 1955) and more recent studies by other researchers (Forsyth, 2014) suggest that in both task and treatment groups, neither the task nor the socio-emotional aspects of group process should be neglected. An exclusive focus on tasks in any group may lead to members’ dissatisfaction with their social and emotional interaction in the group. An exclusive focus on the social and emotional aspects of group interaction can lead to a group whose members will be satisfied with their relationships with one an- other but will be dissatisfied about what has been accomplished. Thus, a balance be- tween the task and the socio-emotional aspects of group process is essential. No magic formula exists for achieving the appropriate balance between task and socio-emotional aspects of the group. Only through careful, ongoing assessments of group and member needs can the worker determine the appropriate balance.

Goal Setting in Group Work

In the first few meetings, groups often spend a considerable amount of time discussing goals. When the worker discusses the group’s purposes, the process of goal formulation begins. Goals emerge f rom the interaction of individual members, the worker, and the system in which the group functions.

Workers’ goals are inf luenced by the values and aims of the social work profession. As members of social service organizations, workers are aware of the aims and the lim- itations of the services they provide. Workers should also be cognizant of their function in the larger society that sanctions and supports their work. Workers’ formulation of goals ref lects what they believe can be accomplished with the support, resources, and limitations within the environment where the group operates.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 231 01/05/17 11:31 AM

232 Chapter 7

Workers’ goals also are affected by what they know about the group members. In treatment groups, workers often have an opportunity to meet each member during the planning stage. Potential members are selected, in part, because of their compatibility with the purposes and goals developed for the group. Workers make preliminary assess- ments of members’ needs and the capacities of each group member, as well as the tasks that face them. Goals are formulated based on the assessment process.

In task groups, a similar process occurs. Goals are formulated by the worker in rela- tion to the charge of the group f rom the sponsoring organization and the roles and sta- tus of the members who compose the task group. The following case example of a task group illustrates that the roles and the status of committee members limit their ability to make binding recommendations.

case example Task Group to Examine Interdepartmental Coordination

A worker is charged with leading a committee to examine interdepartmental coordination of client services. Representatives from various departments throughout the agency are repre- sented, but not the department heads. The committee meets a number of times and comes up with a series of goals and recommendations for better coordination. However, given the status and the roles of the members of the committee, the recommendations about improv- ing coordination between departments are not adopted. Instead, a report is prepared and sent to the executive committee of the agency for additional action, because the members of the committee do not have the authority to implement the recommendations without ap- proval from top-level management.

Goals are formulated by individual group members who have their own perspective on the particular concerns, problems, and issues that affect them and their fellow group members. In previously formed or natural groups, members have the advantage of knowing more than the worker does about the concerns of the other group members.

In formed groups in which members do not know each other before the first group meeting, members’ goals are based on a variety of factors.

Factors affecting Members’ goals • An assessment of their own needs • Their previous attempts to accomplish a particular goal • The environmental, social, and familial demands placed upon them • Their assessment of their own capacities and capabilities • Their impressions or experiences of what the social service agency sponsoring

the group has to offer

Goals for the group are formulated through a process of exploration and negotia- tion in which the worker and the group members share their perspectives. In this pro- cess, members and the worker should communicate openly about the goals they have formulated individually.

The extent to which common goals can be developed for all group members varies f rom group to group. In some groups, members have one, overriding concern in com- mon. For example, a group of cigarette smokers suffering f rom chronic lung disease may be able to move quickly to a discussion of a specific contract to reduce cigarette smok- ing. In groups that are more diverse, such as outpatients in a mental health setting, it is

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 232 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 233

often more difficult to develop common goals. In these groups, common goals are often formulated on a general level, for example, to improve the interpersonal social skills of members. Goals for individuals in the group are formulated at a more specific level. For example, an individual goal might be “To improve my skills when conf ronting others about behaviors I find unacceptable.”

The process of goal setting, therefore, is one in which the goals of the worker and the members are explored and clarified. Three types of goals emerge f rom this process: (1) group-centered goals that focus on the proper functioning and maintenance of the group; (2) common group goals that focus on the problems, concerns, and tasks faced by all group members; and (3) individual goals that focus on the specific concerns of each group member. In an educational treatment group for parents of young children, a group-centered goal might be to increase the group’s attraction for its members. A common group goal might call for the parents to learn about the normal growth and developmental patterns of young children. An individual goal for the parents of one child might be to reduce their son’s temper tantrums.

In task groups, three levels of goals can also be identified. For example, in a commit- tee mandated to review intake procedures in a family service agency, a group- centered goal might be to establish open, member-centered interaction patterns. A common group goal might be to make several recommendations to the program director to im- prove admission procedures. An individual goal for a committee member might be to interview workers in two other agencies about different approaches to intake procedures that can be shared with the committee at the next meeting.

The worker should help members develop clear, specific goals. Early in the process, members formulate general goals they would like to achieve. Examples include state- ments such as “I would like to be less depressed” or “The group should try to reduce the paperwork involved in serving our clients.”

After members have stated their goals for the group, workers can help to clarify them and make them as specific as possible. Workers help members identify objective and subjective indicators of their goals and the criteria that will be used to evaluate them. The case example that follows illustrates this process.

case example Clarifying Goals and the Criteria for Evaluating Them

For the goal statement “I would like to be less depressed,” a member might be helped by the worker and the other group members to define indicators of depression, such as sleep- lessness, lack of appetite, lack of energy, depressed affect, and so forth. The worker can then lead the group’s efforts to help the member identify criteria that would indicate goal achieve- ment. For the depressed member, this might include (1) sleeping through the night and not waking up early in the morning, (2) eating three meals a day, (3) having the energy to do things, and (4) smiling and laughing more often.

Defining goals clearly helps both workers and members focus on what they are attempting to achieve in the group. Developing clear goals is a prerequisite for entering the middle stage of group work. Before goals can be prioritized and a contract between worker and members developed, goals should be stated as clearly as possible. All mem- bers should have input into the development of goals and an opportunity to inf luence the direction the group will take to accomplish them.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 233 01/05/17 11:31 AM

234 Chapter 7

In previously formed groups with preexisting goals, the worker has a different role in goal formulation. In some groups, goals may not have been clearly defined, and the worker’s task is to help members clarify their goals. This is often the case with groups of teenagers and children who have not carefully considered their goals. In other previously formed groups, clear goals may exist. The worker’s task in these groups is to help mem- bers achieve the goals that can be accomplished and modify or abandon those that are not likely to be achieved.

Achieving consensus about purposes and goals can be particularly difficult with in- voluntary members who are often pressured into participating in a group. Still, there is usually some common ground on which mutually agreed-on goals can be developed. For example, youthful offenders are sometimes given the choice of participating in group treatment or being sentenced through the juvenile court system. The worker can begin by stating the conditions and standards for continued participation and then encourag- ing members to develop their own goals within these minimally acceptable conditions and standards. Trust takes longer to develop in such groups, but if the worker consis- tently shows interest in the members’ goals, concerns, and aspirations, the group can be a useful treatment modality (Bauer & McBride, 2003).


In group work, contracts are mutual agreements that specify ex- pectations, obligations, and duties. The types of contracts that can be developed are presented in the following list. Contracts in- volving the group as a whole are usually developed around group procedures. Individual members’ contracts are usually developed around individual treatment goals or individual task assignments.

types of Contracts • The group as a whole and the agency • The group as a whole and the worker

• The worker and the group member • Two or more group members • The group as a whole and a member

The most common form of an individual-member contract is between a member and the worker. For example, a member may contract with the worker to stop smoking, to become more assertive, or to make more f riends.

Contracts can also be developed between two or more group members to help each other achieve particular goals. For example, in an assertiveness training group, one mem- ber might decide to practice being assertive in two situations during the group meeting and in one situation during the week. The member may ask another member to praise her if she is assertive in the group and to telephone her during the week to see if she has been assertive in a situation outside the group. In return, she agrees to help the other member achieve a particular goal.

A third form of individual contracting occurs between a member and the group. The member, for example, can agree to obtain information about a resource for the group or can promise to report to the group about the results of a particular meeting. In


behavior: collect and organize data, and apply critical thinking to interpret information from clients and constituencies

critical thinking Question: Helping members articulate their goals is important. How can the group worker help members state goals so that they are measurable?

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 234 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 235

a cohesive group, member-to-group contracts can be quite effective because members do not want to let each other down by failing to follow through on the contract.

When contracting with individual members for goals or tasks, it is important to be as specific as possible about formulating behaviorally specific outcome goals. Goals spec- ified in a written or verbal contract should state brief ly who will do what, under what circumstances, and how results will be measured.

Facilitating Members’ Motivation

After an initial clarification of the purposes and goals of the group, the worker helps members increase their motivation for accomplishing the goals that have been mutu- ally agreed on. Motivation is the key to the successful achievement of group and mem- ber goals. To a large extent, motivation is determined by members’ expectations about (1) the worker’s role in the group, (2) the processes that will occur in the group, and (3) what can be accomplished through the work of the group. Members bring a set of expectations to any group experience, and the expectations have a powerful inf luence on the way the members behave in the group. For example, if a member expects the worker to tell him or her how to proceed, it is unlikely that the member will take much initiative in the group. If the member has been involved in a previous group experience in which little was accomplished, the member’s expectations and motivations to work hard to achieve individual and group goals are likely to be diminished.

As the worker and the members begin to explore how they can work together, the worker should help members identify their expectations and motivations. The worker can do this by asking members direct questions about what they think they can accom- plish in the group and how they expect the group to function. These questions often uncover ambivalence about giving up old ways of doing things and fear about what new and unknown changes may bring. At the same time, they can empower members, help- ing them to feel that they are a vital part of the group and have an important stake in the agenda (Saleebey, 2013).

Addressing Ambivalence and Resistance

Sometimes members respond evasively to direct questions about their motivations and expectations, particularly when the worker has made an early and clear “demand for work” before assessing members’ expectations and motivations (Schwartz, 1971, p. 11). Members may be reluctant to state ambivalent feelings about their ability to accomplish the goals for which they have contracted because they fear that the worker will disap- prove. Mandated members may not be prepared to acknowledge problems others have identified. The following list summarizes some techniques for dealing with ambivalence and resistance.

addressing ambivalence and resistance in the group • Pay attention to overt and covert messages about accomplishing the group’s

work. • Acknowledge members’ ambivalence and provide a realistic appraisal of

members’ chances for accomplishing successful change. • Help members work through their ambivalence and resistance.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 235 01/05/17 11:31 AM

236 Chapter 7

• Assist members to recognize the range of choices they have for participating in the group.

• Help members work with each other to recognize where points of resistance may occur and to overcome challenges to their full participation.

Before the worker states expectations about what members need to do to accom- plish their goals, the worker should notice the overt and covert messages members give about accomplishing the group’s work. If the worker picks up signals indicating a lack of motivation to accomplish goals, the worker should check the perception of the meaning of the message with the group members.

Ambivalent feelings about change are common and should not be viewed as an obstacle to accomplishing the group’s work. It is rare for changes to be proposed and worked on without ambivalent feelings, and it is often difficult and painful to change problematic areas of one’s life. At the very least, it requires giving up the security of old ways of doing things. Rather than ignoring, playing down, or attacking the ambiva- lence, workers should help members work through it. Acknowledging a member’s am- bivalence is a helpful way to get members to recognize their reactions to change. A f rank discussion of a member’s ambivalence about change and the perceived ability to achieve a goal helps all members see that this is a common reaction to the changes they are planning to make. In addition, a realistic appraisal of the chances for success is much preferred to covering up barriers to task achievement.

One exercise that can help uncover ambivalence is to have each member focus on a goal and list psychological, social, and environmental factors that hinder and promote its achievement. A variation on this exercise done with individual clients has been called a “force field analysis” (Egan, 2013). In task groups, all members focus on one group goal. In treatment groups, it is more common for members to focus on one member’s goal, but occasionally it is possible to select a common group goal on which to focus. The exercise can be done by all group members, in pairs, or at home between sessions.

In a force field analysis, the worker helps members list on paper or a blackboard the positive and negative aspects of attaining a goal and displays the results before all group members. This process facilitates an organized discussion of the factors that can help members achieve goals and the factors that may hinder them. Such a visual display helps members to realize that many factors may be detracting f rom their motivation.

An example of a list of positive and negative factors that could inf luence a group member’s decision is shown in Figure 7.3. The decision involves whether the member should separate f rom her husband. An examination of a list of factors can help group members decide whether there are suff icient positive motivations for achieving a particular goal.

If a member reaches a decision to pursue a goal despite numerous factors that re- duce motivation, the task of the worker and the other group members is to suggest ways to decrease the negative factors and increase the positive factors. For example, in the sit- uation in Figure 7.3, the member decides to separate f rom her husband. To change some of the factors that reduce her motivation, the group helps the member to (1) overcome her fear about the effects of the separation on her children by suggesting that the children may be harmed more by seeing mom and dad constantly fighting than by experiencing their parents’ separation; (2) examine her finances, her plans for child care, and other

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 236 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 237

practical needs that she may have as she considers living independently; and (3) build her self-confidence and self-esteem by providing support and positive feedback during the separation process. Through this process, the group helps the member become moti- vated to achieve her goal with as little ambivalence, fear, and anguish as possible.

In some groups, workers encounter members who feel pressured or coerced into coming to the group. Members who feel pressured or coerced often are not ready to en- gage in the work of the group. They may delay or obstruct other members’ work.

In an excellent text on working with resistant group members, Rooney (2009) sug- gests that the worker can point out that the members chose to participate in the group. Although some individuals may have chosen to participate in the group to avoid other less desirable choices, the choice was an agreement made with a referring agency. For example, in the case of being found guilty of driving while intoxicated, the member may have agreed to participate in a group treatment program instead of losing his driv- er’s license. The worker should acknowledge that the member might not want to be in the group, but also note that the person f reely chose the group over an alternative. The worker should also state that members are f ree to terminate their participation at any time, but their decision to participate implies that they will adhere to the group norms and contractual obligations agreed to during the intake interview or the first group session.

As the group progresses, it may be necessary to remind members that it was their choice to participate rather than experience a serious consequence, such as going to jail or being put on probation. The group also needs to help reluctant and resistant mem- bers to find reasons to participate. For example, the leader can encourage members to help each other to figure out what is positive and negative about their current lifestyle

Problem: Whether to separate from my husband

Factors Increasing Motivation Factors Decreasing Motivation

1. Tom drinks too much.

2. Tom has been physically abusive twice in the last year.

3. There is almost daily verbal conflict between Tom and me.

4. Staying in the relationship causes me to feel angry and depressed.

5. My relationship is interfering with the quality of my work at my job.

6. Tom and I have infrequent sexual relations.

7. The kids are being affected by our constant fighting.

1. Concern about what breaking up will do to the kids.

2. Worried about whether I can live on only my salary.

3. Wonder if I can care for three kids and keep working 40 hours a week.

4. Feeling as if I would be breaking my commitment to Tom.

5. I’ll have to explain the separation to my parents, friends, etc.

Figure 7.3 Analysis of Factors that Increase and Decrease the Motivation of a Member of a Treatment Group

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 237 01/05/17 11:31 AM

238 Chapter 7

and what they want to change. Then, members can decide how they want the group to support them and help them to accomplish these changes. This type of empowerment helps members feel that they have a stake in the group and that their views are being considered and acted on. At the same time, the worker can point out members’ strengths and resiliencies, helping them to feel that they have the power to grow and to change (Saleebey, 2013). It can also be helpful for the worker to use “I” statements and to make a clear demand for work, as the following case example illustrates.

case example Use of “I” Statements

I have a problem. Some of you do not seem to want to be here. If you do not want to be here, you do not have to be here. I do not want you to get the wrong impression—I’d rather you stay. However, if you don’t like being in the group, you can take it up with the agency that sent you and deal with the consequences of not continuing your participation. My job is to help you use your time in this group productively. Therefore, I would like those of you who choose to stay to think now about how you will use the group—what you want to accom- plish. Think about the problems and issues in your life and what you’d like to work on in this group. I’ll give you a few minutes. Then, let’s go around and see what we can do together. I suggest that we begin the go-round by saying what we like and do not like about our cur- rent lifestyles and what changes we want to make. Then, later, we can focus on creating a plan to make these changes, what strengths you bring to the process, and how the group can help you to accomplish the changes you want to make.

Expectations About Role Performance In addition to ambivalence about changing a way of doing things, members often are concerned at the beginning of the group that they will not be able to contribute in the way they think is expected of them. For example, members of a committee may think they will be asked to do too much to prepare for group meetings, or they may fear they have nothing to contribute. Similarly, members of educational groups are often appre- hensive about their ability to learn new material, and members of support groups are fearful that members will not understand or share their concerns. Because expectations about role performance can interfere with a member’s participation in the group, it is helpful for workers to describe their expectations of members and solicit feedback and input. Role clarification is a key leadership skill in working with mandated members (Trotter, 2015). This process provides a forum for members to air their fears about the challenges they face. It also helps clarify any mistaken or distorted expectations that members may have and provides an opportunity for workers to modify or change their own expectations.

Role clarification also helps members to understand the dual role of the worker as an agent of social control as well as a helper (Trotter, 2015). With respect to members’ behavior inside and outside of the group, the worker can clarify what is negotiable and what is not negotiable. Workers can also help members to think about their own expec- tations versus the expectations held by other constituencies, such as the referral source that suggested members attend the group as an alternative to a harsher punishment, the worker, the member’s family, and so forth. Clarifying roles in this way can create greater empathy and understanding, and it will ensure that all parties are clear about what goals

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 238 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 239

are shared in common and what goals are not. Work can then proceed based on tackling shared goals. The worker might also discuss the consequences, if any, of not working on the goal expectations of the referring agency, the worker, or the member’s family. This helps to clarify the choices members are making and the likely consequences in their lives.

Authentic Communication About Purposes and Goals Ambivalence about changing and fears about the demands that may be placed on them may lead members to be less than candid in early group meetings. Shulman (2016) points out that members of treatment groups may begin by sharing problems that do not di- rectly address some of the more difficult and hard-to-talk-about issues they are experi- encing. Building trust involves enabling members to talk about “safe” problems to gauge the reaction of the leader and other members before sharing more emotionally charged problems. In task groups, members may bring up peripheral issues that could potentially sidetrack the group. The worker may also want to view these as safe problems that can be addressed without getting into difficult or controversial issues.

To increase authentic communication as the group develops, the worker can take several steps:

• Always treat members’ suggestions and ideas about how to proceed with respect. The worker should not dismiss or ignore what a member says or treat it as a smoke screen or a red herring. This will only alienate members and certainly will not encourage them to open up and reveal the issues that are more meaningful. Instead, the worker should strive to understand the deeper issues implied by the member’s message.

• Link the member’s statements with the larger purposes of the group. The worker can do this by asking members how the suggestions or ideas fit in with the agreed-on purposes of the group.

• Place the relevant parts of the member’s message in the context of themes or issues that have been previously discussed in the group.

• Support the initiative the member demonstrated by speaking up without endors- ing the message. Statements such as “I’m glad to see that you are thinking about what you want to accomplish in the group” or “I’m happy to see that you care enough about the direction of the group to make that suggestion” lets members know that their perspectives are welcome and valued without indicating that the worker supports the content of the message.

Promoting Prosocial Behaviors Trotter (2015) also points out that it is important to promote prosocial behavior when working with mandated members. He suggests doing this by (1) pointing out prosocial comments made during group interaction, (2) praising prosocial comments, suggesting that others emulate these comments and rewarding prosocial comments in other ways, (3) acting as a model by using problem-solving skills and coping skills that are prosocial, and (4) identifying and challenging antisocial comments or behaviors.

Prosocial comments can be rewarded, for example, by sending a note to members’ probation officers about how well they are doing in the group. Members can also be en- couraged to discuss their attempts at engaging in prosocial behaviors between meetings,

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 239 01/05/17 11:31 AM

240 Chapter 7

the successfulness of these attempts, and obstacles to engaging in prosocial behaviors outside of the group. Both ACT and DBT use homework assignments and experiential exercises extensively to promote prosocial behaviors and self-statements between meet- ings (see, for example, Linehan, 1993; Neacsiu, Bohus, & Linehan, 2014; McKay, Wood, & Brantley, 2007).

Working with Involuntary Members

There are many situations when group workers are called upon to work with involuntary members who are mandated to attend groups. Involuntary members are those who are pressured or re- quired to attend a group in lieu of some worse punishment, such as going to jail, losing a driver’s license, or as a condition of pro-

bation. Involuntary members may also be those who are forced into a group by a school system, a therapeutic community, or some other entity with the notion that it will do them some good to participate. In these latter situations, the consequences of not follow- ing through by attending the group may not be clear, although the members know that they simply have to attend the group. Involuntary and mandated members put workers in an awkward position, because they are being asked to help members make changes that they may not want to make.

One of the first steps in working with involuntary members is to assess their readi- ness for change. Prochaska, DiClimente, and Norcross (1992) have developed a five-part model of change: (1) pre-contemplation, (2) contemplation, (3) preparation, (4) action, and (5) maintenance. Mandated members often start in the pre-contemplation stage that may take on many forms. According to Goldstein (2001), there are reluctant pre-contempla- tors who do not want to consider change because they do not have sufficient information about what change might mean or simply because of inertia. There are also rebellious pre-contemplators who are motivated to avoid change and maintain the status quo. This may be because of peer pressure or fear that change will make things even worse for them. There are resigned pre-contemplators who have given up hope that change is possible. They are demoralized and lack the energy to make changes. There are also rationalizing pre-contemplators who either do not see the problem or view the problem as a problem for someone else but not for them. When working with groups of mandated members, the worker should carefully assess whether group members are reluctant, rebellious, re- signed, or rationalizing pre-contemplators. Reluctant pre-contemplators may simply need information or a heightened sense of the consequences of their actions to move to the next stage of change. Rebellious pre-contemplators actively resist change because of peer pressure or feeling that their lifestyle is the better alternative. Resigned pre-contemplators are those who have tried and failed. They lack the motivation and the feelings of self-effi- cacy to do anything about their situation. Rationalizing pre-contemplators are those who blame others for their problems. Although each of these group members may respond to somewhat different approaches, there are some common strategies that the worker can use to help all members of mandated groups begin to make changes.

In order to determine where members are at on the continuum of change, the worker can start by asking members how they feel about attending the group and what


behavior: apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks to engage with clients and constituencies

critical thinking Question: Groups sometimes have involuntary members. How can the worker engage involuntary members in the group?

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 240 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 241

they hope to get out of it. By ref lective and skillful listening, the worker seeks to under- stand members’ feelings without being judgmental, critical, or blaming (Lynch & Cuper, 2010; Miller & Rollnick, 2013; Waltz & Hays, 2010). Rooney and Chovanec (2004) point out that in the early stages of the group the members may express their hostility at the worker. The worker should not be put off by this but instead may want to make state- ments early in the group that acknowledge the members’ feelings about being pressured or coerced to attend and their wary, noncommittal approach to the group. The worker should also look for nonverbal signs about the members’ motivation. Peer pressure, despair, hopelessness, and other factors that hold members back f rom contemplating change may not come out directly, but instead may be expressed in silence or rebellion. Workers who are aware of these nonverbal cues should acknowledge them, feeding them back to the members of the group, and letting them know that the worker is aware of their feelings. The worker should avoid arguing or disputing what members are saying verbally and nonverbally and instead should roll with the resistance, acknowledging it and letting the members know that they are at best ambivalent about their participation and, at worst, unwilling participants in the change process (Miller & Rollnick, 2013).

After acknowledging the resistance to change, the worker has to figure out what can motivate members to engage in the work of the group. There is no easy way to accomplish this, and for each member the motivation may come f rom different sources. Miller and Rollnick (2013) suggest trying to develop a discrepancy between members’ current behav- iors and their long-term personal goals. The problem in some groups is that members have not thought about their long-term goals, or their long-range goals have become distorted by dysfunctional home lives and impoverished neighborhood environments. Poverty, despair, abuse, and neglect are often the root causes of these problems. Peer pressure, repeated failure, a lack of self-efficacy, or other issues may also work against developing the discrepancy between current dysfunctional behavior patterns and the positive long-range goals that the worker is seeking to help members achieve. When this is the case, the worker should acknowledge these issues with empathy and concern. The worker should show a genuine concern for members’ long-term well-being and realistically mention some of the consequences of continuing on the same path of dysfunctional behavior. Members may not buy into the worker’s view, so a portion of the group’s time may need to be spent on acknowledging these feelings and asking members to discuss their own worldview and to describe where they think their current patterns of behavior will lead. Although at first members may rage against persons, situations, or systems that are unfair, gradually the worker can ref rame the discussion into how they can negotiate the system and get what they need to live better lives. This discussion can also heighten the discrepancy between members’ current behavior patterns and future desired behaviors. The worker can use these discrepancies to motivate members to make the changes they find desirable.

Gradually, the worker sets expectations for the group but at the same time tries to maximize choice and minimize demand, helping the members themselves come up with what they would like to do in the group (Welo, 2001). Rooney (2009) noted that it is helpful to point out what choices members have within mandates. For example, workers can point out that members have the choice not to follow mandates and accept the consequences, or to use mandated group time to work on goals of value to themselves while acceptable to the authority that mandated their treatment. In this way, members are able to see that change is under their control and is possible despite the operation of coercive forces.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 241 01/05/17 11:31 AM

242 Chapter 7

At some point during this process, it can be helpful for the worker to bring a guest speaker to the group with whom the members can identify. By relating his or her story about being a mandated client and overcoming obstacles to change, the speaker may help members see a path out of their current situation and open possibilities that the members may not have contemplated. The worker may also have some members in the group who are further along on the change continuum, such as those who are ac- tively contemplating change or who have moved beyond contemplation to take some action. The worker can help these members become a catalyst for those who are still in the pre-contemplation stage by encouraging them to describe how they moved f rom pre-contemplation to contemplation or action. Through dialogue and interaction mem- bers can be encouraged to form a peer support network to help everyone move to the next stage of change, and to overcome any obstacles they face as they attempt to change.

Those who work regularly with involuntary and mandated members recognize that change does not come easily or without setbacks. Working with involuntary members is one of the most difficult challenges a worker can face, but seeing members becoming moti- vated to make changes is also one of the most rewarding experiences a worker can have. It is very important to keep in mind that change has to come f rom within each member and that the workers’ roles are to foster a group climate where members can feel comfortable enough to talk about change and begin to attain their aspirations for themselves. External incentives, such as getting a driving license back, getting out of the therapeutic community sooner, or reduced probation time will not lead to change over the long term unless the members can see a better future for themselves and develop the feelings of self-efficacy that are necessary for them to become self-motivated. Workers can be ready by being em- pathic about the difficulties the members face but at the same time offering the encourage- ment and the resources that are needed to help motivate members to make a better life for themselves. For more about working with mandated members, see Edelwich and Brodsky (1992); Goldstein (2001); Miller and Rollnick (2013); Rooney (2009); Rooney and Chovanec (2004); Schimmel and Jacobs (2011); Welo (2001); and Chapter 9 of this text.

Anticipating Obstacles

In the beginning stage of group work, it is important for workers to help members antic- ipate the obstacles they may encounter as they work on specific goals and objectives. It is useful to ask members to describe the obstacles they foresee in accomplishing individ- ual and group goals. Sometimes it is useful to encourage members to engage in a time- projection program activity. In this exercise, members are asked to imagine what it will be like for them at the end of the group when they have accomplished their goals. Mem- bers can be encouraged to discuss how changes brought about in the group are likely to be received by those around them and to focus on what might prevent accomplish- ments in the group f rom being implemented in settings outside the group. As members share potential impediments to long-term, meaningful change, the worker can facilitate a discussion about overcoming the impediments.

Experience suggests that when members and the leader are aware of potential ob- stacles, they can often plan ways to overcome them before the middle stage of the group. Some workers’ and scholars’ research suggests that meditation, mindfulness, or other ex- periential exercises can help to bring about acceptance of one’s past and present situation

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 242 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 243

(Hays, Strosahl, & Wilson, 2011; Linehan, 1993, 2015; Lynch & Cuper, 2010; Waltz & Hays, 2010). Chapter 9 describes a variety of methods that can be used during the middle stage of a group to help members overcome obsta- cles to accomplishing specific goals.

Monitoring and Evaluating the Group: The Change Process Begins

It is important to start the monitoring and evaluation process as soon as the group begins. In treatment groups, at the start of monitoring, the worker should carefully note the problems and concerns members state at the onset of the group and the tentative goals they wish to establish. Keeping careful notes of this is important because the worker can show members right f rom the beginning how their initial concerns and problems have been clarified, rede- fined, or adjusted as they get feedback and support f rom the group. This, in itself, can be useful because it demonstrates to members that the change process has already begun. The worker should point out positive changes as the group progresses and be liberal with their praise of members. Those who are not changing as rapidly can be reassured that change will come if they continue to work at it. Workers should encourage these members to avoid being critical of themselves. In the beginning, members need encouragement to forge ahead with change goals and to avoid slipping into self-defeating and self-critical statements that often accompany low self-esteem, and life-long living in an adverse environment. Being posi- tive about change processes can help members grow and f lourish, and it reassures them that the progress they are already making can continue even in the face of obstacles and setbacks.

Monitoring initial goals can also help to establish a purpose for the group and make clear to members what they are working toward achieving. In subsequent meetings, we have found it is often helpful to start with a check in when members are asked to present their tentative goals. This keeps them focused on what they are trying to accomplish and allows them to modify and reformulate goals they may have mentioned during the first meeting. It also provides an incentive for members who do not yet have goals to begin the process of formulating them. The second group meeting can be used to begin to partialize goals and to suggest what members may be able to do between meetings to clarify goals and begin to take the first tentative steps to accomplish them. It is never too early to have group members focus on goals and what they want to accomplish through their participation in the group. At the same time, some members may need time to formulate goals. The worker should make the group a safe place for members so that the demand for goal formulation is tempered by an understanding that the change process is a difficult one that takes time to take shape.

In task groups, monitoring should focus on the goals of the group as a whole. The worker should keep notes on each member’s contributions to goal formulation. Sources of agreement and disagreement should be monitored, with the worker looking for com- mon ground on which the task group can move forward. Just as in treatment groups, goal clarification is essential in task groups. It is also important for the worker to start the beginning of subsequent group meetings by describing agreements and common ground and where compromise or more work toward clarifying goals is necessary.

The beginning of a group is also the time for any evaluation processes to be put into place. In treatment groups, workers may want to distribute baseline measures that group members can take to monitor their progress. For example, in a group for members with

Assess your understanding of the possible challenges to member participation in

the group by taking a brief quiz at toseland.

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 243 01/05/17 11:31 AM

244 Chapter 7

depression, the worker may want to distribute a depression inventory or have members begin to monitor their depression in a chart, a diary, or a log book. As the group pro- gresses, the worker can ask members to review their forms to see what progress, if any, is being made. Demonstrating progress builds cohesion and optimism that the group members are accomplishing their goals. Similarly, in task groups, in the initial meetings, members can be asked to take a baseline or a benchmark reading of where they are in re- lationship to the goal of the group. This baseline or benchmark can be used as a progress indicator throughout the life of the group.

case example

At first, Drew felt enthusiastic about being assigned to lead a group called “the Lunch Bunch.” His enthusiasm was tempered when his field instructor told him that it would be composed of 10 fourth- and fifth-grade boys who were suspended from the school lunchroom because of acting-out behavior. The purposes of the group were to help members learn acceptable ways of dealing with their peers and to reintegrate each member into the main lunchroom milieu.

In addition to having no control over the composition of the group, Drew was concerned about what might happen when all of the “offending parties” would come together for the first session. He interviewed each of the members assigned to the group to introduce himself, to learn about their expectations, and to begin to orient them to the group’s purposes and goals. During the interviews, he learned that various members were suspended from the lunchroom because they fought with other students and expressed their anger in inappropriate ways, such as yelling, cursing, and throwing food. Most of the youngsters he met seemed to act appropri- ately during the initial interview and appeared enthusiastic about meeting with the Lunch Bunch.

On the day of the first session, Drew came prepared. In addition to a written agenda, name tags, art supplies, and some CDs for music, he brought chocolate chip cookies, hoping that after members ate their lunch, dessert would be an incentive for them to act appropri- ately until the group ended. As members entered, most seemed to know each other from classes they took together. Drew chose to help members introduce themselves by playing a version of “Top Secret” in which each member wrote down something about himself that others would not ordinarily know. He read what each boy had written and had fun trying to figure out who had written each statement. Drew felt that this activity was moderately suc- cessful because it helped the members get involved with the group right away.

Next, Drew made an opening statement about the purpose of the group. He was careful to word the statement of purpose so that the boys could understand it and so that it gave them some guidance about what would happen in the group. He noted that the group’s pur- pose was “to work together to learn safer ways of handling yourselves in the lunchroom and to have fun while learning.” Two of the members stated that they thought the group was like detention and was punishment for their behavior. Drew clarified that it was true that their behavior had gotten them referred to the group, but that the group was not punishment. He noted that both he and the members could plan some of the activities, and these would take into account what members wanted to do during group sessions. The boys seemed skeptical about this, so Drew asked for more discussion. He clarified that his role was to help them ex- plore how to act with each other and to help them plan activities in the group.

One of the most difficult discussions that took place early in the first session concerned confidentiality. One member wanted to know if Drew was going to tell the principal or his parents about what he might say or do in the group. Drew recognized that many of the boys frequently interacted with each other in settings outside the group, and this could easily com- promise any promises of confidentiality. In addition, Drew was responsible for reporting the

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 244 01/05/17 11:31 AM

The Group Begins 245


Although all aspects of group work are important for the successful functioning of a group, the initial stage sets the tone for the group’s future development. In the beginning stage, the worker’s central task is to ensure that a group develops patterns of relating and patterns of task accomplishment that facilitate functioning as the group moves toward its middle stage of development.

To accomplish this, workers should focus on achieving certain objectives in the be- ginning stage of task and treatment groups. These include (1) ensuring a safe environ- ment where trust can develop; (2) introducing members of the group; (3) clarifying the purpose and function of the group as it is perceived by the worker, the members, and the sponsoring organization; (4) clarifying confidentiality issues; (5) helping members feel a part of the group; (6) guiding the development of the group; (7) balancing task and socio-emotional aspects of the group process; (8) setting goals; (9) contracting for work; (10) facilitating members’ motivation and ability to work in the group; (11) addressing ambivalence and resistance; (12) working with involuntary members; (13) anticipating obstacles; and (14) beginning the monitoring and evaluation process.

Workers who are able to help their groups achieve these objectives in the initial stage will find themselves in a good position to help the group make a smooth transition to the middle stage of development. Any objectives that are not achieved early in the group’s development will have to be reconsidered later as the group and its members encounter difficulties accomplishing agreed-on goals.

progress of members to his field instructor and, ultimately, to the school principal. Drew men- tioned these two issues to the members and suggested a few ground rules about confidentiality that the group might discuss at their next meeting. He suggested that it would be appropriate for a member to discuss aspects of his participation with his parents, but members should not refer to group members by name. He emphasized that under no circumstances should mem- bers talk to other students about what went on inside the group. Finally, Drew said that he had to report on each member’s progress to his field instructor, but that he would try to share what he would say with each boy individually before he discussed it with his field instructor.

After this, the group started to work on other rules for how the group should operate. During the first session, they agreed that they should all be good listeners, should wait their turn before speaking, and should try to help each other. Drew was satisfied that, in the time allotted, the group seemed to be making some progress on formulating a beginning contract. He suggested that members might think of other rules for the group and could bring these up in the next meeting.

Drew recognized that the time allotted for this first session was running out, and he wanted to provide the members with a fun experience before they left to return to their classes. During the remaining time, they played some music from Drew’s collection. Drew asked members what they felt after listening to each song. This discussion was difficult for some of the members be- cause they were not familiar with some of Drew’s musical selections. Drew suggested that mem- bers could bring in some of their favorite music for the next session. The members received this news with enthusiasm. Drew said that when a member brought in a favorite musical selection, his responsibility would be to ask other members to identify what they felt after listening to it. Chocolate chip cookies for dessert tempered this early “demand for work.”

M07_TOSE0283_08_SE_C07.indd 245 01/05/17 11:31 AM


Because of the complexity of human behavior and group dynam- ics, assessment is one of the most challeng ing aspects of group work practice. In this text, the term assessment rather than diagnosis is used because assessment is more compatible with a social work perspective and a generalist approach to practice. Diagnosis is a term borrowed f rom medicine. It refers to the identification of disease processes within an individual. In contrast, a thorough generalist assessment focuses on both the strengths and the problems encoun- tered by individual group members and the whole group. This text assessment is viewed holistically, taking a bio-psychosocial, environ- mental perspective.

The worker makes assessments to understand par ticular practice situations, planning effective interventions for (1) in- dividual g roup members, (2) the g roup as a whole, and (3) the group’s environment. The distinguishing feature of group work as compared to casework is that assessments focus on group as well as individual f unctioning. Assessments of g roup process should be continuous as workers scan groups to make sure that interactions are helping members accomplish agreed-upon ob- jectives and goals.

Workers beg in their assessments during the planning stage and continue to assess and reassess the group’s work until it ends. Although assessments are made in all stages of a group’s life, the process dominates a worker’s time in the beginning phase of group work. It is at this time that the worker is most actively engaged in understanding the functioning of the group and its members. It is also the time when interaction patterns of cohesion, norms, and other group dynamics are forming. In groups, workers have the op- portunity to encourage the development of group processes that help groups accomplish their puposes in the most effective and ef- ficient manner. Although leaders may be more attentive to assess- ment processes in early stages, assessment continues as group work progresses.

C h a p t e r O u t l i n e

Conducting Effective Assessments 247

The Assessment Process 249

Assessing the Functioning of Group Members 254

Assessing the Functioning of the Group as a Whole 262

Assessing the Group’s Environment 271

Linking Assessment to Intervention 276

Summary 279

l e a r n i n g O u t C O m e s

• Define and describe the assessment process.

• Cite examples of methods for assessing the functioning of group members.

• Explain methods for assessing the functioning of the group as a whole.

• Identify methods of assessing the group’s environment.



M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 246 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 247

ConduCting EfffECtivE AssEssmEnts

Assessments involve gathering, organizing, and making judgments about information f rom many sources. Assessments are ongoing, often requiring complex coordination. Workers may have to rely on colleagues, families, f riends, and other sources of data, such as records, to make assessments as the group evolves. The process often calls for reaching out to many individuals, and using different information collection strategies, iteratively, over the life of a group. Gradually, as the group develops, a more complete picture emerges. Sources contribute information, then the worker ref lects on it critically and attempts to collect additional information as needed. This iterative process of collecting data, ref lecting on it, and collecting more data is repeated throughout the life of the group as new information is needed to reach specific goals and objectives.

During the assessment process it is important to obtain as reliable and valid informa- tion as possible. Information comes f rom a variety of sources. The accuracy and com- pleteness of each source of information varies, so an important aspect of assessment is using critical thinking to judge the accuracy and adequacy of the information that is obtained f rom each source (Gambrill, 2009). It is also essential to determine if initial information is adequate or if more is needed to gain greater accuracy and understanding as the group develops. The goal is to gain as complete an understanding of the situation as possible in the time that is available. Workers have to use critical judgment about how much information is enough to intervene effectively.

Because of time pressures and ethical considerations, workers should be aware of being parsimonious during data collection, only collecting the information needed to help members achieve agreed-upon goals and plans. In treatment groups, workers make assessments to assist individual members, whereas in task groups, they help groups to achieve goals that have implications beyond the members. In both treatment and task groups, the goal, charge, or mandate may be formulated within the group or by an ex- ternal source. Workers have to carefully assess if goals are clear and consistent among members and any other constituencies or if goals need to be clarified and harmonized before the assessment process can continue.

When conducting assessments, it is especially important that the information being collected remains aligned with agreed-upon goals. Because goals can change, workers should keep track of them and use check-ins or go-rounds at the beginning of meetings to make sure that members are clear about goals and remain focused on them. Check-ins and go-rounds enable members to modify goals as situations change. As goals change, new assessment data may be needed.

As with other aspects of social group work practice, assessment varies according to the type of group being conducted. In a treatment group, for example, the worker f re- quently focuses assessments on the problems experienced by individual members, but a task group leader’s assessment is often focused on the ability of members to contribute to the group’s productivity.

Despite differences in focus, there are many commonalities in the assessments made by workers leading different types of groups. For example, in both task and treatment groups, most workers assess the strengths and weaknesses of the group as a whole, the members, and the external environment in which the group and its members function.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 247 01/05/17 11:31 AM

248 Chapter 8

Commonalities also can be found in the assessment of different groups that are at the same stage of development. For example, in the beginning stage, workers make a sys- tematic assessment of the functioning of the group and its members. During the middle stage, workers test the validity of their initial assessments and modify their interven- tion plans on the basis of the success of early interventions. In the ending stage of the group, the worker makes an assessment of the functioning of the group and its mem- bers to highlight accomplishments, to focus attention on areas that still need work, and to ensure that achievements accomplished during the group will be maintained after the group ends.

Focus on Group Processes

Most readers are familiar with generalist social work practice approaches that rely on systems theory and take a holistic approach to assessment ( Johnson & Yanca, 2010; Kirst-Ashman & Hull, 2012). Using a generalist approach, group workers are sup- posed to assess individual members, the group as a whole, and the group in relation to its environment. In practice, however, there is a tendency for group workers to focus on individual members rather than on the processes of group interaction or on the group in relation to its environment. This may be because they may have more experience work ing with individuals than with groups. Also, some workers do not have any formal education in group work. Data f rom analyses of the content and style of group leaders conf irm the lack of focus on group processes (Barlow, 2013; Forysth, 2014; Hill, 1965; Toseland, Rossiter, Peak, & Hill, 1990; Ward, 2014). De- spite the lack of focus on group processes, there is evidence that it can make groups more cohesive and effective (Barlow, 2013; Forsyth, 2014; Ward, 2014). Based on the available evidence, we strongly recommend that group workers be especially vigilant about spending time during each group meeting on group processes. This can often be accomplished by making a conscious effort to point out processes in the here-and- now of group interaction.

Sometimes, however, stopping the action to identify, clarify, or discuss group pro- cesses can be disruptive to the content being discussed. One way to avoid disrupting group interaction is to reserve talk about important processes to a few minutes at the end of each group meeting. Workers and members can use the time to comment on and discuss the processes that were particularly helpful and those that could be im- proved. If this is done routinely near or at the end of each meeting it will reinforce helpful group dynamics. For example, a member might state that there seemed to be much member-to-member communication during the group meeting, the discussion included only a few members, or members did not seem to be considering the points of view of others. Similarly, the worker might comment on the norms developing in the group or the roles that members were playing. Workers can close meetings by asking if members would like to change any processes that might have been identified and suggest that the discussion could occur at the beginning of the next meeting if it is too extensive a topic for the group to resolve now. Workers could then review tasks for the next meeting and close the meeting. When setting aside a time at the end of meetings for discussing group processes, care should be taken not to use the time to discuss content. It is easy to slip into discussions of content when group processes are

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 248 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 249

being discussed. The following case example is of a process discussion at the end of one type of group.

Case Example Group Processing During Group Therapy

During a discussion of group interaction patterns in an early meeting of a therapy group in an outpatient mental health clinic, two members noted that the entire second session was spent focusing on one member’s problem. Another member said, “John talked a lot because he is having a lot of problems with his wife.” The worker pointed out that the issue was not John’s problems with his wife, but whether the group wanted to spend an entire session focused on only one member’s concern. The worker suggested that in all future meetings, a brief check-in period would occur, once the summary of the previous group meeting was made by the leader. The check-in period would be used to make sure that each member took a minute to remind the group of the goal they were working toward, a very brief statement of prog- ress, and whether they wanted to do more work on some aspect of their mental health later in the group meeting. The worker then guided the group in a brief discussion of the pros and cons of focusing on one member for an entire session. The group decided after a few minutes to try to focus on at least two members’ concerns during each meeting. They also decided to make sure that all members could identify with the issues being discussed by the members who would be the focus of work during any meeting.

External Constituencies and Sponsors

Workers often fail to pay sufficient attention to external constituencies and other aspects of groups’ environments. External constituencies vary depending on the nature of groups but may include parents, courts, teachers, and others who have a stake in mem- bers’ lives. Similarly, the expectations of sponsors for the conduct of groups and the out- comes achieved are important to consider during assessments. Periodically throughout the life of a group, workers and members should take time to identify, describe, and update their perceptions of the relationship of the group to significant others, the spon- soring organization, and the larger community sanctioning and supporting groups.

Overall, assessment in group work is more complex than assessment in practice with individuals. In addition to assessing the functioning of individual members, assess- ment in group work also means examining the processes that take place in the group as a whole and the support and opposition the group as a whole is likely to encounter in the larger social environment.

thE AssEssmEnt ProCEss

In the early stages of group work, the worker is conf ronted with amorphous and sketchy data about the group and its members. Initially, the worker fills in gaps by collecting missing data. As information is collected, the worker begins to sort through it and or- ganize it systematically. The group members should be involved as much as possible in collecting and analyzing data. This will help them to be invested in the goals that are formulated and the way the group will be working to achieve desired outcomes.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 249 01/05/17 11:31 AM

250 Chapter 8

Gradually, the assessment process narrows as data are collected and organized and judgments are made about how to intervene in, cope with, or alleviate whatever con- cern, problem, or task is facing the group. In a group for people getting a divorce, for example, the worker asked members to describe their feelings about their spouses. In- formation gathered f rom this preliminary assessment leads to a further assessment of members’ feelings of loss and anger toward their spouses. The assessment might also in- volve the members and the leader in identifying coping skills and strengths to help with these feelings and to move forward in positive directions.

How Much Information?

Several issues arise when workers assess the functioning of the group and its members. One of the most basic issues is how much information to collect. Although it is often rec- ommended that workers collect as much information as possible, increasing information beyond a certain point may not lead to more effective goal achievement. Also, workers are sometimes conf ronted with urgent situations that preclude extensive data collection. In these situations, workers should be guided by goals formulated during the planning and the beginning stages of group work. Workers also should be as clear as possible about the relevance of the information being collected. Extensive data collection that has little relation to the group’s goals is a violation of members’ right to privacy and of dubious value for accomplishing group and individual member goals.

No matter how much information is collected, workers should suspend their judg- ments about a problematic situation until they have ref lected on all the data they have time to collect. A widespread and potentially damaging mistake of novice workers oc- curs when they make judgments and offer suggestions concerning intervention strategies before they fully understand a problem or have found out what the member has already tried. When making premature suggestions, the novice is often conf ronted by a group member who says, “I tried that and it didn’t work.” The result is that the worker is at a loss as to how to proceed, and the member’s faith in the worker’s ability to help is shaken.

Case Example A Group of People Getting Divorced

Seeing that the members found it difficult to talk about how hard it was for them to deal with feelings about their spouses, the worker decided to do a group go-round, asking each member in turn to talk about their predominant feelings toward their spouse. Once the group go-round was completed, the worker helped the members talk about the feelings that they shared in common and how they were dealing with them. Members began to realize that they were not alone with the feelings they were having. They then began to talk about some ways to cope with their feelings and move beyond them. For extra support, members decided to exchange telephone numbers so that they could talk about their emotional reactions between group meetings.

Some helpful principles to guide workers in their data-collection efforts follow.

principles of Data Collection • Use more than one mode of data collection whenever possible. • Distinguish between the problem, concern, or task about which information is

being collected and the source of the information.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 250 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 251

• Obtain relevant samples of data f rom several sources. • Structure data collection so that relevant information can be obtained quickly

and efficiently. • Develop a system that will not place overwhelming demands on persons

who are collecting information or on persons who are asked for information.

• Avoid biasing data despite the selectivity and subjectivity that are inherent parts of any effort at data collection and assessment.

• Involve all group members in the assessment process so that multiple viewpoints can help overcome limitations of the worker’s subjectivity.

• Discuss assessment data with a co-leader or a supervisor between meetings.

Diagnostic Labels

Another issue that often arises when one makes assessments of the members of treatment groups is the use of diagnostic classification systems and labels. Diagnostic classification systems can be helpful in making differential assessments and arriving at effective treatment plans for group members. Classification systems such as the Diagnos- tic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) are used in many mental health set- tings for assessment, intervention, and reimbursement purposes (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Diagnostic labels can result in social stigma. Members of a group may be at risk for harmful stereotyping when diagnostic labels are used indiscriminately or without attention to conf identiality. Also, some scholars believe that members may start to behave in ways that are consistent with the labels ascribed to them (Kirk, Gomory, & Cohen, 2013; Kirk & Kutchins, 1999). There are also many issues about what should be classified as a mental illness, with some scholars believing that some mood states, such as normal sadness and worry, have been erroneously classified as mental illnesses (Horwitz & Wakefield, 2007, 2012). Although group work practitioners should be wary of the indiscriminate use of diagnostic labels in mental health and other settings, our clinical experience suggests that group workers often encounter members with very serious, even life-threatening anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Proper assessment of mental disorders can lead to appropriate group and other forms of treat- ment that can reduce or eliminate the terrible pain and suffering that these conditions cause. Treatment can also reduce or eliminate the risk of self-injury, suicide, and the suffering of caregivers and others who care deeply about the person. Also, organiza- tions where group workers practice must be reimbursed for the services rendered, and private and government insurance funding often require assessments and diagnosis for payment. For all these reasons, although diagnostic labeling is not ideal, careful assess- ment leading to the right type of treatment is essential to enable persons with mental health disorders get the care they need, and a diagnostic label may be needed to obtain the necessary services. Although an in-depth examination of the applications of the DSM-V to group treatment is beyond the scope of this text, the following case example may help illustrate its usefulness. Also, there are books that focus on assessment and diagnosis and the DSM-V that can serve as helpful resources for group workers (see, for example, Corcoran & Walsh, 2015).

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 251 01/05/17 11:31 AM

252 Chapter 8

Case Example The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)

An 81-year-old man was misdiagnosed as having an organic brain syndrome. The diagnosis was based solely on the symptoms of confusion and disorientation that he exhibited. Based on that diagnosis, it was recommended that the man participate in a reality orientation group and an activity group designed for persons with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. However, a more extensive assessment using criteria from the DSM revealed that the person was actually suffering from major depression compounded by dehydration, isolation, and malnutrition. Given this diagnosis, a quite different form of group treatment was recom- mended after the person’s medical and nutrition needs were addressed. The man was en- couraged to attend a therapy group for people suffering from problems of depression and to expand his personal friendship networks by becoming involved in an activity group at a senior center and a social group at his church.

Assessment Focus

A third issue that often arises in making an assessment is how to focus data-collection efforts. Workers should avoid becoming locked into one assessment focus. Premature allegiance to a particular view of a situation can result in ignoring important data or attempting to fit all data into a particular conceptualization of the situation.

Kottler and Englar-Carlson (2015) point out that almost all mental health professionals use the DSM in their work, even if they do not subscribe to the underlying assumptions of the medical model when people are labeled with diagnoses using the DSM. They do so for billing purposes and because the DSM enables group workers to communicate with others using a common language and also to be held accountable for clinical decisions based on assessing and intervening with individual members of a group. However, Kottler and Englar-Carlson (2015) also point out that there are other assessment approaches that are valuable. For example, in a developmental assessment process the worker is looking not for pathology or problems but rather for the current developmental functioning of a group member and where it places him or her in relationship to others at a given age or life situation. Thus, in a developmental assessment, the leader is looking at whether a person has reached an appropriate developmental level for his or her age and whether they are ready to move to and take on the tasks associated with the next developmental stage in their lives.

Kottler and Englar-Carlson (2015) also point out that behavioral assessments can be useful because they do not label pathology or what is normative during a particular de- velopmental stage but rather what specific maladaptive behaviors need to be changed. For additional information see Corcoran and Walsh (2015) or Newhill (2015).

Two other assessment foci should also be kept in mind by leaders in the early stages of group work. One is to make a careful assessment of members’ strengths and resilience (Corcoran & Walsh, 2013). Taking an empowerment approach takes the focus off of members’ pathology and maladaptive behaviors and instead clearly focuses it on members’ existing coping skills and what they bring to a situation to help them overcome the issues and problems they may face. Another is to make a systemic assessment of situations, focusing on the context of problems and issues that members face as they live in the larger environment. Therefore, although the DSM is widely used as a diagnostic

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 252 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 253

tool, group workers should keep in mind that other assessment approaches are equally valid and may be more helpful than simply labeling a person with a particular disorder.

In focusing their assessments, workers should be guided by the unique needs and particular circumstances of each member and by the purposes of the group. In one group, for example, it may be important to focus on members’ family situations, but in another group, it may be more beneficial to assess members’ problem-solving skills. In other words, the focus of assessment should change with the changing needs of the group and its members.

To make an accurate assessment, workers should strive for objectivity. Although all observations contain some subjectivity, it is important to separate subjective impres- sions and opinions f rom more objective observations of behavior and events. Inferences should be based on logic, evidence, and critical thinking about the information and impressions workers observe and gather f rom members (Gambrill, 2009).

It can also be helpful to share observations and inferences with group members. They can confirm the validity of the worker’s observations and inferences and provide an alternative perspective. It is also helpful to check the validity of assessments with su- pervisors. Obtaining alternative perspectives in this manner can help the worker make assessments and formulate intervention plans.

Relationship of Assessment to the Change Process and Problem Solving

In the last chapter, we mentioned that monitoring and evaluating goal formulation was essential to the beginning of the change process. Assessment is also essential to the change process because it helps members identify what individual and group goals have been accomplished and what work remains to be done. In early group meetings, an assessment provides a baseline that members can use to compare their progress as the group progresses. As the group progresses, assessments help to identify progress and success, but they also identify obstacles in the path of goals that remain unachieved.

In treatment groups, assessment helps members understand their concerns and problems, and it allows them to normalize them. It is very disconcerting, even f righten- ing, not to know what is happening to you, and assessment helps members get a handle on the type and severity of their problems and effective treatment methods. An instilla- tion of hope comes about as members begin to understand their problems in the context of others who have had them.

Members begin to feel that they are not alone with their problems, that similar prob- lems have been experienced and overcome by others. Members can be encouraged to do their own research on their problems and the treatment methods for them, thereby be- ing better-informed consumers of the services they are receiving f rom the social group worker. This is empowering to members as they begin to grapple with making changes to cope more effectively or alleviate their problems entirely. A strengths-based assess- ment also emphasizes members’ resiliency and capacity to change, making the change process and problem solving easier to conceive.

For members of task groups, assessment gives the group a conceptualization of the problem conf ronting them. Facts and data that are needed are gathered and clarified. As- sessment enables members to see what methods have already been tried to resolve the

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 253 01/05/17 11:31 AM

254 Chapter 8

problem or issue facing the group and promising avenues for further work. It can also point out positive and negative aspects of group functioning so that prob- lem-solving abilities can be enhanced. Overall, a thorough and comprehensive assessment is essential to problem solving in both treatment and task groups.

AssEssing thE funCtioning of grouP mEmbErs

During the assessment process, the worker should consider the current functioning of the members and, whenever possible, also examine members’ functioning f rom a devel- opmental perspective. A developmental perspective can help the worker assess whether a member’s current functioning manifests itself in a transitory, acute pattern of behavior, or a longer-term, chronic pattern. It also helps the worker gain a greater understand- ing of their intensity, duration, and scope of particular concerns. Overall, developmental assessments are more likely to be accurate and complete.

Eco-maps and genograms are two well-known tools described in many social work practice textbooks that can be used during developmental assessments. They can be completed on members’ current lives, or members can be asked to fill them out acting as if they were living in a specific age of interest. For example, one member of the trauma group was asked to fill out an eco-map that represented her life space when she was eight years old and being abused, while another member was asked to do the same while remembering back to when she was six years old.

Group workers also have to decide on what service technologies might be best suited to address members’ concerns. For example, would a problem respond best if a cognitive behavioral approach were used and developmental issues were treated as cog- nitive schema, or would an ego psychology or interpersonal therapy approach be more effective? Whenever possible, evidence-based interventions should be selected (Barlow, 2010, 2013; Macgowan, 2008), but when problems are complex and evidence is lacking, critical thinking and practice experience often have to be applied along with available evidence to formulate effective intervention plans (Gambrill, 2009).

When conducting assessments, group workers also should consider other interven- tions that might be used in conjunction with group work. For example, a careful as- sessment might reveal that members could benefit f rom case management, housing, or medication. Before arranging for any services or resources, the group can be used to assess capacity, motivation, and readiness to receive needed services.

When making an assessment, workers should examine three broad aspects of a member’s functioning:

1. The intrapersonal life of the member

2. The interpersonal interactions of the member 3. The environment in which the member functions

When assessing members’ intrapersonal lives, workers rely on their own obser- vations, members’ self-reports, and collateral reports. To examine members’ intra- personal functioning, the worker may focus on members’ perceived health status;

Assess your understand­ ing of the assessment pro­ cess by taking a brief quiz

at www.pearsonglobaleditions .com/toseland.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 254 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 255

psycholog ical and emotional well-being; and their cognition, belief s, motivations, and expectations.

When assessing interpersonal functioning, workers focus on members’ social skills, the extent and quality of their social support networks, and their role performance. The group provides a natural laboratory for the worker to observe the interpersonal functioning of each member, but it is also helpful to inquire about a member’s interpersonal interactions with family and close f riends because these relationships often have a significant effect on the member.

Workers should also examine the environmental context in which members function. Questions such as “Is the environment supportive or does it hinder members’ ability to work on group and individual goals?” and “What resources can members draw on f rom their environment to help them achieve their goals?” are often pertinent.

In task groups, workers will also find it useful to assess the intrapersonal, interper- sonal, and environmental functioning of members, but with a different focus. For ex- ample, leaders of task groups generally do not make in-depth assessments of members’ physical, psychological, or emotional states. However, they are likely to examine a mem- ber’s motivation for attending and the member’s expectations about accomplishing the work of the group. Similarly, a task group leader would be unlikely to assess the extent to which members’ families support their work in the group. The leader is more likely to consider what effect a controversial committee report might have on members’ day-to-day interactions with their colleagues or on their interaction with the line staff they supervise.

Methods for Assessing Group Members

A variety of methods exist to help workers assess the function- ing of group members. Among the most commonly used meth- ods for assessing functioning are (1) members’ self-observations, (2) worker observations, (3) reports by others who have seen the member function outside the group, and (4) standardized assess- ment instruments.

Self-Observation Self-observation refers to members’ examination and assessment of their own behavior. Usually, members simply recall and de- scribe their own behavior, then examine and ref lect on it with the help of the worker and other group members (Ward, 2014). Self- observation and self- ref lection are often helpful in developing insight about one’s behavior, identifying patterns of behavior, and examining the effect of the environment. However, members’ recollections may not be accurate; for a variety of reasons, recollections may be incomplete, vague, or distorted. Therefore, other methods of self- observation, such as self-monitoring, have been developed.

Because these methods are more intrusive and require more effort on the part of the member than simply recalling and ref lecting on past behavior, workers should be sure


behavior: Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multi- disciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies

Critical thinking Question: The group worker assesses each member. What tech­ niques help to understand the intrapersonal characteristics of members?

Research-Informed Practice

behavior: Apply critical thinking to engage in analysis of quantitative and qualitative research methods and research findings.

Critical thinking Question: Workers use multiple measures to assess group members. Why are multiple measures important for a thorough assessment?

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 255 01/05/17 11:31 AM

256 Chapter 8

that members are motivated to try the methods and have sufficient resources to imple- ment them successfully. Workers should be aware that self-monitoring methods often presume members to be action-oriented, insightful, and sensitive; thus, the methods may not be useful for all members.

self-monitoring. Rather than relying on memory of past events, members may exam- ine their own behavior outside the group in a prospective and systematic fashion by col- lecting data on the f requency, intensity, and duration of a particular behavior and its antecedents and consequences. This process is often referred to as self-monitoring. An assessment of a particular behavior and its antecedents and consequences can be useful in determining how particular problematic behaviors are maintained.

Awareness of behavior patterns is a prerequisite for changing behavior. For example, an assessment of the antecedents of the anxiety that a member experiences in social situations may reveal that the statements the member tells himself about his lack of anything interesting to say trigger his anxiety.

The act of self-monitoring may by itself increase desired behaviors and decrease un- desired behaviors (Hopwood & Bornstein, 2014). Self-monitoring can also have therapeu- tic benefits by heightening members’ awareness of behavior patterns and empowering them to make changes (Hopwood & Bornstein, 2014).

To begin self-monitoring, the worker should be sure that members are motivated to examine their own behavior and to record it. Then the worker should help mem- bers decide exactly what they are going to monitor. It is often helpful to have members monitor behaviors they would like to increase as well as behaviors they would like to decrease. This process can help members to replace problematic behaviors with desired ones, rather than only reducing problematic behaviors.

In deciding what to monitor, workers should help members determine what is feasi- ble and realistic, given their life circumstances. Members often want to collect data about several problematic behaviors at the same time. However, members are rarely able to follow through on such ambitious plans. Therefore, initially, members should be encour- aged to develop modest plans that they can realistically accomplish. Later, they may wish to develop more ambitious monitoring plans.

In deciding on a realistic plan, it should be clear where, when, and under what con- ditions a particular behavior will be monitored. For example, it is unrealistic for a single parent with four children to expect to monitor the behavior of one child just before din- ner or in the morning when the children are preparing for school. However, there may be time during the afternoon or evening when the parent can observe the child’s behav- ior for a short period without being interrupted.

In most groups, members make a mental note of what they have observed between meetings, and they share their observations with other members during the next group meeting. Because it is sometimes difficult for members to accurately recall the data they have monitored, methods for recording self-monitored data have been developed. These methods include charts, logs, diaries, problem cards, and self-anchored rating scales.

Charting. Some members find it useful to record monitored data on a chart be- cause it provides an organized, visual display of the information. A chart allows mem- bers to see trends in the data—that is, whether a behavior is increasing or decreasing.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 256 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 257

It also may serve as a reminder for members to perform tasks that they agreed to complete between meetings. For an example of charting, see the following case example.

Case Example Charting

During the early sessions of an assertiveness training group for single parents, members were encouraged to discuss examples of their behavior they would classify as unassertive. Members identified instances of how difficult it was for them to be assertive in work and social situa- tions. The group worker asked members to chart their behavior outside of the group, concen- trating on recording the frequency of their nonassertive behavior. Members charted incidents each day for two weeks. After that, the worker helped members review their “problem” behaviors and convert these into “positive” goal statements, leading to the establishment of individual goals for members.

Workers should help members to be creative in designing charts. For example, in helping a parent develop a monitoring chart that will be shared with a young child, the worker can suggest using smiley faces, stars, or hearts instead of check marks to signify that a behavior was performed correctly.

The format of a chart depends on the method used to collect self-monitoring data. The simplest format uses a tally to measure the f requency of a behavior. More com- plicated formats are sometimes used to get an accurate assessment of the f requency of a behavior without having to count each occurrence. A chart divided into a number of time intervals can be used to count behaviors. For example, members can count the number of occurrences of a behavior in 10-minute intervals between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. every evening. Charts can also be made that allow a member to record whether a behav- ior occurred at particular intervals during a designated period, such as at the beginning of every 30-minute time interval.

Members sometimes fail to follow through on charting self-monitored behaviors. For some, charting may require too much organization. Others find it inconvenient to monitor and record their behavior immediately after it occurs. Members sometimes pre- fer one of the methods described in the following sections.

Logs and Diaries. Logs and diaries are often less accur ate than monitoring charts  because members rely on their memory of events to record behaviors at some convenient time after they occur rather than as they occur. However, because of their convenience, members sometimes prefer keeping a log or diary to keeping a chart.

Logs and diaries require members to record events in a descriptive fashion and can be a valuable source of qualitative data for the worker to gain valuable insights into the world of each member. Logs and diaries can also be used to help the worker understand other data reported in quantitative self-observations. To avoid logs and diaries that be- come too idiosyncratic, the worker can give members a clear indication of what data they are to record. For example, a worker may ask members to record problematic situa- tions and their immediate cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses to situations. For examples of logs and diaries and more information about how to use them, see Bloom and colleagues (2009).

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 257 01/05/17 11:31 AM

258 Chapter 8

Self-Anchored Rating Scales. Members can also record their observations by using a self-anchored rating scale. This is a measurement device made by the worker and a group member specifically to record data about a problematic behavior that has been identified as the target of an intervention. To develop a self-anchored rating scale, the worker helps a group member identify behaviors, feelings, and thoughts that are associ- ated with various levels of the problematic behavior. For example, in developing a scale to measure depression, a member suggests that severe depression occurs when he has suicidal thoughts and does not eat or sleep. Moderate depression occurs when he has thoughts that he is not a good father or husband, when he has little appetite and eats only one meal a day, and when he falls asleep only after lying awake for a long time. The member suggests that he is not depressed when he has a good appetite, can sleep well, and has thoughts that he is a good father and husband. An example of a self-anchored scale to rate depression is shown in Figure 8.1. For further information about developing self-anchored rating scales, see Bloom and colleagues (2009).

Worker Observation Workers can assess the functioning of group members by observing them during meet- ings. In most practice situations, workers rely on naturalistic observations. However, spe- cific activities, such as simulations and program activities to assess members’ functioning in a particular area, can also be used.

naturalistic Observation. As demonstrated in the following case example, workers can learn a great deal about members by observing their behavior in the group. Given f ree interaction within the group, members often display behaviors similar to behaviors exhibited outside the group. By scanning the group, the worker can stay aware of the reactions of all group members. The worker observes a member behaving in a certain manner, for example, and makes a mental note. Further observation, over time, helps the worker identify the member’s behavior patterns and typical coping styles.

Case Example Naturalistic Observation

The leader of a group to teach employment skills to teens spent the initial sessions of the group observing how members demonstrated interpersonal skills. Using these naturalistic observations, the worker was able to point out the interpersonal strengths of each member and how these could be used during the job-seeking process. The leader also asked members to give each other feedback, concentrating on identifying the positive interpersonal skills

very depressed moderately depressed not depressed

1. Does not eat 1. Eats one meal a day 1. Has good appetite

2. Does not sleep 2. Has difficulty in sleeping 2. Sleeps well

3. Has suicidal thoughts 3. Has thoughts about not being a good father or husband

3. Has thoughts about being a good father and husband

Figure 8.1 Example of a Self-Anchored Rating Scale

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 258 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 259

that could be useful. Using these assessment techniques, members were able to identify their strengths and work on skills that needed strengthening. Later in the group, the leader asked members to practice these skills by assigning role playing exercises that simulated the employment interview situation.

As the group develops, members can be asked to describe their behavior. This feed- back can be used to determine whether members’ self-perceptions are consistent with the worker’s observations. The worker may also solicit other members’ observations and re- actions. The process of formulating an assessment on the basis of observations and per- ceptions of more than one individual is often referred to as triangulation. Triangulation can lead to assessments that are more accurate than assessments made by a single individual.

Although naturalistic observation offers the worker an opportunity to observe mem- bers’ behavior in an unobtrusive fashion, its chief limitation is that group interaction may not offer the right opportunities to assess pertinent aspects of a member’s behavior. For example, in a parenting skills group, a parent may describe how she sets limits on her child’s behavior, but group interaction does not provide the worker with an opportunity to view the parent actually setting limits.

In addition, experience suggests that members may not always give accurate or suf- ficiently detailed accounts of their behavior. When the worker can actually observe the member engaging in a behavior, such as limit setting, for example, the worker may find that the member does not set limits in the way that is stated. For example, a member may appear angrier or more threatening than her self-report would indicate. Therefore, the worker may find other methods useful when observing members’ behavior.

role playing. Role playing, sociodrama, and psychodrama are as important for assessment as for intervention. They allow the worker and the other members of the group to observe a member acting out a situation. Role-play methods are described in detail in Chapter 10.

simulations. Simulations assess members’ functioning in specific, predetermined role- play situations. The worker asks for one or more volunteers to simulate a specific, real-life situation. Simulations are developed by workers to teach particular skills. The member whose behavior is being assessed is asked to respond to the situation enacted by the vol- unteers as they would if they were conf ronted with the situation in their everyday lives.

Simulations can be developed for many situations. For example, in a parenting group, a simulation may involve having two members play the role of siblings in an argument about who gets to play with a toy truck. The parent whose behavior is being assessed is asked to act as she would if such a situation occurred in her home, and the other mem- bers of the group can give their feedback about the way the parent handled the situation and alternative ways of responding.

Assessments of a member’s behavior during a simulation can be made by all group members. Scales to rate a member’s response can be developed specifically for the objec- tives and goals of a particular group. For example, in the previously mentioned assertive- ness training group all group members are trying to reduce their anxiety and improve their responses. Assessments might focus on (1) the anxiety level that a member demon- strates while making a response, and (2) the effectiveness of a response in asserting the member’s rights in the situation.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 259 01/05/17 11:31 AM

260 Chapter 8

Simulations have been developed for many different populations. New simulations can be developed by using the model described by Goldf ried and D’Zurilla (1969). This model includes (1) analyzing a problematic situation and developing several realistic sit- uations that members are likely to conf ront in their daily lives, (2) enumerating possible responses to these situations, (3) evaluating the responses in terms of their efficacy in handling the problematic situation, (4) developing a measurement format, and (5) evalu- ating the measure’s reliability and validity. Workers can use this model to create simula- tions that address the needs of the populations with whom they work.

Simulations have the potential limitation that group members know they are acting rather than performing in real-life situations. In most cases, however, members appear to forget that they are acting and perform as they would in real life. The following case examples illustrates how a simulation can be created and used in a group.

Case Example Creating a Simulated Situation in a Social Anxiety Support Group

In a social anxiety support group, two members role play a job interview. Andre, who has com- plained of having difficulty finding a job and of feeling nervous in interviews, is asked to play the role of the job applicant. Another member volunteers to play the interviewer. The worker and group members observe how Andre comports himself both verbally and non-verbally and then give him feedback and suggestions. Later, Andre describes how he felt in the simulated interview and tries the role play again. This time, he uses the group’s suggestions and reports feeling much less anxious. Others in the group want to practice these strategies, and the situa- tion is role played again with new members.

program activities. Many different types of program activities can be used to assess the functioning of group members. The selection of appropriate activities depends on the type of group the worker is leading. In children’s groups, the worker can have members participate in play activities and games. For example, the game Charades can be used to assess how members act out particular situations. Games requiring cooperation can be used to assess the extent to which members are able to negotiate differences.

In adolescent groups, a party, a meal, or a sports activity can often help the worker make an assessment of members’ social skills and their level of social development. In adult groups containing moderately or severely impaired members, preparing a meal together or going on an outing can help the worker assess daily living skills. Program activities should be age-appropriate and should give members the opportunity to demonstrate behaviors that they would like to improve through their participation in a group. For more information about using program materials in groups, see the section on program activities in Chapter 9.

Reports by Others In addition to members’ self-observations and workers’ observations, leaders often rely on the reports of people who are familiar with members’ behavior outside the group. When considering data reported by others, the worker should assess its reliability and validity, which can vary considerably f rom person to person and f rom one report to an- other. For example, some data may be based on rumors, assumptions, or the statements of unidentified third parties; other data may come f rom direct observations. Obviously, the worker should place less confidence in rumors than in direct observations.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 260 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 261

The worker should also consider the relationship of the person reporting the data to the member about whom data have been collected. Is the person reporting the data in- terested in the well-being of the group member, or is the person motivated by ill feeling, personal gain, or rivalry? By examining a person’s motivation for reporting data about a group member, the worker is in a better position to assess any potential bias in a report.

When a worker has an ongoing relationship with individuals who regularly report data about group members’ behavior, such as mental health therapy aides, child care workers, and teachers, it is often worth the effort to help these individuals use reliable and valid data-collection systems. For example, a therapy group leader can offer to help a mental health therapy aide develop a chart to monitor the behavior of a group member at meals or during recreational activities. Similarly, a school social worker can offer an elementary school teacher assistance in using the Achenbach (1997) checklist, which is a standardized instrument to measure children’s social behavior. In this way, the worker can build a relationship with persons who have daily contact with group members and ensure that accurate data are reported about members’ behaviors outside the group.

Standardized Instruments A fourth way that workers can assess the functioning of group members is by using standardized assessment instruments. Some instruments require lengthy personal inter- views, but others are brief, paper-and-pencil measures known as rapid assessment instru- ments. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), for example, is a 21-item scale that assesses the presence and severity of depression. Rapid assessment instruments can be used in many ways in a group. For example, some members of an outpatient psychiatric group can be asked to spend a few minutes filling out the BDI during a group meeting or at home between meetings. Other members might be asked to fill out the Stait-Trait Anx- iety Inventory (Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983) or other instru- ments that assess the particular symptoms individual group members are experiencing.

Despite the usefulness of standardized assessment instruments for understanding the problems and concerns experienced by group members, it should be kept in mind that these instruments may not be appropriate for use with all populations. For example, when administered to members of specific sociocultural groups or to developmentally disabled persons, such instruments may not be valid or reliable. In fact, they may give the worker a distorted impression of members’ strengths. Thus, when considering the use of a standardized measure with a particular group of individuals, workers should check whether the description of the instrument includes information about its use with particular populations. If no information is available, workers should select another mea- sure that has been found to be valid for use with the population of interest. A measure suspected of being culturally biased should never be used because even if caution is exer- cised in interpreting the results, others who have access to the results may draw errone- ous conclusions.

Because rapid assessment instruments are focused on particular prob- lem areas, the type of assessment instrument selected depends on the group’s focus. Corcoran and Fischer (2013) present a wide variety of rapid assessment instruments for use with children, adults, couples, and families in a two-volume set. These volumes are a good desk reference for clinicians because they con- tain a wide variety of measures that can be used in many different situations.

Assess your understanding of assessing the func­ tioning of group members

by taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 261 01/05/17 11:31 AM

262 Chapter 8

AssEssing thE funCtioning of thE grouP As A WholE

In most practice situations, workers limit their assessment of the functioning of the group to simply ref lecting on it during and between meetings. They may also meet

with a supervisor or a consultant to help process their reac- tions to a group and to get suggestions to improve future group meetings. Nevertheless, it can be beneficial to use more formal structured assessments of group processes. These help workers and members become more aware of and involved in improv- ing whole groups’ functioning. Having a group with excellent communication, strong cohesion, inclusive and supportive social integration mechanisms, and an overall positive and efficacious culture, can make a great deal of difference in accomplishing individual and group goals. Therefore, the inconvenience of im- plementing some of the assessment measures we suggest in the following pages should be weighed against the potential benefits that accrue when groups have supportive, smooth, and effica- cious group processes.

A careful assessment of group dynamics can lead to immediate intervention by the worker in the here-and-now work of the group. The worker can use many different skills to guide group dynamics, such as clarifying, changing direction, emphasizing, focusing, and ref raming. There are many other skills as well, so there is a great deal of critical judgment that workers have to use about the choice of skills to employ and the timing of the intervention. The assessment measures described next should be viewed as methods that can be used selectively to augment the skillful use of self by the worker in the here- and-now of group process.

There is no single measure of group processes that is perfect for all situations. Therefore, it is important to become familiar with as many measures as possible to be able to select the ones that might be helpful in particular group assessment situations. Reviews of group measures are a helpful way to gain an overview of what measures are available (see for example, Anderson & West, 1998; Chapman, Baker, Porter, Thayer, & Burlingame, 2010; Delucia-Waack, 1997; Fuhriman & Barlow, 1994; Fuhriman & Packard, 1986; Johnson et. al., 2006; Macgowan, 2008; Strauss, Burlingame, & Bormann, 2008).

Assessing Communication and Interaction Patterns

Communication and interaction patterns are established early in the group. Therefore, the worker should be especially concerned about these patterns as they develop during the beginning stage of groups. A careful assessment of communication patterns can alert the worker to potential problems and prevent them f rom becoming established as a routine part of group functioning. It can also help facilitate member-to-member communication and disclosure of important information that may be helpful in attaining group or individual member goals.


behavior: Apply knowledge of human behavior and the social environment, person-in-environment, and other multi- disciplinary theoretical frameworks in the analysis of assessment data from clients and constituencies.

Critical thinking Question: Workers draw from many methods for assessing the group. What methods can be used to assess the group as a whole?

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 262 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 263

At the beginning of a group, too many member-to-leader interactions and too few member-to-member interactions may be of concern. In newly formed groups, there is a natural tendency for members to look to the worker for direction. The worker may feel gratified by this and encourage it. Unfortunately, this pattern may undermine the mutual aid and group problem solving that occur when members direct their communication to everyone in the group rather than exclusively to the worker.

Other communication patterns may also alert the worker to potential problems. For example, one member may attempt to dominate group discussions and thus prevent other members f rom interacting. Another potential problem is a lack of communica- tion by a member. Although it is not unusual for some members to communicate less f requently than others, the worker should be aware of the potential for isolation when a member says little or nothing for long periods during the beginning stage of the group. Go-rounds and check-ins are ways to include silent members without singling out those who may just be more comfortable listening.

If there is a concern that one or more members may not be engaged in the group, workers can use the Group Engagement Measure (Macgowan & Levenson, 2003; Macgowan & Newman, 2005). It is a brief measure that can be given to each member and scored in the group or between meetings. Another simple way to measure engage- ment is to list members’ names on a pie chart, and place a check mark in the slice next to each member when they speak. This can be done for 5 or 10 minutes, and then the results can be discussed with the group.

To even out participation in children’s groups, tokens can be used during a short game lasting 5 to 7 minutes. The worker can tell members that they will receive a token each time they talk until they reach a certain number, such as five, then they have to wait to participate until all the other members have received five tokens. Tokens can be redeemed for a small prize. Variations on this can be having a baton or a ball in order to talk. The ball or baton can be passed to the member who wants to talk. As with all chil- dren’s groups, the length of these games should be short and should depend on the age of the children in the group.

Assessing Cohesion

Group cohesion takes longer to develop than communication patterns. Still it is import- ant to intervene as early as possible to encourage a high level of cohesion. Group cohe- sion can be measured by using a sociometric scale or by using scales specifically designed to measure group cohesiveness (Budman et al., 1987, 1993).

Sociometry is a widely used method to measure interpersonal attraction. Originally developed by Moreno in the 1930s (Moreno, 1934), sociometry refers to the measurement of social preferences, that is, the strengths of members’ preference or rejection of each other. Sociometric measures are obtained by asking about each member’s preference for interacting with other members in relation to a particular activity or to one another (Crano & Brewer, 1973; Selltiz, Wrightsman, & Cook, 1976).

Case Example Using Sociometric Ratings

During the assessment phase of a discharge planning group for teens in a residential treat- ment facility, the group worker administered a sociometric measurement to understand the

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 263 01/05/17 11:31 AM

264 Chapter 8

patterns of member attraction for each other. Members were asked to identify, in order of preference, which members they would be most interested in seeing after discharge. Using the data from this assessment, the worker constructed a sociogram and “paired” members who indicated mutual attraction, creating a buddy system for work on tasks associated with individual member and group goals. The worker also used the data to identify members who were rated as less popular than most, allowing her to give special attention to these members during group sessions.

Sociometric ratings can be made concerning any activity of interest to workers or members. For example, a worker may want to assess members’ preferences for other members in relation to socializing between group meetings or choosing a partner to complete a task. An additional example follows.

To obtain sociometric ratings, members are usually asked to write the names of the other members on one side of a sheet of paper next to a preference scale, for example, 1 = most preferred to 5 = least preferred. Members are then asked to rate everyone in the group except themselves in relation to a particular activity. For example, children in a residential treatment center might be asked, “If we were going on a day trip together, who would you like to sit next to during the bus trip?” and “Who would be your second choice?”

An index of preferences can be calculated for each member by dividing the total score a member receives f rom all group members by the highest possible score the  member could receive. Members of attractive, cohesive g roups have higher mean  preference scores than do members of g roups who are less cohesive and attractive.

Another way of presenting sociometric data is through a sociogram. As shown in Figure 8.2, solid lines represent attraction, dotted lines represent indifference, broken lines represent repulsion, and arrows represent the direction of preferences that are not reciprocal. For research purposes, sociometric data can be analyzed by more complicated methods, such as multidimensional scaling (Gazda & Mobley, 1981).

Several other measures of the relationships between individual group members and of overall group cohesion have been developed. Cox (1973), for example, developed the Group Therapy Interaction Chronogram, a graphic representation of interactions and relationships among group members that is similar to a sociogram but more com- plex. For assessments of the psychometric properties and utility of the Chronogram, see Fuhriman and Packard (1986) and Reder (1978). Budman and colleagues (1987, 1993) have also developed the Harvard Community Health Plan Group Cohesiveness Scale that can be used by trained clinical raters viewing half-hour, videotaped segments of psychother- apy groups.

A widely used measure of treatment groups’ cohesion is The Group Environment Scale (GES) (Moos, 1986), described in Chapter 14. It can be used to examine cohesion in teams and other task groups (Carless & De Paola, 2000). The GES is now being used less f requently than the Group Climate Questionnaire – Short (GCQS), which is proba- bly the most widely used measure of group climate. The GCQS includes three factors: “engaging,” “avoiding,” and “conf lict” (MacKenzie, 1990). Cohesion is one aspect of the engagement factor of the GCQS. For a recent review of the GCQS and other measures, see Sodano, et al. (2014).

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 264 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 265

Assessing Social Integration

Workers should also assess norms, roles, and status hierarchies through focused obser- vations. The norms that develop are extremely important because they define acceptable and unacceptable behavior in a group. Norms have an important inf luence on members’ satisfaction with their group experiences (Forsyth, 2014). Because norms take time to develop in groups and are difficult to change once established, it is important for leaders to monitor their development and guide them in directions that help members achieve individual and group goals starting in the first meeting. Workers should involve members by pointing out developing norms, asking for members’ input, helping to modify norms that detract f rom individual and group goals, and promoting and protecting norms that are beneficial for goal achievement.

Members’ roles also begin to develop early in the group. Initial role taking in a group is a tentative process and may not ref lect the roles members will occupy later in the group. Members try out roles and often vacillate among them, such as the socio- emotional leader, task leader, and dominator. During this stage of the group, the worker can point out the functional and dysfunctional characteristics of the roles to members and help the members develop role behaviors that will facilitate the group’s functioning and their own functioning in the group.

Figure 8.2 A Sociogram









= John = Mary = Sue = Ann = Phil = Joe = Sandra = Terry



Mutual attraction


Mutual indifference


Mutual repulsion

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 265 01/05/17 11:31 AM

266 Chapter 8

Focusing on problematic roles, Shulman (2016) has identified the scapegoat, deviant member, gatekeeper, internal leader, defensive member, quiet member, and talkative member as challenging roles that members f requently take on in groups. Most roles are not difficult for the worker to identify. The scapegoat, for example, receives much neg- ative attention and criticism f rom the group because the member is blamed for a host of defects and problems. According to Shulman (2016), members attack the portion of a scapegoat’s behavior that they least like about themselves. Although Shulman (2016) mentions that scapegoating is common, our experience suggests that scapegoating is rel- atively rare in adult groups. Scapegoating is more likely to occur in children’s groups, but appropriate program activities, structured and timed to consider the developmental abilities and the concentration of different groups of children, can reduce or eliminate it.

In the case of a scapegoat, the worker may want to point out the pattern of interaction to the g roup without tak ing sides (Shulman, 2016). In doing so, the worker should be aware that sometimes groups use scapegoats to avoid talking about difficult, emotionally charged issues that may be catalyzed by the scapegoat’s behavior. This pattern could be pointed out to the group, and the group could be asked to address the diff icult, emotionally charged issue directly. At the same time, the scapegoat’s behavior may be deviant and annoying to the average person, and the group’s negative interactions with the scapegoat may simply be an effort to get the individual to stop the behavior. In this situation, the worker may want to help the group consider more appropriate ways to help the member change the behavior. In more extreme cases, the worker may want to consider whether the member is appropriate for the group or whether the member could be helped to change the annoying behavior with feedback and encouragement f rom the group. The scapegoat’s behavior may also represent an inappropriate way to get attention. In this situation, the worker can help the scapegoat to lead an activity or in some other way get attention for prosocial rather than antisocial behavior. Malekoff (2014) suggests that it is also helpful to humanize scapegoats by helping members to understand them more fully, to help the group understand their struggle to fit in, and the reasons why they behave in a fashion that elicits negative feedback f rom the group.

When one or more members of a group assume dysfunctional roles, it is often a sig- nal that the group as a whole is not functioning at an optimal level. For example, when an assessment reveals that a member is functioning as a gatekeeper, that is, one who does not allow the group to discuss sensitive issues, the worker should help the group as a whole examine how to change its overall functioning rather than focus on the member who has assumed the dysfunctional role. A quiet member may signal difficulties in the communication and interaction patterns established in the group as a whole. It is rare that a problematic group role is an expression of one individual rather than of group dysfunction. Guidelines that workers can use to help the group change dysfunctional member roles are presented in the following list.

helping members with Dysfunctional role Behaviors • Keep in mind that all behaviors have meaning. • Point the behavior out to the group in a tentative fashion. • Ask the member displaying the behavior to describe his or her own perception

of it.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 266 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 267

• Ask the other group members to describe how they experience the member’s behavior.

• Identify feelings and points of view expressed by all members about the behavior. • Ask the member displaying the behavior to consider the perceptions of other

members. • Help all members consider their reactions to the behavior and whether they wish

to change the way they interact with others about it. • Work with all members to change role behaviors so that they help the group to

function effectively.

As shown above, the first step in helping groups to change dysfunctional member roles is to be aware that all behavior is meaningful and purposeful. Workers should con- sider what the member who is playing a dysfunctional role is trying to accomplish by behaving in such a fashion. For example, is the member attempting to gain attention or acceptance? Is the member fearful of what others may think? Pointing out and describing the member’s behavior in a tentative manner helps all group members to be aware of the behavior and to think about the meaning of it. Asking a member who displays a dysfunc- tional behavior to describe how he or she perceives it enables the other members of the group to understand and empathize with the member’s situation.

The next step, helping members to consider their reactions to the behavior and to consider whether they wish to change the way they interact about it, allows members the opportunity to think about the impact of the behavior on the whole group and their role in sustaining or changing it. In this way, the whole group begins to own and take re- sponsibility for doing something about the behavior instead of leaving responsibility for the behavior with only the one member identified as playing a dysfunctional role. At this point, the group is often ready to talk together about role behaviors and how to change them in order to facilitate goal attainment. The worker can help by guiding the group to focus on group processes and goal-attainment strategies.

The steps presented previously are intended as a general guide that workers can use to address dysfunctional role behaviors. These steps, however, have to be adapted sensitively when working with members with specific dysfunctional role behaviors. For example, monopolizers may acknowledge their behavior, but may still not be able to change it. Therefore, when helping members who talk too much to change their behav- ior, it may be necessary to place time limits on communication by all group members or to seek one or more volunteers who will prompt the talkative member when he or she exceeds time limits. It may also be necessary for the worker to take an active stance, reminding talkative members that they have been talking for a while, that they should consider giving others a turn to talk, or asking members to hold onto a thought for a later group discussion. In contrast, when working with quiet members, it is important to find out if there is something about the group that is impeding their communication or if they tend not to talk much in groups. Experience suggests that most quiet members are good listeners who prefer to listen rather than to talk. Singling quiet members out by soliciting their opinions or pointing out their silence can make them uncomfortable. Instead, to ensure full participation f rom quiet members, workers can use go-rounds, program activities, or they can assign specific task roles that provide opportunities and encourage quiet members to participate.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 267 01/05/17 11:31 AM

268 Chapter 8

Gatekeepers and rescuers are other common dysfunctional group roles that should be addressed sensitively. Gatekeepers and rescuers intervene when emotionally charged issues are raised in the group. They may change the subject, divert attention, make light of an issue, or become overly solicitous. These behaviors prevent discussion of emotion- ally sensitive issues that could make the work of the group more relevant and mean- ingful, because sensitive but important issues that members are conf ronting would be addressed. Gatekeepers and rescuers are often unaware that they are playing these roles. Workers can help by having all group members identify the fears they have about dis- cussing particular emotionally charged issues. Gatekeeping and rescuing behaviors can then be viewed as attempts to avoid these feared discussions. The worker helps members to conf ront their fears while simultaneously ensuring that the group is a safe and sup- portive place where meaningful but emotionally charged issues can be openly discussed and addressed.

Case Example A Gatekeeper in an Anger Management Group

In an anger management group, members began to talk about their own backgrounds. When the topic of childhood physical and sexual abuse came up on two occasions, one member of the group, Fred, kept changing the topic by talking about his own recent expe- riences of abusive behavior toward his wife. The second time this occurred the group leader mentioned that it was good that Fred was talking about his experiences with his wife and showing some empathy toward her. At the same time, the leader pointed out that childhood sexual abuse was an emotionally charged but important topic that should be talked about in the group, and that it might be relevant to what some members were experiencing regarding their own anger and abusive behavior. Therefore, the leader asked the members who had brought up the topic of sexual abuse to talk about their experiences, and they invited other members of the group to share their reactions and experiences. In this way, without explicitly mentioning that Fred was a gatekeeper who was not allowing the group to talk about an emotionally charged topic, the leader enabled group members to begin a discussion of an important issue they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to discuss.

The status of individual group members and the power that the leader and other group members have at their disposal also affect the development of social integration and inf luence dynamics within the group. For example, although high-status members are likely to adhere to group norms and procedures, they are also much more likely to inf luence the development of a group than are low-status members. Members in the middle of the status hierarchy are likely to strive for greater status within the group by adhering to group norms and upholding the status quo (Forsyth, 2014). Low-status mem- bers are less likely to conform to group norms than either high-status or middle-status members (Forsyth, 2014). An accurate assessment of the status hierarchy in the group can help workers understand and anticipate the actions and reactions of members when the worker intervenes in the group.

An accurate assessment of the power bases that the worker and the members have at their disposal can be important in the beginning stages of group work. Workers who understand the limits of their inf luence over group members are able to use their power effectively and avoid trying to use it when it will be ineffective. An accurate assessment of the sources of members’ power can also help the worker in planning strategies for

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 268 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 269

intervening in the group as a whole and for helping members to form a mutual-aid net- work of shared resources within the group.

The most fully developed method for assessing norms, roles, and status is Bales’ Systematic Multilevel Observation of Groups (Bales, 1980; Bales, Cohen, & Williamson, 1979). SYMLOG can be used as a self-report measure or as an observational measure. Figure 8.3 presents a SYMLOG field diagram of one person in a group. The horizontal axis of Figure 8.3 represents the dimension f riendly versus unf riendly, and the vertical axis represents the dimension instrumental versus emotionally expressive. The third di- mension, dominant versus submissive, is represented by the size of the circles. Larger circles represent greater dominance and smaller circles represent greater submissiveness. For example, in Figure 8.3, Sharon perceives that Ann is the most dominant group mem- ber and Ed is the most f riendly and emotionally expressive member. Members rate all other members and themselves in relation to the three-dimensional SYMLOG space. In addition to rating overt behaviors, members can rate their values by evaluating which behavior they would avoid, reject, wish to perform, and think they ought to perform (see circles marked “avoid,” “reject,” “wish,” and “ought” in Figure 8.3).

SYMLOG field diagrams can be used for assessment in a variety of ways. One of the most basic ways is for members to compare their field diagrams. A composite of group field diagrams can be made f rom the field diagrams of individual members. The com- posite can be used to analyze the functioning of the group as a whole. For example, who are the most dominant group members? Which members are included in the dominant subgroup (in Bales’ terminology, “dominant triangle” as illustrated in Figure 8.3)? Partic- ular roles of individual group members can also be identified. For example, Figure 8.3 shows Bill isolated in the unf riendly, instrumental quadrant of the field diagram. Is he

Figure 8.3 Sharon’s SYMLOG Diagram of the Group











Unfriendly Friendly

Emotionally Expressive


M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 269 01/05/17 11:31 AM

270 Chapter 8

an isolate or perhaps a scapegoat? For a detailed discussion of these methods, see Bales, Cohen, and Williamson (1979) and Bales (1980).

The SYMLOG method has two limitations. First, the method is complex and takes time to learn. A more serious limitation is that a SYMLOG self-study takes about three hours to complete. Although this amount of time may be warranted for a team that functions together on a daily basis over a long period of time, it may not be justifiable for a short-term treatment group.

Assessing Group Culture

A fourth area that workers should assess when examining the f unctioning of the group as a whole is the group’s culture. Ideas, belief s, values, and feelings held in common by group members have a profound effect on the therapeutic benefits that can be achieved in the group. Just as some societal cultures promote the public ex- pression of emotion and others do not, groups develop cultures that value certain ways of behaving.

In the beginning stage, the worker should examine the culture that is developing in a group. Does the culture help the group and its members achieve their goals? Because group culture develops more slowly than the other group dynamics, the worker’s initial assessment of a group’s culture should be viewed as a tentative indication about how the culture may develop. It is difficult to change a group’s culture after it is well established, so the worker may wish to share initial impressions with members early. For example, in a group in which a worker observes that a negative, unsupportive culture is developing, it may be helpful to point out in the first or second meeting that most members’ com- munications are problem-oriented rather than growth-oriented or that few supportive comments are made within the group. Methods to modify or change a group’s culture are described in Chapter 9.

A number of methods to assess the group’s culture have been developed. Some methods, such as the Hill Interaction Matrix (HIM) and SYMLOG, were designed to assess a variety of types of groups along several different dimensions. The HIM em- ploys a 16-cell matrix to assess the content and style of group interaction. SYMLOG and the HIM can be used with all types of treatment and task groups. However, they are primarily used in long-term groups, such as teams, boards, and so on for long- term development and for addressing problems in group processes that are resistant to change.

There are a variety of other assessment measures that workers are able to use to assess culture in treatment groups. These include the Group Atmosphere Scale ( Silbergeld, Koenig, Manderscheid, Meeker, & Hor nung, 1975), Group Climate Questionnaire (MacKenzie, 1983), and the Curative Climate Instrument (Fuhriman,

Drescher, Hanson, Henrie, & Rybick i, 1986). The previously mentioned Group Climate Scale (MacKenzie, 1983) is probably the most widely used measure of overall group climate, but other measures such as the Thera- peutic Factors Inventory (Lese & MacNair-Semands, 2000) are also widely used ( Joyce, MacNair-Semands, Tasca, & Ogrodniczuk, 2011; Strauss, Burlin- game, & Borman, 2008). When working with task groups, the Team Climate Inventory (Anderson & West, 1998) is widely used.

Assess your understand­ ing of assessing the group as a whole by

taking a brief quiz at www toseland.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 270 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 271

AssEssing thE grouP’s EnvironmEnt

The worker’s assessment of the environment’s inf luence on the functioning of the entire group should be distinguished f rom the assessment of environmental factors that affect individual group members. In both cases, however, the environment in which group members and the group as a whole function has an important effect on group work practice.

When assessing the inf luence of the environment on the group, the worker focuses on the following levels.

levels of assessment • The organization that sponsors and sanctions the group • The interorganizational environment • The community environment

The emphasis on the inf luence of the environment is a distinctive aspect of social work practice and is not found to any great extent in the writings of group workers f rom other professional disciplines.

Assessing the Sponsoring Organization

When assessing the inf luence on the group of the sponsoring or- ganization, the worker examines how the group’s purposes are inf luenced by the agency, what resources are allocated for the group’s efforts, what status the worker has in relation to others who work for the agency, and how the agency’s attitudes about service delivery inf luence the group work endeavor. Taken to- gether, these factors can have a profound inf luence on the way the group functions.

As Garvin (1997) points out, an organization always has a purpose for sanctioning a group work effort. An organization’s purpose may be stated explicitly or may be im- plied in the overall program objectives. The organization administration’s purpose for encouraging the development of a group may not correspond to the worker’s or the group members’ ideas about a group’s purpose. The extent to which the organization, the worker, and the group members can agree on a common purpose for the group will determine, in part, the extent to which the group will receive the support it needs to function effectively and the extent to which the group experience will be judged as bene- ficial by all concerned.

It is helpful for the worker to clarify the organization’s pur pose for sponsoring the group. A written group proposal, such as the one described in Chapter 6 (also see Appendices C, D, and E), can clarify the worker’s intentions and provide the organiza- tion’s administration with an opportunity to react to a written document.

During the process of clarifying the organization’s purposes for the group, the worker can help shape the purposes proposed for the group. For example, a nursing home admin- istrator may decide to sponsor a group to help the residents “fit in better” with the nursing home’s schedule of bathing, feeding, and housekeeping. The worker could help the nurs- ing home staff and residents reformulate the group’s purpose by considering the needs of


behavior: Collect and organize data, and apply critical thinking to interpret information from clients and constituencies.

Critical thinking Question: Group workers respond to multiple contexts that shape practice. How would you assess an organiza­ tion’s ability to sponsor group work services?

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 271 01/05/17 11:31 AM

272 Chapter 8

both the group members and the organization. For example, the purpose of the group might be changed to have residents and staff work together to find a way to accomplish all the personal care tasks in the staff ’s busy schedules, while at the same time accommodating residents’ needs for autonomy and individual preference.

An organization can also inf luence a group by its allocation of resources. As men- tioned in Chapter 6, the worker should identify as early as possible the resources the group will need to function effectively. Once this is done, the worker can assess the like- lihood that the organization will be able to allocate sufficient resources and can plan the best strategy to obtain any that may be needed. The worker’s assessment may also in- clude the extent to which resources, for example, a meeting room or some ref reshments, can be obtained f rom alternative sponsors.

The worker’s status in the sponsoring organization can also inf luence the group. If a worker is a low-status member of the sponsoring organization, there may be difficulty in obtaining resources for the group, in convincing the sponsor that the endeavor is a good use of his or her time, or in demonstrating that the group’s purposes are consistent with the overall objectives of the organization. In this situation, the worker may want to con- sult with trusted colleagues who can give the worker some feedback about the feasibility of the proposed group. The worker might also ask these colleagues for their support for the development of the new group service.

The attitudes and practices of the sponsoring organization with regard to service delivery can have an important inf luence on the group work endeavor. The worker should assess whether the organization stresses individual or group work services. For example, in some organizations, the stated commitment to teamwork is not matched by the resources and reward structure to support effective team functioning (Levi, 2014; Ramirez, 2014). Where individual services are given priority, the worker may have to spend considerable time developing the rationale for the group and convincing the or- ganization that it is important to undertake such an endeavor (Levi, 2014; Ramirez, 2014).

The organization’s policies regarding recruitment and intake of potential members also can affect a group. The worker should assess whether the clients are receiving ser- vices voluntarily or whether they have been mandated to attend the group. Mandated clients are likely to be hostile or apathetic about becoming members of the group. It is also helpful to gather information about the extent to which individuals are prepared by intake workers to receive group work services.

The organization’s commitment to a particular service technology, such as practice the- ories, ideologies, and intervention techniques, may also inf luence the group work endeavor. For example, if the organization is committed to a long-term psychodynamic treatment model, it may oppose the development of a short-term, behaviorally oriented group. When the service technology planned for a particular group runs counter to an organization’s preferred service technology, the worker should develop a convincing rationale for the particular service technology that is planned. For a treatment group, the rationale might include the effectiveness and efficiency of a particular method for treating a particular problem. In the case of a task group, the rationale might include the effectiveness or efficiency of a particular method for generating ideas or making decisions about alternative proposals. The impact of service technology is illustrated in the following case example.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 272 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 273

Case Example A Psycho­Educational Group for Caregivers of Dementia

In a family service agency that relied primarily on a long-term psychodynamic treatment model including long-term groups, a worker proposed a six-week psycho-educational group for caregivers of persons with dementia. In proposing the group at a staff meeting, the worker pointed out that many of the clients coming to the agency were elderly and that a number of them had talked about their problems with dealing with spouses who were forgetful or who had been diagnosed with some form of dementia. The worker sug- gested that she research best practice models and come up with a short-term group that focused on education about memory loss and dementia, community resources for care for the person with dementia and support for the caregiver. The worker pointed out that the group could start out as a short-term, six-week, weekly meeting group. Then, if members were interested or if more short-term groups were formed, a longer-term support and mu- tual-aid group could be started with members who wanted to continue in a group. This latter group would be more in keeping with the family agency’s traditional approach to its long-term group programs.

To help ensure continued organizational support for the group, workers should take every opportunity to describe the group’s progress to clinical supervisors and other administrative staff. This tactic provides an opportunity for the worker to mention the helpfulness of organizational support and any additional resources that are needed. For example, a worker leading a parenting group could discuss the progress made by mem- bers and the importance of transportation to and f rom group meetings but also note that problems in attendance could be reduced if the agency provided child care services during group meetings. In the following chapters, guidelines are presented for choosing interventions and for formulating treatment plans on the basis of the needs of members and of the group as a whole.

Assessing the Interorganizational Environment

When assessing the group’s environment, it is important for the worker to pay atten- tion to anything happening in other organizations that may be relevant to the group. The worker can make an assessment of the interorganizational environment by asking several questions: Are other organizations offering similar groups? Do workers in other organizations perceive needs similar to those that formed the basis for the worker’s own group? Do other organizations offer services or programs that may be useful to mem- bers of the group? Would any benefit be gained by linking with groups in other organi- zations to lobby for changes in social service benefits?

Unless the worker or others in the organization are already familiar with what is being offered by all other organizations in the community, the worker’s primary task in making an interorganizational assessment is to contact other organizations to let them know about the group offering. In addition to generating referrals and making other organizations aware of the group, the assessment may uncover needless duplication of service or, conversely, a widespread need that is not being met or is being met by uncoor- dinated individual efforts within separate organizations.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 273 01/05/17 11:31 AM

274 Chapter 8

Assessing the Community Environment

The worker should also assess the effect of the community environment on the group, the extent of support for the group f rom other community groups, and the community as a whole. When assessing the effect of the community on a group, the worker should focus on the attitude of the community concerning the problems or issues being ad- dressed by the group. Within Hispanic and Af rican American communities, for example, support groups for people with Alzheimer’s disease are difficult to organize because of the stigma attached to the disease. These communities also attach great significance to handling such matters privately through family caregiving (Ramos, Jones, & Toseland, 2005).

In treatment groups, if the problem is one that violates basic community values, members of the group are likely to be stigmatized. Lack of community acceptance and the resulting stigma attached to the problem may have other consequences, such as dis- couraging potential members f rom reaching out for help. It may also increase the level of confidentiality of group meetings and may affect procedures used to recruit new members. For example, because of the stigma attached to persons who abuse their chil- dren, Parents Anonymous groups generally have confidential meetings, and the recruit- ment process occurs on a first-name basis to protect members f rom people who may be more interested in finding out their identities than in attending meetings. Similar re- cruitment procedures are used in other professionally led and self-help groups that deal with socially stigmatized problems, such as spousal abuse, alcoholism, and compulsive gambling.

The worker should also make an assessment of the support for the group f rom other community groups and the community as a whole. For example, ministers, priests, and rabbis might be receptive to a group for abusive or neglecting parents, alcoholics, or spouse abusers. The worker can get referrals f rom these sources or obtain a meeting room, such as a church basement. Similarly, a worker in a family service agency may find that several community groups—a women’s civic organization, a battered women’s shelter, a victim’s compensation board, a council of churches, and a dispute resolution center—would welcome the development of a support group program for domestic vio- lence victims. Workers who assess support f rom community groups are often in a better position to obtain new funding for a proposed group work service. This is demonstrated in the following case example.

Case Example Making Interorganizational Assessments

An executive director of a small organization decided to do an interorganizational assessment after problems encountered in serving homeless people had been mentioned several times in monthly staff meetings. The director discovered a lack of sufficient space in shelters and a general lack of community interest in the welfare of the homeless. The worker called a meeting of professionals from several organizations to see what could be done. The interor- ganizational group contacted a local planning organization. In cooperation with the planning organization, the interorganizational group sought federal, state, local, and private funding to address the needs of the homeless. After much work, a social service program for the homeless was founded with a combination of federal, state, and local funding, and a new community shelter was opened.

M08_TOSE0283_08_SE_C08.indd 274 01/05/17 11:31 AM

Assessment 275

Group workers interested in building social action groups and coalitions should find out about the problems that are important to individuals in a community, who has the capacity to make a change in a particular problem, and who has the capacity to prevent or delay change. Information may be gathered f rom persons affected by the problem and those who have the capacity to affect it through a variety of means, such as (1) focused individual interviews, (2) focus groups, (3) community needs assessments, and (4) state and national survey data and reports (see Chapter 14). The information gathered while interacting with and forming alliances with community members, community leaders, politicians, and community activists is also very important. It is essential for group work- ers who are interested in building social action groups and coalitions to get to know a community. To understand competing factions, uncover hidden problems, and form alli- ances often takes a considerable amount of time and commitment. Still, when the intent is to mobilize social action groups and coalitions, there is no substitute for taking the time necessary to get to know a community and to establish trusting relationships with as many different representatives as possible.

A worker’s assessment of the community environment may lead to a coalition of forces to resolve a concern. According to Rubin and Rubin (2008), in assessing a commu- nity there may be a systematic gathering of information by people who are affected by a problem and who want to solve it. There may also be a fact-gathering endeavor to learn about the problem, a mobilization effort to become involved with the problem, and a capacity-building effort to solve the problem. For example, a community assessment may indicate that police officers have been asked increasingly to handle family disturbances. With the cooperation of the police force and local community leaders, a community organization might decide to reach out to persons experiencing family disturbances. In addition to casework service, these efforts could result in the development of several treatment groups, such as a couple’s communication group, a parenting group, and a recreational group for adolescents. It also might result in a task force of community lead- ers to work on issues of concern to families in the community. This is illustrated in the following case example.

Case Example Assessing the Community Environment

In a rural county, a community coalition formed to assess the need for a shelter for runaway and homeless youth. Members of county social service organizations, local church leaders, and educators from a local social work program met to discuss the need and to examine whether the community would support a shelter. Coalition members initially divided into separate sub- groups that concentrated on collecting data about the extent of the problem. One subgroup met with the local police department to determine how many reports of runaway children were filed each year. Another subgroup conducted individual interviews with community lead- ers to determine if they would support a shelter. A third subgroup conducted a focus group with residents of the neighborhood that was a potential site for the shelter. The fourth sub- group explored state and national data about homeless and runaway youth. While all these subgroups collected important data establishing need, the coalition discov- ered that neighborhood residents were very strongly against the idea of a shelter, especially one that would be located in their neighborhood. The coalition reas- sessed the idea of establishing a shelter and decided to more fully explore how they could involve neighborhood residents in planning for the needs of this population.

Assess your understand­ ing of assessing the group’s environment by

taking a brief