Group Work Click the LEFT mouse key ONCE to continue
Content for this section was developed by Robert K. Conyne Ph.D., NCCRobert K. Conyne, Ph.D., NCC, is a Professor and ProgramChairperson in the Division of Human Services at the Universityof Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Definition of Group Work Group work is a broad professional practice that refers to the giving of help or the accomplishment of tasks in a group setting. Group dynamics refers to the scientific study of groups and those events that occur within group sessions. It is an area of study within social psychology.
Group work involves the application of grouptheory and process by a capable professionalpractitioner to assist an interdependentcollection of people to reach their mutual goals,which may be personal, interpersonal, or task-related in nature .Group work is interdisciplinary, drawnfrom many fields (e.g., counseling, psy-chology, social work, sociology, educa-tion, and/or psychiatry).
Group work occurs intentionally in avariety of work, educational, mentalhealth, and community settings.The main purpose of group work isto provide help and support.A second purpose of group work is tohelp members and the group to accomp-lish tasks and goals.
Group work leaders must be able toapply group theory and process ef-fectively to specific situations.Group work leaders must be welltrained in application of group theory,of group work competencies, ofprofessional judgment, and they mustbe personally and interpersonallycompetent.
Leadership StylesSeveral different (group) leadership styleshave been identified:In the Authoritarian leadership style, thegroup leader makes all policy decisions forthe group and generally directs how thegroup functions.In the Democratic leadership style, thegroup leader helps the group members tomake policy decisions and generally helpsthe group function in a democratic manner.
In the Laissez Faire leadership style, thegroup leader is minimally involved ingroup matters and generally allows thegroup to determine and follow its own“natural” course.In the Speculative leadership style, thegroup leader maintains a heavy empha-sis on “here-and-now” discussion, par-ticularly in regard to leader or memberin-group behaviors.
In the Confrontive leadership style, thegroup leader also focuses on the “here-and-now,” but attention is directed tothe impact of each member’s in-groupverbalizations and behaviors.In the Charismatic leadership style, thegroup leader capitalizes on personalpower and attractiveness to direct thegroup toward its goals and purposes.
A group is a social ecological systemcontaining individual, interpersonal,and total group elements in which in-terpersonal connections are important.The leader needs to recognize and de-velop interpersonal interdependence,i.e., the interpersonal connections be-tween and among members.
For the most effective leadership styles,group work leaders work collaborativelywith group members to establish theirgoals.Goals include combinations of intra-personal, interpersonal, and task com-ponents, as well as aspects of both con-tent and process.
Core Competencies All professional counselors should possess basic, fundamental know- ledge and skills in group work. Advanced group work competencies build on the core set.
Following are the core knowledge com-petency areas for effective group work Definition of group work (presented previously) Purposes for group work types Definition of four group work specializations Similarities and differences of types Basic principles of group dynamics Therapeutic factors Important personal characteristics Ethical issues unique to group work continued
Core knowledge competency areas continued Group development Group member roles Advantages and disadvantages of group work Research applied to area of focus Recruiting and screening members Group and member evaluation
Therapeutic FactorsTherapeutic factors are those aspects ofgroup life that are widely believed to ac-count for help-giving and personal change.The following list of therapeutic factorsis based on the work of Yalom (1995): Instillation of hope Universality Imparting information Altruism continued
Yalom’s Therapeutic Factors continued Corrective recapitulation of primary family group Imitative Behavior Interpersonal learning Group cohesiveness Catharsis Existential factors
Instillation of hopeAn assumption, belief, or act of faith thatthe group will be of therapeutic value.This position is fundamentally importantfor aiding growth, change, and goalaccomplishment.
UniversalityThe awareness that one is not alone, not theonly person in the world to be experiencingthese adverse or difficult circumstances orfeelings. Universality is the “common de-nominator” of group involvement.Universality is more achievable through groupparticipation other forms of help-giving due toits interdependency.
Imparting InformationProvision of didactic information to mem-bers by the leader or by other members asa means for promoting learning about one-self and others.
AltruismThe intrinsic act of giving to be helpfulwithout intending to benefit in anytangible way.In a group, members can receive throughsuch giving, thereby gaining increasedself-awareness, knowledge, and skills.
Corrective Recapitulation ofthe Primary Family GroupCreating a positive environment within thegroup such that members who were partici-pants in a negative family environment cancorrect faulty ways and learn new ways offunctioning.
Development of Socializing TechniquesSocial learning, or the creation of basic ornew social skills.Group interaction, with its interpersonalorientation and/or skill based orientation,can be a powerful milieu for social skilldevelopment.
Imitative BehaviorMembers can learn by observing the leaderor other members who model effective andappropriate behavior.“Vicarious” or “spectator” therapy is animportant source of learning in groups.
Interpersonal LearningInterpersonal learning is a mediator ofchange in groups that is built on the groupserving as a social microcosm in whichcorrective emotional experiences can occur.It includes an “interpersonal sequence”: Members display behavior Receive feedback and self-observe Appreciate own behavior Appreciate impact on others
Group cohesivenessIt is the analogue of “relationship” in indi-vidual therapy and provides a sense of“we-ness.”It reflects the attractiveness of the group forits members and is a necessary preconditionfor effective group therapy.
Existential FactorsDevelopment of meaning from experience,involving such areas as the importance ofassuming personal responsibility, andrecognizing that life can be unfair andunjust.
Personal CharacteristicsGroup work leaders must be aware of selfand be able to use self as instrument ofpositive change.Knowledge of self includes awareness ofone’s own: Personal strengths Personal weaknesses Biases Values Stimulus value (effects on others)
Ethical IssuesKnowledge of professional ethics is criticallyimportant (e.g., ACA Code of Ethics andStandards of Practice).Knowledge of ethics particular to groupwork practice is essential.
Ethical concerns particularlyimportant in group work include: Confidentiality implications Voluntary participation Imposition of leader values Coercion and pressure Equitable treatment of members Leaving a group Dual relationships techniques Goal development Termination and follow-up
Group DevelopmentGroup development refers to theprogressive evolution of a group generallyexpected as being normative.Over 100 models of group developmentexist and most are sequential or cyclical innature.Models help to predict, plan, and guide, butany particular group may not conformclosely to any one model.
A “generic” model of group developmentincludes at least the following stages: Group Formation Control Work Termination
The Group Formation stage involvesworking on the group’s purposes and goals, security, trust, inclusion, dependency, and orientation.
The Group Formation stage is sometimesknown to as the Orientation Stage.The Orientation Stage includes determi-nation and conveyance of the nature andstructure of the particular group andmembers getting acquainted with oneanother, exploring each other’s expec-tations, and generally becoming involvedin the group.
The Control Stage involves workingon the group’s regulation, conflict, power, and organization.
The Control Stage is sometimes knownas the Transition Stage.The Transition Stage often involvesgroup members “testing” each otherand the group leader, with associatedconflict, resistance, confrontation, andattempts to dominate among groupmembers.
The Work Stage involves working onthe group’s open communication, cohesion, interdependence, problem solving, productivity, and data flow.
The Work Stage is sometimes knownas the Action Stage.The Action Stage is characterized bydeveloping cohesiveness and (psycholog-ical) intimacy among group membersand by productivity and movementtoward the group’s goals and purposes.
The Termination stage involves workingon the group’s integration, application, evaluation and summing-up, unfinished business, disengagement, saying good-bye, and closing.
The Termination Stage is sometimesknown as the Completion Stage.The Completion Stage involves term-ination of the group’s work, includingattending to a wide variety of groupmember emotions that may be asso-ciated with ending the group.
The most valuable resource for a group isits members. Understanding them andutilizing their experience and contribu-tions is essential.Positive group member roles include those as client, helper, model, and/or reality checker.
Members in counseling, psychotherapy,and psychoeducation groups are seekinghelp and assistance through group parti-cipation. They profess a desire to changeor to develop.Members can help each other by givingfeedback, sharing experiences, and model-ing effective interactions. Doing so can alsohelp them gain self-understanding and pro-mote growth and change.
Members can demonstrate through their atti-tude and behavior effective ways to perceive,think, and act, thereby assisting other membersto grow and change.Members can serve to provide each other withguidance about feasibility and appropriatenessof goals and actions through providing feed-back, raising issues of implementation, andserving as a “sounding board.”
Negative group member roles includethose as monopolizer, resister, silent one, withdrawer, intellectualizer, joker, manipulator, and/or attacker.
The advantages of group work include Economy of Approach Interpersonal Power Effectiveness
The Economy of Approach advantageis that group work is cost effective be- cause several people can be worked with simultaneously by one or two leaders as opposed to working with each one separately.
The Interpersonal Power advantage isthat the group structure is set up naturally to harness the interactions of each other and associated interpersonal power. Interper- sonal power is attuned to many problems and needs where viewpoints and involve- ment of others is important, such as im- proving team functioning or helping mem- bers with a significant personal problem.
The Effectiveness advantage is that group work has been shown to be an effective and efficacious approach to providing help. Researchers have demonstrated that group therapy, for example, is at least as effective an approach as individual therapy and, in some cases, more helpful.
The disadvantages of group work include Organizing the Group Misapplication of Group Work Types Complexity Acceptance
The Organizing the Group disadvantageis that establishing groups and a group pro- gram poses many challenges, such as finding needed resources, designing the group, insufficient skill training of staff, assigning members to groups, and scheduling.
The Misapplication of Group WorkTypes disadvantage is that sometimes the group method is not ap- propriate at all, but other methods (e.g., individual) are, while at other times, the wrong group work methodology might be applied (e.g., using group counseling in a work setting to attempt to produce im- proved productivity).
The Complexity of Performing GroupWork disadvantage is that group work is a challenging task that requires group work training, supervised experience, and effective and appropriate application of knowledge and skills to the presenting situation. The complexity increases in proportion to group size and difficulty of issues being addressed.
The Acceptance of Group Workdisadvantage is that group work tends to lag in terms of acceptance by colleagues and the public. It is too often still perceived as a “second class” intervention that is far too diffi- cult to implement.
Recruiting and Screening strategies arevery important for counseling, psycho-therapy and psychoeducation groups.Prospective members may be obtainedthrough recruitment and marketing methods. BUT, the group must be explainedaccurately and attractively in them.Recruiting can occur through disseminationof fliers, postings, announcements in media,direct personal appeal, referral from caseloads, and other ways--if done ethically.
Screening is the process through whichthe group leader determines before thegroup is started who is suitable to par-ticipate in the group.The goal of screening is to appropriatelymatch the group with prospective mem-bers.Informed consent for participation ina group is always necessary.
Presenting Informed Consent informa-tion about the group should includedescription of Goals and methods Leader qualifications Time commitments Meeting location Expectations Fees (if any) Confidentiality
Member goals, past experience withgroups and counseling, assessment offunctioning, expectations for group,interest in participating, contrain-dicated factors (e.g., actively psychotic,homicidal or suicidal, or no socialinterest), and fit with time demands ofgroup are all important considerationsto be discussed in the Informed Con-sent process.
Group leaders and members shouldunderstand the importance of evaluat-ing group performance and memberprogress, methods for evaluation ac-complishment, and how to use data toimprove group and group leaderperformance.
Group process and outcome evaluationare concerned with how the group isfunctioning (process) and with its ef-fectiveness in promoting group andmember goals (outcome).
Member evaluation should be focused on howmembers are involved (process) and on mem-bers’ goal accomplishment (outcomes).Examples of process evaluation include as-sessment of members’ levels of participationor satisfaction with group.Examples of outcome evaluation include as-sessment of perceptions of group effective-ness and behavior change.
The core competency skills for groupwork are to:Encourage member participationObserve and identify group processesAttend to and acknowledge member behaviorClarify and summarize member statementsOpen and close sessionsImpart information in the groupModel effective group leader behaviorEngage in appropriate self-disclosureGive and receive feedback continued
Core skill competencies continuedAsk open-ended questionsEmpathize with group membersConfront members’ behaviorHelp members attribute meaning to their experienceHelp members integrate and apply learningDemonstrate ethical and professional standardsKeep group on task for accomplishing goals
In group work, the group leader canencourage member participation andinvolvement by Maintaining eye contact Asking open-ended questions Using encouraging responses Modeling effective in-group behaviors Extending sensitive invitations to talk
Group process involves the events thatoccur within group sessions or meetings,with a focus on how participants inter-act with one another and/or the groupwork leader.Group process complements groupcontent, the latter focusing on whatparticipants discuss in the group.
Group process skills include the groupleader attending to Participation Influence Decision making Task functions Maintenance functions Group Atmosphere Membership Feelings Norms continued
Group process skills continued Quantity of verbal involvement Who talks to whom High participators Low participators Shifts in participation
Influence is concerned with the effects ofparticipation. It is evaluated by the groupleader addressing questions such as: Who in the group seems influential? Who in the group seems low in influence? How do other members respond to high and low influence group members? Are there shifts in influence during the group process? Are conflicts present?
The group leader must also attend to howdecisions are made in the group, includingprocesses such as Majority vote Consensus building “Railroading” by one member or by a small subgroup of members “Ignoring” some group members’ input Maintaining focus or wandering across topics
The task functions in a group are focusedon goal accomplishment, staying focused,and getting the job done.The task functions are accomplished byattending to questions such as: How are suggestions made? By whom? Are summaries provided? By whom? Who keeps the group on target? Who asks for necessary information? Who provides necessary information?
The maintenance functions are intendedto promote cohesion and harmony in thegroup by attending to human relationsand working relationships.The maintenance functions are accomplishedby attending to questions such as: What is quality of listening? Who does and who doesn’t listen? How is support provided? By whom? Who helps others get into discussions? Is help provided to members?
Group atmosphere refers to the general“personality” of the group, i.e., itsclimate.Evaluating the group atmosphere involves ad-dressing questions such as: How do members describe the group or refer to its characteristics? Does the group seem supportive? Hostile? Warm? Cold? Productive? Inef- ficient? Active? Passive? Strong? Weak?
Membership is concerned with memberinclusion and exclusion in the group andwith patterns of interaction.“Level” of membership in the group is eval-uated by addressing questions such as: Is there sub-grouping? Who is involved? Is anyone “outside” the group? How are they treated? Are there “in” members? What is the effects of this situation?
Feelings are an important part of allgroup life. They reflect the “emotionalclimate” of the group.The feelings in the group are evaluated byaddressing questions such as: What level of attention to feelings is justified? What signs of affect are present (e.g., anger, frustration, or excitement)? Is expression of feelings encouraged or blocked? How appropriately are feelings being dealt with?
Norms are expectations, ground rules, andstandards that emerge through inter-action in the group and may promote orhinder the group and be either under-stood by group members or outside oftheir awareness.Group norms are evaluated by addressingquestions such as: Are certain issues avoided? Are members overly polite? Do members talk about norms?
Attending to and acknowledging mem-ber behavior can serve as a potent en-courager and reinforcer of desirablegroup members’ behaviors.Clarifying and summarizing state-ments can help members to organizeinformation and make it more under-standable, thus alleviating the impactof members’ statements that areconfusing and lead to “overload.”
Opening and closing sessions effectivelyis important for getting work startedand for concluding it (or for linking it tothe future).Imparting information is an importantskill and represents a therapeuticfactor through which members canlearn from information provided,especially in psychoeducation groups.
Leaders can assist member growth andchange by demonstrating and modelingappropriate and effective behaviors,such as self-disclosure, asking open-ended questions, and feedback.Self-disclosure is generally understood asa critically important type of informationsharing in personal change groups; lead-ers should model effective and appropri-ate self-disclosure to members.
Open-ended questions (often beginningwith What or How…?) are preferred ingroup work because they invite fullerresponses.Closed-ended questions invite briefreplies and do not encourage self-disclosure or feedback.
Feedback also is generally accepted as afundamental part of personal changegroup work.Leaders can help members learn the valueof feedback by demonstrating how to giveand invite feedback from others.Note that cultural sensitivity needs to ac-company expectations about self-disclosurebecause it is not valued in some cultures.
The following are guidelines for givingfeedback to group members: Be descriptive not judgmental. Be specific not general. Be immediate, not historical. Give positive feedback first. Be tentative, not conclusive.
Being empathic with group membersforges a connection, showing them thatthe leader genuinely understands andcares for them.Demonstration of empathy by leadersis especially important in the personalchange groups of psychoeducation,counseling, and psychotherapy.
Confronting, i.e., addressing discrep-ancies in a member’s behavior, assists inhelping members to better understandthemselves and to grow and change.Confronting does not mean attacking,being hostile, or aggressive. Rather, it is aconstructive intervention that leaders canlearn and apply with positive results ingroup work.
Group Leader FunctionsAttribution of meaning involves helpingmembers to connect an emotional exper-ience with cognitive understanding, some-times called, “making sense of experi-ence.”Caring involves communicating togroup members that the leader hasempathy for them individually andcollectively.
Emotional stimulation is a leader functionthat occurs when the leader catalyzes thegroups’ “energy” to help move the groupforward towards its goals.The group leader’s executive functioninvolves management and timing. Itenables the group leader to help the groupto maintain its focus and to continue tomake progress towards its goals.
Group members need to integrate andapply their learning in groups.Integration involves connecting aware-ness, concepts, and skills gotten from thegroup to the respective members’ pre-existing repertoires.Applying learning means transferringwhat was learned from the group situa-tion to the “outside” world.
All groups have goals and the leadershould use executive functioning to helpgroup keep focused on its goals, i.e., to re-main “on task.”Keeping the group in the “here-and-now”is important leader function in the attemptto stay on task; that is, to not allow thegroup to wander to past or external con-siderations.
Types of GroupsTask groups: to improve or resolve productionand performance related to work.Psychoeducation groups: to impart infor-mation and skills.Counseling groups: to help members copeand adapt to problems of living.Psychotherapy groups: to reduce emo-tional or psychological dysfunction inmembers.
Similarities of TypesLeadership is based on same set of core group work competencies.All seek to provide help and reach goals.All involve member interaction and leader guidance.All utilize basic group processes.
Differences of TypesTask groups focus on work performance.Psychoeducation groups are educational and usually very structured.Counseling groups are developmentally- oriented and seek to improve coping with “normal” adjustment issues.Psychotherapy groups are remediation- oriented and seek to reduce psycho- pathology.
Task groups are conducted to enhanceor resolve performance and productiongoals in work groups.The task group leader functions as afacilitator, using group collaborativeproblem solving, team building,program development consultation,and/or system change strategies.
Group leaders need to understand organ-izational dynamics (i.e., how organizationsfunction) because task groups often occurwithin organizations, such as business set-tings, schools, religious institutions, and as-sociations.Understanding community dynamics alsois important for group leaders becausetask groups often occur within commun-ities and neighborhoods.
Political dynamics, such as power andinfluence in organizations and com-munities, are important for task groupleaders to understand because taskgroups usually are part of a largerpolitical system.Task group leaders frequently use stand-ard group discussion methods to guideinteraction, methods that often follow ageneral problem-solving approach.
All ethical principles associated withgroup work are relevant to task groups.Specific considerations are concernedwith maintaining a task/work focusrather than a personal focus and withkeeping a connection between the workof the task group and the larger organ-ization of which it is a part.
Program development and evaluation know-ledge is critically important for task groupleaders.Steps in a typical program evaluation planapply in this context also: Define the problem Set the objective Choose among alternate strategies Prepare for implementation Design the evaluation Use evaluative information.
Knowledge of consultation principles andapproaches is necessary for task groupleaders because: Consulting often occurs in order to develop task groups within an or- ganization or community Task groups are frequently part of an on-going organizational consultation project. Task groups and process consultation are highly synchronous.
The consultation knowledge and skillsareas with which task group leadersshould be familiar include those associ-ated with Human interaction processes Communication processes Functional roles of group members Group norms Leadership and authority Intergroup processes continued
Consultation knowledge and skills continued Collaboration Establishing contact and defining the relationship Selecting a setting and method of work Data gathering Intervention (including agenda-setting, observation, feedback, coaching structural suggestions, evaluation of results, and disengagement).
The focus on task and work is a distinguishingfeature of task groups.Leaders collaborate with members to set goalsand agenda and to develop on-going moni-toring procedures to keep the group on task.Human relations are critical supports in taskgroups, but are not the predominant focus.
Clear goals are essential to task groupsand the goals should be specific, attain-able, performance-based, measurable,and observable.Leaders help members to define goalsthat are production and performance-based, rather than related directly topersonal change.
Task group leaders need to mobilize mem-ber energy and resources to accomplishpreviously established goals.Involving members in goal creation andplanning for goal accomplishment is animportant motivational approach.Attending to human relations dimensionsalso provides a critical source for mem-ber energy mobilization.
Task group leaders need to providedecision-making options clearly and toto define their relative advantages anddisadvantages:Task group leaders need to help membersunderstand that group life naturallyinvolves conflict, to teach members howconflict fits developmentally into groupfunctioning, and to help membersrecognize when conflict is obvious and/orwhen it is present but not obvious.
Effective leaders help members to under-stand how positive human relations areessential to task group success.Leaders must continually attend to hu-man processes and human relations be-cause group members will tend to avoidthem in favor of the task or avoiding thetask.
Process observation and feedback arecrucial leader skills in task groups.Process observation should focus onlevel of participation, influence, feelings,decision-making, task maintenance,group climate, membership, and norms.Feedback needs to be specific, immedi-ate, descriptive, behavioral, and pre-sented first, with a focus on positiveelements and always in a tentative, non-authoritarian manner.
Task groups usually are not independententities, but are part of a larger organ-izational system.Therefore, leaders must be sensitive tothe larger organizational and politicalsystem.Task group activities must be kept inbalance with the larger system.
Psychoeducation groups feature trans-mission, discussion, and integration offactual information and skill buildingthrough the use of semi-structuredexercises and group process.Psychoeducation groups often are fo-cused on prevention, which means stop-ping from happening or reducing thelikelihood that something bad willhappen.
Primary prevention is a “before-the-fact” intervention intended to reduceincidence or occurrence of newproblems.Being “at risk” is an important preventionconcept that means a person is likely tohave something bad happen to him or her.
Being “at risk” exists on a continuumranging from low risk potential to highrisk potential.The lower risk levels are associatedmost closely with primary prevention.However, psychoeducation groups canbe conducted with people anywherealong the continuum.
Psychoeducation groups typically involveinstructing or delivering information tomembers and developing skills.Sessions are designed systematically todisseminate information clearly and in anorganized manner, and to build skills.Links among goals, methods, strategies,activities, delivery, and evaluation arevital for effective psychoeducationgroups.
The psychoeducation group leader needsto be particularly knowledgeable of thecontent for the group.Research and concepts in the applicablearea (e.g., substance abuse or socialproblem solving) need to be mastered andthen that mastery drawn upon appropri-ately within the group.
Psychoeducation group leaders needgood skills to obtain (i.e., select andrecruit) members, particularly whenpotential group members are “atrisk.”Knowledge of epidemiological tech-niques, social indicators, demographicprofiles, life transitions, human andsystem development, and social mark-eting can all be helpful.
Knowledge of human development overthe life span, augmented by knowledge ofhuman diversity, contributes strongly toeffective psychoeducation group leader-ship.Human development must be understoodecologically, including knowledge of im-portant contexts such as environment.
Effective application of principles of struc-ture are fundamental to psychoeducationgroups.Leaders need to know how to design a (atleast semi-) structured group experiencefrom beginning to ending session.Leaders also need to know how to struc-ture each session (e.g., goals-methods-roles) as well as how to use structuredexercises within sessions.
When psychoeducation groups are usedfor prevention, the concept of empower-ment is especially important.Empowerment refers to group mem-bers’ self-perception that they are cap-able and in control, that their life con-dition is not whimsical, and that theyare powerful shapers of their owndestinies.
Special ethical considerations revolvearound privacy issues in psychoeduc-ation groups.When prospective members currentlyunaffected by a disorder (i.e., who are“healthy” or at low risk) are recruited,care must be given to not be invasive oftheir privacy.
Another ethical concern revolves aroundattending to unique needs of members.Psychoeducation groups can easily becomeover-structured and unbalanced, resultingin excessive information delivery.Except when intended and understoodby all, unique member needs can be-come ignored through “informationoverload.”
Effective leaders know the advantages(e.g., that they are focused, informative,skill-development-based, efficient, andhave preventive potential) and disad-vantages (e.g., that they can minimizegroup process human relations or mem-ber participation) of psychoeducationgroups.
Leaders develop ideas for a psychoedu-cation group from literature reviews andlocal (needs) assessments.Topics appropriate for a psychoeduca-tion group (e.g., transition from middleto high school) should match the localneeds, resources, and situation.
Psychoeducation group leaders plantheir groups best by including inputand/or involvement of “target”population members.Sometimes representative members ofthe “target” population are includedin planning the group.
Counseling groups are conducted bygroup counselors to improve copingwith problems of living by focusing oninterpersonal problem solving, inter-active feedback, and support methodswithin a here-and-now framework.Group counselors need to understand the ma-jor personality and counseling theoretical ap-proaches for group counseling, such asPsycho-dynamic, Behavioral,Transpersonal, Cognitive-Behavioral, and
Advantages of group counseling includeits interpersonal orientation, generationof therapeutic conditions, support,problem-solving, cost-savings, and de-velopment of interpersonal learning.Disadvantages of group counseling in-clude difficulties in organizing groupsand obtaining individual assistance,and threats to confidentiality.
Knowledge of interpersonal dynamicsis essential for group counselors.The most important interpersonaldynamics in this regard include: Group processes (e.g., participation levels and task and maintenance behaviors ). Therapeutic factors (e.g., instillation of hope and altrusim). Feedback and self-disclosure behaviors.
Because counseling groups are mostoften used to resolve interpersonalproblems, knowledge of problem-solving steps is important: Identify the problem Set goals Consider and choose a strategy Implement the strategy Evaluate the success the strategy
Because group counseling is an inter-personal activity, effective assessment ofinterpersonal phenomena is important.Capacity to engage with others as wellas interpersonal needs for inclusion,control, and openness are examples ofimportant interpersonal dimensions toassess.
Group counselors also need to under-stand when and how to make referralsand have a referral resource list fromwhich to draw.Referral may be necessary during selec-tion or during the course of the group,such as when the group topic is notrelevant to a potential member’s needs orwhen the level of functioning needed isbeyond skill of group counselor.
When forming a counseling group, thecounselor must seek to create a matchbetween the group and prospective mem-bers.The group’s goals and expectations andindividual group members’ level of func-tioning, availability, and motivationshould be considered in this matchingprocess.
Prospective members of counselinggroups may be obtained through referralfrom case loads or through recruitmentand marketing.Counselors should explore goals, level offunctioning, expectations, motivation,and obtain informed consent during thegroup formation process.
Group counselors should be able to rec-ognize self-defeating behaviors of clientsduring their participation in the group,and note relationships between professedgoals and actual behaviors.Group counselors also should becomeadept at observing agreements and dis-crepancies between verbal and nonverb-al behavior.
Group counselors should be able to de-velop reasonable hypotheses about themeaning(s) of nonverbal behavior.They also should be able to work withnonverbal behavior and to be sensitive toindividual and cultural differences.
Group counselors should be able to con-duct interventions that are consistent andappropriate with a group’s stage of de-velopment and with member’s develop-mental progress.For example, certain leader interven-tions appropriate at the Forming stageof a group might not be appropriate atthe Working stage.
Counseling groups often experience con-flict and other incidents that might be-come significant impediments to the pro-gress of the group.Counseling groups also may some-times have members who behave ex-cessively or inappropriately. continued
For example, they may be demandingor under the influence of a substance orthey may monopolize, withdraw, fight,flirt, walk out, or threaten.These “critical incidents” should beanticipated and responded to by leaderswith sensitivity and skill, capturing themoment to allow the group to maintainitself and to move ahead.
Group counselors should learn how touse major strategies, techniques, andprocedures that are consistent withtheir (personal) conceptual frameworkand with the group situation.Such activities might include use of self-disclosure, feedback, confrontation,modeling, or skills training.
Group counselors should know how tohelp members transfer their learningfrom the group to their lives outside thegroup.Relating group events and experiences tothe “real world” is very important, in-cluding helping members to integrate andapply learning and to try out smallchanges first.
Group counselors also can help mem-bers generalize group learning.Useful techniques in this regard includemaking use of assigned homework,viewing videotapes in the group, roleplaying, or keeping journals.
Co-leadership in a counseling group is adesirable, and often preferred, modelbecause it provides another role modelfor members, a support resource foreach leader, a “built-in” capacity forleader processing, and safety.Functional co-leadership requires agood initial match of leaders and main-tenance of an open and sharing workingrelationship between them.
Counseling groups, like other groups,need to be assessed and evaluated fortheir on-going and overall effectiveness.Leaders can collect relevant dataduring sessions, at the end of sessions,or using a pre-and post-test design.The data should be used to help the groupto progress and to determine its value toeach member.
Psychotherapy groups are conducted bytherapists to reduce psychological and/oremotional dysfunction through explora-tion of the antecedents to current be-havior by using intrapersonal and inter-personal assessment, diagnosis, and inter-pretation and connecting historical mater-ial with the present.
Clients with diagnosed or diagnosabledysfunctions are very suitable for grouppsychotherapy.Therefore, for psychotherapy groupleaders, knowledge of abnormal behavioris essential because members enter thegroup with varying levels of dysfunction.
In addition, leaders of psychotherapygroups must understand not onlycurrent abnormal behavior, but alsohow abnormal behavior develops.Therefore, knowledge of psychopath-ology and its relationship to normal andabnormal human development is neces-sary.
Knowing the relationship of personalitytheory to group psychotherapy also isimportant for psychotherapy groupleaders.Therefore, they must possess a thoroughunderstanding of human developmentand personality development.
Leaders of psychotherapy groups alsomust know crisis theory and its relation-ships to helping and to group psycho-therapy.In psychotherapy groups, crises mayarise with some regularity, but theycan provide opportunities for theleader to promote change.
Knowledge of Diagnostic and StatisticalManual (IV) of the American PsychiatricAssociation is important for psychother-apy group leaders.This knowledge is useful to assess pro-spective clients in relation to DSM-IVcategories and to integrate assessmentdata with criteria for group memberselection.
Special screening attention needs to begiven by psychotherapy group leadersto selecting group members who couldbenefit from group.Group members included can be thosefrom a wide spectrum of psychologicaland emotional disturbance.However, those with poor reality contactor character disorders are not good cand-idates for group psychotherapy.
Self-defeating behaviors of many uniquekinds can be experienced in psychother-apy groups.Therefore, leaders need to be able tomanage behaviors that are antagonisticto a member’s needs and/or goals, repre-sent an extreme dysfunction, or heightenliability.
Intervening in critical incidents within apsychotherapy group could involve situa-tions that are at higher risk than in otherforms of group work.At times, these critical incidents mayinclude crises or emergencies that requiredirect leader intervention.
Disruptive members in psychotherapygroups can evidence dramaticallypronounced expression of behavior.These more obvious and extreme dis-ruptions may require direct (perhapseven physical) intervention on the partof the leader to manage the member’sbehavior and the group itself.
Hospitalization may sometimes be neces-sary for a member of a psychotherapygroup and therefore leaders must knowprocedures for instituting hospitalization,should that be necessary.Transfer of learning may require in-creased support, gradated trials, andrepeated attempts in psychotherapygroups .
Assessment procedures for evaluation inpsychotherapy groups may need to befocused more closely than in other groupson the individual’s accomplishment ofgradated goals.Assessment of psychotherapy groupmember contributions is often concern-ed with modest gains.
BEST PRACTICES IN GROUP WORK Guidelines for Effective andAppropriate Group Leadership
“Best Practices” in group work areactivities, strategies, and interventionsthat are consistent and current witheffective and appropriate professional,ethical, and community standards.Best Practices encompass: Planning Performing Processing
Planning is the part of group lead-ership that occurs primarily beforethe group begins, but also con-tinues throughout the group pro-cess.
Professional Context for PlanningEffective group work leadership includesadherence to the ACA Code of Ethics andStandards of Practice, as well as adherence toother applicable professional standards.Effective group work necessitates that theleader have appropriate and pertinent cre-dentials, such as being an National CertifiedCounselor (NCC) and having graduated from aprogram accredited by CACREP (or itsequivalent).
Professional Context for PlanningEffective group work leaders areaffiliated with professional associa-tions such as the American Counsel-ing Association and its group workemphasis division, the Association forSpecialists in Group Work.Effective group work also needs to fitwithin the values, norms, and generalpractices of the local community.
Professional Context for PlanningGroup work offered through an agencyneeds to be consistent with the agency’smission, philosophy, and general practice.Any group work offered through anagency needs support of its staff toassist in resource allocation, referrals,and involvement.
Conceptual Underpinnings for PlanningCounselors who desire to perform groupwork leadership need to value the powerand promise of group work, and to helpcolleagues and clients to accept its value.Group workers need to define their scope ofpractice, based on (a) self-knowledge, (b)knowledge and training in group work, (c)type of group, and (d) a needs assessment forthe group.
Conceptual Underpinnings for PlanningBecause group work is not an individualservice, a group, interpersonal, and systemperspective is necessary for group work tobe effective.Group work leader knowledge of personalvalues, strengths, and limitations is critic-ally important.
Conceptual Underpinnings for PlanningGroup work leader knowledge of personalityand counseling theories also is important.However, because these theories were devel-oped primarily with reference to individ-uals, they must be adapted to group work.Development of an interpersonal and inter-active framework for group leadership isessential.
Ecological Assessment for PlanningAssessment data provide a basis for de-signing and/or choosing if group work isthe appropriate method to use.Ecological assessment is comprehensiveand addresses the cultural, demographic,economic, political, social, health, andpsychological needs of prospectivemembers and is matched to an appro-priate group methodology.
Ecological Assessment for PlanningThe comprehensive nature of ecolog-ical assessment allows for data to con-verge from several vantage points.Importance should be placed onunderstanding the broad culture ofthe community.
Ecological Assessment for PlanningMethods for ecological assessmentinclude: Community surveys Interviews of individuals Focus groups Key informants Demographic analysis Social indicators Case findings
Ecological Assessment for PlanningPlanning for group also should utilizeinformation from a variety of profes-sional resources such as: Textbooks Journal articles Scholarly presentations Professional meetings Dissertation abstracts The World Wide Web
Program Development for PlanningPrior to beginning the group work,significant attention should be given tothe group’s goals, methods, themes,interventions, conceptual framework,leader qualifications, marketing, andrecruiting and screening.All the essential components of thegroup work should be addressed beforethe group process begins.
Program Development for PlanningSession-by-session planning also is veryimportant and should include develop-ment of: Session goal(s) Methods/Activities Time for each activity Leader responsibilities Resources needed Processing of activity Summarization
Program Evaluation for PlanningEvaluation of the group helps to keep it ontrack and to determine if its goals werereached.Regular or periodic monitoring of mem-ber satisfaction (i.e., process evaluation)is always useful.Evaluation of effectiveness and goal ac-complishment (i.e., summative evalua-tion) is always recommended.
Resources for PlanningFirst to be determined is whether a singleleader or co-leaders are appropriate.Co-leadership has the advantage of providingmutual and continuing support, access to feed-back, and sharing of responsibilities.If co-leaders are used, they must be carefullyselected for compatibility and attentionshould be given to their workingrelationship.
Meeting Space PlanningThe meeting space for group work shouldbe selected carefully and ideally should Be roomy and comfortable Afford privacy and confidentiality Have movable furniture Be consistently available Be convenient Have any necessary resources
Marketing and Recruitment PlanningIn order for group work to be feasible,member recruitment and marketingmust be done ethically.Available resources, such as personalcontacts, public media, or the Internet,should be used as is appropriate.
Funding PlanningFunding must be available to supportgroup work offerings, including moniesfor materials and supplies and for sup-port of professional development forgroup work leaders.Member payment obligations and plans,if any, should be operationalized (e.g., byan insurance company or “out of pocket”)before the group work begins.
Professional Disclosure PlanningUse of a Professional Disclosure Statementis always desirable and sometimes re-quired by state statute through licensurelaws.A professional disclosure statement servesto inform prospective group members andthe general public of group leader’s qual-ifications.
Professional Disclosure PlanningA professional disclosure statementshould include the group work leader’s Scope of practice Licenses and certifications Specific training for group work Specific experience in group work Fees for services
Preparing Group Members PlanningPreparation of group members for parti-cipation is very important for all groupwork, but especially so for personalchange groups such as psychoeducation,counseling, and psychotherapy groups.Member preparation involves Screening,Informed Consent, and Ethical consider-ations.
Preparing Group Members PlanningScreening is concerned with the idea thatthe group is appropriate for each poten-tial member.Counseling and therapy groups generallyrequire screening whereas psychoeduca-tion and task groups may not needscreening and/or may use intact groups.
Screening PlanningScreening is intended to insure thateach group member is a match with the group’s goals. is a match with expectations for the group. is a match with group availability and schedule. has an appropriate level of psychological and emotional functioning. can become involved interpersonally. has appropriate social interest in the group.
Informed Consent PlanningProspective members need to provide informedconsent for their participation in (at least)counseling or psychotherapy groups.The informed consent process should befocused on: Group goals Techniques and activities Leader qualifications Leader and member responsibilities
Confidentiality PlanningDuring screening, and throughout thegroup, leaders need to help membersunderstand confidentiality and its limits.Confidentiality in groups cannot beguaranteed, but it is a fundamentaltenet for effective group work.
Confidentiality PlanningLimits to confidentiality include need toreport danger to self and/or others orchild or elder abuse or neglect, court-ordered reporting, and necessary re-porting to managed care companies forinsurance purposes.“What is said in the group needs to remain inthe group,” is an important general concept,except when limits are activated.
Professional Development PlanningGroup leaders must continually pursueprofessional development in order tokeep competencies current and sharp.Reading, workshop participation,writing, taking courses, attendingconference presentations, andprofessional supervision are commonexamples of effective professionaldevelopment activities.
Trends PlanningGroup work leaders must keep abreastof changes in the world around them.For example, mental health services,including group services, are increas-ingly affected by managed care policiesand procedures.Group work services may fit particu-larly well within managed care due toeconomy and effectiveness.
Trends PlanningCultural, ethnic, age, sexual orientation,and racial changes demand that groupleaders increase their understandingand sensitivity to multicultural anddiversity issues and practices.Group leaders also must attend torapid changes in technology, includinguse of computers and the Internet.
Performing is the part of groupleadership that involves the appli-cation of the group work plan in aneffective and appropriate man-nerin order to positively affect groupmembers and reach group andindividual member goals.
PerformingA first rule of performing effectively isto know oneself, including personalstrengths and areas in need of improve-ment.Group work leaders who performeffectively participate in each groupas a member seeking self-learning andimprovement.
PerformingEffective group work leaders delivergroup work competencies (i.e., know-ledge and skills) effectively and effici-ently.Effective group work leaders also adaptthe group plan so that it fits the situa-tional needs of each group session.
PerformingEffective group work leaders relyupon previously tested and validatedmodels for group process, eventhough no group perfectly fits amodel.Noting what happens in and during agroup provides leaders with importantdata to inform and guide their inter-ventions.
PerformingEffective group work leaders createtherapeutic conditions that enhance groupfunctioning and movement toward groupgoals.These factors include universality, instillationof hope, imparting of information, altruism,corrective recapitulation of primary familygroup, socializing techniques, imitativebehavior, interpersonal learning, groupcohesiveness, catharsis, and existential factors.
PerformingEffective group work leaders chooseinterventions intentionally and withcare after considering alternatives.Consideration is given to: intervention level (individual, inter personal, group) intervention type (conceptual, ex periential, structural) intended intensity (high, medium, low)
PerformingEffective group work leaders focus onevents and experiences occurring pre-sently and try to help members bringpast or outside events into the presentdiscussion.Meaning attribution skills are used tohelp members learn from group eventsby converting their experiential learn-ing into cognitive learning.
PerformingCollaboration between group leadersand members is important for satisfac-tion and success for all.Leaders are the experts in group work,but the group members are the expertson their own lives and experiences.
PerformingEffective group work leaders areintentional about valuing diversityand being responsive to it.The acronym “RESPECTFUL”provides a way to rememberdiversity factors to which attentionshould be given. continued
RESPECTFUL Religious/spiritual identity Ethnic identity Sexual identity Psychological identity Economic class standing Chronological challenges Threats to one’s well being Family history Unique physical characteristics Location of residence
Processing is the part of groupwork leadership that involvesleaders meeting after sessions toevaluate what occurred during thepreceding session, to derive mean-ing, to consider any impact onfuture sessions, and to guide thegroup forward productively.
ProcessingProcessing allows leaders to share andcompare, draw meaning from eventsand experiences, and to make appro-priate adjustments.During before-session processing, leadersare concerned with preparation, the linkbetween goals and strategies, the matchbetween plan and development of groupand members, and clarity of leader roles.
ProcessingDuring after-session processing, leadersfocus on what happened, assessing memberand leader behavior and effectiveness,drawing meaning, and making adjustmentsfor the future.Reflective practice is based on “learningfrom experience” and involves analyzingexperience and practice, drawing meaningfrom it, and applying learning appropri-ately and effectively to new situations.
ProcessingReflective practice can be enhanced bysuch strategies as (a) between-sessionprocessing, (b) keeping session journ-als, (c) reviewing session and evalua-tion results, and (d) critiquing videotapes.Processing during reflective practicecan be of two general types: pragmaticprocessing or deep processing.
ProcessingPragmatic processing involves noting anddescribing without interpretation theevents and experiences occurring withingroup sessions (e.g., who talks to whom).Deep processing involves moving frompragmatic processing to probe moreintensely the relationship between whatoccurred during a session and the leaders’values, cognition, and affect.
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