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Group Work

Group work can be defined as assisting a collection of people who are dealing generally with a similar problem or issue. Groupes can be peers, a family, or a therapeutic group. Group work approaches range from therapeutic to educational to activist. Similarly, some communities want to take a healing or therapeutic approach to their problems, others want to learn skills, and some want to head to the streets to protest. Where a group considers itself a community or not, the approaches that are described in this chapter are helpful for working with any collective of people as they try to create change in their lives.


Self-help groups

Are ones that do not have professional facilitator and may be either leaderless, having a rotating leader, or designated a leader from within the group (i.e. Alcoholics Anonymous)


Educational Groups

Educational groups have a primary focus on education, but might also have a support aspect . These groups usually have a leader with expertise on the topic . (i.e. heart and stroke victims, parenting groups)


Support/therapeutic groups

In support/therapeutic groups the primary purpose is supporting people dealing with specific problems. They are groups that have a professional facilitator. (i.e. victims of sexual abuse, women empowerment groups)


Task Groups

With task groups, the primary focus is to accomplish a specific mandate. Although social support may be aside benefit it is not the primary purpose for which the group was designed. (i.e. groups that coordinates settlement services for newcomers in a community or a personnel committee charges with the task of hiring an executive directive).


Social Action Groups

Social action groups tend to focus on broader social issues, though they may feel have a personal dimension to them. (i.e. a group organized to ban the use of pesticides on lawns may have been sparked by the personal concern around a child's cancer diagnosis).


Group Dynamics

are what make group experience different from a one-on-one experience. they include how people talk and interact with each other in the group (communication and interactive patterns), as sense of belonging to a group (cohesion), and the influence that a group has on individual members to conform to certain behaviours, practices, and beliefs.


Communication Patterns

One group dynamic. Depending on the overall objectives of the group, a facilitator will want to establish a certain communication pattern. (i.e. dividing up the material into sections)



Group is an important part to groups. When group members are attracted to the group and feel connected to the other members in the group they are more likely to benefit from the group experience. The sense of cohesion in a group provides safety and sets the stage for group members to interact in an authentic way with each other, it is also the reason most members return to meetings.


Group influence and conformity

A group dynamic that will affect how well a group will function and be able to achieve the purpose for which is was established. Groups where members have many common characteristics and hold shared values and expectations are groups that tend to move more quickly forward on achieving group goals. However, part of the strength of groups also lies with the member differences. Different experiences and different backgrounds can provide perspectives and insights that are new to other group members.


Forming Stage (pg. 116)

Has two primary components: Planning the group and getting the group started.When planning the purpose of the group must be clearly defined. The facilitator should think about what kind of people the group will attract. Also the length of meetings, frequency and duration of the group. If the group will allow new members or be exclusive after first meeting.


Storming Stage (pg. 117)

Where conflict emerges in the group. Differences in understanding of the group's purpose and the group members roles and expectations can lead to friction. This is also the time when members test and challenged the authority of the facilitator. Although this can be a difficult phase in the life of a group, it is also a time she growth can occur and when relationships are established.

It is at this stage that the facilitator can be very useful in establishing a tone for the group and operationalize the group rules by encouraging members to own their stamens, listen without interrupting, ask questions before reacting, and deal with each other in a respectful manner.


Norming Stage (pg. 117)

In this stage group norms and roles become more clearly defined and members establish a beginning trust with each other. Group cohesion increases and the group moves toward working on the agreed upon objectives.


Performing Stage (pg. 117)

In this stage the group members work toward achieving outlined goals. The performing stage is where both the members and the facilitator feel rewarded for their effort


Adjourning Stage (pg. 118)

The stage where the group moves towards terminating. A group can come to an end for a variety of reasons: because the goals of the group have been met and people are ready to more on, because members are no longer committed to the purpose for which the group was established. One of the tasks of terminating is evaluating the group experience.


Group Facilitation Skills

Connecting, Focus on Process, Cueing, Supporting, Blocking, Social Empathy


Connecting (pg. 120)

This skill involves linking what one person is saying or doing to what another member in the group is experiencing. The facilitator listens for common themes in people's specific stories. This skill is important in terms of building choesion. Part of the effectiveness of gorps lies in the support that people get from recognize that they are no the only ones dealing with a concern.


Focus on the Process

Process is critical in groups work, but i can be overlooked when the facilitator gets too engaged in the content of the discussion. Focusing on process includes point out the pattern to the group and re-framing issues.


Supporting (pg. 121)

The facilitator's judgement is required to determine when to support a group member. Jumping in too early might prevent the member from fully exploring a situation and learning from it. This skill also incorporates encouraging group members to support each other. (i.e. "Has anybody in the group had similar feelings?" or "Can anyone relate to what was just said?")


Cueing (pg. 120)

Here the facilitator scans the group, takes its pulse, and becomes directive in inviting silent of non-partcipating members to engage.


Blocking (pg. 121)

A facilitator must also decide when to challenge a group member.Harmful things can be said in groups and as much as possible the group facilitator must try to bloc certain comments or activities in order to maintain the safety of the group. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to ensure safety of all members of the group.


Social Empathy (pg. 121)

The facilitator makes links between personal troubles and structural issues. These statements are ways of jointing on an emotional level as well as on an intellectual level. Connecting the personal and the political can be very affirming to clients. The expresso of social empathy highlights various oppressions but also acknowledges that here are differences in groups members experiences.


Cognitive Theories (pg. 119)

Groups based on cognitive theories subs rive to a fundamental belief that when people change their thinking or their ideas, other changes will follow ( i.e. Ottawa New Directions Program--works with men who abuse women).


Behaviour Theories (pg. 119)

Behaviour theories have as a starting point the objective change group members' behaviours with the understanding that changed behaviour will lead to a change in feelings and thinking. Used often in adolescent facilities where appropriate behaviours are reinforces in group. (i.e. work done with children suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome at Bosco Homes in Edmonton)


Affective Theories (pg. 119)

The focus with affective theories is on feelings. The belief is that a change in feelings is fundamental to other changes. Being affirming to the person will result in improved self-esteem, more positive thinking, and a change in behaviours. Most treatment groups use elements of affective theories, helping group members examine and deal with feelings.


Structural Theories

The primary premise of structural theories is the personal problems are linked to public issues and require intervention at a number of levels. Structural or social change is based on concepts of social justice.



is a group of people who share either a geographic space, an identity, or an interest. Communities also require a consciousness of themselves as a community.


Rothman's model of Community work (pg.123)

Locality development, social planning, social action


Locality Development (pg. 123)

Locality development typifies those approaches to community organizing that four on organizing around issues that are relevant to particular neighbourhood or geographic space. It for four is on community building by engaging a wide number of commune participants in the organizing process. Consensus is built between members by trying to establish their common goals. Community members themselves are encouraged to become leaders in the process.


Social Planning

Focuses mainly on the technical aspects of achieving tasks and allocating resources. It is not about changing society, but about how to meet immediate needs.