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Social Groups:
Characteristics and Significance
*Sonny Jose, Lekshmi Nair

Each day, we interact with groups, in one form or in another
- we are born into and dwell in a group (family), we learn
in groups (classrooms), we work in group (office, project
teams), we interact with friends, and we also spend much
in leisure groups. We learn, work, and play in groups. For
that matter an individuals personal identity is moulded
in the way in which we are perceived and treated by
members of our groups.
As humans we are by nature inherently social and
gregarious. Our life is filled with groups from the moment
we are born until the moment of our death. Businesses,
the Government, and the military are all interested in
enhancing the productivity of groups. Educators too strive
to understand how the classroom functions as a group.
Drug abuse, delinquency, crime and mental illness are all
being treated through therapeutic groups, and there is
continued concern with making those procedures more
To understand the breadth of group work practice, it is
important to be familiar with the variety of groups in
practice settings. Given the variety of groups, it is important
to distinguish between them.
*Dr. Sonny Jose, Dr. Lekshmi Nair, Loyola College, Trivandrum

Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Definition and Characteristics of Groups

Contrary to the conventional understanding, not every
collection of people can be regarded a group. The Oxford
English Dictionary defines group as a number of persons
or things regarded as forming a unit, on account of any
kind of mutual or common relation, or classified together
on account of a common degree of similarity.
From the sociological perspective, a group can be defined
as two or more humans that interact with one another,
accept expectations and obligations as members of the
group, as well as share a common identity. Going by this
definition, society can be perceived at the macro level as a
large group, while a social group (e.g. family, club, and
team) which is considerably small may be viewed as small
at the micro-level.
According to Paul Hare, the defining characteristic of a
group is social interaction. A true group exhibits some
degree of social cohesion and is more than a simple
collection or aggregate of individuals, such as people
waiting at a bus stop. Characteristics shared by members
of a group may include interests, values, ethnic or social
background, and kinship ties. An aggregate is a collection
of individuals who are present at the same time and place,
but does not necessarily form a unit or have any common
degree of similarity. Individuals standing at a street corner
or the members of an audience at a music programme
constitute aggregates, not groups.
Muzafer Sherif (1916-1982) formulated a more technical
definition. According to Sherif a group has to be social
unit consisting of a number of individuals interacting with
each other based on certain elements:

common motives and goals;

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


an accepted division of labour, i.e. roles,


established status (social rank, dominance)



accepted norms and values with reference to matters

relevant to the group;


development of accepted sanctions (praise and

punishment) if and when norms were respected or

Based on the above definitions one may consider a few

criteria to call a group a group:

number of persons more than one


acceptance of roles and status

similarity of goals, motives

shared norms and values

Various other definitions given by different social scientists
have emphasised on the various aspects of a group in
various definitions. Based on these one may arrive at the
quintessential characteristics of groups:

Interpersonal Interaction - A group is defined as a

collection of individuals interacting with each other;
individuals are not a group unless they are interacting
with one another (Bonner, Stogdill, and Homans)

Perceptions of Membership - A group may be defined

as a social unit consisting of two or more persons,
who perceive themselves as belonging to a group. Its
members define themselves and are defined by others
as belonging to the group. Accordingly, the persons
are not a group unless they perceive themselves to be
part of a group (Bales and Smith)

Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Interdependency - Group may be defined as a

collection of individuals who are interdependent.
Usually, individuals are not a group unless an event
that affects one of them affects them all. It is
questionable that a group could exist without its
members being interdependent. (Cartright and Zander,
Fiedler, and Lewin.

Goals - Group may be defined as a collection of

individuals who join together to achieve a goal.
According to this definition, the individuals are not a
group unless they are trying to achieve a mutual goal.
The primary defining characteristic of a group is the
craving of its members to achieve a mutual goal
(Deutsch and Freeman).

Motivation - Group may be defined as a collection of

individuals who are all trying to satisfy some personal
need through their joint association. Thus, individuals
are not a group unless they are motivated by some
personal reason to be part of a group (Bass and Cattell).

Structured Relationships - A group may be a

collection of individuals whose interactions are
structured by a set of roles and norms. They share
norms concerning matters of common interest and
participate in a system of interlocking roles. Therefore,
individuals are not a group unless their interactions
are structured by a set of role definitions and norms
(McDavid and Harari, and Shel and Sherif).

Mutual Influence - A group may be defined as a

collection of individuals who influence each other.
Accordingly, individuals are not a group unless they
are affecting and being affected by each other (Shaw).

Not all these characteristics are equally important and

although it is impossible to gain consensus among social

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance

scientists as to which characteristics are most important.

However based on these characteristics we may define a
group for the purpose of group work as:
A group is two or more individuals in face to face
interaction, each aware of his or her membership in the
group as well as of others who belong to the group, and
their positive interdependence as they strive to achieve
mutual goals.

Factors Influencing Group Formation

There are four major factors that usually influence our
decision to join and remain in a wide variety of groups:
attraction to members of the group; the activities, goals,
or the task of the group; belongingness to the people in
the group; and meeting needs or goals lying outside the
Attraction to the group most often grows out of proximity
and the frequency of interaction. Your neighbourhoods,
classmates, roommates, and friendship are largely
determined by those who are in close proximity and also
available for interaction. However, one must remember that
proximity creates only the potential for attraction. Various
other factors usually come into play when actually
establishing a relationship. Similarities, especially
attitudinal similarity or vibes, appear to be as strong in
group formation as in interpersonal attraction. Several other
attributes of groups render them more attractive to
prospective members and thus contribute to group

prestige of a group; e.g. members who have positions

of higher authority, aristocracy and eliteness

possibility of cooperative relationships and joint

rewards heighten the attractiveness of a group

Social Group Work: Working with Groups

the degree of positive interaction among members

increasing the range of personal and social needs being

size of the group; smaller groups offer higher possibility

for interaction, for sharing similarities, and for meeting
individual needs

The task of a group, as experienced in its activities and

goals, is the second factor influencing group affiliation.
You join a photography club because you enjoy taking
pictures, discussing and sharing that activity with others.
You may even join a protest group to resist something
that goes against your ideals; e.g. we join Green Peace to
protest against environmental exploitation by
Corporations, or, we may even join students movements
to protest against the hike in tuition fees or cut down in
transport concessions because you cannot afford to pay
more. Thus, you are gaining rewards directly through group
membership. The social exchange theory (Homans, 1959;
Gouldner, 1960) to group formation predicts that we join
and remain in groups when the rewards for doing so
outweigh the costs, thus yielding profits.
The third general factor of group formation is our desire to
affiliate with the people in that group. We satisfy our need
for affiliation through interacting with people, just as we
meet our need for achievement through the activities and
goals of the group. The fact that we affiliate for reasons of
social comparison, in order to reduce anxiety, or to even to
satisfy an innate craving, suggests that a group is a powerful
forum for meeting our basic social needs and can yield a
strong influence on our behaviour.
Group membership may help us meet needs that lie outside
the group - thus, group membership may be a stepping
stone to achieve an external goal, rather than a source of
direct satisfaction. A college professor may regularly attend

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance

meetings of a professional association to enhance the

probability of promotion. A candidate for political office
may join a host of community organisations to enhance his
or her chances for election.

Plausible Ex planations about Group

Based on the various factors influencing group formation,
the following may be hypothesized:

people join groups in order to satisfy certain individual



proximity, contact and frequent interaction provide an

opportunity to satisfy certain needs.


interpersonal attraction is a function of physical

attractiveness, perceived ability of the other person
(success or failure), need compatibility as well as
various similarities - attitudinal, personality,
economic, ethnicity, shared goals, etc.


individuals join groups if the activities of the group

attractive or rewarding.

Types of Groups
All of us are simultaneously members of various types of
groups. We are members of a family, members of friendship
groups, members of work organisations and members of fan
club or a even a religious group. Sociologists have attempted
to classify is various types of groups as follows:

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Groups

We may join a political party or a particular association

(typical of an occupation).Such groups we join through
our own choice and effort are voluntary groups. In contrast
we are forced to join or are automatically incorporated as

Social Group Work: Working with Groups

members of certain groups without choice; e.g. we are

automatically classified in groups as members based on
sex, age, nationality, religion and ethnicity. These latter
groups in which we become members by birth or without
any choice are involuntary groups.

Open vs. Closed Groups

Open groups are those groups characterized by changing
membership. Here, virtually anyone can become a member.
As certain members leave, new members are admitted,
and the group continues. For instance, anyone can join the
Hrithik Roshan fan club. On the other hand, there are some
groups that maintain exclusiveness by restricting the
membership and make it much more difficult to join. Only a
few qualify to become members in such clubs. Such groups
with restrictive membership criteria are closed groups; e.g.
the mafia (underworld), Royal Enfield motorcycle clubs, night
clubs, etc. Closed groups typically have some time
limitation, with the group meeting for a predetermined
number of sessions. Generally, members are expected to
remain in the group until it ends, and new members are
not added.
There are some advantages to open groups that incorporate
new members as others leave, one of which is an increased
opportunity for members to interact with a greater variety
of people. A potential disadvantage of open groups is that
rapid changing of members can result in a lack of cohesion,
particularly if too many clients leave or too many new ones
are introduced at once. Therefore, it will be better to bring
in new members one at a time as and when opening occurs.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Groups

There are certain groups, whose membership consists of

individuals from all walks of life; e.g. religious groups may
have members from all classes. Such a group may be

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance

regarded as a vertical group. On the other hand, a horizontal

group consists predominantly of members from one social
class. Occupational groups of doctors (e.g. IMA); guilds or
associations of persons of a trade e.g. electricians,
carpenters, non-gazatted officers for instance are composed
largely of members from the same social class..

Primary vs. Secondary Groups

Cooley described primary groups as collectivities of

individuals as in the case of play groups, neighbourhood
or village characterized by intimate, sympathetic faceto-face association and cooperation. A primary group is a
group in which members develop close, personal, intimate
and enduring relationships; e.g. family, neighbours, work
associates, etc. Here, the members know each other very
well, are greatly influenced by one another and feel closely
related. On the other hand, secondary groups are
characterized by contractual relationships and
communication on indirect media (Faris, 1937). These
are relatively larger, relatively temporary, anonymous;
they are also formal, impersonal groups, in which there is
little social intimacy or mutual understandingand based
on some interest or activity, and whose members interact
on the basis of some specific roles.

Natural vs. Formed Groups

Natural groups consist of members coming together in a

spontaneous manner, on the basis of naturally occurring
events, interpersonal attraction or the mutually perceived
needs of members. Family, peer groups and street gangs are
examples of natural groups. (Whyte, 1993). On the other
hand, formed group are those groups constituted by any
influence or intervention external to the group. Such groups
are usually formed for a particular purpose. Therapy groups,
encounter groups, committees and teams are examples of
formed groups.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Formal vs. Informal Groups

Formal groups are those groups that require someone to
determine a task that needs to be accomplished, which
requires some kind of organizational system, made up of
various job roles, for which individuals are recruited
(Artherton, 2003). Here, task is what matters, and
everything elseparticularly the individuals and the roles
they occupymay be changed. Informal groups work the
other way round. A group of individuals meet: if they form
a group, then they will informally allocate roles depending
on individual preferences, and / or on talents. This
collection of roles makes a system possible, and so
occasionally they may undertake a task together, such as
organizing a trip, or a night out or a party. It is the
preferences of the Individuals which are paramount; tasks
are incidental.

Treatment vs. Task Groups

Treatment groups signify groups whose major purpose is
to meet the socio-emotional needs of the group members.
Such groups often aim at meeting the members need for
support, education, therapy, growth and socialization.
Treatment groups include growth groups (e.g. encounter
groups for couples, value clarification groups for
adolescents, or educative groups for community women);
therapy groups (psychotherapy groups, support groups
for de- addicted or the sober) (Konopka, 1983); socialization
groups (YMCA, half-way homes) (Middleman, 1982;
Whittaker, 1985). In contrast, task groups come in
existence with the purpose of accomplishing a goal that is
neither intrinsically nor immediately linked to the needs
of the group members, but rather, of broader constituency.
The classic example for task groups in social work practice
setting are Medical Teams, Treatment conferences
convened to monitor treatment as well as Staff

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


Development (Programs). Some of the major difference

between treatment and task groups include the following:

members in treatment groups are bonded to their

common needs, where as in a task group, the members
are working towards accomplishing a task or a
mandate which eventually might lead to bonding

roles develop through interaction in treatment groups,

while in task roles are usually defined based on

communication is open in treatment groups, while

communication in task groups are focused around a
particular task

procedures in treatment groups are flexible, while it

is formal and based on agendas in task groups

self-disclosure is high in treatment groups, whereas it

might not at all happen in task groups

proceedings are confidential and kept within the

context of the treatment groups, where as in task
groups it may be open to public scrutiny

success of treatment groups is evaluated on the basis

of the group meeting the members treatment goals,
where as in task groups it is based on the achievement
of task or a mandate

The type of group that we discussed last formed groups

as well as treatment groups are of great interest to group
work, as the groups that we come across in group work
predominantly belong to this type of groups.
Other types of groups include the following:

Reference Group - Individuals almost universally have

a bond toward what are known as reference groups.
These are groups to which the individual conceptually


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

relates him/herself, and from which he/she adopts

goals and values as a part of his/her self identity.

Peer group - A peer group is a group of approximately

the same age, social status, and interests. Generally,
people are relatively equal in terms of power when
they interact with peers.

Clique - An informal, tight-knit group, usually in a

High School/College setting, that shares common
interests. There is an established yet shifting power
structure in most Cliques.

Club - A club is a group, which usually requires one

to apply to become a member. Such clubs may be
dedicated to particular activities, such as sporting

Household - all individuals who live in the same home

Community - A community is a group of people with a

commonality or sometimes a complex net of
overlapping commonalities, often - but not always in proximity with one another with some degree of
continuity over time. They often have some
organization and leaders.

Franchise- this is an organisation which runs several

instances of a business in many locations.

Gang - A gang is usually an urban group that gathers

in a particular area. It is a group of people that often
hang around each other. They can be like some clubs,
but much less formal.

Mob - A mob is usually a group of people that has

taken the law into their own hands. Mobs are usually
a group which gather temporarily for a particular

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


Posse - A posse was initially an American term for a

group of citizens that had banded together to enforce
the law. However, it can also refer to a street group.

Squad - This is usually a small group, of around 3-8

people, that would work as a team to accomplish their

Team - similar to a squad, though a team may contain

many more members. A team works in a similar way
to a squad

Learning (groups) - Drs David and Roger Johnson of

the University of Minnesota (the gurus of group work
and co-operative learning research) identify three types
of groups that can promote collaborative learning:
Informal learning groups -Ad hoc, transient, shortterm groups that can be quickly formed and utilised
in even a large lecture situation. Formal learning
groups - The sort of groups that we would use to
work on larger collaborative projects. This type of
group work is more structured and requires much
more planning. Formal learning groups generally
include multiple opportunities for reflection on the
groups progress.

Base groups (study group) - Self-selected groups of

students who work together independently of
specified class time or assignments.
Logistics regarding Groups
Group Composition
Whether a group should be homogeneous (consisting of
members from similar age-groups, sex and socio-economic
background) or a heterogeneous in membership, depends
on the groups goals. In the context of social group work,
given specific target population with specific needs, a group
composed entirely of members of that population quite


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

similar in characteristics is more appropriate than a

heterogeneous group. For example, let us consider a group
composed entirely of elderly people. Such a group would
be able to focus exclusively and deal more consistently on
the specific problems that characterize their developmental
period, e.g. loneliness, isolation, loss in income and
eventually social position, rejection, deterioration of the
body, atrophy in energy and so forth. This similarity among
the members can lead to a great degree of cohesion, which
in turn offers the possibility for an open and intense
exploration of their life crises, leading to universalisation
(as a principle) of their problems. Members are more likely
to express feelings that have been once kept private.
Moreover, their life circumstances create a bond with one
another. Similarly, self-help groups (SHGs) for women also
benefit greatly from the homogeneity of the composition
of their group, enabling them to pursue the common goal
of credit management (thrift-savings) or self-development
in a concerted fashion.
Alternately, where it is desired to provide diverse, socially
challenging growth experiences, a microcosm of the outside
social structure is desired. In such an event, a
heterogeneous group is best. Personal-growth groups and
certain therapy groups tend to be heterogeneous. Thus,
participant members are allowed to experiment with new
behaviour and develop interpersonal skills with the help
of feedback from a rich variety of people in an environment
representative of everyday reality.
Group Size
There has been contesting views regarding the desirable
size for a group. The answer depends on several factors:
the age of clients, experience of the leader, type of group,
and nature of the problems to be explored. For instance, a
group composed of elementary school children might be

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


kept to 4 to 6, whereas a group of adolescents might be

made up of 8 to 12 people. For a weekly ongoing group of
adults, about 10 to 12 people with one leader may be ideal.
A group manageable in size, is big enough to give ample
opportunity for interaction and small enough for everyone
to be involved and to feel a sense of group.
Frequency and Duration of Meetings
Another bone of contention is regarding the periodicity of
group meetings. Questions frequently posed include:

How often should a group meet?

For how long should a group meet twice weekly for 1hour sessions? Or is 1 to 2 hours once a week

With children and adolescents it may be better to meet

more frequently and for a shorter period to suit their
attention span. If the group is taking place in a school
setting, the meeting times can correspond to regularly
scheduled class periods. For groups of college students or
relatively well functioning adults, a 2-hour weekly session
might be preferable. A 2-hour period is sufficient to allow
some intensive work yet, not so long that fatigue sets in.
You can choose any frequency and duration that suit your
style of leadership and the type of people in your group.
For an in-patient group in a mental health centre, it is
desirable to meet on a daily basis for 45 minutes. Because
of the members psychological impairment, it may not be
realistic to hold their attention for a longer period.
Group Life-cycle
Other questions that have often intrigued us are:

What should be the duration of a group?

Is it wise to set a termination date?


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

For most groups (in the social work perspective) a

termination date should be announced at the outset, so
that members will have a clear idea of the time frame within
which they would be operating. Groups in educational
institutions typically run for about 15 weeks. This would
be long enough for trust to develop and for work toward
behavioural changes to take place. But it should not be so
long that the group seems to be dragging on interminably.
A major value of this type of time limited group is that
members are motivated to realize that they do not have
forever to attain their personal goals. At different points in
this 15-week group, members are challenged to review their
progress, both individually and as a group. If they are
dissatisfied with their own participation or with the
direction the group is taking, they have the responsibility
to do something to change the situation.
Some groups compose of the same members who meet for
years. Such a time structure allows them to work through
issues in some depth, and offers support and challenge in
making life changes. These ongoing groups do have the
potential for fostering dependency, and thus it is important
that both the leader and members evaluate the impact of
the group on the clients daily living.
Place for Group Meetings
Other questions concern the environment and ambience
for group meetings. Many places will do, but privacy is
essential. Members must be assured that they will not be
overheard by people in adjoining rooms.
Groups often fail because of their physical setting. If they
are held in a day hall or ward full of distractions, productive
group work will not occur. You would require a room that
is not cluttered up with chairs and tables and that allows
for a comfortable seating arrangement. Members must be

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


able to sit in a circle. This arrangement lets all the

participants see one another and allows enough freedom
of movement that members can spontaneously make
physical contact.
Dispersal and transformation of groups
Two or more people in interacting situations will over time
develop stable territorial relationships. As described above,
these may or may not develop into groups. But stable
groups can also break up in to several sets of territorial
relationships. There are numerous reasons for stable
groups to malfunction or to disperse, but essentially this
is because of loss of compliance with one or more elements
of the definition of group provided by Sherif. The two most
common causes of a malfunctioning group are the addition
of too many individuals, and the failure of the leader to
enforce a common purpose, though malfunctions may
occur due to a failure of any of the other elements (i.e.,
confusions regarding status or of norms).
In a society, there is obvious need for more people to
participate in cooperative endeavours than can be
accommodated by separate groups. The military has
demonstrated best as to how this is possible by its
hierarchical array of squads, platoons, companies,
battalions, regiments, and divisions. Private companies,
corporations, government agencies, clubs, too have all
developed comparable (if less formal and standardized)
systems when the number of members or employees
exceeds the number that can be accommodated in an
effective group. Not all larger social structures require the
cohesion that may be found in the small group. Consider
the neighbourhood, country club, or the diocese, which
are basically territorial organizations who support large
social purposes. Any such large organisations may need
only islands of cohesive leadership.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

For a functioning group to attempt to add new members

in a casual way is a certain prescription for failure, loss of
efficiency, or disorganization. The number of functioning
members in a group can be reasonably flexible between
five and ten, and a long-standing cohesive group may be
able to tolerate a few part-timers. The key concept is that
the value and success of a group is obtained by each
member maintaining a distinct, functioning identity in the
minds of each of the members. The cognitive limit to this
span of control on individuals often set at seven. Rapid
shifting of attention can push the limit to about ten. Beyond
ten, subgroups will inevitably start to form with the
attendant loss of purpose, dominance order, and
individuality, with confusion of roles and rules. The
standard classroom with twenty to forty pupils and one
teacher is a rueful example of one supposed leader juggling
a number of subgroups.
Weakening of the common purpose once a group is well
established can be attributed to: adding new members;
unsettled conflicts of identities (i.e., territorial problems
in individuals); weakening of a settled dominance order;
and weakening or failure of the leader to tend to the group.
The actual loss of a leader is frequently fatal to a group,
unless there was lengthy preparation for the transition.
The loss of the leader tends to dissolve all dominance
relationships, as well as weakening dedication to common
purpose, differentiation of roles, and maintenance of
norms. The most common symptoms of a troubled group
are loss of efficiency, diminished participation, or
weakening of purpose, as well as an increase in verbal
aggression. Often, if a strong common purpose is still
present, a simple reorganization with a new leader and a
few new members will be sufficient to re-establish the
group, which is somewhat easier than forming an entirely
new group.

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


Benefits of Groups
Affiliation to groups carries certain implications, both
constructive and detrimental. Given below are some of

In most circumstances, the productivity of groups is

higher than that of the individuals. This synergy is
best demonstrated in the form of team work whether
it be in cricket, football or at work.


Groups are likely to make effective decisions and solve

the problems better than individuals working alone.
When problems are discussed in groups, there is a
better probability for clarification out of which a variety
of solutions emerge. It is for this very reason that we
constitute committees.


It is through group membership that we inculcate

values of altruism, kindness, compassion,
responsibility and so forth. Family and peer groups
are such primary groups responsible for engraving into
us a wide range of such human values.


The quality of emotional life in terms of friendship,

love, excitement, joy, fulfillment and achievement is
richer in groups and helps in personal growth. A
person who does not have any relationship with others
will not be able to experience most of the emotions.
The quality of everyday life is better in groups because
of the advantages of specialization and division of


Conflicts are absorbed better considering the

possibility of sharing. Similarly, conflicts are managed
more productively in groups owing to the peer support
and a variety of ideas to problem solving.


A persons identity, self-esteem and social

competencies are easily clarified and shaped by the


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

groups to which he/she belongs. Being a member of

different kinds of groups provides you with an identity,
e.g. a student, family member, caste, etc. Friendship
(groups) offer opportunities to experiment with
different kinds of behaviour without the threat of
rejection thereby helping to develop the self- esteem.
Even while groups provide a lot of benefits, social scientists
have also pointed out aspects of groups that are not very
constructive. For one, people in groups are for reasons of
anonymity and security, are more likely to take more
extreme positions and engage in impulsive and antisocial
behaviours. Another negative aspect is the tendency of
groups to force their members to conform, in extreme cases
even threatening the identity of the individuals. Social
scientists also point out that sometimes group affiliations
become so strong that group members turn hostile on nonmembers and other groups. Intense group behaviour may
precipitate several conflicts in the society.
However, a proper understanding of groups and its proper
application in dealing with groups within the context of
social work will help us reap the immense benefits from
using groups. Experiments conducted by social scientists
have proved time and again the strengths of using groups
for the development of the individual and society. That is
the reason why an understanding of groups is crucial to
the practice of group work. In the context of group work,
groups contribute immensely to the personality
development of individuals.

We constantly interact with groups that consist of
individuals and for various purposes, every moment of our
lives. Characteristically groups consist of two or more
individuals mutually dependant, having similarities and

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


shared goals, etc. The dominant factors influencing group

formation are prestige, commonality of tasks, desire for
affiliation, and need satisfaction. Groups come in various
forms depending on the context and the purposes they
are constituted for. The most common groups are:
Voluntary and Involuntary, Open and Closed, Formal and
Informal, Treatment and Task, etc. There are frequently
asked questions regarding the size of the groups, the
duration of group life, the ideals regarding the meeting
place, etc. all of which may be determined based on the
context and subject to scientific bases. More importantly,
groups are instrumental in moulding the individuals
personality, as it provides opportunities for problemsolving, self-esteem building, conflict resolution and for
that matter the socialization of the person in a society. To
this end, groups become very much relevant to social group
work practice


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Cooley, C.H., 1937. Social Organization. New York:

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Corey, M.S. 2002. Group Process and Practice, New

York: Brooks/Cole.


Faris, E. 1937. The Nature of Human Nature. NY:

McGraw-Hill Book Co. Inc.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Homan, G.C. 1950. the Human Group. New York:

Harcourt, Brace and World.


Johnson, D.W. and Johnson, P.F. Joining Together.

New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.


Shaw, M.E. 1977. Group Dynamics. New Delhi: TataMcGraw Hill.

10) Stodgill, R.M. 1959. Individual Behaviour and Group

Achievement. New Jersey: Oxford.
11) Toseland, R.W.2001. An Introduction to Group Work
Practice. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
12) Hare, A. P. 1962. Handbook of small group research.
New York: Macmillan.
13) Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1970. Oxford:
Claredon Press
14) Sherif, Muzafer and Sherif, Carolyn W., An Outline of
Social Psychology rev.ed. New York: Harper & Brothers
15) Simon, Herbert A. 1976. Administrative Behavior 3rd
ed. The Free Press
16) Whyte, F.W. 1993. Street Corner Society: The Social
Structure of an Italian Slum. Chicago: University Press.

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


Historical Development of
Group Work
*Sonny Jose, Aishwarya Jyotiram

The old adage no man is an island indicates the relevance
and virtue of human interaction. Mutual association helps
human beings in refining and in evolving into a well
behaved citizen, with concern for his fellow beings rather
than thinking individualistically. It is by virtue of
relationships that we maintain at various levels - in the
family, at school, in the neighborhood and religious
institutions - that we learn the basics of adjustments,
sacrifice, compromise, understanding, etc. Klein (1972)
observed that open social systems do not exist in a vacuum;
they are a part and parcel of the environment and
constantly interact with their surrounding.
Social group work as a basic method of social work, utilizes
groups, group dynamics as well as the inherent synergy,
in order to catalyse growth in the participating individuals.
Social Work with groups represents a broad domain of
direct social work practice (Garvin, Gutierrez & Galinsky,
2004). Social Group Work has its acceptance in all the
settings practicing social work. Middleman and Wood
(1990) have noted that for the practice to qualify as social
work with groups, four essential conditions must be met:
*Dr. Sonny Jose, Loyola College, Trivandrum
*Ms. Aishwarya Jyotiram, LISSAH College, Calicut


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

the worker should focus attention on helping the group

members become a system of mutual aid; the worker must
understand the role of group process itself as the primary
force responsible for individual and collective change; the
group worker must seek to enhance group autonomy; the
group worker helps the group members experience their
groupness upon their termination.
In trying to understand the origins of social group work
we need to start with clubs and recreation movements,
which are the forerunners of social group work. In order
to develop a broad perspective concerning the potential
uses of groups in social work practice, it is helpful to
understand the developmental milestones that have
happened in the study of groups and its implications in the
practice of group work over the years. Such a historical
perspective will also give you a firm foundation upon which
a knowledge base can be built upon for effective group
work practice.

Understanding Groups
There have been in general two approaches that may have
enhanced our understanding of groups. The first, came from
social scientists who experimented on groups in laboratories
or observed groups functioning in community setting. The
alternate approach came from group work practitioners who
examined how groups function in practice settings such
as social work, education, group therapy sessions and
recreation. Such an understanding has led to improved
methods of working with a variety of different types of
Social Psychology as a subject addresses to the basic
research question that was asked by social scientists
regarding the extent to which being a part of a group,
influences the individual group member. Early findings

Historical Development of Group Work


suggest that the presence of others did indeed have a

significant influence on an individual group member;
groups tended to generate forces that force individuals to
conform to the standards of behaviour and judgments of
individual members. Le Bon (1910) recognising that people
in groups react differently from individuals, referred to the
forces generated by group interaction as group contagion
and group mind. Another aspect that might interest us is
cohesion. Cohesiveness of a group is the extent to which
members are attracted to (or want to remain in) the group
(Wilson, 1978). Cohesiveness is the total field of forces
which act on members to remain in the group (Festinger,
Schachter and Back, 1950). In simple words, it is the
measure of interpersonal attractiveness among the
members of the group. Studies demonstrate that the
satisfaction that members derive from associating with
one another is only one reward that binds them to a group
and therefore only one dimension of cohesiveness (Gross
and Martin, 1952; Eisman, 1959; and Hagstrom and Selvin,
1965). Review of literature distinguishes other two types
of rewards social interdependence and instrumental
interdependence. Social interdependence occurs where
members are attracted to one another simply because of
the perceived advantage involved in being with and
interacting with other members of the group. Instrumental
independence occurs where individuals are attracted to
one another in order to jointly achieve some goal; e.g.
teaming up to win a race or game, participation in struggles
to displacement resulting from development, working in
an orchestra (Jose, 2008).
The nature of the group too may influence the participating
individuals. Allport (1924) for example, found that presence
of others improved task performance. The concept of a
primary group was also an important contribution to the
study of groups. Cooley (1909) defined a primary group as


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

a small informal group, equivalent to the family or a

friendship group, which wields tremendous influence on
members values, moral standards and even normative
behaviour. The primary group was therefore viewed as
essential in understanding the socialisation process and
the development of the individuals involved. Faris E (1937)
asserts three properties atypical of primary groups faceto-face relations, temporal priority and a feeling of
wholeness (we feeling). As against this secondary groups
(a classification never mentioned by Cooley) are
characterized by contractual relationships and
communication on indirect media (Faris, 1937). Weber
attributed the evolution of secondary groups to the
increased levels of bureaucratization, depersonalization
and routinization happening in the society. Ferdinand
Tonnies observed an irreversible moving away from the
warmth of tribal life as experienced in small isolated
communities to the cold urban anonymity. Accordingly,
the gemeinschaft (characteristically similar to Cooleys
primary group) was on the wane and would be superseded
by contractual relationships of the gesellschaft.

Differentiating between Group Work and

Case Work
The use of group work in settlement houses and casework
in charity organisations was not accidental. Group work
and the settlement houses where it was practiced, offered
citizens an opportunity for education, recreation,
socialisation and more importantly community
involvement. Unlike charity organisations that primarily
focused on the diagnosis and treatment of the problems of
the poor, settlement houses offered groups to the participant
citizens as an opportunity to join together to share their
views, gain mutual support and to exercise the synergy
developed as part of the group association, as an

Historical Development of Group Work


opportunity for social change. Unlike casework, where there

is a sharp distinction in expertise, power and resources between the giver and the receiver, group work evolved
largely out of the idea of self-reliance, self-help of a group
nature. This mutual self-help as the name implies, developed
from the need for mutual aid and support. As compared
to caseworkers who relied on insight developed from
individual oriented, psychodynamic approaches and on the
provision of concrete resources, group workers relied on
programme content and activities in order to spur members
to action. Programme activities of all types became the
medium and vehicle through which group attained their
goals. Group oriented activities such as camping, singing,
group discussion, games, as well as arts and crafts, were
increasingly used for recreation, socialisation, education,
support and rehabilitation. Unlike casework, which largely
focused on problem-solving and rehabilitation, group work
activities were used for enjoyment as well as to solve
problems. Thus, the group work method that developed
from the settlement house work had a different focus and a
goal distinct from the method of social casework.
The difference between casework and group work can also
be clearly seen in the helping relationships. Caseworkers
sou ght o ut th e most underpri vileg ed vi ctims of
industrialisation, treating worthy clients by providing
them with resources and acting as good examples of
virtuous, philanthropic, hardworking citizens. Although
they also worked with those who were impaired and the
poor, group worker did not focus solely on the poorest cases
or on those with the most problems. They preferred the
word (group) members to client. They emphasised on
working with members strengths rather than their
weakness. Helping was perceived as a shared relationship
within which the group worker and the group members
together worked for mutual understanding and action


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

regarding their common concerns for the community in

which they lived. As concerns were identified, group
members acted to support material as well as
psychological and to help one another. The worker on
his part, acted as a mediator between the demands of society
and the needs of group members.
There was a feeling of ownership among group members
over the activities undertaken, while the group worker
officiated as a facilitator. Shared interaction, shared power
and shared decision making, placed demands on the group
worker that were not experienced by caseworkers. Group
workers frequently had to act quickly, especially during
complex and often fast paced group interactions, while
remaining aware of the welfare of all group members. The
number of group members, the fact that they could turn to
one another for mutual help, and the democratic decision
making process that were encouraged in groups, all meant
that group workers had to develop skills that were versatile
and much different from those possessed by caseworkers.
Case work began in charity organisations in England and
the United States, in the late nineteenth century, while
group work evolved largely in English and American
settlement houses. Group work was also later incorporated
for therapeutic purposes in the state run mental
institutions (asylums). However, much of the interest in
group work stemmed from those who had led socialisation
groups, adult education groups and recreation groups in
settlement houses and youth service agencies.

Historical Evolution of Groups

The context
Group work was seen as a movement before it became a
field. From a field, it became a method, and back to a
field (Papell in Middleman and Goldberg, 1988). Group

Historical Development of Group Work


work played an important role in dealing with a number

of shifts happening in the U.S. in the late-19th century
and early-20th century: the industrialization of the U.S.;
large population shifts from rural to urban centers, and;
the enormous wave of immigration, mainly to U.S. urban
areas (Konopka, 1972; Garvin, 1997). The history of social
work may be considered in particular focus is on three
major phases: (1) the formation of a group work
association, 1930s; (2) the merger into the National
Association of Social Workers, 1950s; and (3) the rebirth
of group work, 1970s.
All the same one may consider some developments
occurring between 1910 and 1920, those who were
concerned with adult education, recreation, and
community work began to realise the full potential of group
work. They understood better that groups could be used to
help people participate effectively in their communities, to
enrich peoples lives and to support those persons whose
primary relationship were not satisfying or dysfunctional.
So did they become aware of the potential of groups for
helping people acquire social skills as well as problem-solving
skills. They began to make good use of groups in preventing
delinquency and in rehabilitating those maladjusted. The
organisations that built the foundation of group work were
by nature self-help, informal and recreational ones; they
were present in the form of settlement houses,
neighbourhood centres, Ys, the Scouts, Camp Fire Girls,
Jewish Centers Camps and for that matter even in labour
union organising in industries. Later designated as group
work agencies, the novel element that united these
services and appealed most were involvement in small
groups, the democratic way of life, community
responsibility and perceived membership in activities with
implications at national or even global.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Early in 1920, Mary Richmond realised the potentials of

working with groups and wrote on the importance of small
group psychology. Mary P Follett, a political scientist in
1926 wrote in the book The New State, that solutions to
social problems would emerge from the creation of groups
in neighbourhood and around social interest. Follett strongly
believed in the power of the small groups formed in
communities to solve social problems that neighbors had
in common. John Dewey, who proposed and developed the
idea of progressive education also found the usefulness of
small groups as early as 1933. Dewey perceived social
group work method as an application of the principles of
progressive education to small informal groups in leisure
time settings. Dewey, through his progressive education
movement, advocated working with small leisure-time
groups (Fatout, M., 1992). The influences of Follett and
Dewey leading thinkers in group work reinforced an
individualist perspective that became engrained in group
work (Falck interview, 1998).
Formation of Clubs
The first form of group setting could be traced back to Sir
George Williams, who organized the hard working
labourers of Bridgewater draper shops, towards the
Christian way of living. The success of such groups inspired
the extension of such group setting to other draper shops
or other young men, thereby giving birth to Londons Young
Mens Christian Association in 1844. Soon the ripples of
YMCA reached the women and girls of Germany and
England, encouraging them for Christian companionship.
In England, similar movements, having less association
with the church, originated in 1855 simultaneously in two
places. These were directly led by women - Emma Roberts,
who started a prayer union among her friends, and Mrs.
Arthur Kennard, who started the General Female Training
Institute in London for the nurses returning from Crimean

Historical Development of Group Work


war. The successful working of these two organizations

motivated Mrs. Kinniard and Miss Roberts to amalgamate
both the organization under one head. Thus, the YWCA
came into existence in 1877. Giving due consideration to
the less fortunate woman, the privileged women in United
States initiated many programmes over the years. One such
notable movement was the formation of Union Prayer Circle
by Mrs. Marshal O in 1858. This was transformed as
boarding home in 1860, and later renamed as the Ladies
Christian Union in 1866. Rooms were rented on top floor
of the warehouses and equipped to meet the needs of the
wage earners in New York.
In America, the Boston YWCA began as an effort of thirty
women in 1866 focusing on temporal, moral and religious
welfare of their fellow beings. Now both YMCA and YWCA
have established themselves as pioneering organizations
with active involvement in educational, recreational and
religious activities for young men and women. It remains
a fact that the publications from these associations that
have significantly contributed towards literature of social
group work. The contribution from these associations in
providing skilled volunteers while practicing group work
is tremendous.
The Settlement Movement
Social disorganization, the child of industrial revolution,
demanded the formation of an organized body to meet the
welfare needs of the people bearing the brunt of
industrialization. The settlement movement owes its origin
to Jane Addams, the founder of the Hull House in Chicago
in 1889. The movement focused on the causes of poverty
and functioned through three thrust areas (three Rs)
Research, Reform and Residence. Jane and the other
pioneers, who believed in the group approach, set the
objectives of the movement as follows:-


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


The residents of the area could share their learnings

of cultural and religious among the needy.


The identification of settlement workers with the local



The responsibility of the group for social reform.

The congested immigrant population became the target of

most of the settlement workers. There they could observe
the changing conditions and needs of the people while
matching the various resources to satisfy the needy. They
provided a variety of services including educational, health
and legal services, and also advocated changes in social
policy. According to Rameshweri Devi and Ravi Prakash
(2004) settlements have also served as centres for classes
in English and citizenship, as well as for clubs which gave
both older and younger immigrants the best of American
Stanton Coit concentrated his activities in the formation
of clubs in the neighbourhood, which would unknowingly
develop deep bonding among the community members.
He was the founder father of the Neighbourhood Guild,
the first American settlement in 1886. Picnics and other
recreational activities were taken up so that more youth
would participate and develop the settlements to a
structured informal association. Woods and Kennedy in
the Settlement Horizon have commented that the
settlement movements have provided ample opportunities
for the actual interplay of association.
The Playground and Recreation Movement
The part played by recreation movement towards group
living is note-worthy. The socialization process begins in
a child when he starts to associate and accept another
child to play with him. Even though the first municipal

Historical Development of Group Work


play ground of U.S. was the English Village Green, group

games were not entertained until the nineteenth century.
In 1868, the first church of Boston came up with a vacation
play ground, while the Washington Park in Chicago was
opened for team games in 1876. But it was in 1885, with
the beginning of a sand park in Boston by Marie
Zakrzewska, that the play ground was chosen as a
movement in the history of social group work. She got the
inspiration for such a concept observing the children
playing in sand piles in public parks. Soon playgrounds
and summer camps mushroomed under the initiative of
settlements, churches and schools. It is the success of
play ground movements and the need for more tax
supported play grounds that resulted in the beginning of
the Playground and Recreation Association of America in
1906. Schools and other social agencies supported the
movement highlighting the importance of such a group
experience in the social and emotional growth of a child.
The World War Community Service organized during Word
Wars I and II had greatly accelerated the recreation
movement. Taking its origin from the privately owned small
playground for the poor, the growth of recreation
movements were far beyond imagination. It has grown to
the extent that now it contributes the major source of the
countrys wealth.
The World Wars and after
Post World War I, social scientists also began to focus on
groups operating in the community. One of the earliest to
do so was Frederic Thrasher (1927) who studied gangs of
delinquents in the Chicago area. He studied groups by
befriending gang members and observing the internal
operations of gangs. Thrasher observed that every member
of a gang had a status within the group connected to the
functional role that the member played for the gang. Thrasher


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

also highlighted the role of culture that developed within a

gang, suggesting there was a common code that may be
followed by all members. The code was enforced by group
opinion, coercion and physical punishment. This work along
with others have influenced the ways group work is
practiced with youths in settlement houses, neighbourhood
centers and youth organisations.
Some later group workers relied on naturalistic
observations of groups of boys in a summer camp to
demonstrate how cohesion and inter-group hostility
develop and operate. Social scientists also learned more
about peoples behavioural in groups from studies done
in industry and in the United States Army.
Characteristically, workers in industries knit themselves
into informal organizations in and about work, develop
expectations that their jobs and work relations be limited
to persons of a kind gender, age, ethnic qualities,
education and social class (Jose, 2008; Warner, 1947).
Such assemblages (also referred as a grid) manifest itself
in places such as cafeterias where the employees sort
themselves based on the rank, sex, age and place in the
plant (Hughes, 1946).
Theoretical Bases
The 1930s witnessed the influence of small group theory
especially the differentiation done by Cooley with regard
to the Primary and Secondary groups. The proposition by
Tonnies to differentiate between gesselschaft and
gemeinschaft also aided a better understanding about
groups. The 1950s witnessed an explosion of knowledge
and development of theory concerning small groups. The
major researchers included the likes of Bales, Homans,
Bion, Lewin, Weber, etc. to mention a few. The major themes
that developed in the first half of the twentieth century include
conformity, communication and interaction patterns,

Historical Development of Group Work


leadership, interpersonal preference and social perception

that are important components while dealing with group
process in social work. It is also important to mention the
contribution of psychoanalytic theory, learning theory, field
theory, social exchange theory and the system theory that
explains group functioning.
A Glimpse of Professionalisation and the Development
on Literature in Social Group Work
Although it is often believed that group work is
considerably younger than casework, group work agencies
actually started only a few years after casework agencies
established their forte. The first course of group work was
offered by Clara Kaiser, in the School of Social Work at
Western Reserve University in Cleveland. When she left
for New York in 1935, Grace Coyle continued to develop
the course. Group Work was taught partially as a method
and partially as a field of practice. By 1937 about 10 schools
offered specialised courses in social work. However, as
Schwartz points out, the real historical differences between
the two is that casework soon became identified with social
work profession, where as group work did not begin to
become formally linked with the profession, until much later
during the National Conference of Social Work in 1935.
This remained somewhat informal until 1955 and the
founding of the National Association of Social Workers
(Toseland & Rivas, 1998). A small cadre of group workers
(15-20 people) met in New York City in the early 1930s to
have informal discussions. This group proposed a gathering
of group workers at the NCSW. In 1936, the American
Association for the Study of Group Work was founded with
the intention of clarifying and refining both the philosophy
and practice of group work. This group created the National
Association for the Study of Group Work under the
leadership of Arthur Swift. It was a missionary spirit which
motivated this early group (Kraft, p. 13).


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

By 1939, group work began to be treated as a distinct

subject, markedly with the National Conference of Social
Work. The identification of group work with social work
profession became stronger during the 1940s although
group workers continued to maintain loose ties with
recreation, adult education, and mental hygiene until the
1950s. In 1955, group workers joined hands with six other
professional groups to form the National Association of
Social Workers (NASW).
In fact, group work was very closely associated with
community organisation method and its concept of
citizens participation. Later, during the 1940s and 1950s
group workers began to use groups more frequently to
provide therapy and remediation in mental health settings.
This was significantly influenced by the increased interest
in psychoanalysis and ego psychology and also partly due
to the World War II, which created a severe shortage of
trained workers to deal with mentally disabled war
veterans. It was spurred on by the continued interest in
the use of groups in psychiatric settings during the 1950s.
Although there was an increased emphasis in the 1940s
and 1950s on utilising groups to improve the social
functioning of individual group members, interest remained
in using groups for recreational and educational purposes,
especially in Jewish community centres and in youth
organisations such as Girls Scouts and the YWCA. During
the 1940s and 1950s groups were also used for purposes of
community development and social action in many different
neighbourhood centres and community agencies. At the
same time, there was an accompanying increase interest in
the study of small group as a social phenomenon.
The years post-World War II saw an immense rise in group
work literature. Gertrude Wilsons Social Group Work
Practice (1949), Harleigh B. Treckers Social Group Work
(1949), Grace Coyles Group Work with American Youth

Historical Development of Group Work


(1948) and Gisela Konopkas Therapeutic Group Work

with Children (1949) all appeared in a time span of hardly
two years. All these books set out to clarify the orderly
process of social group work as part of the helping function
of social work on the wide scope of applications ranging
from the healthy to sick, individuals and groups.
The decade of the 1960s witness the decline in the popularity
of group services. The skills of group worker were then
viewed as being more significant in the area of community
organisation in organising youths and adults around
important social concerns. Also, during the 1960s, the
push towards a generic view of practice and the movement
away from specialisations in casework, group work and
community organisations, weakened group specialisations
in professional schools and reduced the number of
professionals who were trained in group work as their
primary mode of practice.
The interest in group work waned still further during the
1970s. Fewer professional schools offered advanced course
in group work and fewer practitioners used group work as
a practice method. The late seventies saw the reemergence
of a professional journal, Social Work with Groups in 1978.
Additionally, in 1978 social group workers formed a
committee to host a symposium in honor of Grace Coyle
which paved the way for an annual conference in
subsequent years (Northen & Kurland, 2001). The
conference planning committee was transformed into the
membership driven organization, The Association for the
Advancement of Social Work with Groups (AASWG, 2006).
In order to increase practioners awareness about the potential
benefits of groups, group workers throughout the US and
Canada came together and held the first Annual Symposium
for the Advancement of Group Work in 1979. Each year since
then, the annual symposium on group work as a practice
method has been convened religiously without fail.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Group work has also made inroads into the south-east Asia,
especially India (to be discussed later) and China. Social
work education in China has experienced a very rapid
expansion over the past decade. Top Chinese leaders have
advocated strongly for social work and in 2006, the
government launched a series of new social policy
initiatives aimed at professionalizing social work. This has
provided an opportunity for researchers and educators to
think about the possible impact and future challenges
confronting the civil affairs sector and social work
Group work has survived through difficult times. Its
resiliency is a testament to the persistence of the core of
people as well as the strength of the method (Ramey
interview, 1988). What kept group work going during the
quiet years were the presence of individuals and
legendary teachers and proselytizers of the like of [William]
Schwartz [Saul] Bernstein, the [Sonia & Paul] Abels, and
[John] Ramey (Ephross interview, 1998). The people who
came together to begin AASWG, with their wonderful spirit
of inclusion, validation and humanity that is imbedded in
group work ideology (Papell, 1997, 10) determined that
group work should survive.
Group work ideology has stood the test of time because it
is rooted in a clear understanding of the realities of human
lives and the human condition. Concepts of citizenship,
participation, community, mutual aid, and democracy are
still powerful. According to Ephross (interview, 1998): We
were right then, were right now. Middleman and Goldberg
(1988, 234) remind us that it is group work that has
anchored and continues to anchor social work in its
tradition of social reform and concern for oppressed people

Historical Development of Group Work


Significant Group Work Literature during the Last Two

Carrell, S 1993 has written on group exercises for
adolescents. The book also contains a manual for
therapists. The exercises are useful for school social
workers and group workers involved in life skills training.
Morganett (1990) has written a book on life skills and group
counseling for young adolescents. Rose, S & Edilson, J
(1991) have also written a book on specific group work
exercises for children and adolescents.
Toseland, R (1995) is well known for his book on Group
work with elderly and family care givers. Hurley (1996)
has developed therapeutic group exercises for the elderly.
Pehroozi (1992) has presented models of Group Work in
his book Social Work with Group. Berecher (1990) has
developed an innovative concept called Telephonic Group
Work. Breton (1994) has developed the concept of
Empowerment Oriented Group Work in his book Social
Work with Group. Brown, A and Mistry , T (1994) have
focused on Group Work with mixed membership group
highlighting on race and gender based issues. Coxe and
Parsons, R (1994) have developed their theories on
empowerment oriented Group Work practice with elderly.
Glassman, U and Kates, L (1990) have written on the
Humanistic Approach in Group Work. Nosko, A and
Wallace, R (1997) have highlighted on gender based issues
in Social Work Group.
During the last decade the following books on Group Work
have contributed significantly to the understanding of
Group Work
An introduction to Group Work practice by Ronald Tosland
and Robert Rivas (2001). Encyclopedia of Social Group
Work with groups by Alex Gifferman, Robert Salmon


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

(2008). Using Group Work by Mark Doel (2005). Social

Work with group by Helen Northen & Roselle Kurland
(2000). Perspectives on Social Group Work Practice, Alissi
Albert, S (2001). The Essentials of Group Worker by Doel,
Mark & Sawda, Catharine (2003). A Hand Book of Social
Work with Groups by Gravin, Charles D, Lorriae M. Gulier
(Ed) (2007).

Social Group Work in India

Group work as a method of social work came to India with
the introduction of professional social work education in
1936, a decade after it was acknowledged as formal method
of practice in the West. Even though there is evidence of
the group approach being used in various contexts in
delivering charity services, imparting religious education
through oral tradition, in mobilising people for the freedom
struggle against the British, in social reform strategies as in
the Sarvodaya and Bhoodan movements. However, there is
very little documentation or hardly any theorisation based
on it.
All the schools of social work in India teach a course/paper
in social group work (alternatively titled as social work
with groups) at both the graduate and the postgraduate
levels. There was a brave attempt to develop some
indigenous materials in group work by the then United
Nations Social Welfare and Development Centre for Asia
and the Pacific and the Association of Schools of Social
Work in 1979. Compared to casework and community
organisation, contributions in developing indigenous
materials on group work could be traced back to the 1960s.
The Association of Schools of Social Work jointly with the
Technical Cooperative Mission (USA) laid down minimum
standards for group work practice acted a benchmark to
the developments in India. VD. Mehta (1987) and Helen
Joseph (1997), two social workers who attempted to trace

Historical Development of Group Work


the historical development of group work in India, agree

that the theoretical perspective taught in the schools of
social work in India and the practice models are primarily
American as in the case of social work itself.
The practice of social group work in India is generally limited
to correctional and other residential institutional setting,
hospitals and so on in the urban areas. The general activities
undertaken were recreational, educational and cultural in
character. Group work method was also practiced in
community work, as in the case of mahila mandals and
yuvak mandals, but it was primarily recognised as
community work. Practice of group work is also given
emphasis through the fieldwork programme in some
schools. Students placed in agencies and open communities
work with groups of children, youth, adults and elderly who
are either sick or healthy in urban and rural areas. For
instance, the student of social work in Kerala placed in
open communities are engaged in organising groups for
children (balasamithis) and also for adult women
(kudumbashree self-help groups) in the disadvantaged
neighbourhoods. Such groups have a combined objective of
socialisation, structured recreation, functional literacy,
awareness generation on diverse issues such as effective
parenting, health and hygiene, environment and local selfgovernance as well as other socially relevant issues. In
the recent years, groups of adolescent girls and boys too
have been organised in the villages to deal with issues
pertaining to life skill development including home
management, reproductive and sexual health, sexuality,
family planning methods, etc., considering the social reality
that majority of them will be getting married at an early age.
This brief review of historical trends in group work practice
is intended to enable you to understand current trends in
group work practice from a broad perspective. At present,
a remedial approach focusing on improving the functioning


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

of individual group member continues as the preferred

method of practice. This model of practice is based on
problem identification, assessment, and treatment. The
emphasis on mutual aid characteristics of group work
also continues, where the workers role is to mediate
between the needs of group members and society. Mutual
aid and shared, reciprocal responsibility are appropriate in
such settings such as short-stay homes and nari niketans
that are designed to helping women in distress to live
together, to support each other and to cope with distressing
life events. It is also useful in community groups like mahila
mandals, youth clubs and other community groups where
reciprocal sharing of mutual concerns and the giving and
receiving of support are central purposes. Professional
social workers are also involved as consultants or
facilitators of self-help groups that emphasise the mutual
aid characteristics of a group.

In all this we can see the increased use of groups and
associations in work with young people and adults.
Progressively over the years, there has been a growing
appreciation of group process and sophistication in
approach within adult education. Beginning with the club
movement and later in the settlements, there had been an
emphasis on social investigation, a concern to deepen
methodology and a wish to connect this with wider
developments in the social sciences. Club work with boys
and girls had established a great store of practice wisdom
about the organization and functioning of groups which
reflected in the literature. Group Work had survived the
challenges posed by the two World Wars and had grown
substantially in terms of its practice and resources. The
development of thinking and practice about working with
groups subsequently shifted across the Atlantic and spread
fast to most of Asia, especially in India. The impact of

Historical Development of Group Work


psychology especially Psychoanalysis, the developments

in thinking about human relations, and a developing
literature about social groups aided its transition. The
small group theory and, in particular, the idea of the
primary group - small informal groups such as families
and play groups too became the cornerstone to social group
work practise.
Group work has survived through difficult times. Alongside
the professionalisation of social group work happened.
Notable are the development of the AASWG, with their
wonderful spirit of inclusion, validation and humanity
that is imbedded in group work ideology (Papell, 1997,
10), the NASW etc. that were determined that group work
should survive.
Group work ideology has stood the test of time because it
is rooted in a clear understanding of the realities of human
lives and the human condition. Groups as an idea aid the
assimilation of the concepts of citizenship, participation,
community, mutual aid, and democracy. Middleman and
Goldberg (1988, 234) remind us that it is group work that
has anchored and continues to anchor social work in its
tradition of social reform and concern for oppressed


Dewey, J. (1933) How We Think. A restatement of the

relation of reflective thinking to the educative process
(Revised edn.), Boston: D. C. Heath.


Faris, Ellsworth, 1937. The Nature of Human Nature,

McGraw-Hill Book Co. Inc.


Hughes, EC, 1946. (address to the 40th Annual Meeting,

American Sociological Society). American Sociological
Review, Vo. 11, No. 5, October, 1946, pp. 512-515.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Jose, S. (2008). A Study on Informal Relations among

Teachers in HEIs in Kerala, unpublished Ph.D. Thesis,
University of Kerala.


Wilson, Stephen, (1978). Inf ormal Groups: An

Introduction, Prentice-Hall Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ,

Historical Development of Group Work


History of Social Group Work in


Social Group Work is of recent origin in west as well as in
India. Though social work and social welfare has been part
of Indian history from time immemorial, professional social
work emerged much later. Group work as a method of
social work started gaining recognition only after social
work attained a professional status. Group approach was
being used in charity in ancient and medival India though
it differed in its form, nature and methods. This chapter
concentrates on the historical development of social group
work in India in two different eras - the pre-independent
and post independent India.

Development of Group Work In Preindependent India

Group work practice in pre-independent India was not
much organised, formal or systematic and is closely
intervened with the unique features of Indian society. The
essential functions of group work was carried out by the
social institutions. Social institutions had a great command
over the lives of the people in pre-independent India. The
situations and experiences provided by these institutions
benefitted its members and the need of external
*Ms. Sreepriya, LISSAH College, Calicut


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

intervention by professionals or professional agencies was

limited. The aspects of group work in pre-independent India
found in all walks of life is briefed below.
Familial Scenario
Joint family system is unique feature of Indian Society
and was the common practice in ancient days right from
2000 BC when the Dravidian traditions were established
in India 1 . In a joint family three generations live together
under the same roof. The management of the joint family
rests in the hands of the elder member of the family. All
its members have equal rights to income and property of
the family though they differ in their earning capacity. This
system provided its members economic support, emotional
support, recreation, personality development, care to the
less privileged group such as children, elderly and provided
all its members opportunities for development.
The purpose of modern group work is also similar. Each
group may have different specific objective depending on
the needs and problems of the target group but in general,
group work is expected to provide its members emotional
support and opportunities for growth and development.
The joint family system was also taking care of these
aspects of its members. It could even be concluded that
as the joint families were fulfilling all the responsibilities
of professional group work, its need was not felt in the
earlier days
Educational Scenario
Knowledge building is an important function of group work.
In that sense the ancient Gurkula system can be equated
as a form of group work. Gurukulam is yet another unique
feature of ancient India. This system began in Vedic
times(1500-600 BC)2 . Under this system, a teacher possess

History of Social Group Work in India


the nine qualities of bramana as mentioned in bhagavad

gita (peacefulness, self control, discipline, purity, tolerance,
honesy, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness). Proper
motivation, proper disposition and natural qualifications
based on in built attributes form an integral part of
students candidature and students must follow strict
celibacy during the entire term3 .
Under gurukula system all round development of students
is taken care of by Guru and students must live in the
house of mentor during the formative period. The centre
of educational system lies on the principle of worshipping
God. All subjects taught were from vedic literature and it
contains all necessary knowledge of arts and science both
material and spiritual. Contemporary group work is
restricted to a group of people who share same need or
problem or has the same objective. Similarly the gurukulas
was confined only to one group. It is a group of Brahmin
boys. They shared similar interests and objectives and
strive together towards the attainment of their objective.
Economic Scenario
In the economic front a unique and multifaceted form of
organisation emerged known as guilds. The guild system
began in the early Buddhist period,i.e., in the 5th century
and continued through the Mauryan period5 . The guilds
played a vital role in the socio-economic structure of
ancient India. As more and more people became craftsmen,
people of the same craft began to band together. They found
that they could do more than any one of them alone could
do, so they banded together and began an organisation
called guild. Different crafts and artisans formed different
The purpose of guilds were to make sure that its members
produced high quality of goods and were treated fairly.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Guilds succeeded in passing many laws that controlled

competition among merchants, fixed policies and wages
and limited the working hours and ensured that the
craftsmen were properly trained. These guilds also
supervised community projects, various undertakings
helped amass huge fortunes and Kautilya prescribed
methods of extracting money from guilds in times of need
by state. Guilds in ancient India played an important role
in protecting the rights , welfare and privileges of a
particular group which is yet another function of group
work6 .
Religious Scenario
Caste system is also a unique feature of Indian society
which was established during 1000 BC 600 BC 7 . Caste
commands much importance in Indian social life even
today. Caste system provides identfication to its members
and determine their social status. Caste rules govern the
social and familial life of its memebrs. It provides
psychological support to people. Over the years, changes
have taken place in the traditional caste system along with
social changes and through sanskritization and social
legislations. Even today in a democratic system caste is
capable of acting as a pressure group. Though caste system
has its own de-merits and brought about social
discrimination to its members caste gives a sense of
belongingness and strength to work for their common
needs and welfare and hence can be considered as an
aspect of group work.
The Christian missionaries also require special mention
in the context of group work in pre-independent India.
Missionary activities started in British India. The devoted
service rendered by christian missionaries and impact of
christianity were significantly instrumental in bringing
about a change in the out look of Indians, especially

History of Social Group Work in India


towards the then prevelant social evils like sati and social
prohibition of widow re-marriage. Christian missionaries
are an organised group of people engaged in the evangelical
work of spreading the gospel, were active in the colonial
period. Since then christian missionaries visited India at
different times.
The education mission began to flourish since early 1900.
In 1928 Bandel church was entrusted to the Roman
Catholic group of the salesians of Don Bosco. Throughout
the colonial period and after , they established branches
of Don Bosco school. The christian missionaries followed
humanitarian ideas and emphasised the social
development of people.
Christian missionaries laid emphasis on improvement of
indegeneous language and literature and spread of
education as preparatory work to evangelation. The need
of reform of hindu social institutions was also advocated
by Serampore trio. They were instrumental in passing of
laws. Serampore was the pioneer in the field of printing
and publication also. They also championed bengal
peasants cause. Contact with the village reality made them
aware of the anamolies of the colonial land revenue policies
and judicial system. The christian missionaries worked
for creating public opinion in England and India in favour
of reforms in the socio-economic system in India.
Missionaries were the first to get over the gender bias
regarding admission of women missionaries to the CMC.
In 1877, the women missionaries were admitted as full
members with the same status and rights of men. Such
inter-denominational missionary conferences were formed
in Bombay, Madras, Banglore between 1845-58. The
Jesuits have also made substantial contribution in India
whereby they have secured a place of prominence for
themselves and the Catholic Church. They extended their


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

activities to various fields like religious, spiritual, political

educational, scientific and technical progress, etc. They
still continue their activities with a missionary zeal.
Though caste system and activities of Christian
missionaries can not be equated with group work in its
professional aspect, they can still be considered as
beginning of professional group work because they
mobilised groups and adopted a group approach in
addressing problems and development of various target
groups and areas such as women, peasants, education,
technology, etc.Their activities targeted specific groups and
provided support and developmental opportunities for
specific groups.
Political Scenario
Political scenario of Indian society in ancient times was
dominated by the ancient rulers. All of them adopted a
welfare oriented approach towards their subjects and
undertook several works of public utility. But there were
not much of political organisations or associations or
groups to which lay men were members of. Such
associations emerged in British India along with the rise
of national movement. Though there were lots of social
evils prevailing in the society at that point of time, the
issue that required immediate intervention was political
freedom for the nation; the fruits of which would be equally
beneficial to the entire nation.
Indian National Congress and Gandhi needs special
mention in this context. The birth of Indian national
congress marked a new political awakening. Inspired by
the words and writing of Mahatma Gandhi people from
various walks of life joined congress and it became a mass
movement. Along with advocating political freedom, they
also addressed better status for women and sarvodaya
which meant upliftment of all sections of society. To attain

History of Social Group Work in India


this Gandhi preached and practiced the constructive

programme. The leadership of Gandhi and his activities
through Indian National Congress and sarvodaya could
bring people from various sections together and work
towards a common goal, the ultimate aim of which was
total welfare.
Social Scenario
In the pre-independent India there were a lot of reform
activities at individual and group level. Some of the earlier
reform activities are briefed below.
The crusade against sati started by the Serampore
missionaries culminated in the efforts of Raja Ram Mohan
Roy who succeeded in passing laws for the abolition of
sati. He started Atmiya Samaj in 1815 later on grew into
Brahma Samaj which advocated abolition of caste system,
sati, promotion of equal rights for women , etc. These
efforts were not only reforming the Indian hindu society
but was also oriented towards the welfare of under
privileged group called women, children, untouchables,
and so on.
Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar was the first to launch a
movement against the prohibition of widow re-marriage
by establishing that it was not in contravention to the
preaching of hindu scriptures and it was a result of his
incessant efforts, especially of an appeal made by him to
the government in 1885, that the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act was passed in 1856. Justice Ranade pursuing
the cause of widow re-marriage formed Widow Marriage
Association in 1861 which was aimed at promotion of
widow re- marriage.
In 1875, Arya Samaj was established to fight against
idolatory, caste, child marriage, favour of widow remarriage and abolition of untouchability by christian


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

missionaries by permitting the re-admission of converts

from Hinduism. In 1882, Arya Mahila Samaj was organised
by Pandia Ramabai- an Indian christian missionary with
a view to improve the condition of women. As these reform
movements were organised movement for the welfare of
under privileged groups, they can be considered as the
earlier stage of development of professional group work.
The aspects of group work prevalent in pre-independent
India mostly lacked scientific knowledge. They mostly
arised out of situational needs. There was no uniformity
in the principles, methods and techniques adopted. This
approach of helping people was later modified when social
work developed into a profession in west and its influences
were seen in India also.

Development of Group Work in

Independent India
Social group work as a method of social work practice can
be seen only in the context of social work education in
India. Group work began with the founding of the first
school of social work in 1936- the Sir Dorabji Tata School
of Social Sciences. Soon after schools of social work was
established in Delhi and Baroda and social work education
received academic status and group work was recognised
as one of its courses. The Baroda School of Social Work
published the first records of group work practice in India
in 1960. The Association of Schools of Social Work in India,
jontly with Technical Co-operation Mission led down the
minimum standards for group work. There was
subsequently a rapid increase in the number of schools of
social work throughout India and group work found a place
in all of them along with case work and commuity
organisation. The strong position for group work in
academic resulted in the practice setting also9 . Today,

History of Social Group Work in India


social group work is practiced in various social work

settings. The practice of group work in institutional and
community settings in independent and contemporary
India is analysed below.

Group Work in Institutional Setting

The feature of group work in institutional setting is that it
caters to the needs of /or solve the problems of the
beneficiaries of a particular institution. Group work
developed through its practice in various settings as
Group Work in De-addiction Centres
Addiction is a serious social problem affecting human
beings and even the society at large. Social work
intervention with addicts can be done at different levels
like control, prevention and treatment. Social Group Work
has a major role to play in these areas along with other
methods of social work.
Therapy Groups are important for their treatment.
Alcoholic Anonymous is a good example of group work for
drug abusers. AA consists of memebrs of similar problems
who help each other by sharing their experiences,
motivating, guiding and inspiring each other. An addict is
put into de-toxification process at first and then put into
AA group. Ther person passes through various stages in
AA group which starts with an awareness building and
acceptance of the problem and ends with assertive training.
There can be group activities for the family members of
the addicts who share similar problems. Through this
group activity their problem solving capacity can be
enhanced and emotionqal support can be provided.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Family therapy, yet another form of group work is also

used sometimes in treatment. Under this technique the
groupworker meet the entire family as a group to help
them workout their problems together. These practices of
group work are commonly found in the de-addicion centres
all around India.
Group Work for Youth Welfare
The attainment of political independence in 1947 marks a
definite stage in the progress of Indian Youth. Political
parties continued to count on student leadership. Student
wings were organised by all of them in universities and
colleges and these groups addressed the common needs
and problems of student community through organised
efforts. Some of the youth organisations to channelise
youth power for nation building in independent india are
Bharat Yuvak Samaj, NCC, establishment of Large number
of rural youth clubs, etc. There was also an emergence of
a few non-official youth and students organisations like
the YMCA, YWCA, the Scouts and Guides , etc
Nehru Yuvak Kendras establishment in 1972 as a part of
the sixth five year plan needs mention in the context of
historical development of group work in India. This was
meant to serve as a focal point in the district for rural
areas. The activities undertaken are youth leadership
training, camps for community service, cultural,
recreational and vocational training, etc. On the non
official front, a significant step was the opening of the
Vishwa Yuvak Kendra in 1969 as a national centre for the
training of youth leaders and workers for promoting
awareness of the need to develop youth organisation and
youth services.

History of Social Group Work in India


Group Work in Schools

School social work is gaining importance these days. Most
of the private schools today, employ school social workers
and are giving stress to the personality development aspect
of children. Group work is the widely used method of social
work in schools. Generally groups in schools are task
oriented groups. The entire group share a common goal
and activities are planned in such a way that they work
together in attaining the group goal as well as their
individual goal through group activities. The areas that
are normally covered in group work in schools are career
guidance, motivation, awareness, value education,
leadership building, team work , etc. The group work
practices equips the children to learn through experiences
and mistakes especially when workshops are conducted.
Some of the schools that effectively use groupwork in India
are T.I. School, Chennai, Good Sheperd School, Ooty,
Choice School , Cochin, Christ Nagar, School, Trivandrum
Group Work in Hospitals
Group work practices an integral part of social work
practice in hospitals in both medical and psychiatric
settings. The first medical social worker in India was
appointed in early 1930s at J.J. Hospital, Mumbai. Mostly
treatment groups are found in hospitals. Group work
techniques are used in psychiatric settings for the possible
patients for skill development. It is also used to provide
their family members emotional support and also to
enlighten them on the approach to be adopted towards
the patient and how to deal with social stigma, stress and
Similarly group work practices are common in medical
setting especially with terminally ill patients. Supportive
therapy is provided to both the patients and their family
members through group work. Group work provides them


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

opportunities for catharsis, enables them to deal with

feelings of grief, anxiety, stress, loneliness, etc. the group
work process also enables them to participate in the
treatment process in a smooth manner.
Group work practices are common in neonatal clinics and
diabetic clinics these days. In neonatal clinics, the stress
is on hygenie, nutrition, family planing, proper care for
new born, etc. It concentrates mostly on awareness
building where as in diabetics clinic, the stress is on diet
control and the consequences of diabetics. The group will
give its members strength to conform to diet and provide
emotional support.
The immense scope of group work has been realised by
both government and private hospitals and a growing
practice of group work is seen in the hospitals
mention a few J.J. hospital- Mumbai,Government General
Hospital-Chennai, NIMHANS- Banglore, etc
Group Work by NGOs
Non Government sector is a reckonable force in the field
of social welfare always in India. NGOs are highly active in
providing services to specific target groups through the
processs of institutionalisation and through communities.
Institutional services are provided to various target groups
like women, children, aged, mentally or physically
challenged, etc. In all these centres, social workers adopt
group work approach in skill development, building self
confidence and self esteem, motivation, goal achievement,
building awareness and in short in the overall development
of social work. Examples of such organisations are Spastic
Society of India, SCARF, Chennai, Asha- Home for mentally
Challenged children, Banglore, MV Foundation for street
children, Hyderabad, etc.

History of Social Group Work in India


Group Work in Correctional Institutions

Government institutions are aware of the need for social
work intervention with under privileged and disadvantaged
groups. As a result in all government homes for such
category social workers are appointed. Group work is used
to bring about attitudnal change, behaviour modification,
goal setting, group counselling, etc. In other government
homes such as childrens home, home for women, mentally
ill, etc also social workers are appointed. The practice of
group work in majority of the government homes in India
is not very effective due to the ill effects of bureaucracy

Group Work in Community Setting

Group work is a prominent method of empowerment in
community setting . Community organisation can be
achieved through the formation and building up of small
groups. Some excellent examples of group work in
community settings are given below
Anganwadis are part of the ICDS project implemented by
the Government of India in 1975 as part of the national
policy for children10 . This is a highly suceessful project.
Through anganwadis , the educational and health needs
of children and women in rural community are catered to.
Anganwadis provide basic education and meals to the
children. The anganwadi workers also form womens
groups of the locality and give them health education. They
stress on the health and nutrition of the pregnant women
and children upto seven years in the locality. Awareness
programmes and developmental programmes are
conducted for the adolescent girls in the locality. It is thus
seen that group work is a method and tool for the
development of target groups in community based


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Self Help Groups

Self Help Groups are a popular method of group work
practice found in community. The Self Help Group is a
viable alternative to achieve the objectives of rural
development and get community participation in all rural
development programmes. SHG is a viable organisation
set up to disburse micro credit to rural women for the
purpose of encouraging them to enter into entrepreneurial
Self help groups are voluntary gatherings of peers who
share needs or problems that are not being addressed by
existing organisations, institutions or other types of groups.
The broad goals of a self help group is to bring about
personal and or social change for its members and society.
All of these groups emphasise face to face interaction
among members and stress a set of values or ideology that
enhances a members personal sense of identity12 .
Self help groups play an important role in women
empowerment and social development. One area where
SHGs have played an important role is in the micro credit.
The SHGs distribute micro credit to the rural women for
the purpose of making them enterprising and encouraging
them to enter into entrepreneurial activities. Their credit
needs are fulfilled through SHGs. The women led SHGs
have successfully demonstrated how to mobilise and
manage thrifts, appraise credit needs, maintain linkages
with banks and enforce financial self discipline. Thus SHGs
undertake entrepreneurial activities at a smaller level with
minium capital required. SHGs enhance the equality of
status of women as participants, decision makers, and
beneficiaries in the democratic, economic, social and
cultural spheres of life.

History of Social Group Work in India


An example for the success of SHGs is revealed through

the study conducted by N. Laitha and Dr. B.S. Nagarajan
in the three districts( Dindigul, Madurai, Theni) in Tamil
Nadu. The study provides ample evidence to the fact that
organisation of women in the form of SHGs has laid the
seeds for the economic and social empowerment of women
through the strategies of organisational savings, rotational
credit system using their resources, facilitating regular
interaction, exchange of information and exposures within
and across these groups to enhance the mobility and
awareness linking SHGs with external credit sources and
government programmes13 .
Kudumbasree is a typical and successful example for group
work practice in community setting. What the Kerala
Government desired when it formulated Kudumbasree
(Prosperity of the Family) in 1998 was absolute sweeping
off of elementary poverty from Kerala through the social
and economic empowerment of women. Now Kudumbasree
has grown into the largest women - empowering project in
the country itself. In 2006 07, 37,69,403 families became
members of Kudumbasree through 1,79,403 ayalkoottam
(neighbours gathering) Rs. 826 crore thrift was deposited
through them. It was also possible to give loan to the tune
of Rs. 2075 crore. Kudumbasree is not targeting just
economic improvement only. It has the sublime objective
of enabling the poor to implement their own initiatives in
health, education and cultural activities. Kudumbasree
is the source of power for the new generation women of
Kerala these days. This women empowerment organization
was established by the government to strengthen the
women power and to show them the right path to grow
their self-confidence and significantly improve their way
of living to be independent. With such an initiative now it
is learnt that more than 90 percent of women in Kerala


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

have gained their self-confidence after being associated

with Kudumbasree14 .
These women also informed that their standard of living
and social status also has improved a lot after their active
participation in Kudumbasree. They are now more aware
of their rights, and the right way to lead a healthy life. It
also gave the women from lower society or caste the courage
to stand up with others and lead a confident life. It guided
these women to enhance their financial status by
increasing their savings and plan accordingly.
Kudumbasree also made women to improve their reading
habits, discussion skills and also to develop their decision
making quality. Along with that it imparted education to
those women who were illiterate. In short the women have
shown the right path for a better tomorrow by this social
organization. At presents thousands of women are
associated with Kudumbasree, giving a new perspective
to their life with a bright vision.
The Business Line has reported on March 24th, 2008 about
the Kudumbasree units of Kochi that they have decided to
widen their activities here to cover the collection and
processing of household refuse and marketing of consumer
products. As many as seven units of Kudumbasree have
decided to launch its activities here before April 15. This
follows the directive of the Ombudsman for Local Bodies,
Mr Justice K.P. Radhakrishna Menon, to the Kochi
Corporation to opt the units in the collection and
processing of garbage from households. At present, five
such units are functioning in the city. The Kudumbasree
units need the support of the corporation for identifying
land for setting up garbage processing units. Each unit
would require at least 20 sq ft to 50 sq ft. Kudumbasree is
also seeking the co-operation of resident associations in
extending its operations to new areas as they will have to
ensure the payment of users fee to the garbage collecting

History of Social Group Work in India


units, senior officials of the Kudumbasree Mission said.

The refuse collected from households will be sold to the
scrap dealers in the city15 .
The authorities are also planning to convene a meeting of
the residents association in the city to find out which all
associations are willing to engage the Kudumbasree units
for the collection of garbage. Kudumbasree has also plans
to market its produce through the network.It is gradually
building up in the city. The district authorities are also
imparting behavioural training and personality
development programmes to the members of the units for
equipping them to take up the challenge professionally.
They will also be issued ID cards and these steps would
increase the acceptability of the team members among the
general public, the officials said. The team members,
working on shifts, will also be deployed for collecting and
remitting the various service bills of the city dwellers. Once
the programme goes full throttle, it will reduce the workload
of the cleaning staff engaged by the Corporation, as the
units will take care of the waste generated by the

Group work approach to social development has always
been part and parcel of the Indian social life. The socioreligious institutions in India at all times adopted a group
approach for the welfare and development of the society
though the development of professional group work in India
is a recent phenomena. Today in India, group work practice
is popular social work method adopted at both institutional
and community level. The milestones in the development
of group work in India at different times are briefed in this


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

1) Ancient India Time LineHistory of India



3) History of Education in




5) Ancient India Time LineHistory of India- Budhism

6) Sreni(Guilds): A
Unique Social Innovation of Ancient India By
Manikant Shah & D.P. Agarwal

7) Ancient India Time LineHistory of India


Jha,J.K. Encyclopaedia of Social Work.vol 1. 1st ed.

Anmol Publications: NewDelhi, 2001


Bhattacharya, sanjay.Integrated approach to social

work practice.rawat publicztions: New Delhi

10) SITE VIS India Integrated

Child Development Services (ICDS) by the Consultative
Secretariat, 1993
11) Social Welfare Vol. 52. No.6. Sep-2006.CSWB
12) Ravi, v. Reddy, Narayana.Venkataramana. M.(ed).
Empowerment of People- Grassroot Strategy & Issues.
Kanishka Publishers: NewDelhi, 2004
13) Ibid
14) http://www.minister-local
15) March 25th, Kochi
Bureau Report Kudumbasree units of Kochi to widen


History of Social Group Work in India

Social Group Work as a

Method of Social Work
*Joseph Varghese

Social group work is a primary method of social work. In
this chapter we briefly see how social group work became
a part of social work and how it established itself as a
method. We will discuss the concepts by first
understanding what social work and group work are and
the present trends in group work.

Social Work and Group Work

Group work is a method of group leadership used in
organizing and conducting various types of group activities.
Giselle Konopka defines group work as a method of social
work which helps individuals to enhance their social
functioning through purposeful group experiences and to
cope more effectively with their personal, group and
community problems.
Trecker gives the following definition Social group work
is a method in social work through which individuals in
many groups in a variety of community agencies settings
are helped by a worker who guides their interaction in
program activities so that they may relate themselves to
*Mr. Joseph Varghese, Christ University, Bangalore


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

others and experience growth opportunities in accordance

with their needs and capacities to the end of individual,
group and community development.
Allan Brown says group work provides a context in which
individuals help each other; it is a method of helping groups
as well as helping individuals; and it can enable individuals
and groups to influence and change personal, group, and
organizational and community problems.
A definition of social work prepared by the National
association of Social workers in 1956 considers five
attributes as being basic to the practice of social work.
These attributes are:










All these attributes influence each other. Values of social

work practice influences the purpose of social work and
method used to achieve them.
You are already familiar with various definitions of social
work and social group work. Here we review some of the
definitions of group work.
We will see how the each of these attributes finds its
expression in practice of group work. We will also see briefly
how historically social group work and social work evolved
separately and how in course of time group work became
accepted as a method.

Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work


The values of social work are rooted in the democratic and
humanitarian principles. The inherent value of the human
being and his dignity regardless of his status, position
and his actions are recognized. Social work believes in
equality, justice and freedom. Social challenges structures,
institutions and practices which prevent individuals,
groups and communities from realizing these goals.
Therefore it can be said that human rights values are
important part of social work values also. Another
important value is the recognition that everyone has the
inherent capacity to resolve his or her problems. Thus given
the right conditions that person can successfully resolve
his problems. The values of social work are codified as
professional ethics which is implemented by the
professional body. The principles of social work such as
principles of acceptance, individualization, self
determination, confidentiality, non judgmental attitude
and controlled emotional involvement are derived from
these values.
Group work values are the same as the generic values of
social work. Gisela Konopka describes the three
humanistic concerns of group work. They are
(i) individuals are of inherent worth.(ii) people are mutually
responsible for each other; and(iii) people have the
fundamental right to experience mental health brought
about by social and political conditions that support their
These values find its expression in the practice of group
work. Group work emphasis on voluntary participation
by the members. Group workers are sometimes do work
with involuntary groups due to statutory or agency
demands. But that is not the norm. Secondly, the social
worker values the decisions made by the group-the


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

principle of self determination. The group members are

encouraged by the group workers to participate in the
planning and implementation of group activities, even if
there are disagreements between the group and the worker
regarding the effectiveness of the activity, the worker will
not impose her decision on the group. Negotiation and
discussion are the means that the worker uses to help the
group understand her point of view. Similarly, decisions
regarding the group have to be made by the group using
democratic methods. Participation by all members is
stressed. everybody has equal right to contribute to the
discussions in the group. fourthly, the group has to
maintain the principle of confidentiality- members opinion
and feelings which are shared in the group should be kept
confidential and should not be revealed outside the group.
However the group worker unlike the caseworker has to
depend also on the group members to achieve this aim.
Therefore often a confidential clause is attached in the
contract. Social workers take special care to ensure that
confidentiality working with children who have difficulties
in doing that.
The purpose of the group work is the way in which it
contributes to society and derives its legitimacy. People
and agencies accept groups as a method by assessing to
what degree group work is able to achieve the aim it has
set for itself.
The aims of group work according to Alan Brown (1992).

Individual assessment

Groups are used to assess individual behaviour. This

assessment is based on the data made available by workers
assessment, members assessment and group members
assessment. Group assessments can be used to obtain

Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work


data in juvenile delinquent centres, residential care centres

and centres for elderly care.

Individual support and maintenance

Groups provide psychosocial support to the members who

are undergoing stressful situations. Groups are formed
for individuals suffering from disability, caregivers of
dementia patients and students with learning difficulties.

Individual change

Control of deviant tendencies in the individuals.

For example, child abusers can be training to
exercise control over their behavior.


Socialization of individuals to learn social skills

for living in the community.

iii) Improvement in interpersonal relations

iv) Improvement in the economic area. For example,
self help groups.

develop better self concept and feelings. for

example women in neighbourhood discussing
common problems

vi) personal growth and development encounter group

and T group.

Educational, Information-giving and training groups


Leisure/ Compensatory groups for recreation and



mediation between individuals and social systems. For

example, group worker may prepare the patients for
discharge by training them to live outside the agency.


group change and/or support. Working with natural

or existing groups to improve a specific aspect of the
group or to resolve a problem. Family therapy to
improve the communication is one example.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

h) Environment change Groups formed to demand

facilities and services from government and non
governmental organizations.

Social change. These groups raise the consciousness

of the members, organize them and help them fight
unjust structure in the society.

Social group work as a method of social work is recognized
as a primary method by various professional bodies National Association of Social Workers, British Association
of Social Workers, Australian Association of Social work
and others.
Group work is used in various settings of social workhealth settings, school settings, industries, families and
child agencies, de-addiction centres, communities, homes
of elderly and juvenile reform centres.
Group Work Education
An international study on the presence of social group
work in Schools of Social work in different countries of
the world reveals the following. Of the 135 schools that
participated in the survey the number of teaching faculty
was 2497 and 174(7percent) were group work instructors
and teachers. Group work was taught both as a separate
course and as part of generic courses. the emphasis of
group work in most places seems to be on individual needs
such as support, therapy and self development. (Mayadas
et al.)
In India, group work is suggested as a separate paper in
UGC model curriculum. Most universities and colleges
teach group work as a method in India

Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work


Method means a way of doing things a set of skills and
techniques. But then everybody has a way of doing things
which is based on his/ her theory of action. His
assumptions regarding the situation guide his actions.
A use of the method distinguishes itself from the
spontaneous actions of a non professional in the following

It is informed by the value system of the profession

which has been arrived at by consensus of the


The method is used deliberately and purposefully by

the profession to attain the treatment goals


Its practice is supported by the knowledge base which

constantly increases by research and sharing of
knowledge by professionals


It is recognized as a method by competent authorities.


The practice of the method helps the clients and

through it the society.

According to Schwartz a profession should have three


A function to perform in society to which it is held



Performance of this function involves certain modes

of activity- a certain pattern of actions.


These actions are performed within the systems in

which it takes place.

Further, Schwartz says that method is function in action.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Now what are the tasks of social work in our society?

Schwartz identifies the following tasks1)

Search for common ground between the clients

perception of his own need and the aspects of social
demands with which he is perceived.


Identify the obstacles which prevent people from

harmonizing their own self interests and the needs of


Provide data-ideas, facts, value concepts which are not

available to the client who will help him resolve the


Give the client a new vision (hope) and confidence

about the future.


Maintain a professional relationship with the client.

Advantages of Group Work

1) Groups are natural places in which people live and
grow. Families, peer groups, workplace groups and
neighbourhood groups are central to the social life of
an individual. If these groups have significant influence
on our personalities, cant groups be used to change
the behaviour of the members? Group work aims at
achieving these aims in different settings.

Group members who have similar interests and

problems can help each other by sharing their
experiences and their problems. The principles of
mutual aid and self help are emphasized. Group works
major advantage over casework is that each member
becomes a helper and a helped in the group. Thus
help is given and taken in a spirit of equality.


Group members empower members by increasing their

consciousness and awareness. Peoples personal

Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work


problems are made public and when it becomes known

that large number of people is involved. Solutions are
then discussed and further actions planned and

Groups are used to elicit opinions of the members in

the agency regarding the services provided.


Group work is able to show in practice the democratic



Group work is very effective for certain groups of people

like adolescent, children and women. These groups
find it more comfortable to get help in groups as their
need for security and belongingness is fulfilled in


Group work is economical and time saving as a number

of clients are treated at the same time.

Disadvantages of Group Work


Confidentiality is difficult to achieve as personal

knowledge is shared with the group.


Forming groups can be difficult. Members often drop

out, are absent and do not cooperate which can lead
to dissolution of the groups


Agencies do not fully support group work as they are

not clear about its usefulness.


Group work often degenerates into games and fun

neglecting the treatment process.


Group needs resources like common time, place and



Individual attention is missing and non participating

members become lonely.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Group work can further the stigma and discrimination

that the members face in society as they become
identified with the group.


Professional expertise is often missing as group work

is seen as being general skill everyone can master.

Knowledge is defined as the ability to understand.
The knowledge base of group work has been constantly
increasing. The main sources of knowledge for social
groups has been

Knowledge of groups from other disciplines

Sociology, psychology and social psychology study groups

especially small groups. C.H. Cooley(primary and
secondary groups), G.H.Mead(in groups and outgroups),
Robert Merton(reference group), Kurt Lewin (group
dynamics), Moreno(sociometry), Elton mayo(importance
and influence of groups) and Simmel are pioneers in the
field of the study of groups. Asch, Sheriff Festinger, Kresch
and Tuckman have made significant contributions
increasing our understanding about groups, its influence
on the members, group development etc.
Another important source as in casework has been
psychoanalytical school which has contributed group

Knowledge from the Practitioners

Gisela Knopoka, Grace Coyle, Josephine Klein, Gertrude

Wilson and Gladys Ryland were earlier contributors to the
group work practice. They documented their experiences
and formulated the basic practices and rules of group work.
Grace L. Coyles (1948) Group Work with American Youth:
A Guide to the Practice of Leadership, and Gertrude Wilson

Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work


and Gladys Rylands (1949) Social group work practice; the

creative use of the social process were the earliest texts.
Presently journals Social work with groups, Small Group
research and Group workers are published to disseminate
the knowledge of groups.

Knowledge from research

Research in group work has been relatively less than in

other areas of concern in social work. Most of the group
work literature available is anecdotal and descriptive
accounts of practice (Mayadas and others in Gravin; 2004,
Brown 1992).
A study on the research work done on group work in the
1980s reveals that most research was done in the area of
cognitive behavioural interventions among children.
Researches on other approaches and for other clients were
less. Further researches done were of groups which
consisted of brief, highly structured, time limited and
homogeneous clients. The relevance of these research
findings to other groups require further analysis. In India
the situation of research in group work is the same.
Research based articles of social work are limited. A small
number of PhDs have been done on the subject and these
are mainly on the clinical side.
Three models have evolved in social work practice. Papell
and Rothman (1966) have suggested three models:
remedial - where the aim on the part of the work/agency
is individual social adaption.
reciprocal - where the aim is to strengthen mutual aid and
to mediate between individuals and society.
social goals - where the concern is to further social justice
often through collective, social action. (Mark Smith, 2008)


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Thus there is a constant growth of knowledge regarding

social group work and how to integrate theory with practice.
The knowledge base of group work has increased by the
development of new research tools for evaluation of group
work practice. A major lacuna in social work has been the
lack of evidence on the effectiveness of its methods. In
other words social workers have not been able to show
conclusively those professional social worker skills and
techniques applied deliberately in different situations have
made significant difference to the clients. The growth of
evidence based social practice is a response to these
Social group work practice has also been influenced by
these trends. New research methods have been identified
which address this problem. (Gant in Gravin, 2004.)

Present Trends in Group Work


Technology mediated group work

Many support groups are forming group on line. For

example women suffering from breast cancer have online
support groups. Most of these support groups offer
information on the problem and about treatments methods.
They also provide accounts of people who have dealt with
the disease successful. Often there are sections called
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) where doubts and
clarifications related to the problem/ disease can be asked.
These websites are maintained by hospitals and support

Social work as a profession and academic discipline is
expanding. But there are still unanswered questions about
the effectiveness about its methods even within the

Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work


profession. Research based finding has done little to clarify

the position. It maybe because of the methodology that
these researches use. Or it may be that the complexity of
human behaviour makes it difficult to prove changes in
persons. Group work as a method of social work seems to
have the same problems. Social workers have to often rely
on their personal experience and observation to establish
that the method helps clients.

Tolman, Richard M. and Christian E. Molidor (1984), A
Decade of Social Group Work Research: Trends in
Methodology, Theory, and Program Development, Research
on Social Work Practice; 4; 142
Lillington, Barbara (1985), Psychosocial Response to
Traumatic Physical Disability, Social work in Health Care,
Volume 10(4), Summer.
Breman-Ross., Toby(1994), Social Work: The Collected
Writings of William Schwartz, F.E.Peacock Publishers Inc.
Brown, Allan(1994)Group Work, 3rd edition, Ashgate
Publishing Limited, Hampshire.
Dwivedi, K., N., and Robin Skynner (1993), Group Work
with Children and Adolescents: A Handbook, Jessica
Kingsley Publishers, London.
Corey and Corey (1987), Groups Process and Practice,
Third edition, Brook/Cole Publishing Company, California.
Cwikel J.G.& Behar L.C. (1999), Psychosocial Response
to Traumatic Physical Disability, Social work in Health
Care, Volume 29(4), Summer


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Greif, Geoffrey L. and Paul Ephross(2005), Group work

with Population at risk, Second edition, Oxford University
Press, New York.
Gravin et al. (2004), Handbook of Social work with groups,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Karmakar, K.G.,(1999), Rural Credit and self Help Groups,
Micro finance Needs and Concepts in India, Sage
Publications, New Delhi.
Siddiqui, H.Y. (2008), Group Work, Theories and Practices,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Trecker, Harleigh (1972), Social Group Work, Principles
and Practices, Follet Publishing Company, Chicago.
Smith, Mark K. (2008) Group work, the encyclopedia of
informal education. [


Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work

Theories and Models in

Social Group Work
*Ranjana Sehgal

Social group work is based on the idea of man as a
constantly developing human being in necessary and
significant interactions with other men. He is shaped by
others and also shaping others. Apart from basic needs,
he needs to belong, to be an important individual, and to
participate. Every human being requires help to fulfill
needs, and to deal with dissatisfactions and frustrations
in life. Social group work practice facilitates the
development of the individuals personality through guided
group interaction. Help is possible only when there is
utilization of group potentialities through interaction. Thus,
understanding group behaviour is indispensable and has
utmost importance in the group. Theories in social group
work help to understand this group behaviour. Since a
particular way of group behaviour is the main modality
for fulfilling needs or in other words for bringing change
in the environment or in the members intrapersonal or
interpersonal relationships, social group work uses various
models or approaches to accomplish group goals. The
present endeavour, hence, in this chapter will be to discuss
various theories and models of social group work.

*Dr. Ranjana Sehgal, Indore School of Social Work, Indore


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Theories in Social Group Work

Theory is a plausible or scientifically acceptable general
principle or body of facts offered to explain phenomena.
For example, Social Learning Theory describes how human
behaviour is a product of environmental, social and
personal factors. In the context of group work, theories
are on the whole scientifically accepted facts or statements
for understanding individuals and their relationships with
others. Therefore, group work is based on eclectic theory
of individuals and groups. There are no independent
theories as such in social group work method, but in the
core of social group work practice, we use theories of
individual dynamics and theories of group dynamics
borrowed from various disciplines for understanding group
behaviour. Now we shall discuss those theories.
Theory of Individual Dynamics
An individual is understood, in social group work, on the
basis of psychoanalytic theory and cultural components
as well as knowledge of social psychology and sociology.
Importance of early childhood experiences: A child
initially engages in one-to-one relationship i.e. interacts
only with the mother. Later on, he/she begins to interact
with others outside the mother. The earliest experience of
interaction within the family or outside provides the child
a valuable mental and emotional learning experience which
he/she begins to apply as he/she grows and begins to
reach out beyond the intimate family group to peers
(Konopka, 1963). Thus, these experiences have a great
impact on personality development.
Mans actions are influenced by unconscious
motivation as well as by his capacity to act
consciously and rationally: This concept is directly
related to group work practice. The group worker guides

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


the individual members in a group to participate in the

programme activities and to relate to other members in
the group in order to fulfill certain personal and social
needs. In other words, the capacity to control difficult inner
forces can be achieved and the insight of the individual
can be strengthened through constant interaction with
others through group work.
The concept of ambivalence: The human being can
experience two opposing emotions at the same time
towards the same person or situation. In case of change,
they wish to be involved in the change process, but at the
same time they resist change and desire to keep their
identity as it is.
Development theory of human being: Human beings
pass through various stages in their life. In the first year,
when child is under the loving adult, a sense of trust is
established. In the next stage a sense of autonomy, is felt
when the child can understand the boundaries of his/her
self-determination. The third, fourth and fifth stages are
sense of initiative, sense of industry and a sense of identity
respectively. Sense of intimacy, which comes next, is the
beginning of interest in the other sex and in marriage.
Adulthood is the period of parental sense. The last stage
is the sense of integrity when a well-integrated adult can
accept himself as different from others and yet able to have
and accept others (Friedlander, 1976). Having accepted
this developmental theory, a group worker tries to know
whether the group member with whom he deals with
constantly has had adequate development through their
different stages of developments. He needs to lessen some
of their negative experiences. The worker also facilitates
positive group experiences to compensate for the
developmental lags.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Group association changes as per the need and focus

in the group, depends on group goals: Every person in
his/her lifespan belongs to three types of groups i.e.
primary group (the family) where he is born, friendship
groups, and the vital-interest groups. The primary group
or family plays a fundamental role during childhood, the
friendship group is most important in adolescence, and
adulthood seeks vital interest groups. A person in his
adulthood forms a new family, becomes a parent and feels
the reversal of roles. A social group worker may apply the
same logic for fulfilling group members needs. His focus
or emphasis is intricately related to group goals. In growthoriented groups (eg. therapeutic groups), the worker is
aware of every individuals specific needs, whereas in taskoriented groups (eg. adult community groups), although
focus is on every individuals needs, more emphasis is on
the accomplishment of group goals (Friedlander, 1976).
Theory of Group Dynamics
When an individual belongs to a group, his behaviour is
determined not only by his inner forces but also by the
people around him. Hence, apart from the individual
dynamics, a social group worker must know the group
dynamics or various concepts of the group process. These
concepts include: acceptance or rejection, isolation
(neglected and rejected) sub groups, group bond, group
hostility and group contagion, group support, and group
Acceptance or rejection: A group worker must know every
individual group members relationship with other group
members or how much power each one has over the other
i.e. whether he is accepted by others or isolated. If a
member is isolated, the group worker must know the
meaning and causes of isolation. It may be because the
individuals behaviour has offended the other members

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


due to variations in Socio-cultural background or

personality differences. Sometimes the situation is worse
than the isolation i.e. the individual is rejected by the group
and exposed to open hostility. Thus the questions of
isolation or rejection need to be addressed by the group
worker by handling interpersonal and intrapersonal issues
in the group.
Sub groups: There is no group where all members come
together to perform every task Formation of sub groups
are very natural and they emerge spontaneously. The group
worker has to observe whether these sub groups threaten
the unity of the group or are friendly formations. He has
to act accordingly. It should be known that emotional
acceptance of the inevitability and legitimacy of sub groups
is a pre requisite for good and skillful group work. A worker
who works against the sub groups, loses the whole group
(Konopka, 1963).
Group bond: It refers to group cohesiveness or sense of
belonging. It is the force bringing group members closer.
Group bond may be emotional or task-related. Emotional
bond derives from the connection that members feel to
other group members and task-related bond refers to the
degree to which group members share group goals and
work together to meet these goals. The effectiveness of a
group can be understood through group bond. The main
factors that influence group bond are: members similarity,
group size, entry difficulty, group success, and external
competition and threats. Thus, group bond is a powerful
aspect of group dynamics.
Group hostility and group contagion: Group hostility,
in most of the cases, is found among the exploited or
depressed or minority groups. Hostility means aggression
or resentment or unfriendliness. A very fine man or gentle
person can express hostile attitude because of the fact


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

that he is part of a hostile group atmosphere. Group

contagion is the tendency to catch and feel emotions that
are similar to and influenced by others in the group. In
this regard, Barsade (2002) comments: It is a process in
which a person or group influences the emotions or
behaviour of another person or group through the
conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and
behavioural attitudes. Group contagion may occur during
examination or when two children are upset in a camp or
when some external threats come.
Group support: Any work becomes easy in a group when
support and courage come from other members. A child
having good behaviour does not have any motive towards
stealing but he/she may do it while interacting in a group.
We find in group therapy that each individual shares
experiences with others who are in the same boat and
accumulate moral support, information as well as advice
on the problems and experience growth opportunities. The
group support thus is an instrument for solving individual
problem in the group.
Group conflict: There exists no group without any conflict.
Maturity of a group can be understood by observing how a
group resolves conflict. Normally conflict can be solved or
mitigated through withdrawal of one part of the group
(giving up or running away or starting another group),
subjugation (powerful part forces others to follow their
wish), majority rule (major people decide action), minority
consent (minority agrees with any option), compromise
(each party agrees to the limit set by them), and integration
(conflicting opinions are discussed and reworked for
solution) [Konopka, 1963]. Integration is the most mature
way of conflict resolution (Friedlander, 1976). The worker,
while performing the helping role in a group, should have
knowledge on group conflict for better handling of the
clash or arguments and decision-making.

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


Models of Social Group Work

In the initial days, the conventional view for the purpose
of group work was prevention, but afterwards group
workers were gradually involved in treatment as a primary
goal. As group workers embarked on practice in a range of
settings, they attempted to describe repeated patterns of
phenomena and to define practice in the language of
science. This led to the development of a wide variety of
theoretical models for practicing group work. A model
enables the group worker to focus on problems in a holistic
manner. What kind of model to be employed in a group
today depends on the group goals or objectives or
purposes. There are several classical as well as a few
contemporary models and we shall discuss here the major
models seemingly found in practice.
Papell and Rothman (1966) have pioneered three models
i.e. the social goals model, the remedial model, and the
reciprocal model. These are at the core of social group
work tradition.
Social Goals Model: The settlement house movement,
the social movement, the labour union movement, and
the womens movements of the 1930s in USA are the roots
of the social goals model (Sullivan et al., 2003). The central
focus of this model is on social consciousness and social
responsibility. It helps members of the community to work
on solving social issues and bringing about social change
for oppressed populations. The model has a strong avowed
social values stance. Cohen and Mullender (1999) assert
that the social goals model is referred to in recent literature
as social action group work. The principles of democratic
group process are fundamental to this model. Principles
guiding practice involving the social goals model include:
clarification of agency policy, positive use of limitations,
identification with agency goals, determination of


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

appropriate issues for collective action, and the weighing

of alternatives for action and their consequences (Papell
and Rothman, 1966).
Remedial Model: The function of the remedial model is
the treatment of individuals. It tends to be clinically
oriented. The model focuses on those who have problems
of adjustment in personal and social relations (Fatout,
1992). A worker undergoes this model while dealing with
a group of persons with emotional problem or teaching
skills of daily living to a group of mentally handicapped
children. The group worker, in this model, is viewed as a
change agent who facilitates interaction among members
of the group to achieve change. He is in a some-what
superior position than the group members whose social
skills are impaired or not fully developed. The worker using
this model exercises considerable authority, instructs
model behaviour for group members, and creates an
atmosphere which motivates individual growth. The group
participants here are regarded as clients rather than
members (Brandler and Roman, 1999). The remedial model
is widely used in mental health centers, correctional
institutions, family service organizations, counseling
services, schools, health care facilities, and in many other
Reciprocal Model: The reciprocal model has been derived
from the systems theory, field theory, social psychological
theories of behaviour, and the practice principles that are
a part of generic methodology for social work (Skidmore et
al., 1988). There is a duality of attention in this model i.e.
it serves both the individual and society. In other words,
reciprocal model focuses on the major concerns of both
social goals model and remedial model at the same time
(Fatout, 1992). According to Papell and Rothman (1966),
the thrust of this model is to establish a mutual aid system
and worker or members do not keep here any preconceived

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


goals. The image of the worker is a mediator or an enabler

who is viewed as a part of the worker-client system.
Researchers have studied to understand how small groups
develop. Thus, we find several models of Small Group
Development such as Kurt Lewins Model, Tubbs Model,
Fishers Model, Tuckmans Model, Pooles Model, Gersicks
Punctuated Equlibrium Model, Wheelans Model, and Team
Model. These have been discussed here briefly:
Kurt Lewins Model: Kurt Lewin is remembered for coining
the term group dynamics. His model of individual change
is a stepping stone for many pioneers who have contributed
theoretically. Kurt Lewins model has three stages such
as unfreezing, change, and freezing in a change process
or small group. The first stage makes effort to remove
lethargy or sluggishness and dismantles the existing mind
set. The second stage is the transition phase that brings
change. In the last phase, the new mindset is crystallized
and individual becomes stable.
Tubbs Model: Stewart Tubb studied small group
interaction and developed systems model with four phases
such as orientation, conflict, consensus and closure. In
the first phase, group members introduce each other, start
talking on the problems and examine the strengths as well
as weaknesses. Ideas are evaluated through conflict in
the second phase. Conflict ends in the third phase and
the last stage announces result.
Fishers Model: Fishers model of decision emergence
outlines four phases i.e. orientation, conflict, emergence,
and reinforcement. In the first phase, members get to know
each other and experience primary tension. Second phase
is meant for conflict and marked by secondary tension.
Members there disagree with each other and debate ideas.
Groups tasks as well as members viewpoints become


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

apparent in the emergence phase and group members

bolster their final decision in the last phase
Tuckmans Model: Bruce Tuckman having reviewed
almost fifty studies in the mid nineteen sixties proposed a
new model of group development. The model initially (in
1965) had four stages, but later on (in 1977) added one
more stage and thus today it includes forming, storming,
norming, performing, and adjourning stages. Forming is
the first stage when individuals are collected and each
member is preoccupied with issues of joining or inclusion.
Confusion, low morale, hidden feelings, poor listening, and
un-involvement are visible more in this phase. Storming
stage is the point at which members are beginning to seek
individual roles or space and conflict arises as they search
for compatible tasks or struggle for status in the group. In
the third phase, there are establishment of norms or
accepted ways of doing things. Group culture emerges.
Members start using the term our group. Group develops
trust, cohesion and a degree of intimacy (Brown, 1986).
Performing is the fourth stage where group becomes selfsufficient and use all the skills as well as potential of the
members to achieve its aims and solve problems. In the
last phase group disbands
Pooles Model: Marshall Scott Pooles multiple-sequences
model addresses decision making. The model has several
tracks such as task track, topic track, relation track, and
breakpoints. The tasks track refer to the process by which
the group accomplishes its goals. The topic track concerns
the specific item the group is discussing at the time. The
relation track deals with the interpersonal relationships
between the group members and breakpoints occur when
a group switches from one track to another (Poole, 1981).
Gersicks Model Gersicks punctuated equilibrium model

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


suggests, that groups develop through the sudden

formation, maintenance, and sudden revision of a
framework for performance. The model works in the
following way: Phase I The first half of the groups calendar
time is an inertial movement whose direction is set by the
end of the groups first meeting. In this meeting, members
behaviours may be influenced by prior expectations,
contexts relating to the sponsoring organization, and
preferred behaviours. Midpoint Transition at the midpoint
of the allotted calendar time, groups undergo a transition
during which the direction of the group is revised for phase
2. Gersick calls this a problematic search and pacing
which stems from the groups awareness of problems.
Phase 2 - the second period of inertia focuses on carrying
out the plan formulated during the transition. Progress
may spurt ahead in order to reach a markedly accelerated
conclusion (Cole, 2005).
Wheelans Model Susan Wheelans integrated model of
group development has five phases i.e. dependency and
inclusion, counter dependency and fight, trust/structure,
work/productivity, and final. The first stage is
characterized by significant member dependency on the
designated leader, concerns about safety, and inclusion
issues. In the second phase, members disagree among
themselves about group goals and procedures. The next
phase shows, member trust, commitment to the group,
and willingness to cooperate increase. The fourth stage of
group development is a time of intense team productivity
and effectiveness. Separation and members appreciation
of each other are addressed in the final phase
Team Model : Team Evaluation and Maturation (TEAM)
model identified by Morgan, Salas and Glickman has seven
main stages such as first meeting (forming), unstable
situation (storming), accommodation (norming), inefficient


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

patterns of performance (performing-I), re-evaluation and

transition (reforming), effective performance (performingII), and completion of assignments (conforming). The TEAM
model postulates the existence of two distinguishable
activity tracks present throughout all the stages i.e
activities that are tied to the specific tasks being performed
and activities devoted to enhance the quality of the
interactions, interdependence, co-operation, etc.
We have discussed so far a number of models for group
work practice, nevertheless there exist many more models.
Allan Brown (1986) has classified those, even though
arbitrary, based on the major differences in aims. These
clusters of models are as follows:
Intake Models: Brown, Seymour Hankinson, Stephens,
Todd and Barcome, are popular for these models where
focus is given on contact initiation or individual assessment
or orientation about agency function. These models are
primarily concerned with the intake process when an
individual first engages with an agency, and not with
specific interventions such as the provision of support,
achievement of change or the amelioration of a specific
Guided Group Interaction Models: The guided group
interaction approach was originally developed by Lloyd
McCorkle in the late 1940s in the treatment of military
offenders (Harstad, 1976). The basis or central focus of
this model is positive peer culture. Individuals normally
learn deviant behaviour, attitudes and values from the peer
groups. Therefore, the present model is used in reverse
sense i.e. it carefully constitutes peer group as a vehicle
for changing behaviour from the anti-social to the lawabiding. The key principle is to mix offenders with exoffenders and others in the residential or day care setting
with programmes that have positive peer culture.

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


Problem-Solving, Task-Centred and Social Skills

Model: This group of models is concerned with solving
specific behavioural problems, achieving specific tasks or
developing specific behavioural skills. Every model belongs
to this category does not have exclusively a group approach
as it uses a blend of individual, pairs and group methods.
The major emphasis is on co-operation rather than
competition, safe and structured environment, building
self-esteem and using positive reinforcement practice.
Psychotherapeutic, Person-Focused Models: These
models are concerned with the person, his feelings,
emotions and relationships. The aim is to strengthen an
individuals mental health and self-concept. Psychoanalytic
group therapy, gestalt therapy, psychodrama, transactional
analysis and so on come under this category of models. In
psychoanalytic group therapy, the therapist interprets the
behaviour of the clients, the content of discussion, looking
for patterns that will reveal intrapsychic conflicts or
maladaptive defenses. Gestalt therapy is an existential and
experiential psychotherapy that focuses on here-and-now
approach. It enables an individual to get in touch with
immediate problematic experience and emotion, and work
through the conflict. Psychodrama is used to express
problems, issues, concerns, dreams and highest
aspirations of person through spontaneous and dramatice
role-play. Experience in action, rather than words, is the
touchstone of this model. Transactional analysis is an
integrative approach because it has elements of
psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches. It
emphasizes a pragmatic path in treating patients or
develops models to assist understanding of why certain
treatments work.
Mutual Aid or Self-Help Models: The concept of mutual
aid was first elaborated by Kropotkin (1903), one of the
most important evolutionary theorists and socio-biologists


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

of his time. The Mutual Aid Model of group work practice

proposed by Schwartz (1961) was introduced in the article
The Social Worker in the Group. Schwartyz envisioned
the group as an enterprise in mutual aid, an alliance of
individuals who need each other in varying degrees, to
work on certain common problems. This type of group is
largely self-governing and provides its members with a
source of mutual help and support. In India, at present,
self-help model is used very widely in micro credit
programmes in order to alleviate poverty. Alcoholic
anonymous group is also example of this type.
There are also a few models based on psychotherapist care
such as NEEDS-ABC Model, Neurolinguistic Model etc. A
brief description about these is as follows:
NEEDS-ABC Model: Tom Caplan has developed this model
based on decades of actual practice in group and family
setting. The model emphasizes the theme-based relational
needs behind maladaptive behaviours, rather than the
behaviours themselves. ABC means acquisition and
behaviour change which may be applicable to a wide public
within the field of psychotherapeutic care of clients
engaging in group, couple and marriage therapy. The
present model is an integrated therapeutic approach that
combines observation, elucidation of client and group
process, using concepts also described in cognitivebehavioural, motivational, narrative and emotion-focused
model (caplan, 2008).
NeuroLinguistic Model: This model is a systemic
imaginative method of psychotherapy with an integrativecognitive approach. It aims at goal-oriented work with a
person paying particular regard to his/her representation
systems, metaphors and relation matrices. The model helps
to position the selectively good intentions underlying the
symptoms of illness and/or dysfunction so that old
fixations about inner and outer unproductive behaviour

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


and beliefs can be dissociated and sound behaviours and

beliefs can be established and integrated. This approach,
as a method of personal development and communication
training, is also used in other fields: education, counseling,
supervision, coaching, management training and health
psychology (www.nlpzentrumat/nlptarteng.html).

We have understood, in this chapter, theories and models
used in social group work. Theories are the scientifically
acceptable body of facts that help to understand individual
behavior as well as to carry forward the group process.
Though this group process itself is a greatest teacher, group
members sometimes feel puzzled and can not set any
direction. It is then that the group worker enters in the
scene and helps through his/her knowledge on theories.
With regard to models, there are many classical as well as
contemporary models. The war on poverty and demands
of group work in therapeutic settings during 1960s, 1970s
and 1980s has propounded numerous new models in this
field. Therefore, the final consideration in selecting a single
model for practice with groups is very important and the
same depends on the competence of the practitioner.
Simply knowing the model is not sufficient competence.
Worker must examine, before selecting any model, whether
they possess adequate knowledge and skills to make
maximum use of the same model. Many practitioners feel,
in order to resolve this problem, it is always better to use
an eclectic model i.e. multiple models for best interest of
the client system.

Barsade, S.G. (2002), The Ripple Effect: Emotional
Contagion and Its Influence on Group Behaviour,
Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 644-675.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Brandler, S. and Roman, C. (1999), Group Work: Skills and

Strategies for Effective Intervention, New York: Haworth
Press, P-8.
Brown, A. (1986), Group Work, England: Gower, P-74 to
Cohen, M.B. and Mullender, A (1999), The Personal in
the Political: Exploring the Group Work Continuum from
Individual to Social Change Goals, Social Work with
Groups, 22(1), pp3-31.
Cole, M.B. (2005), Group Dynamics in Occupational Theory:
the Theoretical Basis and Practice Application of Group
Intervention, New Jersey : SLACK Incorporated, P-33.
Caplan, T (2008), Needs ABC: Acquisition and Behaviour
Change Model for Group Work and Other Psychotherapies,
Whiting & Birch Ltd: London.
Friedlander, W.A. (1976), Concepts and Methods of Social
Work, Prentice Hall of India: New Delhi.
Fatout, M. (1992), Models for Change in Social Group Work,
New York: Aldine de Gruyter, P-12-13.
Harstad, C.D. (1976),Guided Group Interaction: Positive
Peer Culture, Child and Youth Care Forum, Vol-5, No-2, P109-120.
Konopka, G. (1963), Social Group Work: A Helping Process,
Prentice-Hall: Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Kropotkin, P. (1903),
Mutual aid: A Factor of Evolution, Indy Mclean,
Poole, M.S. (1981), Decision Development in Small Groups
I: A Comparison of Two Models, Communication
Monography, 48, 1-24.
Papell, C and Rothman, B. (1966), Social Group Work
Models: Possession and Heritage, Education for Social
Work,2 (Fall), 66-77.

Theories and Models in Social Group Work


Sullivan et al. (2003), Social Work with Group: Social Justice

Through Personal Community, and Societal Change, New
York: Haworth Press, P-67.
Skidmore et al. (1988), Introduction to Social Work, New
Jersey: Prentice Hall, P-84.
Schwartz, W. (1961), The Social Worker in the Group. In
B. Saunders (Ed.), New Perspectives on Services to Groups:
Theory, Organisation, Practice, National Association of
Social Workers: New York, P-7-29.
w ww .en .w iki pe dia.o rg /wi ki/g rou p_de ve l o pme nt,


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Stages/Phases of Group
*Ranjana Sehgal

Today, the importance of group work as an effective method
of social work intervention is being increasingly realized.
More so when professionals from other fields, such as
Psychology, Psychiatry and Management have also become
appreciative of its value. The need for satisfactory group
life is a fundamental need of human beings. All of us are
in search of meaningful relationships in our social milieu,
irrespective of our age, religion, class or caste. The modern
day living is characterized by a sense of alienation and
isolation where one feels lonely amidst the sea of humanity.
This can be a frustrating experience, further accentuating
our need for a sense of belonging. Social Group Work fills
this vacuum by providing not only the pleasure of
association, but also giving an opportunity to the members
to utilize and enhance their capabilities and to develop
While Social Group Work, is a method for the group worker,
for the members it is a significant new experience designed
to give them an opportunity to come together and fulfill
their needs and desires through a group process. From its
inception to its termination, a group goes through various
stages of development, and experiences on which the

*Dr. Ranjana Sehgal, Indore School of Social Work, Indore

Stages/Phases of Group Development


members put their own interpretations. While for some it

may be the first opportunity to carry out any responsibility,
for others it may be an important means of giving
expression to their needs and for still others it may be a
way of development of some skill.
Let us now understand the concept of group development
and its various stages.

Group Development and its Stages

What is Group Development?
Group development is a process of the growth and progress
of a group towards full maturity over a period of time with
primary focus on the relationships in the group. In Social
Group Work through guided group experience, the group
is helped to develop responsibly and with maturity. From
the stage of forming the group, to its termination, through
carefully and well planned programme activities, the group
is helped to achieve its potential. Regular meetings of the
group, a wider interaction among the members, a free
flowing conversation, laughter, general spirit of cooperation
and accommodation, are signs of a positive environment
in a group, reflecting a clear sign of group development
(Siddiqui, 2008) Group development, thus, is an index of
the specific level of growth, task accomplishment and
emotional integration of the members which goes through
different stages. Understanding the stages of group
development helps in developing appropriate ways of
intervention in the group process so as to bring about
groups growth and induce behaviours that help in
achieving group goals.
Indicators of Group Development
1) Attendance



Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Definite meeting time and attendance


Development of a formal organization


Willingness on the part of the members to undertake

initiative and responsibility


Increased innovation and motivation


Controlled behaviour of the members


High level of participation


Emergence of leader

10) Shift from I and Me to We and Us

Stages of Group Development
The achievement of the goals is the objective of any
professional encounter; the tasks are done with a purpose.
The Social Group Work process is conceived of as one that
is systematic and proceeds through stages also referred
to as phases. A group can pass through various stages of
development; from the initial stage where it may appear
as a mere assembly of individuals, it can go on to become
a group with a strong we feeling. The stages and the
activities associated with it provide structure and direction
to the process. The different stages are but a reflection of
the process of maturity of the group. Theoretically, we may
segregate different stages of group development for
conceptual clarity but in reality they are intertwined.
Throughout the stages there are two concerted concerns
of the Social Group Worker, namely, building and
sustaining a collaborative relationship and working on the
tasks directed at achieving goals. The tasks and activities
chosen reflect the Social Group Workers ideas about what
is necessary at different points in time to bring about


Stages/Phases of Group Development

Different theorists based on their interpretations have given

their own models of the stages of group development as
depicted in the chart below:
The Stages of Group Development




Jones and




Orientation Forming

Orientation Beginning






Negotiation Development Intimacy

of Bond



Emergence power and uncertaintyof group



Adjourning Termination Decline in



and Goal

Separation SeparationTermination

Source : Group Work: Theories and practices, H.Y. Siddiqui, 2008

Another author Ken Heap (1985) has described the stages

of group work as comprising of group formation and
planning; the first meetings; the working phase; use of
activities and action; and the termination of group.
Toseland and Rivas (1985) have more simply described
the stages as planning phase, beginning phase, middle
phase, and ending phase. On the basis of the classification
by different experts we can say that a group can have
maximum six stages as discussed by Trecker or a minimum
three stages of development, as explained by Bales. The
various models describe the progressive stages in group
development which may range from three to even six


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

stages. Drawing from the various models, for our purpose,

we have classified the stages as follows:
First stage:

Forming the group (Beginning)

Second Stage:


(Initial sessions)

Third Stage:


(Action Phase)

Fourth Stage:



Fifth Stage:



Before we present a discourse on the different stages of

group development, we need to understand that group
work as practiced in the Indian context may be at variance
with practice in the western countries. As the idea of joining
a group voluntarily for therapeutic or recreation purposes
may be an alien concept to the target population, the social
group worker practicing this method in the Indian settings
following the Western theoretical framework may find it
an uphill task. The importance of group work as a
therapeutic method of social work intervention is being
gradually realized in our country. In our discourse on the
various stages of development of group, we shall make a
conscious effort not to lose sight of the Indian context of

First Stage: Planning and Forming the

Group (Beginning)
Social agencies, in conformity with their objectives help
people form groups so as to provide them opportunities
for a satisfying group experience. Individuals join groups
to seek avenues of self expression and social creativity
besides satisfying their needs of being loved, wanted and
accepted by others. The first stage of this process comprises
efforts of the group worker that primarily focus on the
planning and the forming of the group.

Stages/Phases of Group Development


The Beginning
This phase marks the beginning of the process of group
development and is also called the pre-group or preaffiliation stage by some experts. In India the groups have
to be formed by the group worker in most cases. S/he
may form the group from among the existing clientele of
the social welfare agencies/NGOs or from among the open
community settings. Before forming a group, the group
worker must study the target population along the following

Geographical location


Socio-economic background



Reasons for joining the group

Any other relevant details

This information helps the group worker to form the group

on some common ground and accordingly determine the
group goals. Careful planning should precede the formation
of the group which includes decision about the target
population, needs and goals, the resources available etc.
An accurate understanding and analysis of the needs of
the target population is important at this stage so that
there is no gap between the members and the workers
perception of the felt needs of the group. However, the
process of the study and planning is a continuous one; it
enables the group worker to steer the group through the
different stages of development.
The members may have to be convinced to join the group
as they may be ignorant of the usefulness of being a part


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

of a group and may not have had any such experience in

the past. Groups in India are initially conceived by an
organization or welfare agency, as people themselves
generally do not take such initiatives. Both the voluntary
and the government organizations have found working with
the group a useful strategy. The worker in India therefore,
has to carry the idea of forming a group for an already
defined objective to the people. S/he has to educate the
potential members about the needs and issues the group
will address and how it is likely to benefit them. The worker
generally meets the members for the first time and many
members have little or no experience of working with such
groups. The formation stage thus, will require careful
planning. There are two sets of plans that a worker must
prepare. The first part of the planning concerns how the
formation of the group will be accomplished, and second,
what issues will arise once the group gets going and how
these will be dealt with.(Siddiqui, 2008, 98)
The other details that have to be focussed while planning
and forming the group are:

The size of the group

The decision about the size of the group is dependant
on various factors such as the needs of members,
purpose of group, nature of group membership etc.
for instance self help groups may be large in size but
therapeutic groups work best when they are small.
Though there is no ideal size, a group size ranging
from eight to fifteen members may be a good size.


Composition of the group

Planning about the composition of the group has to
be in keeping with its purpose. Whether it is a selfhelp group, task group or treatment oriented group,
it may be either homogenous or heterogeneous.

Stages/Phases of Group Development


Before deciding the nature of membership, the group

worker should familiarize herself with the client group
along the points already mentioned above such as
their socio-economic background etc.

Frequency of the sessions and their duration

Though there is no hard and fast rule, frequency of
the sessions may be decided in accordance with the
needs and purpose of the group. There should not be
too long gaps between the sessions, lest the group
gets disintegrated. Recreation groups, therapeutic
groups, task groups should meet at least once or twice
a week.


Time and place of meetings

The place where the group is to meet at the designated
time has to be decided in consultation with the
members. The guiding factors are the convenience of
the members, availability and adequacy of space
and resources.


Duration of the group

Whether the group will exist for a long or short term
may again have to be in keeping with the needs and
goals of the group. The group can be terminated after
achieving its objectives and a tentative time may be
earmarked for it. There should however be an element
of flexibility in deciding the time-frame.

Second Stage: Explorations (Initial Sessions)

In the initial sessions the group may appear more as a
constellation of different individuals than an organized
entity. This stage is usually characterized by a low group


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

consciousness. There may be shyness, hesitation,

indecision and lack of participation. Some members maybe
hyper active, and some may be insecure and nervous, not
having had such an experience in the past. However, this
phase marks the beginning of the development of a feeling
of belonging and oneness among the members. Tuckman
has used the term storming to explain this process of
exploration. In the initial meetings a semblance of order
has to be restored so as to ensure a free flow of ideas and
This stage involves the following steps:
Orientation and Induction
The initial stage is important as it lays the foundation of
the success or failure of the group work program. The
worker should introduce the members to the group by
outlining her/his role and the purposes for which the group
has been formed, the members should be encouraged to
speak about themselves, their hopes and aspirations. In
the initial sessions the members have to be inducted into
the group with a certain sensitivity so as to raise their
level of comfort and sense of ease. The members may be
unfamiliar with each other and may be interested in finding
out about the agency, the worker, other members and the
purpose of the group.
The group worker helps members become part of the group.
This does not happen overnight but is a gradual process
as in this process the members may have to give up some
of their individuality as also their biases and prejudices.
They may have to exercise more self control and discipline.
Some people relate more easily than others, all
nevertheless, start making efforts to adjust which may not
be always easy. Some may be easily accepted and accept
the group, others may take more time. Gradually the
members start speaking the same language as the other

Stages/Phases of Group Development


members and accept the group goals and consider them

as their own As the individual starts developing a sense of
belonging there may be a change in his/her behaviour
Preparation of the Profile of the Members
Just as there is a need for the members to know each
other, the worker too should study and observe the
members closely. The worker should prepare a profile of
each member giving his/her age, family background,
physical characteristics, habits, interests, level of
confidence , any peculiar habits or traits etc. It would help
if this is based on the facts gathered and his/her
observations in the initial sessions. This would not only
help her/him understand the group relationship levels and
interaction patterns better but also begin from where the
group is. Further this may help her/him map the
development over a period of time, especially at the stage
of evaluation.
Setting Specific Objectives
While there may be larger goals which a group may strive
to ultimately achieve, specific interim goals also need to
be explored, which can form the basis of program planning.
Here the worker has to help the group determine the
desired level of behaviour or social change. Although in
the first stage the group has been formed keeping in mind
some purpose, It is at this stage that goals have to be
specifically delineated. Here the group worker encourages
the active participation of the group members and helps
the group assume the responsibility to determine the level
of change they desire to achieve in their behaviour or social
situation. e.g. kicking up the habit of smoking/ chewing
tobacco, giving up using abusive language.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Objectives are nothing but statements of what the group

worker is trying to achieve through the group work process.
They give meaning to the process. Objectives serve the
same purpose as a compass; they guide the agency and
the worker to a determined destination. (Trecker , 1955,
57) They should be clear and specific and later reviewed
at the stage of evaluation in terms of their accomplishment.
At this stage there is a need to spell out the specific
objectives which delineate the actual outcomes expected
from the group workers intervention. For instance in the
case of a group of school dropouts, some of the objectives
could be

To develop an interest in studies by simplifying the

methods of teaching and learning

To motivate them to resume studies by making them

understand the benefits of formal schooling

To remove the fear of subjects like maths, etc.

Here the worker should pay attention to the feasibility on

one hand and the needs and aspirations of the members
on the other. S/he should focus on the specific benefits the
members are likely to get and refrain from imposing her/
his point of view. The objectives have to be interpreted to
the members, and their doubts and queries are to be
Developing a Structure
As the group is now ready to settle down, it can be
structured at this stage. The members must now be
prepared and encouraged to assume roles and
responsibilities. They are to be told about the expectations
of the group from them in terms of tasks, on the basis of
their capabilities and talents. In the Indian context the
members may have to be closely assisted till they learn to

Stages/Phases of Group Development


assume responsibilities on their own. Some may need

constant help of the group worker to carry out their roles.
The worker at this stage must constantly encourage the
members to use their latent talents and capacities. A
functional organization must emerge at this stage so as to
enable the members to assume an active role and make
responsible decisions. Every group that aspires for
independence and self-determination must arrange its
constituent members in such a way that they can said to
be organized. The form of organization is in itself of minor
importance .if a group is to develop and carry out its
program, it must have ways of assigning or delegating
responsibility, ways of getting the whole group to
participate in the planning, carrying out, and evaluation
of the activities that make up the program and ways of
handling routine relationships with the agency and other
groups. (Trecker,1955, 150) With the emergence of a
formal organization the group starts giving evidence of its
flexibility and maturity. After the group is geared to assume
responsibility, it is ready to move into the next phase.

Third Stage: Performing (Action Phase)

Action Phase
After some sessions, the signs of group development start
emerging as the group progresses into its active phase.
The focus of this stage is on the provision of program
experiences designed to offer opportunities for adjustment
and growth. The programs may be of a long or short term
depending on the immediate and long term objectives.
This stage is the peak time in the group process as the
members start taking the group seriously. The sessions
become regular, the attendance is likely to be high and so
is the involvement and participation of the members. This
phase is likely to be characterized by a flurry of activity as


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

considerable time is devoted to program planning and

implementation, e.g a group of youth in a community, who
may have been spending their leisure time aimlessly are
formed into a group. The group worker after observing their
talents for singing and acting encourages them to put up
a musical drama. The group is encouraged and helped to
write its own script, compose the songs and choreograph
the dances .Then with the help of the community support
the group puts up the first show and gradually becomes
an established theatre group. In the active phase the
scripting, composing followed by continuous frantic
rehearsals for the show may consume the maximum time
and efforts of the members. Side by side they may also be
busy mobilizing and utilizing the resources to put up the
show. This is but one example, there may be several others.
During this stage the development gets more pronounced
and may be reflected in high attendance, regular meetings,
and members taking more responsibility. More and more
responsibility is transferred by the worker to the group.
The group starts surging ahead; setting its programs,
moving constantly to its destination. The accent is now on
we and us. The members get comfortable with each other,
anxiety declines, leadership emerges, and members start
taking initiative and are ready to assume leadership roles
and responsibilities. They may be more forthcoming with
their talents and more ready to take on challenging and
complex programs. This is the most active phase of the
group work process and spans over a major part of the
working life of the group. The group may now well be on
its way to achieving its goals. Planning and development
of the program, its execution and monitoring are the
defining features of this stage.
Program Planning and Execution
Program is a series of activities based on the discovery of
interests and needs of the members and an important

Stages/Phases of Group Development


component of Social Group Work process; the way it is

planned even more important. It may range from art and
craft to music, dance, social events to picnics excursions.
At this stage the program interests are likely to emerge
from within the group. The members who may be initially
be at a loss from where to begin must now be encouraged
to take over. The members are stimulated to discover and
use their own resources. The program planning and
development process by itself is an important tool in
helping the group to realize its potential
Program should evolve from simple to more complex, with
movement coming as a result of group growth in ability
and readiness. Movement from initially personal to social
or community concerns should be an ultimate objective
if our programs are to have greater social significance
(Trecker, 1955, 162)
Task accomplishment
When the group begins to show signs of readiness to move
ahead, the worker should help the members realize their
wishes for different and more demanding experiences.
When group members begin to express desires to correct
inadequacies and improve their work, they have reached
an advanced point in their development. Programs that
may have been self-centered shift in emphasis to the larger
agency and community concerns. Specialized interests may
be revealed, and there may be an interest in a variety of
small group activities within the larger group. Here the
worker is called upon to use his knowledge of agency and
community resources. His role becomes that of an
interpreter to the group, especially in regard to future
possibilities. Evaluation occupies a larger share of time as
the group becomes confident of its capacities (Trecker,


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

As the group strives to accomplish its goals and related

tasks, it may face many barriers which may obstruct
change. Besides members own anxieties and fears, there
may be dysfunctional behaviours or dysfunctional
processes within the group that may impede progress and
pose barriers to goal accomplishment. Non-availability or
restrictive access to resources or services may require the
group worker to assume the role of a mediator or advocate.
Monitoring Progress
The group worker at this stage steps down and allows the
group to take over. However s/he needs to constantly
monitor and keep a track of the ways the program is being
conducted. As work towards the group goals gathers
momentum it is important to monitor the progress on a
regular basis. The program can be monitored on the basis
of specific indicators such as interaction patterns, self
improvement, emotional integration with the group,
leadership and communication skills etc. Based on the
information gathered, programs can be modified and
consolidated. If an intervention or program is not producing
the desired effect, the worker after analyzing reasons can
negotiate a different approach or strategy.

Fourth Stage: Assessment (Evaluation)

After the action phase is over, the group should be ready
to evaluate the outcome of its efforts in a free, frank and
objective manner. Evaluation is that part of Social Group
Work in which the worker attempts to measure the quality
of a groups experience in relation to the objectives and
functions of the agency. Evaluation may centre upon
individual growth, program content or worker performance
because all these aspects tend to influence the general
achievement of the group.(Trecker, 1955 ) Evaluation is

Stages/Phases of Group Development


continuously done during the group work process, but,

after the group activities are over, before the termination
phase; a comprehensive assessment of the entire
experience is a must. This helps in improving subsequent
group work experiences on the basis of the lessons learnt;
a guide to future.
If you recall, during the exploration phase a profile of the
members was prepared; at this stage a comprehensive
summary report of each member and group as a whole,
reflecting the individual and overall level of development
and achievements is to be prepared. The overall purpose
and objectives of the experience should not be lost sight
of while making this assessment.
Imperatives of Evaluation
Evaluation helps the agency and worker to reorganize their
practice and modify their objectives in the light of the
outcome findings of evaluation. To make the process of
evaluation a positive and conclusive exercise and in order
to make an unbiased, objective evaluation it is imperative
that there exist certain predetermined indicators on the
basis of which the assessment can be done.
To determine these indicators the following aspects may
be taken into consideration, namely:
1) Individual growth
From the members perspective, evaluation presents an
opportunity to find out the outcome of their actions from
the beginning to the end of the process. It aids the process
of development and helps in assessing some of the following


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The level of growth in each member in terms of

confidence, decision making, etc.

The extent of the use of the opportunities provided to

the members for the expression of their creativity and

The level of their participation and involvement in the

group programs

The development of we feeling and a sense of belonging

Resolution of disabling conflicts and development of

capacity to foster cooperation and sharing

Development of a social consciousness and the ability

to take up responsibility and leadership in the

Enhancement of communication, organizational and

interaction skills

2) Worker performance
Evaluation presents to the group worker a mirror of his/
her professional competence or incompetence as the case
may be. The worker can be evaluated along the following

Ability to identify indicators for judging the growth and

development of the group

Effectiveness in planning and conducting the group


Extent of success in helping the group achieve its

objectives and goals

Mistakes and shortcomings

Ability to use professional knowledge and skills.

Stages/Phases of Group Development


3) Agencys purpose
Evaluation gives the agency the information it needs to
maintain the quality of its services and bring about the
improvements in its policies and programs along the
following lines:

Lay down objective standards for the appraisal of its


Ensure conditions under which effective group work

can be done

Improve its organizational and administrative


Reformulate objectives for groups and agency in line

with its needs

Review the program content and method

Record keeping
Another imperative of evaluation is proper record keeping.
Carefully maintained records are a great aid to the
evaluation process. Records are integral to the entire group
work process but are most useful at the point of evaluation.
The worker should maintain detailed records of each
member and activity. Well maintained records help to
objectively assess the growth of the members; their
strengths and shortcomings. Among other things, it helps
the worker understand which strategies worked and which
did not. According to Trecker, it is doubtful whether
evaluation of the program, individual growth or worker
performance can be satisfactorily made without records.
Evaluation is a kind of research or fact finding which
involves data collection and data analysis. The source of
data could be the records or progress reports made by the
worker, any task files maintained by the members, other


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

agency personnel, feedback- verbal or written of the

members, their family members, video tapes etc. For this
s/he should develop some formats for recording the
happenings in the group.
Although partial judgments can be made on the basis of
memory, thorough evaluation is possible only if adequate
records have been kept. The worker at this stage must go
back to her records and prepare an analysis and summary.
S/he should not only review the growth and development
of the group but also his/ her role and relationship with
the group; and how well s/he understood the changing
interests and evolving needs of the members. Though not
very popular in India, attitudinal and personality
measurement scales to measure the changes in the
members behaviour, knowledge and attitudes could be
put to effective use to make the assessment more authentic
and scientific.
Though some kind of feed back at the end of each session
may be taken, a detailed exercise is usually done at this
stage. Effective use of praise and constructive criticism
are the defining features of the feedback exercise. The
group worker can provide her feedback to the members
on various aspects such as participation, program
development and implementation, leadership, teamwork,
how well the members adhered to and worked for the
achievement of the group objectives etc. The worker too
should solicit feedback regarding how her/his behaviour
affected the process S/he must welcome criticism and
respond to it positively as it illuminates the pathway to
growth and makes the worker aware of her/his strengths
and weaknesses. The resultant feedback helps the group
worker to be more aware of their positives and negatives
which they must keep in mind for future. The members

Stages/Phases of Group Development


should be also trained by the group worker in giving and

receiving feedback.

Positive feedback should be given first

It should be specific

Criticisms should be given as a suggestive alternative

Initially the members may be encouraged to give a

written feedback

The worker may prepare some formats for the purpose.

Fifth Stage: Termination (Ending Phase)

There comes a time/point in the life of every group when
it comes to an end, which could be a positive or negative
experience as the case may be. The group is deemed to be
terminated on a positive note, when it is said to have
achieved its goals and the group worker has ensured its
smooth closure through a proper process. Sometimes the
groups may have to close on a negative note, when the
members drop out prematurely; fail to develop strong
relationships; the relationships are marked by bitter
conflicts or the worker cannot continue with the group
any longer. When the Group worker leaves the group for
whatever reason, the group may not sustain for long.
Should the date of termination be set in the beginning?
Some experts are of the view that a termination date should
be announced at the outset so that the members know
the time at their disposal to achieve their objectives. The
duration should however be long enough for the group to
develop and allow behavioural change. The group should
review its progress from time to time and accordingly take
decisions for the future course of action.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Just as the group worker has done in the previous stages

of development; at this stage she has to ensure that the
group is terminated in a proper way. Despite highly
satisfactory experiences, groups sometimes reach a period
in their natural life when interests diminish and decline is
noticeable. The group seems to have served its time
attendance falls off; members withdraw and become related
to other groups.this is a period which calls for careful
thinking and analysis on the part of the worker . The
agency.should operate as a helpful agent for the proper
closing of the group which has fulfilled its function in the
lives of the members. By arranging satisfying terminal
experiences with groups it is possible to make the
conclusion of group life a vestibule for further group
experience. Those members who wish to continue may be
helped to form a new group (Trecker, 1955)
Ending the Group
The group has to end in a planned manner. Members may
react differently to the termination of the group. The worker
has to keep the group informed about the ending time
and should not break the news suddenly. While nothing
much may be done when the group comes to an end
abruptly, in other cases the ending of the group can be
carried out in a planned way.
The last Sessions
Towards the end of the social group work process the
worker has to help the members come to terms with the
fact that there may be no more regular meetings and guide
them how to face the challenge of filling up the vacuum
that the termination might create.
The worker has to prepare the group

For the termination stage

Stages/Phases of Group Development


Share with the group the final evaluation.

Analyze how far they were successful in accomplishing

some of the goals and failed to achieve others, as the
case may be.

give the members an opportunity to express their

happiness, anxiety, fears, good/ bad experiences, talk
about their accomplishments

Discuss their future plans

Developing leadership among the group members,

capacity building of members and developing systems to
carry on the functioning of the group can make the
termination smooth (Siddiqui,2008)

Role of Group Worker in Group

Factors Affecting Group Development
The development of the group is influenced by a variety of
factors, depending on which groups develop at varying
pace. This explains why some groups organize very well
and are able to achieve their goals without facing many
hurdles, while others fail to accomplish their tasks and
achieve their goals. We have listed some such factors as
examples, which we do not propose to discuss in detail as
they are already explained under one heading or the other
in the block.
1) Group structure

Communication and interaction patterns


group goals


expectations from the group




Social Group Work: Working with Groups


group norms and culture


group discipline


The role played by the group worker

Our primary focus here is on one important ingredient

that ensures the development of the group through the
successive stages, namely the role played by the Social
Group Worker at each stage.
Role Of Group Worker
The role of the worker is very important and varies at each
stage of development, the bottom line being that the worker
has to understand the level of the group at each stage and
proceed at the pace of the group. For this s/he must study
and analyze to understand where the members are in their
development. The worker plays a variety of roles, sometimes
as an enabler, helper, guide and facilitator, sometimes as
a trouble shooter, mediator and educator and at other times
as an advocate or a leader. S/he provides direction to the
group members in planning the group activities and then
executing them. S/he enables the members to make
choices and helps them to become self-directing as early
as possible. Through all stages the worker has to develop
and exhibit a professional behaviour.
It is not possible to have a standard blue print of the role
and tasks of a group worker as it is affected by a variety of
factors. Trecker (1955) rightly said that the workers role
will vary with different groups as the situations operating
within groups are so different, that the worker has to first
understand the group and the circumstances surrounding
it before attempting to define the specific aspects of his
job with it.

Stages/Phases of Group Development


In the Initial Phase

At the initial stage the group worker helps the members
build a sense of belonging, which is an emotional
experience. The skill and understanding in initiating in
them a sense of belonging is a crucial task of the worker.
She has to foster those conditions under which this
belongingness is fostered. For this s/he needs to accept
as well as get acceptance from the group. the greatest
single element in the beginning stages of work with the
group is the workers ability to accept the group as it is,
with both strengths and limitations, positives and
negatives In the beginning the worker should place
emphasis on warmth and friendliness rather than on group
organization or planning. (Trecker, 1955, 31)
With the sense of belonging comes a feeling of pride,
warmth, affection, sharing and commitment; a sense of
respect for other members as well as a respect for group
objectives. Real belonging builds up a sense of
companionship and accelerates the psychological process
of growth in human relations. The group may go through
various stages of belonging. All members may not
experience the same intensity of belonging especially at
the early stages. Initial stages may need more worker time
as well as an active role on her/his part.
In the initial phase, where exploration is central, the Social
Group Work needs to focus her attention on the following:

Pay attention to the orientation and induction and give

the members a clear idea of what the agency stands


spend time in trying to gain information about each

member and the needs of each.


helps the group determine its objectives and goals


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


try to relate the purpose of the group to the overall

purpose of the agency.


look for ways to strengthen the ties among the


The group worker can make the following efforts at this

stage, among others:

establish rapport


help the members to get familiar with each other by

organizing ice breaking sessions


take up simple activities with the object of helping the

members open up and start talking and sharing


if the members already know each other, inform them

about the purpose of the group


help the members deal with their anxieties,

apprehensions or misconceptions, if any


explain the basic rules to be followed during the group


In the Middle Phase

Subsequently the workers responsibility is to help the
group create a type of functional organization that will
make possible the sort of program the group wishes to
conduct. S/he does not structure the group but helps it
to structure itself; the bottom-line is to keep the structure
as simple as possible. The worker while helping the
individuals in groups to create and maintain satisfying
constructive relationships should encourage role
allocations on the basis of merit.
Program is an important tool in the hands of the worker
and at this stage, the worker has the task of helping the

Stages/Phases of Group Development


group to plan, develop and execute the program. Her/his

main role in program development is to consciously
stimulate and guide the process of interaction for individual
and group development. S/he helps the group to
understand its capacities and limitations and guides the
interaction in relation to the process of group development.
S/he not only helps to stimulate the group to action but
also helps it to discover and use the agency and community
resources and those within the group. S/he constantly
encourages the members to take initiatives in performing
the group tasks and develop leadership in the group by
identifying the potential leaders and creating opportunities
for them to take up leadership roles. The group worker
may at this stage be called upon to address the power
issues that arise in the group. Some members may try to
dominate and control the group which may not just lead
to conflict and groupism albeit generate hostility among
the members and even towards the group worker. The
worker has to deftly resolve the power issues which s/he
can do by encouraging and developing a sense of coperation, partnership and a mutual respect for each other.
The worker will be especially helpful in working with the
leadership that has grown out of the group.
In the active stage of group development the worker should
modify her role. Rather than being active she must now
allow the members to assume responsibility. Remaining
in the background, her primary task should be to monitor
the changes and progress that are taking place in the
group. S/he will guard against too rapid progression and
ensure that the groups do not take on more than they are
prepared to handle successfully. During this phase,
programmes of longer duration and more involved
organization may be encouraged


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

In the Last Phase

The role at the final stage begins with reviewing the group
experiences and dealing with feelings of separation. It is
important that the worker plans for this phase and handles
it skillfully and sensitively. The manner in which group
process is concluded will strongly influence how the
members continue to maintain the progress they have
achieved. The worker should develop proper formats for
recording all the happenings in the group. Records have
both short term and long term goals and usage. An
important task of the Social Group Worker is to maintain
the records with keen observation and sensitivity. S/he
should maintain full records of the behaviour of the
members and their responses and in doing so be careful
in the selection, organization of the material, and analyze
and summarize from time to time.
The last phase calls upon the worker to primarily assess
whether individual and group goals have been successfully
obtained and plan for the maintenance of change and
continued growth after termination.
Though the actual write up and interpretation and
utilization of the records is done at different stages of
development, it assumes special significance in the
concluding stages. Records are most useful at the point of
evaluation and termination as realistic judgments cannot
be made on the basis of memory. The worker at this stage
has to make realistic evaluation of the program, individual
growth and how her/his role has changed and evolved
through the various stages of group development. S/he
has to review the entire process and understand all that
has happened in the group and retrace the role played by
her/him in bringing about the group development. S/he
has the crucial task of carefully and objectively evaluating
the outcomes of interventions and share this information

Stages/Phases of Group Development


with the group; helping them to assess their achievements

and failures. This review is particularly important if the
group is terminating or being handed over to a new worker.
If the group decides to end, the worker should ensure a
smooth termination and if it decides to continue sans the
worker, s/he can continue to monitor the functioning of
the group and keep the contact alive.
In the last phase the worker should create situations within
the group where the members can act out the changed
behaviours independently. This helps the group to come
to terms with the scenario where the group support may
be no longer available. Successful termination involves
preparing the members adequately for separation from the
group and enhancing the transition of the members from
being dependant on the group to being on their own.

Social Group Work, whereas a method for the group
worker, is a significant new experience for the members,
designed to give them an opportunity to come together
and fulfill their needs and desires through a group process.
In Social Group Work through guided group experience,
the group is helped to develop responsibly and with
maturity. From the stage of forming the group to its
termination, through carefully and well planned
programmes, the group is helped to achieve its potential.
The stages and the activities associated with it provide
structure and direction to the process. Theoretically we
may segregate different stages of group development for
conceptual clarity but in reality these stages are
intertwined with each other.
On the basis of the classification by different experts we
can say that a group can have maximum six stages as
discussed by Trecker or a minimum three stages of


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

development, as explained by Bales. We have discussed

the stages as follows:
First stage:

Forming the group


Second Stage:


(Initial sessions)

Third Stage:


(Action Phase)

Fourth Stage:



Fifth Stage:


(Ending phase)

Before forming a group the group worker must study the

target population.
The details that have to be focused while planning and
forming the group are the size of the group, its composition,
frequency of the sessions and their duration time and place
of meetings and duration of the group. The exploration
stage involves the following steps, namely orientation and
induction; Preparation of the profile of the members; setting
specific objectives; developing a structure. Planning and
development of the program, its execution and monitoring
are the defining features of the performing stage which is
the most active phase. After the action phase is over, the
group is ready to evaluate the outcome of its efforts in a
free, frank and objective manner. In the last sessions the
worker prepares the group for the termination stage. Here
s/he shares the final evaluation with the group and
analyzes how far they were successful in accomplishing
some of the goals and failed to achieve others, as the case
may be. The role of the worker varies at each stage of
development, the bottom line being that the worker has to
understand the level of the group at each stage and proceed
at the pace of the group.
Though the importance of group work as a therapeutic
method of social work intervention is being gradually
realized in our country, the fact remains that it is still

Stages/Phases of Group Development


primarily practiced by the students of social work as a

part of their field work training and thereafter the scope of
using this method is generally limited. In India the groups
have to be formed by the group worker in most cases. S/
he may form the group from among the existing clientele
of the social welfare agencies/NGOs or from among the
open community settings.

Garvin, Charles D. et al (eds.) (2008) Handbook of Social
Work With Groups, Rawat Publications, New Delhi.
Konopka Gisela. (1963) Social Group Work: A Helping
Process, Englewood Cliffs , N.J. Prentice Hall
Siddiqui, H.Y. (2008) Group Work: Theories and Practices,
Rawat Publications, New Delhi.
Trecker, Harleigh B. (1955) Social Group Work- Principles
and Practices, New York: Association Press
Wilson, Gertrude and Gladys Ryland. (1949) Social Group
Work Practice. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Process of Group Formation

*Manju Kumar

You have already learnt about nature of groups and the
meaning of group dynamics. You may recall that groups
have a life span of their own, i.e. they come into being; go
through different phases of development including
conflicts, threats of disintegration, and / or achievement
of cohesiveness; and then come to an end. Studies on group
work practice have demonstrated that group experiences
influence considerably the persons constituting its
membership and in a significant manner. A professional
Social Worker using group as a vehicle to help people has,
therefore, to be very careful whether use of group as a
medium of help is clearly indicated. Social Work is defined
as a planned change activity. Planning, therefore, is crucial
element of all social work interventions, including social
group work.
The discussion on the stages of development through which
a group passes highlights the importance of the processes
that a group worker has to engage in before the persons
joining a group ever come together. Planning and actions
that a social group worker undertakes at the pre-group
stage have a far reaching impact on the success of the
group, in terms of the cohesiveness a group achieves; in
the context of its performance in achieving group goals; or

*Ms. Manju Kumar, Dr. B.R.A.C. University of Delhi

Process of Group Formation


with reference to the satisfaction its members experience.

In fact, group formation is the starting-point of all group
development and performance.

Group Formation
An Assembly of the Elements
Assembly is the deliberate combination of parts to form
an envisioned whole, according to an implicit or explicit
plan or plans. The primary challenge of assembly is .to
select and combine people and resources keeping in mind
how different combinations of elements with different
arrays of attributes are likely to fit together. (Arrow, et al,
Group formation can be viewed as resulting from the
planned assembly of elements plus dynamics emerging
from the process of this collection. The most important
elements in a group are people with their resources, and
intentions. The other elements are external and contextual.
Before we move forward, let us recall some descriptions of
a group. Group is a collection or assemblage of persons
having common characteristics, interests, goals, or
objectives; two or more persons who are interacting with
one another in such a manner that each person influences
and is influenced by the other. They both recognise
themselves as a group and are seen by other people as a
The formation of a group is driven in part by the motivated
action of their members. The structure of new groups is
also determined in part by constraints, opportunities and
demands in the contexts in which the groups are situated.
People who are not group members are often instrumental
in forming new groups. External and internal forces
contribute to both assembly and dynamic patterns


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

emerging due to the transformation of people, resources,

and intentions in the context of the whole.
Group formation is not a single process with minor
variations. Distinctly different sequences of events can
result in the formation of new and different groups.
Cartwright & Zander (1968) identified three distinct
circumstances under which groups come into being:

Deliberate formation - formed by one or more people

in order to accomplish some objective.

Spontaneous formation - Formation of the group is

based on voluntary interpersonal choices. The group
is formed because people expect to derive satisfaction
from associating together, for example, friendship
groups, gangs and professional groups.

External designation - formed because they

(individuals) are treated in a homogeneous manner
by other people. These external designations can lead
to the deliberate formation of groups.

In deliberately formed or concocted groups, agents

external to the group deliberately assign people to groups
and typically designate the groups purpose as well. Many
work groups, problem-solving groups, therapy groups,
social action groups, and advocacy/ mediating groups; and
the vast majority of groups in Social Psychology, and
groups formed for educational purposes fall in this
Besides spontaneous groups mentioned above are
circumstantial groups, where events throw people together
and give them a reason to interact and form groups for
collective action. In self-organised groups, a new collective
arises out of interaction amongst a sub-set of people in a
larger social setting. These people are not actively trying

Process of Group Formation


to form a group, it just happens. High levels of intermember coordination because of interpersonal interaction
prior to group formation influences this.
Factors Affecting Group Formation
Many factors come into play in the creation of groups.
According to Tosi, Rizzo and Carroll (1986) important
variables which influence group formation include:

Personal characteristics, which include shared beliefs,

values, attitudes, security needs and affiliation needs.

Interests and goals in common.

Influence, since a group can exert more power and

influence to get proper attention and action.

Opportunity for interaction, which helps in developing

affinities and relationships.

Other factors are similar functional departments,

cooperative physical activities, intellectual pursuits,
emotional needs or protection, and attention and

Wilson and Ryland (1949), highlighting factors which

needed to be kept in mind while forming groups said, Every
social worker who works with groups need to be aware of
such factors such as the size of the group; the settingboth agency and community, in which the group is
meeting; the personality and health of the members, their
cultural, social, and economic backgrounds; and the
relationship of this group to other groups in the agency
and the community. Factors of likeness and difference
religious, ethnic, political, economic, social class, and
generation play a large role in even those groups that
are smallest in numbers and youngest in point of members
ages. (p. 36)


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

In nutshell, three main factors which influence group

formation and subsequent group development and
performance are individual- group society, that is,
individual and group goals; resources, expectations and
motivations of individual members; group structure
including composition and size (internal factors);
environment and resources of agency, socio-economic
conditions, social context of groups (external factors).
External and internal forces, planned assembly, and
emergent processes play a part in the formation of all
groups. However, the balance of forces that shape their
formation differs markedly across groups.
Theories of Group Formation
A number of authors and researchers have put forth
different theories and perspectives to explain why and how
people come together to form groups. An understanding
of these perspectives is useful while matching the purpose
of the group with prospective membership.
Researchers have yet to develop a comprehensive theory
to explain how and why groups form, but there are two
perspectives that offer some answers: functional
perspective suggests that groups form because they serve
a useful function or fulfill a need for their individual
members. The interpersonal attraction perspective
suggests that groups form because its members like one
another and seek to spend time together. (Cottam, et al
2004, p 66-68)
Functional Perspective states that groups are formed to
fulfill survival needs, including feeding, defense,
nurturance, and reproduction; psychological needs like
need for affiliation; need for power need to control others.
According to FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations

Process of Group Formation


Orientation) given by Schultz (1958), joining a group can

fulfill three basic needs inclusion (desire to be part of a
group); control (the need to organize an aspect of the group);
and affection (the desire to establish positive relations with
Another category of needs that can often be served well by
groups is informational needs. People often have a need
to determine if their own view points are correct and
accurate. This perspective suggests that people join groups
to better understand social reality.
Groups can also meet peoples interpersonal needs. Many
groups can provide social support, giving emotional
sustenance, advice, and valuable feedback. Social support
can be a valuable function of groups protect us from
harmful effects of stress; protect us from being lonely.
Finally, groups can fulfill important collective needs
groups can be more productive and efficient than an
individual working alone, that is, by pooling the efforts of
multiple people. Some of the collective goals sought by
groups include engaging in the performing arts; enriching
the leisure time of its members; changing the opinions of
the persons outside the group; and making routine
individual tasks more tolerable.
Interpersonal Attraction Perspective
Sometimes, groups form because individuals discover that
they like each other and want to spend more time together.
Many factors that influence our liking of another include
the following:

We tend to be attracted to those who are most similar

to us in attitudes, beliefs, socio-economic status,
physical appearance and so on.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

We tend to form relationship with those who are

physically closer to us - those living next door, those
we sit next to in class, and those we work with closely.

We like people who like us

We are attracted to people who are physically attractive.

Within the twin perspectives mentioned above various

theories have been developed to explain why people form
groups. One of the most fundamental theories of group
formation is propinquity or proximity which asserts that
people tend to affiliate with one another because of spatial
or geographical closeness. Another comprehensive theory
of group formation is the social systems theory which states
that individuals tend to interact in a group to solve
problems, reduce tension, attain goals, and achieve
balance. Still another theory of group formation is the
balance theory that asserts that individuals are attracted
to one another because of their identical attitudes towards
some common objects and goals. Attempts are made to
maintain a symmetrical balance between the attraction
and the common attitudes.
The exchange theory, which is based upon rewards-costs
results of interaction, also deserves attention. A minimum
positive level (i.e. rewards exceeding costs) of a result must
be maintained so that attraction occurs. Here, rewards
from interaction satisfy needs while costs cause tension.
(Dwivedi 2001, p.265-269)
There are two other theories that assert that homogeneity
has primacy in forming of groups. Research on both
similarity-attraction theory and self-categorization theory
suggests that people are likely to be attracted more to those
who are similar on demographic characteristics such as
race, age, and gender. Thus, it has been suggested that
self-organized groups will tend to be homogeneous.

Process of Group Formation


Planning Group Formation in Social

Group Work
Group workers form groups frequently in social agencies,
court services, clinics, hospitals and schools. Groups may
be formed around specific symptoms (epilepsy, bedwetting); certain behaviours (groups of hyperactive or
withdrawn children); or specific forms of treatment
(patients undergoing by-pass surgery). Groups may be
formed around common concerns of people for others:
parents seeking or needing help with problems of their
children; relatives trying to understand their mentally sick
spouses, parents or children; citizens working on specific
community problems such as housing, playgrounds, better
schools or health facilities, sanitation or provision of other
civic amenities. (Konopka, 1972; p.42) Support or selfhelp groups are formed by people who share common
concerns. The groups may be participant-initiated or
sponsored by a health care institution, social services
agency or nonprofit organization.
Various definitions of social group work highlight the fact
that it is a purposeful activity; it is planned; and it covers
within its purview individuals, groups, group worker, social
agency and the community in which the group and social
agency operate.
Primary purposes of social group work include helping
individuals with their social functioning (Konopka, 1963)
as also providing a context in which individuals help each
other; it aims at helping groups as well as individuals;
and it can enable individuals and groups to influence and
change personal, group, organizational and community
problems. (Brown, 1986)
Planning a Group
All social work activity is a planned and purposeful. Very
often, in a rush to get a group going, adequate attention is


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

not given to planning. As stated earlier, a thorough

planning is essential for the success of a social work group.
According to Northen and Kurland (2001, p.109-111)
planning comprises the thinking, preparation, decision
making, and actions of the social worker prior to the first
meeting of a group. Within the social and agency contexts
of service, the following interrelated components of
planning need to be considered for the formation of the

Need what are the problems, issues and areas of

concern of the prospective group members


Purpose Purpose flows out of the previous component

of Need. What ends and objectives will the group
pursue collectively? What are the goals of the group
members individually?


Composition - How many members will there be in

the group? What are important points of similarities
and differences between them?


Structure Specific arrangements to facilitate the

conduct of the group, especially in terms of time and


Content What will actually take place in the group?


Pre-group contact

If the group membership is predetermined, the process

starts from composition, for example, all female students
studying in a particular class of a school or an entire floor
of a residential institution. The worker then tries to
ascertain the needs, capabilities and motivations of the
persons mandated to be in the group; determines the
purpose, structure, and content and engages in pre-group

Process of Group Formation


Components of Purpose and Composition listed above are

explained further.
Purpose: There is need to find the best fit among different
perceptions of purpose of the proposed group the purpose
envisaged by the agency, the group worker, the individual
member and the group as a whole. Purpose defines the
type of the proposed group (Northen and Kurland, 2001,

Socialization and growth-oriented groups- to develop

members competence in area of common need, to
enhance personal growth and to cope with challenges
of developmental tasks;


Support and self-help groups: to provide peer support

and mutual aid in relieving stress related to difficult
life situation, to fight discrimination and enhance selfesteem when persons are stigmatized as a result of
other persons lack of understanding or prejudice
concerning their ethnicity, situation, illness, or


Task groups, teams and social action groups: to

accomplish a particular task. The boundaries of
purpose in Growth-oriented and task groups may often
get blurred overtime.

Composition: Composition refers to the number and

characteristics of both members and the worker who will
participate in the group. An understanding of need and a
tentative formulation of purpose are key determinants of
composition. (Malekoff, 2004, p.70)
A widely accepted principle of composition is that the group
should be similar (homogenous) enough to ensure
commonality of need / interest and compatibility but
disparate (heterogeneous) enough to ensure that members


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

will contribute to each others benefit. Referring to number

of studies, Benson (1987, p.23) states that a group is more
effective if members have similar descriptive attributes (age,
caste, gender, residence or geographical proximity, marital
status, disability or difficult social situation, occupation
or socio-economic status, etc.) as this encourages cohesion,
interactiveness and compatibility. On the other hand,
different behavioural attributes (ability to communicate,
motivational levels, ability to relate to others, degree of
disturbance etc.) will be useful to the group in fostering
interest and responsiveness. Knowledge of interests
(assumed, expressed or implicit), needs, motivations and
aspirations and their social milieu helps worker to make
reliable assessment of potential members to anticipate
members behaviour and responses in the proposed group.
In the therapy groups, extensive formal intake interviews
are required to identify the members likely to benefit most
from the proposed group.
Decisions to be taken
Much before the group is brought into existence or formed
and the method of group work applied, the professional
social worker has to find answers to some important
questions and take certain decisions.

What are the aims, mission and programmes of the

social agency or any other auspices within which social
worker is operating?


Who constitute the target groups of the social agency?


Is group work the best way to help the target group?

Can individuals better be helped through use of case
work? Are there some needs, problems or concerns
which are shared by a number of people for whom
some common aim can be identified? Is the group likely

Process of Group Formation


to be a useful and efficient device for helping the target

population? To decide to use groups because it is
comparatively economical (vis--vis case work) is a
mistaken notion. Group work has its own demands
on the worker and the members which require serious

Is using groups to help people feasible in terms of

required resources in terms of time, space, equipment,
finances or skills, necessary support and social
environment? What are the likely costs and benefits
of joining the group for the prospective members and
for those outside the group?


Since usually the professional social workers are not

trained in the use of specific methods of social work
(especially in generic courses), the worker planning
to form the group needs to ascertain his / her own
expertise and comfort level in working with groups.


What is the specific purpose of the group under

consideration? Who decides the purpose for the group
the agencys service delivery system, the workers
perception or judgment, some social group or an
individual in the community?


What benefits can the worker hope to procure for the

persons drawn from the target population? The
purpose of the group may develop from the client group
of the social agency or from the agencys decision itself.


Who are the prospective members of the group? How

will they be selected and enlisted in the group?


Are you acquainted with the population group from

where the members will be drawn? Often, while
working in a community, a residential institution,
hospital or school, the worker may be familiar to the
persons in the target group. However, the decision to


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

form a group will require deeper insight into potential

members personal characteristics and their capacity
to benefit from group experiences.
10) Will the selection of the members be on the basis of -

self-selection where individuals are free to come

together on their own, such groups tending to be
of people known to each other, having affinity in
some area of common interest.

the worker deliberately selects prospective

members according to their interest, skill, need,
problem or concern keeping also in mind the
purpose of the proposed group;

membership is mandated by some authority as in

the case of delinquents / probationers mandated
by the Courts; or the Principal of a school directing
students engaged in indiscipline to report in a

11) The group worker needs to make detailed planning

decisions about the structure and character of the
Thinking out a suitable group structure for a
population of persons is a fairly complex task which
requires an understanding of the population,
information about the range of groups which can be
designed, and an appreciation of the demands which
different structures make on group members and of
the experiences which different structures are likely
to generate (Whitaker1985, p 12)

What is the expected duration of the group in terms

of number of sessions (say, 10 to 20 sessions) after

Process of Group Formation


which the group is expected to disband or

terminate, or it will be open-ended as it very often
happens in groups in the open community, or in
residential institutions where the inmates
population is fluid because the inmates may get
discharged and new inmates join in.

What will be the duration and frequency of the

sessions, for example, weekly sessions of one or
one-and-half hour each.

What will be the size of the proposed group? How

many members will be enrolled? Social group work
is more effective in small groups as it facilitates
interactions, communication and efficient role
performance. Usually the preferred size is 7-8
members but the range of 5-10 members is
acceptable (Yalom quoted by Northen & Kurland,
2001, p.136). However, depending on the purpose,
a relatively larger group also may work well.
Another determinant of the size is the prospective
members capacity to interact in groups. For
members with limited interactional skills, the size
of the group could be limited to 4-5 persons (e.g.,
in case of mentally challenged children)

Decision about the composition of the group has

to be made right at the planning stage. We have
already referred to the issue of homogeneity and
heterogeneity among the members (i.e., similarity
or dissimilarity along social categories like age,
gender, minority status, ethnicity, social problems,
etc) as also the factors which may influence
members willingness to join in the proposed group.
In therapy oriented groups size and composition
are of vital significance.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

What programme will be followed in the group

discussions open or topic oriented; activities
games, art & craft work, drama, role plays,
simulation, community service etc.; get-togethers
or combination of these?

What resources in terms of space, time, finances

and technology will be required by the group? Are
the same available in the agency / community or
do they need to be generated?

12) Does the worker need to make pre-group contacts with

prospective members or engage in some preparatory
work with them?
13) Deciding how to open the group, how to monitor the
group through its life span, how to evaluate the
groups performance and development, and when and
how to terminate the group is equally important for
efficient planning of a group.
14) In many of the non-social work institutions like
schools, hospitals, prisons the social worker needs
co-operation and support of staff belonging to other
disciplines. It is important to ensure that the proposed
group will receive necessary support from other staff
of the agency.
15) The worker has to ascertain whether s/he needs
permission of some authority for launching the
proposed group. In case of community based self-help
groups, support and sanction of community leaders
is often vital for the success of the group.

Process of Group Formation Tasks

Undertaken by the Social Group Worker
We mentioned in the forgoing discussion that the worker
has to find answers to certain important questions while

Process of Group Formation


embarking on the use of a group to help the target group.

Now we will outline the actual tasks the worker has to
engage in to initiate the process of group formation.

Once the use of group has been accepted as the best

possible option (after considering different alternatives)
for helping the designated population group, the group
worker has to formulate a tentative purpose for the
group. The worker identifies a common need or
concern of the target group and translates that need
into a tentative purpose of the prospective group. The
following situations may illustrate the rationale for
selecting group work as a better option to help:
a) several people facing similar situation can benefit
from sharing their experiences (parents of mentally
challenged children);
b) persons belonging to same stage of development
like adolescents who can benefit from positive
group experiences;
c) when individuals have problems with authority
figures, in relating to others or having problem of
d) when the target for change is in the social
environment like sanitation, educational or health
services and the need is for enhanced civic
e) when people wish or need to avail of the benefit of
some beneficiary-oriented scheme of the govt.
which requires formation of a group, like self-help
groups for procuring microcredit.


If the worker is required to work with an already

existing group, s/he needs to comprehend its purpose
before s/he begins work with the group.



Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Achieving optimally effective composition of the group

is a crucial task during the formation process.
Will the group constitute only of women or young girls,
only of men or male youth, of children, of able-bodied
or differently-abled persons; will it be a mix of persons
belonging to different regions, religions, languages and
cultural background, with different educational and
socio-economic status? This decision will largely be
based on the tentative purpose formulated, anticipated
member behaviour and emotional response to
prospective members and the knowledge of the
patterns of habitual social intercourse prevailing in
the larger population group. For example in Indian
society, groups with the mix of genders are socially
not very acceptable, unless the groups purpose is
task-oriented (for example in the corporate sector)
which may benefit by a combination of diverse skills
and perspectives; or a group composed of all aggressive
or all withdrawn persons may not benefit from
interaction with each other.
Who is selected to be the member of the proposed group
has lasting impact on the individual member and the
group as a whole. If persons are placed in groups that
are unsuitable for them, they may be harmed by the
membership or may drop out of the group. Different
results flow from different combination of people. What
is important is to see that there is a good fit between
any one person and the other group members.
(Northen & Kurland, 2001, p.129)
The size of the group should be determined by the
nature of interaction among the members and their
participation necessary for achieving the purpose of
the individual members and the group as a whole.

Process of Group Formation



The worker identifies potential members from the

designated population group on the basis of different
criteria mentioned earlier.
a) The worker may select members from students of
a class; from a list prepared on the basis of a survey
of the families below poverty line or of children
afflicted with some specified disability; from the
census report; from membership of previous
groups; from the list of persons who may have
applied for a particular course or training; or the
official records of courts, hospitals, therapists,
psychiatric clinics etc.
b) The worker may need to advertise (by word of
mouth, leaflets, posters, ads in the newspapers,
letters to the institutions like schools from where
the potential members can be drawn), state the
purpose of initiating the group and invite members
to join.

In a community-based agency, the worker

talked to the community leaders, local MLA
and Municipal Councillor, visited the potential
members personally and explained the
purpose of the group and its likely benefits
for them.


In an epilepsy clinic for children, parents

accompanying their wards were contacted by
the social worker and the purpose, content
and structure of the proposed group was
explained to them personally.


In a residential Home for destitute children,

the worker, though known to the inmates on
account of her different responsibilities,
explored the strengths and liabilities of the
prospective members in terms of the purpose


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

envisaged, the contribution expected of the

members for the proposed group and informed
all potential members about the group to be
launched and its purpose and structure.

Pre-group contacts form a significant part of the

workers tasks during the group formation process.
The aim of these contacts is to secure appropriate
members for the group being planned and their
preparation for participation in that group. Through
these contacts, the people in the target population
get to know the availability and nature of the groupbased service, their eligibility for that service, ascertain
if their goals are similar to others to be met through
the group and prepare them for entry in the particular
group. (Northen & Kurland, 2001, p.155). The abovementioned tasks may require more than one visit or
meeting. The worker informs the potential members
the tentatively planned group structure, the duration
and the frequency of the sessions. In case of a group
of children or young adults, pre-group contacts also
entail meeting the parents / family members to apprise
them of the proposed group, its purpose, the benefits
it will offer and its structure. Pre-group contacts may
occur during a meeting of the community residents
and community leaders or during some social /
religious event during which the worker gets an
opportunity to introduce the group to be launched.


Pre-group interview (one or more than one) with

potential member helps clarify and alleviate members
anxiety about the groups structure, expectations of
the group in terms of his role, response of other
members towards his membership. It brings out
valuable data about the members attitudes,
perception of his need, life situation or difficulty; and
his capacity to relate to and to communicate with

Process of Group Formation


In therapy groups, Intake interviews are held with

individuals to arrive at an in-depth assessment of the
nature and severity of the problem, difficulty or
situation; on the basis of which their compatibility or
incompatibility to group membership may be decided.

Even when the potential members are convinced of

the purpose of the group, they may be anxious to know
as to what exactly is expected of them, how will the
group work and what will the other members be like.


Pre-group contact also initiates worker member

relationship, whether conducted through an individual
interview, a visit to the locality of the potential
members, or in a meeting held in the community.


Certain rules and norms that the members are

expected to observe initially, the issues of
confidentiality, democratic participation, antidiscrimination, and the manner of modifying the norms
need to be shared with the potential members during
pre-group contacts.

Right from the point of worker / agency agreeing to plan

the group; spelling out its purpose, structure, membership;
undertaking publicity; selection and recruitment of
potential members, worker has to perform numerous
important tasks which have long lasting impact on the
groups success in terms of achievement of its goal
individual members and the group. Planning the entire
process of group formation before the group has its first
meeting is vital for the groups success.

Practice Principles: Guidelines for Group

A number of practitioners and authors have formulated
Practice Principles for effective and efficient group work


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

practice. Some of these are particularly concerned with

the group formation phase of group work. These principles
offer guidelines to the worker for securing effective
formation of the proposed group.

Comfort level of the worker - Since the professional

social workers are usually not trained in the use of
specific methods of social work (especially in generic
courses), the worker planning to form the group needs
to ascertain his / her own expertise and comfort level
in working with groups. Whether the worker needs to
enhance his / her knowledge and skills before
embarking on group formation or to enlist the help of
a more experienced co- worker is an important issue
to be resolved.


Planning for a groups formation is a most vital step in

the group based service to the target population. To
avoid its conflict with the value of clients right to
self-determination the plan should not be rigid. In fact,
flexibility and creativity are two essential attributes of
planning undertaken for group formation.


Secure organizational support and sanction for group,

and address organizational resistance to groups if


The purpose of forming the group in view should be

clearly for the benefit and service of the target
population and not merely to receive aid and grants
from some financing organization, to collect data for
an undisclosed purpose, or to project certain image
in the community. This kind of hidden agenda involves
manipulation of the target groups and is unethical


Develop and articulate verbally and/or in writing a

clear statement of group purpose that reflects member

Process of Group Formation


needs and, where appropriate, agency mission.

(AASGW) According to Newstetter, the deliberate
formation of a new group should be encouraged only
after the careful review of three considerations: a) the
interests, abilities, experiences and needs of each
prospective individual member, b) the agencys
purpose, c) the availability of suitable facilities,
leadership and supervision. (1980, p.101)

The workers often feel uncomfortable in honestly

admitting of the purpose envisaged by them or by the
agency. They feel that the purpose as it appears in
the blue print of the plan may not sound too attractive
to the prospective members and, therefore, speak of
the purpose in terms which they think may be
acceptable to the prospective members. This is likely
to create mistrust, confusion and anxiety among the
potential members.


Particularly in the case of involuntary groups

(mandated membership like in groups under court
order or students under suspension for indiscipline),
the clarity in the statement of purpose, the proposed
group structure and content is very vital to win
prospective members, participation, interaction and


Develop and articulate clear statement of worker role

that reflects the groups purpose.


Use preparatory empathy to tune into members

feelings and reactions to groups beginning.

10) Tuning-in helps the worker anticipate members needs

and feelings and develop preliminary empathy. The
worker also tunes-in to ones own feelings, attitudes
and thoughts about the ensuing group encounter.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

11) Establish meeting place, time, etc. that promotes

member comfort and cohesion.
12) Negotiation and contracting with the members in the
context of purpose, structure and norms of the
proposed group contribute significantly to future
stability and cohesiveness of the group.
13) Groups need to be formed in a way that enables them
to do the work that they will be asked to do. This
involves minimizing barriers to group cohesiveness
and then giving them the resources they need (in terms
of talent, time, etc.).
14) For the formation to be efficient, group workers need
to take into account any constraints that can influence
the performance of the group as a whole and that of
the individuals within the group, such as their previous
experience, gender, ethnicity, and interests.
15) The worker needs to pay special attention to
composition issues to achieve a balanced group.
16) The worker is accountable for his /her professional
expertise which is made available for the service of
the people. While formulating Standards for Social
Work Practice with Groups, AASGW recommended the
following areas of knowledge for the group worker at
the pre-group stage:
A) Organizations mission and function and how this
influences nature of group work service
B) Social and institutional barriers which may impact
on the development of group work service
C) Issues associated with group composition
D) Human life cycle and its relationship to potential
members needs

Process of Group Formation


E) Cultural factors and their influence on potential

members lives and their ability to engage in group
and relate to others
F) Types of groups and their relationship to member
G) Specific types of individual and social problems
that lead to a need for group

Getting a group formed takes time and skills. Called
variously as the group formation stage, pre-group or preaffiliation stage, it requires thoughtful and serious planning
and its rigorous and patient execution before the first
meeting of the group is ever conducted.
Group formation constitutes of a series of interconnected
activities, which are based on a judicious and well thought
out plan. Society, social agency, the social group worker
and the people availing of the group-based services together
determine what kind of group is planned and launched;
who join the proposed group and why; and what is going
to happen in the group in the forthcoming period.
Prior to the first meeting, a conception of the necessity
and utility of group experience has to be framed in the
contexts of the worker / agency perceptions, which in turn,
is based on the workers personal and professional
experiences, knowledge of human development and social
systems. Other relevant factors follow from this initial
conceptualization. The major components of the group
formation plan embedded in the social and agency contexts
are need, purpose, structure, content and pre-group


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Worker has to engage in a number of tasks to recruit and

prepare potential members for the proposed group. How
balanced a group membership is managed by the worker
will ensure, to a great extent, the success of the group in
terms of achievement of individual / group / agency goals.
You have learnt practice principles particularly relevant
to pre-group or group formation. These principles go a
long way in guiding group formation process along effective
and ethical pathways.


Malekoff, Andrew, Group Work with Adolescents:

Principles and Practice, The Guilford Press, New York,
2nd Edition, 2004


Wilson, Gertrude, Ryland, Gladys, Social Group Work

Practice: The Creative Use of the Social Process,
Houghton Mifflin Co., The Riberside Press,
Cambridge, USA, 1949.


Brown, Allan, Groupwork, Gower Publishing

Company Ltd., Aldershot 2nd ed. 1986


Johnson, Louise C., Social Work Practice: A

Generalist Approach, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 6th


Northen, Helen & Kurland, Roselle, Social Work with

Groups, Columbia University Press, New York, 3rd


Benson, Jarlath F., Working More Creatively with

Groups, Tavistock Publications, London, 1987


Konopka, Gisela, Social group Work: A Helping

Process, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N. J.,
1972, 1963

Process of Group Formation



Balgopal, Pallassana R. & Vassil, Thomas V., Groups

in Social Work- An Ecological Perspective, Macmillan
Publishing Co. Inc., New York, 1983


Association for the Advancement of Social Work with

Groups, Inc., Standards for Social Work Practice with
Groups, AASWG, Alexandria, VA, 2nd ed., 2006


Whitaker, Dorothy Stock, Using Groups to Help

People, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1985


Newstetter, Wilber, Regulatory Principles, in Albert

S. Alissi (ed.) Perspectives on Social Group Work
Practice: A Book of Readings, The Free Press, New
York, 1980.


Dwivedi, R. S., Human Relations and Organisational

Behaviour: A Global Perspective, Macmillan India
Ltd., Delhi, 2001, 5th Ed. Pp 265-269


Tosi, H.L., Rizzo, J.R., & Carroll, S.J. 1986. Managing

Organizational Behaviour. NewYork, NY: Pitman
(Quoted in Management of agricultural research: A
training manual. Module 4: Leadership, http://


Cartwright, D., Zander, A. (eds.), Group Dynamics,

Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1968.


Cottam Martha L., Dietz-Uhler Beth, Masters Elena

M., Preston Thomas, Introduction to Political
Psychology , Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah,
New Jersey, London 2004


Roth, Jeffrey D., Dynamics differ when group is

mandated to participate, Addiction Professional, 2005


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Baugher, Dan, Varanelli Jr., Andrew,.and Weisbord,

Ellen, Gender And Culture Diversity Occurring In
Self-formed Work Groups, Journal of Managerial
Issues Volume XII Number 4 Winter 2000


Ounnas, Asma, Semantic (Group Formation), PhD

Research Proposal, 2007 University of Southampton,


Process of Group Formation

Values and Principles in

Social Group Work
*Ranjana Sehgal

No man is an island unto himself said John Donne and
rightly so. Human beings were not meant to live alone.
The process of growing up takes place in one or the other
group; be it family, peers, neighbourhood or community.
Man is a social being and cannot survive alone. Group life
is thus, basic to human life. A group is a collection of
human beings who enter into social relationships with one
another involving mutual give and take.
Social Group Work is focused around a group; it
emphasizes the intellectual, social and emotional growth
and development of the members of the group. It is a
process in which a qualified social work practitioner helps
individuals in a group to have a satisfactory group
experience through different programs aimed at enhancing
their psycho-social functioning. It is through different
activities in a group situation that an individual is able to
discover her/his hidden strengths, talents and abilities.
Social Group Work plays a vital role in the all round
development of an individual, thereby contributes to
the better functioning of the community and society as a

*Dr. Ranjana Sehgal, Indore School of Social Work, Indore


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Social Group Workers have an ethical obligation to function

within the confines of a theoretical base comprising of
tested interventions and principles of practice. The Social
Group Work as a method of social work has embraced a
set of values which have been translated into certain
principles which seek to govern the conduct of
practitioners. We shall now take a look at the values and
the principles that define the Social Group Work practice.

Values in Social Group Work

Observations pertaining to the fact that groups influence
the psycho-social and psychological makeup of man have
been the bedrock of the theoretical and value base of Social
Group Work. All professions have value preferences that
give purpose , meaning and direction to people who practice
within them.Professional values however do not exist
separate and apart from societal values; rather professions
espouse and champion selected societal values. (Hepworth
and Larsen, 1992,) According to Northen (2007) values
are abstract propositions about what is right, desirable or
worthwhile. Values of group work refer to how the
practitioner should view and treat people, their goals and
how these goals should be reached during the process. In
a profession, the values are translated into ethical
principles of practice. According to the National Association
of Social workers (NASW) code of ethics broad ethical
principles are based on social works core values of service,
social justice, dignity and worth of individual, importance
of human relationships, integrity and competence. These
principles set forth ideals to which all social workers should
The basic values of group work deal with human
relationships. These basic values as conceptualized by
Northen (2007: 77) are given below:

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


Dignity and Worth

Like in case work and community organization, an
important value of Social Group Work is the belief in the
inherent worth and dignity of each person. All persons
should be accepted as they are and their special strengths
recognized. They should be treated with respect irrespective
of their differences and similarities and their integrity is of
paramount importance. Every individual is unique and
has an inherent worth, interactions with them as they use
resources and opportunities should not hurt rather should
enhance their dignity and individuality. Without fear of
negative sanctions, they should have the freedom to
express themselves. The group worker should recognize
the value that every member no matter whatever are her/
his drawbacks and handicaps has worth and deserves to
be respected and treated as a dignified member of the
Social Justice
Inherent in all social work is the value of promoting social
justice wherin all should have equal access to resources
and opportunities. Everybody has the right to civil liberties
and equal opportunity without discrimination as to race,
ethnicity religion, social class, gender, sexual orientation,
and capacities. They should have access to resources that
are essential to meet their basic needs. They have the right
to self-determination and to participate in making group,
family, or organizational decisions within the limits
imposed by the individuals culture and status. Individuals
may sometimes need resources that are not available, the
worker has to then take on the role of an advocate and
take up their cause. S/he may organize support groups
and self-help groups to help people cope with the difficult
problems of their living.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Mutual Responsibility
The value of mutual responsibility is based on the
conviction that people are interdependent for survival and
fulfillment of their needs. Neither the individual nor the
society can be conceived without each other. As individuals
interact, they influence and in turn are influenced by each
other. They are capable of helping one another. Group work
builds on this interdependence, which can become a potent
force for development and change. The worker is
responsible for helping members to develop patterns of
communication and norms of behaviour that foster mutual
aid. Members should fulfill their responsibility to society
by actively participating in the democratic processes.
Northen (2007) is of the view that though social workers
are bound by ethical principles set forth in the codes of
ethics, they need also to understand and differentially
apply these principles, when working with groups.

Principles of Social Group Work

Principles are the fundamental truths tested by observation
and experiment which guide action. Over the years from
social group work practice, have emerged certain principles
which provide a theoretical framework to the practitioners
while working with people in groups. They provide a set of
guidelines which help them achieve a certain level of
competence by guiding practice. Social workers with
groups have a responsibility to practice within the realm
of the accumulated theoretical base, tested interventions,
and ethical principles. (Northen, 2007)
Social science theory is always in a fluid state, as it keeps
changing and evolving. The principles of Social Group Work
too will keep changing in tandem with our progressive
experience and discovery of new insights into social group

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


work as a method of social work. Different authors have

outlined different principles of working with groups from
time to time, conceptualizing the important areas of focus
for the Social Group Worker. It is not possible here to
discuss all the principles put forth by different authors,
therefore we shall outline the principles propounded by
only two authors, reflecting the earlier and the modern
day thinking, respectively.
In 1948 Harleigh B. Trecker wrote at great length about
the principles of Social Group Work in his famous book
Social Group Work: Principles and Practice which is still
read widely. The ten principles of Social Group Work as
conceptualized by Trecker are briefly discussed below
outlining the main points:
The Principle of Planned Group Formation
The Social Group Work process uses group as a medium
for providing services to the individual, hence the formation
of a group is a prerequisite for a group worker. Whether a
group worker works with groups already functioning or
forms her own group, s/he should be aware of certain
factors while forming a group so that the group becomes a
positive potential for individual growth.
A group has to be formed in a planned way before initiating
the group work process. From what is explained by Trecker
we can say this principle comprises the following

Groups like individuals are different, evolving,

developmental and ever-changing and tremendously
influential upon the behaviour of individuals.

The group in Social Group Work must possess

elements of conscious design and plan.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The group worker should not seek to require all groups

to be alike nor expect them to meet identical needs.

The group workers skill will be evident in the way s/

he consciously gives aid at the point of group

In India group formation can become a difficult exercise

as the people may lack the motivation to join a group and
may do so after much persuasion. So the group worker
must have the skill to deal with the resistance of such
members. The group worker should be equipped with an
in-depth understanding of the client population, and pay
attention to inter- personal compatibility and other factors
such as age, caste, gender, socio-cultural background etc.
The Principle of Specific Group Objectives
Specific objectives of individual and group development
must be consciously formulated by the worker in harmony
with group wishes and capacities and in keeping with
agency function. The group worker should help the
members achieve the overall objectives of social work
through its own specific objectives, which are to assist
individuals to grow and change; supplement emotional and
social nourishment; promote democratic participation and
remedy individual and social disorganization.

Agencies and their workers must be aware of what

people want from group experiences and help them to
get it.

The group worker who recognizes the need for

consciously formulated specific objectives for
individuals and groups becomes a purposeful, rather
than an unfocused worker and makes the group work
in a planned than haphazard exercise.

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


Objectives, thus, become a controlling force in the life

of the group and the group worker should have clarity
about the specific goals s/he wants to achieve along
with the benefits s/he is hoping the members would

When the worker focuses on individual and group

objectives, s/ he reduces the likelihood of permitting
her/his own needs to get in the way of the group.

S/he helps the members to see their strengths and

limitations and set their objectives accordingly, in
alignment with the agencys formulated purposes.

The expectations and the aspirations of the members

should also be given due weightage while formulating
the objectives and activities planned accordingly.

The Principle of Purposeful Worker Group Relationship

A consciously purposeful relationship must be established
between the worker and the group members based on
mutual acceptance. This principle is based on the premise
that it is both possible and necessary to create an effective
working relationship with a group before the worker can
be of any help.

Before the worker helps the group members to develop

meaningful relationships with each other, s/he should
first create a meaningful and purposeful relationship
with the group.

The workers relationship with the group is a major

tool, and the quality and strength of this relationship
determine the extent to which the group can be helped
to the fullest realization of its potentialities.

When the group workers adopt the procedures

suggested by this principle, they begin their work


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

motivated by an initial desire to understand the group

as a basis for helping it.

By encouraging the group to be itself and accepting

it as it is, the worker becomes accepted and helpful to
the group.

The Principle of Continuous Individualization

Groups are different and individuals utilize group
experiences in a variety of ways to meet their differing
needs; consequently, the principle of continuous
individualization must be practiced by the group worker.
Each group has to be seen as unique, different from any
other group, like the members in the group.

When the group worker individualizes a group, she

accepts the fact that human beings are naturally

To work with groups in awareness of their differences

as well as similarities is a reinforcement of the belief
that people have a capacity to change, when given
adequate opportunities for and help in changing.

The worker should be ready for a variety of individual

responses rather than a uniformity of response.

S/he should accept the differences in individual ability

and growth; strive to help individuals understand
themselves and help them modify their behaviour
towards those who have special needs.

Individualization should be a continuous process on

the part of the group worker who accepts the certainty
of change.

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


The Principle of Guided Group Interaction

Social Group Work is a method through which individuals
in groups in an agency setting are helped by a
professionally trained worker who guides their interaction
in various program activities. The idea is that they relate
themselves with others and experience growth
opportunities in accordance with their needs and

Interaction is a process whereby two or more persons

are in a meaningful contact, whereby their behaviour
is modified.

When people are in groups, the possibility of

interaction and inter-stimulation are always present.

The main source of energy which propels the group is

the interaction of the members and the group worker
influences this interaction by the quality of her/his

As the possibility of inter-stimulation through

interaction is always present in a group, the Social
Group Worker must harness and consciously direct
and utilize this natural social process.

The presence of the worker whose role is to actively

influence the type and the degree of interaction,
converts the social process into the social group work

The worker is primarily interested in helping to bring

about individual growth and social development for
the group as a whole as a result of guided group

S/he enhances the potential for interaction by helping

members to assume participating roles.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The Social Group Worker uses methods that stimulate

the group to the fullest possible analysis and
understanding of their own situation and thereupon
influence the social interaction of the constituent
members of the society

The Principle of Democratic Group Self-Determination

The Principle of self-determination is a core value of the
social work philosophy and has to be practiced, irrespective
of the method of working. In Social Group Work method,
as in other methods of social work this principle is of great
significance. The idea is to inculcate in the members an
ideology of democracy.

The group must be helped to make its own decisions

and determine its own activities, taking the maximum
amount of responsibility in line with its capacity and

The group has a right to make its own choices and the
capacity to make satisfactory decisions.

The aim of the group worker is to encourage an everincreasing capacity on the part of the group to take
responsibility for its actions.

This principle assumes that groups can develop only

when they are given opportunity to behave responsibly
but it is to be consciously judged as to how much
responsibility a group can be asked to assume at any
point in its development.

The group worker must first help the group to develop

a conscious group-self before it can become
responsibly self determining.

The worker should give up any need to dominate the

group and instead work with the group on the basis

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


of her/his ability to share her/his wide experience

and competence.
The Principle of Flexible Functional Organization
Every group has some informal organization of its
constituent members that enables it to function. As the
group is formed for specific objectives, it should also have
a formal organization to help it achieve these objectives.
This formal organization should meet a felt need, be
flexible, adaptive and should change as the group changes.

The principle does not imply that group worker should

organize the group; rather she should help the group
organize itself.

The group should be encouraged to explore its needs,

set its objectives and determine specific functions and
helped by the group worker to make its own decisions.

The worker should help the group to determine who

should take the leadership assignments along with
the qualifications and expectations, so that the
members are aware of what the group expects from

Not only the structural details of this formal

organization, but the process through which the
worker guides the group to have a formal organization
is equally important.

Group efforts which may be scattered and haphazard

become focused when formal organization is made
available, as it allows the energies of the group
members to be properly channelized.

Tasks and duties should be identified and allocated in

an orderly manner and members helped and
encouraged to assume responsibilities. The process
to organize itself is an excellent vehicle for growth.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The formal group organization should be simple, stable

yet flexible, open to changes as per group needs.

The experiences of the group members in solving the

organizational problems are no less valuable than the
other program experiences.

The Principle of Progressive Program Experiences

Program in Social Group Work does not only mean the
activities or events but is a broad concept that includes
the entire range of individual and group relationships,
interactions and experiences deliberately planned and
carried out with the help of the group worker to achieve
the group goals.

The group worker should not impose her/his program

plan on the group but help the group to develop its
own program by extending to the group a variety of
choices. S/he may only make suggestions as to
possible programmes.

The program development is a continuous process and

grows out of group potentialities.

This principle implies that there is starting point for

all group programmes. Small beginnings can
culminate into bigger and more challenging tasks as
the group progresses.

The program experiences in which the groups engage

should begin at the level of member interest, need,
experience and competence and should develop in
tandem with the developing capacity of the group.

The worker should help the group to enjoy a

progressive series of program experiences in
consonance with the groups potential and capacities.
The group cannot be expected to do the same thing
all the time.

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


After success in simple activities, the group can be

encouraged to move to more complex experiences.

The Principle of Resource Utilization

This principle guides the group worker to utilize the
available resources to enrich the content of the group
experience for individuals and group as a whole. For this
it is imperative that the Social Group Worker should
possess knowledge about the resources available in the
group, agency and the community. S/he should use her/
his skill in locating and then acquainting the group with
the various resources which can be utilized by the group
for different programs.

The worker serves as a liaison between the group and

the community and her/his ability becomes apparent
in the skill with which she draws upon the

S/he not only helps to stimulate the group to action

but also helps them to discover and use the agency
and community resources and those within the group.
She must ensure that the members procure the
required material for the smooth conduct of the group

S/he should take initiative in mobilizing both material

and human resources and oversee the utilization of
the available resources by the members for the
common good.

The Principle of Evaluation

Continuous evaluation of process and programs in terms
of outcomes by the worker, agency and the members is
not only desirable, albeit essential. Carefully maintained
records can facilitate proper monitoring and evaluation.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The social group worker should carry out the

evaluation of the outcomes in a carefully planned

Maintaining records in a systematic and orderly way

aids the evaluation process.

Evaluation carried out in an objective and neutral way

helps in revealing the extent to which the group has
been successful in achieving the group goals.

A feedback from the members along with the

observation and assessment of the worker help the
group members develop insights into their strengths
and weaknesses.

Evaluation should be done at the end of each session

and at the time of the termination.

According to Siddiqui, the evaluation of the group work

generally focuses on the following points:

What group goals have been achieved?

What individual needs have been met?

What programme and activities have been successful?

What are the shortcomings?

What changes will help improve the effectiveness of

the intervention?

Without continuous evaluation objectives become

outmoded, programs become static and groups fail to meet
needs. It is the fundamental obligation of every worker
and every agency to rethink and reorganize its practice in
the light of thoughtful evaluation. (Trecker, 1955) p. 219

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


Reflecting the modern perspective, different from the earlier

conceptualization focusing on the therapeutic power of
the group, we have Sharry who in his book Solution
Focused Group Work has put forward some principles of
Social Group Work which we have listed below:

Focusing on Change and Possibilities


Creating Goals and Preferred Futures


Building Strengths, Skills and Resources


Looking for Whats Right and Whats Working


Being Respectfully curious


Creating Co-Operation and Collaboration


Using humour and Creativity

The principles as underlined by Sharry show a shift in

focus from problems to solutions, self-help and
competence. He emphasizes the therapeutic objective and
power of group, which he calls solution focused brief

Social Group Workers have an ethical obligation to function
within the confines of a theoretical base comprising of
tested interventions and principles of practice. The aim of
this chapter was to make the learner understand the values
and principles a professional social worker should follow
in group work practice that help in achieving the goals of
profession. Social group work as a method of social work
has embraced a set of values which have been translated
into certain principles that govern the conduct of
practitioners. According to the National Association of
Social workers (NASW) code of ethics broad ethical


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

principles are based on social works core values of service,

social justice, dignity and worth of individual, importance
of human relationships, integrity and competence. These
principles set forth ideals to which all social workers should
The basic values of group work deal with human
relationships. These basic values profess belief in the
dignity and worth of the individual, social justice and
mutual responsibility. Everybody has the right to civil
liberties and equal opportunity without discrimination as
to race, ethnicity, religion, social class, gender, sexual
orientation, and capacities. The value of mutual
responsibility is based on the conviction that people are
interdependent for survival and fulfillment of their needs.
From Social Group Work practice over the years, have
emerged certain principles which provide a theoretical
framework to social group worker while working with
people in groups. They provide a set of guidelines which
guide practice. Different authors have outlined different
principles of working with groups from time to time,
conceptualizing the important areas of focus for the Social
Group Worker. Trecker has listed the following ten
The Principle of Planned Group formation
The Principle of Specific Group Objectives
The Principle of Purposeful Worker Group Relationship
The Principle of Continuous Individualization
The Principle of Guided Group Interaction
The Principle of Democratic Group self-Determination
The Principle of Flexible Functional Organization
The Principle of Progressive Program Experiences

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


The Principle of Resource Utilization

The Principle of Evaluation
Reflecting the modern perspective, focusing on the
therapeutic power of the group, Sharry in his book Solution
Focused Group Work has put forward the following
principles of Social Group Work :
Focusing on change and possibilities
Creating goals and preferred Futures
Building strengths, skills and resources
Looking for whats right and whats working
Being respectfully curious
Creating co-operation and collaboration
Using humour and Creativity
As social science theory is always in a fluid state and keeps
changing and evolving, of Social Group Work too will keep
evolving in tandem with our understanding of Social Group
Work as a method of social work.

Friedlander W.A (ed.) (1958) Concepts and Methods of
Social Work, Prentice Hall MC, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Garvin, Charles D. et al (eds.) (2008) Handbook of Social
Work With Groups, Rawat Publications, New Delhi.
Konopka Gisela (1963) Social Group Work: A Helping
Process, Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Hepworth, Dean.H. and Larsen, Jo Ann (1992) Direct Social
Work Practice: Theory and Skills, Brooks/Cole Publishing
Company, California. 4th ed.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Siddiqui, H.Y. (2008) Group Work: Theories and Practices,

Rawat Publications, New Delhi.
Trecker, Harleigh B (1955) Social Group Work- Principles
and Practices, New York: Association Press
Wilson, Gertrude and Gladys Ryland (1949) Social Group
Work Practice. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Values and Principles in Social Group Work


Leadership and Power

*R. Nalini

Leadership is an important requirement for social
development. We need individuals who can effectively steer
groups towards attainment of goals. However, research
and experience indicates that good leaders are hard to
come by, because of the qualities and abilities leadership
One finds individuals with a natural flair for leadership
and also individuals who are trained to be leaders. Both
the aspects of being a born leader or a trained leader is
feasible, according to behavioural scientists. Some authors
believe that individuals with substantial experience in
working with groups as members (prior to becoming group
leaders) are found to excel in leadership tasks. Thus,
leadership is an ability that grows out of partaking. While
India has had many charismatic leaders, especially in the
political arena, in this material we shall be looking at group
leaders and their profiles.

Group Leadership
Leadership is the capacity to motivate a group of
individuals towards fulfilment of groups objectives. The
capacity to motivate could derive from power that is both
formal and informal for formal and informal influence is
*Dr. R. Nalini, Pondicherry University, New Delhi


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

important in leadership. It is widely accepted that

leadership can transpire from within a group as well as by
formal appointment to lead a group. In social group work,
one finds and encourages emergence of leaders from within
the group.
Some kind of leadership is present in every group, though
it is not definite whether the group is aware of this fact. It
is also observed that the type of leadership has an effect
on the group. Depending on the objectives, nature, size
and composition of the group, leadership needs to evolve.

Group Leadership: A Skill

A skill is an ability that has to be learnt with training and
practice. However, there is many a difference between the
manual skills required for accomplishment of a task. For
instance, the potter making pots out of clay and sand in
various shapes and designs requires a different set of skills
in comparison to the intellectual skills required for
leadership. The potter can work with speed and dexterity
to produce 100 pots a day to near perfection, double the
speed of a beginner. This is obviously different in the case
of acquiring skills towards managing personal and group
affairs. The focus is on individual growth and on gaining
knowledge again dependent on enriching the realistic
aptitudes. All the way through this learning process the
emphasis is on painstaking understanding and forgetting
of the self. The leader has to consistently introspect his
skills and abilities the extent to which his approach is
stipulated by the expectations of those he wishes to
influence, and also by his own individuality.

Theories of Leadership
Several theories on leadership have been developed by
researchers studying leader behaviour. The broad basis

Leadership and Power


of understanding leader behaviour and its theorization has

been in the context of:

Leadership as a trait (inborn quality)

Leadership as a behaviour (acquired/attained through


Task oriented leadership

People oriented leadership

Trait Theory
The Trait Theory of leadership focuses on personal qualities
and characteristics that differentiate leaders from non
leaders. These traits are being charismatic, enthusiastic,
and courageous. The following traits are believed to be
possessed by leaders: desire to lead, ambition and energy,
honesty and integrity, self-confidence, intelligence, high
self-monitoring and job-relevant knowledge. Thus, traits
can predict leadership. They do a better job in predicting
the emergence of leaders and the appearance of leadership
in actually distinguishing between effective leaders and
ineffective leaders.
However, the fact that an individual exhibits the traits
and others consider that person to be a leader does not
necessarily mean that the leader is successful at getting
his group to achieve its goals.
Behavioural Theories of Leadership
These theories propose that specific behaviours
differentiate leaders from non leaders. While Trait theory
assumes that leaders are born rather than made, behaviour
theory believes that if there were specific behaviours that
identified leaders, then leadership could be taught through
effective training and other interventions.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Task Orientated Leadership

A task oriented leader is one who defines and structures
her role and those of the members towards fulfilment of
tasks. She plans, organizes and assigns tasks to group
members and insists on its completion within the
stipulated time.
People Orientated Leadership
A people oriented leader, on the other hand focuses on
relationships in the group, has high concern for the
members and their comfort level, emotional well-being and
contentment. She is keen on helping members in their
personal problems, is approachable and does not
Development-oriented Leadership
What is most relevant to social group work leadership is
the development-oriented leader the one who values
experimentation, seeks new ideas, and generates and
implements change. In a changing world, effective leaders
need to exhibit development-oriented behaviour.
Heresy and Blanchards Situational Theory
This theory looks at leadership through centering on the
followers. Leadership, according to this theory is dependent
on the followers willingness to execute the task in question.
If the follower is:

incapable and reluctant to take up the assigned task,

the leader has to provide precise and exact directions
to this effect


incapable but prepared to take up the assigned task,

the leader has to firstly compensate for the followers
lack of ability and relationship orientation and also
provide precise directions

Leadership and Power



capable but reluctant the leader has to be helpful and

play an active part in task accomplishment


capable and enthusiastic then the leaders role is


Path-goal Theory of Leadership

This theory stipulates that the prime responsibility of the
leader lies in helping the members to reach their objectives
and that individual goal and group goals are
complementary. It is the leaders job to assist followers in
attaining their goals and to provide the necessary direction
and/or support to ensure that their goals are compatible
with the overall objectives of the group. The term pathgoal is derived from the belief that effective leaders clarify
the path to help their followers get from where they are to
the achievement of their work goals and to make the
journey along the path easier by reducing roadblocks.

Understanding Leadership Styles

While there are various leadership styles, it is generally
agreed that leadership styles is in accordance with the
circumstances the ability of members, urgency of the
situation and many such crucial factors. The following are
a few important leader behaviours:
When the task to be accomplished is unclear or difficult to
be achieved, the leader ensures its successful
accomplishment through clearly defining individual tasks
and role expectations of members. His intervention is
meaningful in such instances. However, this style may
not be suitable where the tasks in question are well defined
and easy to attain.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The leader shows high concern towards group members
and their needs. This style is suitable for groups working
on well defined tasks. Members under the supportive leader
are found to be happy and highly satisfied.
Here, the leader involves the group members in decision
making and in all functions of the group. Discussions,
consultations and group consensus are stressed upon.
However, this calls for members who are responsible and
who understand the importance of their contribution to
the groups success.
Medha Patkar pioneer of the Narmada Bachao Andolan
(Save the Narmada Movement) is considered to be a
charismatic leader for the following reasons: (i) ability to
inspire followers towards goals that appears incredible to
the common man (ii) vision about the future (iii)
understanding followers needs and limitations.
This highlights on leaders who inspire followers to
transcend their own self-interests and who are capable of
having a profound and extraordinary effect on followers.
Seven characteristics were found: sincerity of the leader;
bonding effort to develop the organization as a family by
personalized relationships; consultation and participation;
collectivization and teamwork; empowerment and support;
serving as a role model; bringing in changes continuously
while maintaining continuity and being innovative
Robbins & Sanghi: 2005.

Leadership and Power


Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Individuals, especially leaders, who engage in social
interface, are expected to emotionally intelligent. Leaders
low in emotional intelligence are found to be less capable
of handling stress, problematic situations and people. What
constitutes emotional intelligence?
The five components of Emotional Intelligence
Self-awareness: exhibited by self-confidence, realistic
self-assessment, and a self-depreciating sense of
Self-management: exhibited by trustworthiness and
integrity, comfort with ambiguity, and openness to
Self-motivation: exhibited by a strong drive to achieve,
optimism, and high organizational commitment
Empathy: exhibited by expertise in building and
retaining talent, cross-cultural sensitivity, and service
to clients
Social Skills: exhibited by the ability to lead change,
persuasiveness and expertise in building and leading
Robbins & Sanghi: 2005

Factors Influencing Group Leadership

A group leader has to shoulder many responsibilities and
facilitate the group in task accomplishments. Many a times
he needs to face challenges and has to exhibit qualities
that inspire the group. The vital factors influencing
leadership are given below:


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Acknowledging the Importance of the Leadership Role

The leader has to possess a strong conviction and
definiteness about the vitality of the role assigned or
volunteered for. Being apprehensive about the usefulness
of group and its objective would make leadership a burden.
Group Spokesperson
The group leader is a spokesperson for the group both
within and outside the group. She is the group
representative and has to possess good knowledge of the
group its purpose, composition, size, history, past and
current activities. Therefore the leader should determine
what the group is trying to achieve, its progress inclusive
of pace and path of progress and the ability to enlighten
the group members and the outsiders about the groups
purpose whenever the need arises.

Qualities of A Successful Leader

Though there are several leadership styles, every leader
has to develop a style appropriate to the needs of the group
and the situation. It is a universal fact that every persons
leadership skills are unique and cannot be borrowed from
another. The leader has to grow on her own.
To be a good leader one needs to have a positive sense of
humour that is not derogatory or distasteful, possess good
listening skills, ability to truly enjoy being with people and
genuinely accepts the other persons view points. The
leader has to be optimistic, unruffled and capable of
handling difficult situations deftly.
The leader has to be friendly within the prescribed
limits of the societal norms. This friendliness has to be
done with appropriateness not too close or too isolated.
Essentially, the leader has to be broad minded, relaxed

Leadership and Power


and open to criticisms. However, she cannot afford to be

silent to criticisms that are not related to the job or
damaging her image.
While working with group members from diverse cultures,
a broad cultural background is an advantage. This aids
the process of the cultural melting pot further enabling
smooth interaction and accomplishment of group tasks.
The leader is a human being too, with all her problems
and fears to handle. But a wise leader fully understands
that it is essential to keep her problems, especially the
personal ones to herself. Making the group members
listeners to these aspects, the good leader knows is only
self-damaging. Burdening the members with personal
difficulties is detrimental to the leaders functioning. The
leader has to necessarily control her emotion, temper
and has to be extra cautious of imposing her feelings
on the group.
Finally, the leader has to be well groomed physically
too. The leader has to stick to comfortable, clean outfits,
well kept hair, no clattering trinkets, flashy colours, heavy
costumes or any disturbing accompaniments. The leader
has to make sure that his appearance is appropriate to
the groups culture and expectations. He has to avoid
improper mannerisms and gestures. In short, by staying
poised and collected, the leader makes the group too
fall in line.

Leadership and Decision Making

Indecisiveness is a silent killer that robs the group of
efficiency, resulting in dismantling of the group and its
purpose. It is very important for the group to come to a
consensus, and decide on its key issues to enable
successful accomplishment of its goals. A decision could


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

be arrived at through groups brainstorming, discussion

and dialogue depending on the time available, the
complexity of the problem and the group members
A leader has to make the group understand that it is
important to finalize goals that are achievable and apposite
to the groups capacity and resources. Being pushy can
lead to unrealistic targets that could lead the group to
Decision making is necessary to assign responsibilities to
group members. It also is an important aspect of problem
solving processes. A leaders uphill task lies in ensuring
completion of assignments that the members had agreed
While persuading her group members to arrive at a
decision, the leader has to exercise the skill of
appropriateness; the sense of timing realizing when to
take hold of an issue and when to let go. Realizing that the
group is in a position to go ahead, the leader shall seize
the opportunity to press hard for a decision. There could
also be occasions when the ideal thing to do could be to
motivate the group to ascertain further facts prior to the
The leader allows himself to be put in a difficult position
whenever he uses steam roller tactics to secure a particular
course of action. By doing this against the groups better
judgment, he assumes full responsibility for the possible
failure of action. The group members learn from this that
it is all right for them not to take responsibility. Moreover,
if failure results, they learn that the leader is
untrustworthy, and their motivation to participate in the
next action sinks. Finally, the (often unconscious)
resentment of the leader, which certainly is to be expected,
is likely to sabotage the action so that it will be a failure.

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


To put it another way, the leaders job is to set and maintain

the conditions required for the groups maximum
intelligence to assert itself. If everyone leaves a meeting
with the justifiable feeling that he could have reached a
better decision in five minutes all by himself, then
leadership has failed Toseland, W.R., & Rivas, F. R. (2005).

Leadership and Communication

A leader is expected to communicate effectively with
everybody. While one to one communication is also
important, the leaders capacity to communicate with the
group as a whole is most vital. This is one skill that is
indispensable for a good leader. The leader is a good
interpreter and proud voice for her group. She is ready,
able, and willing to explain clearly its purpose to persons
who may not be familiar with it. She can do it in simple
language and in so doing increases his own skill in social
The leader is expected to persuade the not so vocal
members to converse freely. Some members will find it
difficult to partake in discussions for very many reasons.
This could be fear of speaking among a group of individuals,
being unsure as to how their ideas would be received;
difficulty in choosing the appropriate words and
inexperience in putting forth their ideas. Managing poor
participation of members (due to their problems in
communicating) is a significant aspect the leader will have
to tackle through persuasion and also by setting a personal
In meetings, the leader is expected to make people
comfortable and at ease with one another. By doing so,
she facilitates easy flow of interaction and positive
exchange of ideas between the members.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

During discussions it is important for the group leader

not to putforth her views before the other members have
done so. For, too early a viewpoint from the leader would
possibly be opposed or accepted by all members present
keeping with the trend of safely supporting the leader.
Listening is an important aspect of communication. The
leader needs to be a good listener, who through her effective
listening encourages members to speak without hesitation
or inhibitions. Experience indicates that the time available
before and after the conduct of group meetings is a key
opportunity for getting a true picture about the status of
issues and the groups functioning.

Bonding and Relationship

The leader has an affirmative outlook of the group. Bonding
and relationship building are vital ingredients to successful
accomplishment of group goals. The following are some
ways in which a leader can bond her team:

Focusing on the positive aspects of the group members

and also the situation instead of spreading despair
through looking at the negative face of issues

Firmly believing in the democratic approach in group

dealings; for finding solutions and for arriving at

Zealously learning from other people and amending

her ways of thinking on the basis of combined
experience and thinking of the group members

Sensitivity to the differences in capacities, ideas,

approaches of individual group members thereby
enabling their optimum contribution to the groups

Leadership and Power


Acknowledging that groups are different and that she

needs to develop understanding of group members
and helping each individual to become a part of the

Following the principle praise in public and reprimand

in private to the fullest extent; prompt and consistent
appreciation for the good work of all members that
ensures motivation and satisfaction among the

Handling problems of individual behaviour and

personal relationships without letting it hamper the
groups functioning

Impressing on the group that individuals are diverse

and that their diversity is the groups most priceless

Finding and maintaining conditions that facilitate

optimum contribution of each group member

Leadership then is concerned with the discovery and

coordination of member resources, on the assumption that
individuals are not equal and that their differences are
the groups most valuable asset.

Leadership and Power

Power refers to the workers resources for changing
conditions inside and outside the group. Actual power
depends on the sources of a workers influence. The power
bases described by French and Raven (1959) follow:

Connection power being able to call on and use

influential people or resources

Expert power having the knowledge or skill to

facilitate the work of the group


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

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

Reference power being liked and admired; the group

members want to be identified with the worker

Reward power being able to offer social or tangible


Coercive power being able to sanction, punish, or

deny access to resources and privileges

Power and leadership are largely interconnected. The

effective leader understands that legitimate power and
influence are needed to direct the group, especially at the
initial stages when the group looks up to the leader for
guidance. The leader has to take up a mature use of power
rather than being uncomfortable or too much in control.
This power should be used to empower the group towards
shouldering responsibilities willingly and also in
successfully completing them. Groups need leaders to
avoid disorganization and chaos; leadership and power
are inseparable (Etzioni, 1961). The leader needs to aid
power-sharing with the group by highlighting the
importance of member-to-member communication rather
than member-to-leader communication.

Handling Groups Problems

Generally, leadership is a smooth journey if the things are
going well, but there are many instances when the going
is not smooth. However, it is true that brooding or becoming
hurt easily does not in any way help leadership

Leadership and Power


The group and the leader have to internalize two facts to

move ahead successfully (i) it is normal for problems to
occur while working as a group and (ii) almost every group
has in some point of time gone through such troubles

Eight Commandments for A Group Leader

The Leader

Understands that the focal point of effective group

leadership lies firmly grounded in human

Shapes a comfortable work atmosphere, both

psychologically and physically for the members,
making happy working together feasible

Accepts the group as it is and moves at the pace of

the members rather than making the group
uncomfortable with a different one

Realizes the need for clarity in group objectives

among all the members through appropriate

Facilitates group members to work in unison for

accomplishment of group goals

Constantly self-introspects objectively and is

aware of her strengths and weaknesses; develops
the ability to be stable in the face of praise and
attack alike

Takes the group along with her in all times;

encouraging the group to express its opinions and
viewpoints freely by apposite interventions

Does not permit scapegoating of any member by

the other members during crisis situations or
during hostile encounters


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

To conclude research studies and experience in working
with groups indicates that there is no one size fits all
approach to leadership. Different styles of leadership are
relevant to different situations. Leadership skills are
dependent to a large extent on the extent to which the
group can operate independently. Obviously, the less
independent the group, more the leaders role and
strategies and vice versa ultimately the leader looks
forward to developing leadership from within the group.
Thus, effective leaders are highly respected individuals who
have a vision. They promote safe, welcoming environments
that avoid the extremes of aggressive confrontation of
members or passive abdication of leadership to members
who attempt to dominate groups (Kivlighan & Tarrant,
2000; Smokowski, Rose, & Bacallai, 2001). Next, leaders
have to understand the abilities, 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 must also skillfully deploy the
resources they have at their disposal. This includes
empowering members and reinforcing feeling of confidence
and individual and group efficacy (Bandure, 1995, 1997b).
It also includes making sure that the group engages in
good information processing and decision making, so that
when resources are deployed, the environmental demands
on members and the group are carefully considered
(Chemers, 2000). In a very real sense the right to leadership
must be earned again and again.


Leadership and Power

Balgopal, R. P. & Vassil. V. T. (1983). Groups in social work.
United States of America: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.
Coyle, L. G. (1947). Group experience and democratic values.
New York: The Womans Press.
Milson, F. (1973). An introduction to group work skill.
London and Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Ottaway, A. K. C. (1966). Learning through group experience.
London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Robbins, P. S., & Sanghi, S. (2005). Organizational
behaviour. Delhi: Pearson Education.
Thelen, A. H. (1954). Dynamics of groups at work. Chicago:
The University of Chicago Press.
Toseland, W.R., & Rivas, F. R. (2005). An introduction to
group work practice. USA: Pearson Education Inc.
Trecker, B. H., & Trecker, R.A. (1952). How to work with
groups. New York: Womans Press.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Skills and Techniques of

Social Group Work
*R. Nalini

A social worker has to understand and imbibe skills of
social group work. It would be one of his or her major
tasks in the job as social work often involves work with
groups differing in its size and composition. What is a skill?
The term skill refers to a conscious, disciplined use of
ones self and ones abilities which can be acquired reliably
only through the disciplined experience of professional
training for social group work, during which the potential
group worker not only takes help in his learning from
teachers and supervisors but carries responsibility in a
group work agency simultaneous with his acquisition of
group work theory. On the one hand the social worker
has to understand his professions philosophic values and
also draw from social works professional purposes. These
are the roots of social group work skill. The capacity to
translate values into professional efforts that precipitate
movement toward the fulfillment of purpose constitutes
social group work skill. (Philips: 1957).

Roles of the Group Worker

A group worker plays two vital roles while working with
groups: as a member and as a leader switching roles as
*Dr. R. Nalini, Pondicherry University, New Delhi

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work


and when tasks emerge. Membership and leadership skills

are viewed jointly due to the following rationale:
For the groups efficient functioning, the leader and his
members need to be dealt with skillfully.
Similar concerns of individualistic communication emerge
for leaders and members.
A group worker has to perform various functions which
are broadly grouped into (i) job oriented functions that
facilitate the group to converge and concentrate towards
fulfilling groups objectives (ii) individual oriented functions
to cater to the personal needs of group members that
ensure healthy group cohesiveness and (iii) maintenance
oriented functions that ensure the consistency of group
members contribution.

Skills and Techniques of Group Work

According to Trecker (1955), skill is the capacity to apply
knowledge and understanding to a given situation. Trecker
(1955: 36-37) also has specified skills for social group work
as follows:


Skill in Establishing Purposeful Relationships


The group worker must be skillful in gaining the

acceptance of the group and in relating himself to
the group on a positive professional basis.


The group worker must be skillful in helping

individuals in the group to accept one another
and to join with the group in common pursuits

Skill in Analyzing the Group Situation


The group worker must be skillful in judging the

developmental level of the group to determine what
the level is, what the group needs, and how quickly


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

the group can be expected to move. This calls for

skill in direct observation of groups as a basis for
analysis and judgment.




The group worker must be skillful in helping the

group to express ideas, work out objectives, clarify
immediate goals, and see both its potentialities
and limitations as a group.

Skill in Participation with the Group


The group worker must be skillful in determining,

interpreting, assuming and modifying his own role
with the group.


The group worker must be skillful in helping group

members to participate, to locate leadership
among themselves, and to take responsibility for
their own activities.

Skill in Dealing with Group Feeling


The group worker must be skillful in controlling

his own feelings about the group and must study
each new situation with a high degree of


The group worker must be skillful in helping

groups to release their own feelings, both positive
and negative. He must be skillful in helping groups
to analyze situations as a part of the working
through of group or intergroup conflicts.

Skill in Programme Development


The group worker must be skillful in guiding group

thinking so that interests and needs will be
revealed and understood.


The group worker must be skillful in helping

groups to develop programs which they want as a
means through which their needs may be met.

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work




Skill in Using Agency and Community Resources


The group worker must be skillful in locating and

then acquainting the group with various helpful
resources which can be utilized by them for
program purposes


The group worker must be skillful in helping

individual members to make use of specialized
services by means of referral when they have needs
which cannot be met within the group.

Skill in Evaluation

The group worker must have skill in recording

the developmental processes that are going on as
he works with the group.


The group worker must be skillful in using his

records and in helping the group to review its
experiences as a means of improvement.

Thus, the social group worker has many skills to master,

but the important ones are discussed below:
Skills in Building Group Cohesiveness
The group worker must know his group members their
strengths, capacities, fears, problems and roles they can
play in the groups progress. The following are the other
factors the worker needs to concentrate upon in building
himself within the group:

Effective rapport building with the group members; to

get on the same wave length with people easily and

Winning the confidence and trust of people by

accepting members as they are and enabling them to
see the worth of every job that has to be done in the
group large or small


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Establishing a good working relationship, based on

friendship and mutual confidence that would facilitate
influence over the group members

Ability to avoid splinter groups, especially sub

groupism by empathizing and thinking for all the group
members. The group worker has to be cautious to
interpret the silence of the group members. Silence
always does not denote negative aspects; it could just
indicate the individuals hesitation.

Skill to remain cool and composed while listening to

the distasteful understanding and internalizing the
fact that two people can look at the same thing and
look at it differently. It is important that the worker
has to strengthen his inner self without getting upset
or hitting back at unpleasantness of the group. He
needs to understand that this is in light of the larger
good of the group.

Capacity to get the group to willingly shoulder

responsibilities rather than taking up all the burden
on himself the ability to segregate works that can be
delegated and executing those which are best done
by the worker.

Facilitation Skills
This involves the group worker helping the group to stay
focused on the goals to be achieved, to ensure that the
group members work towards a common direction.
Facilitating skill, also sometimes called the here-and-now
of group interaction is often missed by the group workers.
This is because group processes take a back seat when
group interactions are intense. Also, at times the group
worker may hesitate to intervene during a lively yet
dispersed discussion.

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work


However, the group worker has to acquire this skill to

enable spirited group accomplishments. To help a group
accomplish the goals it has set for itself, the worker will
often find it helpful to guide the groups interaction in a
particular direction. By limiting or blocking a group
members communications, by encouraging another
member to speak or by linking one group members
communication to those of other group members, the
worker can guide the groups interaction patterns. This
method has been referred to as selecting communications
patterns purposely (Middleman & Wood, 1990).
Helping the group maintain its focus can promote efficient
work by reducing irrelevant communications and by
encouraging a full exploration of issues and problems. The
group worker does this by minimizing unwanted
interactions and by stirring optimum search investigation
of concerns and tight spots.
Skills of Information Collection and Evaluation
Information is power and this is true in working with
groups too. It is handy in impacting communiqu designs
in the group. Through information gathering and
evaluation skills, the group worker bridges the gap between
the process-oriented approach of facilitating group
processes and the task oriented approach of using action
skills to achieve goals and satisfy members needs. Without
effective data gathering and assessment skills, workers
interventions are not ground in a complete understanding
of the situation. This can result in the use of premature,
oversimplified, or previously attempted solutions that have
not been carefully analyzed and weighed.
Requesting Information, Questioning and Probing
By skillfully questioning and probing the group worker
may gather data effectively. A broad outlook to the task in
question and to the pursuits of the group could be added


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

(with this supplementary information) that could benefit

the group immensely. Skills are needed in properly wording
the questions leading questions; double questions etc
should be avoided. The questions need to extract
information that is clear and precise. Care should be taken
while dealing with sensitive issues and concerns.
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. Analyzing skills

Pointing out patterns in the data,

Identifying gaps in the data, and

Establishing mechanisms or plans for obtaining data

to complete an assessment.

Synthesizing Skills
Another useful data gathering and assessment skill is
blending verbal and nonverbal communications. Examples
of synthesizing skills include:

Making connections among the meanings behind a

members actions or words, expressing hidden agendas

Making implicit feelings or thoughts explicit

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.
Listening Skills
We convey our listening skills verbally and non verbally.
By appropriate feedback and playback the group worker

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work


conveys verbally whereas through his eye contact, gestures

and body language he conveys it non verbally. Egan (2002)
suggests that, in addition to body position and eye contact,
skills that indicate that a worker has heard and understood
a member are part of effective listening. Research has
shown that effective listening skills are an important
characteristic of successful leaders (Johnson & Bechler,
1998). Effective listening 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 also
helps reduce the tendency of workers to focus on one or
two group members.
Reframing and Redefining
Often, one of the greatest obstacles to the work of a group
or an individual is failure to view a problem from different
perspectives that block attempts to find a creative solution
(Clark, 1998). Redefining and reframing the problem can
help members examine the problem from a new
perspective. Thus, a worker may want to reframe or redefine
an issue or concern facing the group.
Action Skills
This includes modeling, role playing and rehearsing
situations in the group. Action skills 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. Role playing refers to having
group members act out a situation with each others help.
The two primary purposes of role playing are to assess


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

members skill in responding to an interpersonal situation

and to help members improve particular responses.
Responses can be improved through feedback, rehearsal
of a new response, or coaching (Etcheverry, Siporin, &
Toseland, 1987). Role playing can be a very useful tool
when trying to help members improve responses to
stressful situations.
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.
Confrontation Skills
From handling conflicts and resistance to enthusing group
members, confrontation skills could be a valuable tool for
the group worker. Confrontation is the ability to clarify,
examine, and challenge behaviors to help members
overcome distortions and discrepancies among behaviors,
thoughts, and feelings (Egan, 2002; Toseland & Spielberg,
1982). However, one has to vigilantly judge the state of
affairs and about the acceptability of his interventions
during confronting situations. He has to be fully aware
that confrontations are forceful, emotionally charged and
also anticipate strong responses. Since confrontations
often involve indicating members mistakes and limitations,
the worker has to prepare the group for a candid
examination on these lines by underlining the fact that
ultimately such discussions aid in identifying potentials
and abilities of the group.
Skills of Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution skills are needed to smoothen out
frictions within the group and also with those outside the
group inclusive of social systems. There could be several

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work


grounds for conflicts among the members. The group

worker should facilitate the group to consider conflicts as
a factor nourishing the groups development. Conflicts, if
constructive and issue based, help the group to get a
clearer vision of its goals and discover individual strengths
and weaknesses. It is well known that conflicts are bound
to happen; through efficient group facilitation, conflicts
could be minimized and antagonistic disagreements
Critiquing Skills
Constructive criticism is an important skill for the worker,
for lots of learning happens while critiquing the groups
progression and activities. It enables retaining the focus
on the groups primary purpose. It also means appropriate
questioning of the leaders inputs and interventions,
contribution of members and patterns of groups
functioning. Critiquing by members is healthier and many
a times anticipates and prevents flaws.
Leadership Skills
This is a vital skill that is disputed by researchers is
leadership a trait or a behavior? Is a leader born or made?
Despite differing views, it has been proved beyond doubt
that leadership skill can be learned. However, there is no
one size fits all solution to mastering leadership skills.
Group leaders have to constantly remind themselves that
they are working with human beings each with different
viewpoints, personalities and ways of functioning.
The key skill of the leader is communicating and keeping
communication channels open within the group at all
times. This means the leader has to involve all members
in discussions the quiet ones, the ones who may not be
comfortable talking in groups or those who can be easily
silenced. The other key skills of leadership are:


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Consensus seeking

Gate keeping

Setting standards

Self understanding that leads to enhanced communiqu

Inter-personal understanding that leads to understanding

members viewpoints

Preventing disruptive behaviour such as diverting,

blocking, dominating, silence, attention seeking,
sympathy seeking etc

How to Acquire Group Work Skills?

Reach out and ascertain the qualities of individuals who
are successful in working with groups. By checking
yourself against this list of traits you could perhaps figure
out where you stand with regard to working with groups.
The most important point to be kept in mind is that no
one individual shall possess all the qualities and that all
of us can endeavour to imbibe them.
Keenly observing democratic leadership styles in action
and understanding reasons behind all the reverence and
influence these individuals possess over their groups.
Experience shows that it is worthwhile observing good
presiding officers and good discussion leaders. Do not stop
with observation, but do take hold of the skills of competent
Reading relevant material from libraries, authenticated
websites, journals, reports etc will keep you updated on
the latest in the field.
Maintaining a dairy of everyday work with the group gives
a written documentation for reference. It indicates the areas
for improvement, when reviewed periodically. It is a tool
for self evaluation if done methodically and with honesty.

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work


Interacting with social work fraternity and with group

workers in professional forums such as workshops,
seminars, conferences, training programmes etc facilitates
interchange of ideas and experiences in working with
groups. It is a practical knowledge bank and feeds the
group worker with skills largely demanded in the field.
Gain hands on training through observing a group or by
becoming a member of an existing group.
Lastly, by lending a hand to others to acquire group work
skills, one can constantly check and reinvent oneself about
the skills needed in working with groups.

Thus group work skills described above are vital for
successfully working with groups. The group worker needs
confidence, love for people and a belief in team work to
accomplish his task. For, great people are those who make
others feel that they too, can become great.

Benson, F. J. (1987). Working more creatively with groups.
London: Tavistock Publications
McConnell, T. (1974). Group leadership and self-realization.
Leviathan House
Milson, F. (1973). An introduction to social group work skill.
London: Routledge and Kegan
Philips, U.H. (1957). Essentials of social group work skill.
New York: Association Press
Trecker, H.B. (1955). Social group work: Principles and
practices. New York: Whiteside


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Wilson, G., & Ryland G. (1949). Social group work practice.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin
http://ww w.addedval ue learn ing .co.u k/train in g_

Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work



Relevance of Life Skills

Education in Social Group Work
*R. Nalini

Life Skills Education was evolved to equip individuals,
especially the adolescents, with the aptitude to face life
with its challenges and opportunities, successfully. In the
recent years enthusiasm for education about health and
social issues has been growing in communities around
the world. Though recognized by different names life
skills, life skills based education, skills based health
education or health and family life education the central
idea is shared: young people, especially girls and young
women, regularly face risks that threaten their health and
limit their learning opportunities. Life skills based
education can endow girls with skills to manage
challenging situations, particularly in the context of
supportive communities and environments. Around the
world, life skills based education is being adopted as a
means to empower young people in challenging situations.
It refers to an interactive process of teaching and learning
which enables learners to acquire knowledge and to develop
attitudes and skills that support the adoption of healthy
behaviours. It is also a critical element in UNICEFs
definition of quality education.

*Dr. R. Nalini, Pondicherry University, New Delhi


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Understanding Life Skills Education

Life skills are problem solving ways fittingly and
conscientiously employed in the regulation of our daily
dealings. Found in the principles of experiential adult
learning, life skills could be split into trainable, workable,
components and taught to group members. Life Skills could
be utilized in all of the 5 areas of our lives (self, family,
job/school, leisure and community) lessons and
programmes can be designed to meet the specific needs of
a wide range of client groups.
Thus, Life Skills Education can be employed to take up a
broad range of subjects that concern youngsters and its
coverage is not restricted to a specific milieu. According to
UNICEF, life skills based education is behaviour change
or behaviour development approach designed to address
a balance of three areas: knowledge, attitude and skills.
The term life skills refers to a large group of psycho-social
and interpersonal skills which can help people make
informed decisions, communicate effectively, and develop
coping and self-management skills that may help them
lead a healthy and productive life. Life skills may be
directed toward personal actions and actions toward
others, as well as actions to change the surrounding
environment to make it conducive to health. It includes
items intended not only to deal with young peoples
personal identity but also to encourage them to reject,
where they feel this is appropriate, comments on their
behaviour which they believe is untrue. http://
Life Skills Education Groups
A Life Skills Education programme is conducted with a
group of participants led by a trained group worker.

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work


Whatever the type of group (occupation, youngsters, health,

professional development) members begin with various
skills and with varying capacities to utilize those skills.
Gradually, by self-awareness and assessment of their skill
levels, the members learn to assess their needs and focus
on aspirations. Group members of Life Skills Education
programme are expected (i) to cultivate the aptitude to
draw from a gamut of problem-solving behaviours (ii) to
face the tribulations of daily life with self-confidence and
(iii) to grow to be well-adjusted, self-determined citizens.
Group Workers Role in Life Skills Education
A group worker is a trained professional, (mostly in social
work) equipped with the knowledge, skill and experience
in handling Life Skills Education programmes and also in
working effectively with groups. He/She should be
confident in dealing with a wide range of clients, not
necessarily with problems but also those who seek to
develop their personalities. A group worker facilitates group
members of a Life Skills Education programme to:

Periodically self-introspect, with honesty

Think more productively

Understand that they are not alone in their challenges

and struggles

Perceive and comprehend their ways of thinking

Equip themselves with and utilize problem solving


Balance their intellectual, physical and emotional


Build on apposite ambitions


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The Life Skills Education Programme

Across the globe, Life Skills Education programmes are
gaining grounds. However, keeping in mind the varying
cultures and the equally varying demands of life skills
accordingly, the components of the Life Skills Education
have been deliberately kept broad and generic. There is
no definitive list of life skills. The list below includes the
psychosocial and interpersonal skills generally considered
important. The choice of and emphasis on different skills
will vary according to the topic and local conditions
(example decision making may feature strongly in HIV/
AIDS prevention whereas conflict management may be
more prominent in a peace education programme). Many
skills are used simultaneously in practice. Ultimately, the
interplay between the skills is what produces powerful
behavioural outcomes, especially where this approach is
supported by other strategies such as media, policies and
health services.
However, the World Health Organization has specified life
skills for the youth in order to enable broad guidelines for
life skills educators and professionals. The World Health
Organization (WHO) laid emphasis on LIFE SKILLS, which
are necessary to all youth alike across the globe. In 1997
the WHO addressed this issue and a well-researched
package of Life Skill Development was produced. Life Skills
are living skills or abilities for adaptive and positive
behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with
demands and challenges of everyday life (WHO 1997). The
following are the ten generic skills the Life Skills Education
hopes to transfer. They are five pairs of related skills.
Critical Thinking: It is the ability to analyse information
and experience in an objective manner.

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work


Creative Thinking: It is an ability that helps us look

beyond our direct experience and address issues in a
perspective which is different from the obvious or the norm.
It adds novelty and flexibility to the situation of our daily
life. It contributes to problem solving and decision making
by enabling us to explore available alternatives and various
consequences of our actions or non-actions.
Decision-Making: The process of making assessment of
an issue by considering all possible/available options and
the effects different decision might have on them.
Problem Solving: Having
the options, choosing the
following it through the
outcome of the problem is

made decisions about each of

one which is the best suited,
process again till a positive

Interpersonal Relationship: It is a skill that helps us to

understand our relations with others and relate in a
positive/reciprocal manner with them. It helps us to
maintain relationship with friends and family members
and also be able to end relationships constructively.
Effective Communication: It is an ability to express
ourselves both verbally and non-verbally in an appropriate
manner. This means being able to express desires,
opinions, and fears and seek assistance and advice in times
of need.
Coping with Emotions: It is an ability, which involves
recognizing emotions in others, and ourselves, being aware
of how emotions influence behaviours and being able to
respond to emotions appropriately.
Coping with Stress: It is an ability to recognize the source
of stress in our lives, its effect on us and acting in ways
that help to control our levels of stress. This may involve


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

taking action to reduce some stress for example changes

in physical environment, life styles, learning to relax etc.
Self-Awareness: Includes our recognition of ourselves, our
character, strengths and weaknesses, desires and dislikes.
It is a pre-requisite for effective communication,
interpersonal relationship and developing empathy.
Empathy: Is an ability to imagine what life is like for
another person even in a situation that we may not be
familiar with. It helps us to understand and accept others
and their behaviour that may be very different from
It is evident that the Life Skills are comprehensive including
various areas like Thinking, Behaviour, and Emotions. The
final target being self-awareness, self-esteem and accepting
of others. In an individual, Life Skills develop over the years
continuously in an active manner. There are many skills,
which are needed to successfully negotiate each and every
interaction. http://www.leadership.

The Indian Scenario

In the Indian-Scenario considering the heterogeneity of
the levels of childcare givers ranging from school teachers
to grass root level NGO workers, the need of training are
varied. The Indian Youth is currently at crossroads. India
being a vast and diverse country, The Indian Youth is slowly
undergoing a cultural transition in their outlook due to
globalization, communication and media. 40 per cent of
the one billion population of India are below the age of 16.
Adolescents form about 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the
population. In absolute numbers the Indian youth are a
significant population of the worlds youth population. On
an average 40 per cent of the Indian adolescents are not

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work


in school, those in school are under severe stress due to a

very competitive system of evaluation, heavy syllabus, and
a low teacher student ratio. Due to the above reasons
motivation to stay in the schools system is very low
especially in the rural areas. http://www.leadership.
However, after the Central Board of Secondary Education
asked schools to ensure social well-being of children,
teaching life skills now forms an integral part of the
curriculum of almost all schools. Several life skills trainers,
comprising of social workers, psychologists, school
teachers, Human Resource (HR) specialists, and like
minded professionals are engaging actively in Life Skills
Education of varied clientele in India. Schools across the
country and NGOs working with non school goers are the
prime providers of Life Skills Education programmes,
mainly catering to adolescents.
The contents of a Life Skills Education programme
organized for school children in a rural Indian
school are listed below:

Learning about society

Focusing on the family

Reproductive health and related information


Current trends changing social and economic


Relating to others

Self development

The sessions were put together in such a way that

gender figured as the centre spread in all the themes
that were taken up for discussion. The programme


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

was designed to enable the school students to think

critically about the world they find themselves in. The
programme wanted to create an awakening in the
minds of the students that they are the makers of
their lives. They wanted to inculcate in them the habit
of introspection so that they have an insight about
themselves. At the end of the programme, the trainers
found themselves responding to a deep need for
information, counseling and understanding in the
student population.

Need for Life Skills Education

Acquiring Life Skills is a process that happens during an
individuals developmental years. As we all know, physical
growth and development of mental faculties are two vital
aspects to be fulfilled by any human being. Physical growth
is visible to the naked eye in the form of height and weight,
hair growth, and other noticeable changes in the child.
Development is however, rather complicated involving
multifaceted aspects.
Life skills calls for comprehending and equipping oneself
in a different spheres of personality development such as
(i) social skills (ii) interpersonal skills (iii) communication
skills (iv) emotional stability (v) scholarly abilities and
(vi) empathy/sensitivity to others. A childs development
in all these areas is largely shaped by the environment
and the adults (parents, teachers, relatives) with whom
he or she interacts on a daily basis. This process continues
in adulthood also and friends and peer group have an
important role in an individual mastering the life skills.
The ultimate aim of life skills is to enable the all-round
development of an individual who will be able to face
challenges and troubles with the right attitude and through
appropriate problem solving techniques, cope with lifes
pressures and traumas. It is very important that the

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work


foundation for acquiring these life skills is laid at the right

age and time. Life Skills Education is thus needed for
equipping adolescents and young adults with the abilities,
knowledge and aptitude to take on life with self-esteem,
confidence and self-determination.

Techniques of Learning Life Skills

As evident from our discussion above, Life Skills are applied
to various aspects of life. This includes (i) Interpersonal
Relationships (ii) Understanding ones rights and
responsibilities (iii) Promoting Good Health (iv) Mental
Health (v) Prevention of HIV/AIDS, STD (vi) Prevention of
Substance Abuse (vii) Self Development (viii) Preventing
suicides and (ix) Promoting Peace
To achieve this goal of imparting Life Skills Education,
various methods and techniques are used by the trainers.
This includes (i) Vigorous training (ii) Functioning in small
groups (iii) Brainstorming (iv) Play-acting (v) Empirical
education (vi) Games and deliberations and (vii) Homework
The aim of Life Skills Education is to enable the group
members to develop their aptitudes in exploring
alternatives when faced with challenges. A group member
on attending Life Skills Education programme should be
able to communicate effectively; be assertive (the capacity
to stay balanced between aggression and submission);
assess pros and cons and arrive at logical decisions.
It also provides environment education, consumer
education, education in socio-cultural issues and peace
education. Finally, the significance of Life Skills Education
is that it empowers group members in taking positive
actions, promoting healthy social relationships and in
building confidence in self.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Social Group Work and Education

Social group work is a primary method of social work that
utilizes the group as a conduit of goal accomplishment.
Group work enables its members to bring about desired
changes in their life, through collective efforts. Groups,
comprising of people from varied backgrounds are social
workers key channels for enabling individuals to face life
with all its problems, successfully. Social workers use
group work in all fields of social work practice such as
workplace, hospitals, schools, correctional settings, etc.
Group workers work with children, women, disabled,
substance abusers, elderly, adolescents and any other
individuals wanting help to help themselves. Social group
work tries to find remedies for social illness and strives
towards social growth and integration. Generally,
microscopic groups are thought of as constructive
mechanisms of social transformation and progress.
Social group work had its origins in progressive, informal,
and adult education, in recreation, in camping, in
settlement houses and in youth serving organizations.
Much of the support, research, programming and
education in group work have taken place outside the
boundaries of social work and much continues to do so,
particularly in the field of education. Partly for these
reasons, group work and educational objectives have
always been compatible. Whether these objectives are
defined, as they used to be, as citizenship training or
character building, or as they now often are as creative
problem solving or family life education, there is a
fundamental fit between group work and learning
objectives. Perhaps this is because group work, more than
other social work methods, views group members as
learners, whose behavioural repertories need to be
enhanced and enlarged. Individual group members are
viewed as creating and, in a sense, owning their group
Ephross, J. (1985).

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work


According to Douglas the following are the assumptions

on which the practice of social group work rests:

Group experience is universal and an essential part

of human existence

Group can be used to effect changes in the attitudes

and behaviour of individuals

Group provides experiences which can be monitored

or selected in some way for beneficial ends.

Life outside the group is in no way neglected, it tends

to be put out of focus.

Group offers experience shared with others so that all

can come to have something common with the sense
of belonging and of growing together

Groups produce change which is more permanent than

can be achieved by other methods and the change is
obtained more quickly also

Groups assist in the removal or diminution of

difficulties created by previous exposure to the process
of learning

Groups as instruments of helping others may be

economical in the use of scarce resources, e.g. skilled
workers, time etc.

Group can examine its own behaviour and in so doing

learn about the general patterns of group behaviour.

Thus, a careful analysis of these assumptions reveals that

working with groups enables change amongst its members
at an individual and collective level. The main feature of
functioning with groups in societal milieu is that of
reciprocal benefits. It is assumed that individuals progress
and transform as they associate with others. Group work
emphasizes that its members are not restricted to only


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

take away but also put in their contributions to the group,

directly or indirectly, knowingly or unknowingly.

Relevance of Life Skills Education in

Social Group Work
Having discussed about Life Skills Education and social
group work, let us try and understand the relevance of
Life Skills Education in social group work. It is clear that
both group work and life skills have the common goal of
enhanced social functioning of its members. From its
beginnings, group work practice and theory has been
rooted in social reform, social responsibility, democratic
ideals, and social action as well as social relatedness and
human attachment (Lee, 1991: 3). The work done in
groups was seen as purposeful activity that involved a
process that considered both the individual in the group
as well as the group as a whole as well as the larger
community. A description of American Association of
Group Workers (AAGW) nature and functions written in
1947 clarifies group works philosophy:
Group work is method of group leadership used in organizing
and conducting various types of group activities. While group
work developed first in connection with recreation and
voluntary informal education its use is not confined to
those fields. It is increasingly being used in various types of
institutions, in hospitals and clinics, in the extra-curricular
activities of schools in similar situations. The guiding purpose
behind such leadership rests upon the common assumptions
of a democratic society, namely, the opportunity for each
individual to fulfill his capacities in freedom, to respect and
appreciate others and to assume social responsibility in
maintaining and constantly improving our democratic society.

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work


Life Skills Education is thus an important aspect of group

work. To apply group work premises to Life Skills
Education is to try to incorporate role flexibility,
responsiveness to stage of group development, and an
ability to be comfortable with the shared human condition
between worker and members. One needs to treat group
members with respect for their group, not as an artificial
stance but as a genuine component of the groups life. As
for the participants, the group members need to be viewed
as motivated and competent people who are choosing to
take part in learning experiences. They learn from each
other through informal group interaction, as well as from
a process of motivated inquiry. The primary task of the
group leader is to motivate, to facilitate, to promote and to
orchestrate teaching and learning resources. The subject
of learning the course topic is important for two reasons,
both for its own values and as a vehicle around which
interpersonal learning, role elaboration and behavioural
modeling can take place.
Radin (1975: 605-613) states that school social workers
must be concerned about all children in a school and not
only with those with apparent problems and that all
children should be prepared for their future roles in society.
To enable the social worker to reach more than just the
individual pupil, working in groups enables the worker to
attend to not only the individual with the group, but the
group collectively.
The advantage of attending to pupils in a group context is
that there are times for individual reflection and discovery
but these are usually the outcomes of some group
interaction. Personal learning is shared with at least one
another person. Pupils have experience of being in a group
in some form or other. Thus, to use group work is to use


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

something to which most pupils can relate. (Rooth, 1995;

Kruger, 1998).
Group work provides a context in which members help
each other and learn from and with each other. Very
importantly, group work teaches members to function in
a democratic life style. Group work is also a method of
participatory teaching (Rooth, 1999), which is based on
democratic practices. It promotes the empowerment of the
member in the group. The methods of group work are
empirical and the group worker plays a facilitators role.
Working in groups is in itself an important life skill (NelsonJones 1991: 89). According to Konapka, a healthy group
life has the following ingredients:

Provision for identification with equals


Provision for warmth and belonging to more than one

person. Fear of the threatened loss of the one and
only beloved person is always present and becomes
overwhelming if a wider relationship is not established
in the course of life.


Freedom to be and to express ones self and to be

different in the presence of others.


Freedom to choose the friends one prefers combined

with a responsibility to accept others if they need to
be accepted, even though no close friendly relationship
can be established.


Opportunity to try out ones own individuality while

at the same time permitting the enjoyment of the
uniqueness of others


Opportunity to exercise independence and be allowed

to be dependent when this is necessary and indicated,
as in childhood or in distressing situations in

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work



Opportunity to give to others as well as receive from



Opportunity to feel that as an individual or as a group,

one has the strength to influence ones own fate
(Konapka; 1972: 31)

Much of the education is based on the individual,

competitive learning and teaching styles. This means that
members get the opportunity to learn how to co-operate,
compromise and work in a group and community context
(Rooth 1999; Kruger 1998). Group work has many
advantages besides being the method for empirical
learning. Increasingly teachers use group work and find
that it is an excellent way of teaching and learning (NelsonJones, 1991).
Social group work facilitates members in appreciating and
treasuring their colleagues and peers. They understand
that the transformation in their personality is also largely
due to the contributions of the other members. This leads
to increase in self-confidence, self-belief and eventually
enhancement of social skills and the role of group work
cannot be undermined in this process. Simultaneously,
group work causes increased coverage of themes, thereby
resulting in increased member involvement and
interaction. Responsibility and sense of empowerment can
result from involvement in group work. Pupils need to be
empowered and group work is one way that aids
empowerment (Rogers, 1983; Rooth 1999; Kruger 1998).
The aim of Life Skills Education in group work is to get the
members work in groups rather than as individuals or as
a large gathering. Within the framework of the group,
members may assume diverse functions and stimulate
immense amount of learning. The collective endeavor of
every group member is vital. Another objective is to present
life skills in the group context as component of outcome-


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

based education. Social group work with classroom groups

is a preventative field of social work and since prevention
is an ultimate aim of social work in any setting, it is believed
that research in a preventative area would serve as a
worthwhile contribution to school social work (Konapka,
1972: 113).

Thus we understand the relevance of Life Skills Education
in social group work. Group experiences are indispensable
requirements of individuals. The mutual and vigorous
communications involving people and environment are
intrinsic in social group work. Group work aids human
beings in eliminating drawbacks and strengthening self
to face life effectively.
Finally, practicing life skills leads to qualities such as selfesteem, sociability and tolerance, to action competencies
to take action and generate change, and to capabilities
to have the freedom to decide what to do and who to be.
Life skills are thus distinctly different from physical or
perceptual motor skills, such as practical or health skills,
as well as from livelihood skills, such as crafts, money
management and entrepreneurial skills. (http://


Douglas, T. (1976). Group work practice. New York:

International University Press


Ephross, J. (1985). Jewish family life education: Its

group work roots and group process implications.
Journal of Jewish Communal Service, pp. 65-72


Falck, H. (1998). Social Work: The membership

perspective. New York: Springer.

Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work



Garvin, C. (1997). Contemporary group work. Needham

Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


Konapka, G. (1963). Social group work: A helping

process. Englewood Cliffs, New York: Prentice Hall.


Lewis, E. (1988). Social group work: A central

component of social work education and practice. In
Leiderman, M., et al. Roots and new frontiers in social
group work. New York: The Haworth Press, 217-231.


Pai, N.P. (2006). Life Skills Education for school

effectiveness and improvement. Paper presented in
Round Table Presentation at International Congress
for School Effectiveness and Improvement, Florida,


Trecker, H.B. (1955). Social group work: Principles and

practices. New York: Whiteside

Lifeskills%20facilitators %20manual.pdf



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Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social Group Work



Programme Planning in
Social Group Work
*R. Nalini

Careful planning is necessary for any successful group
and it is a very important, ongoing group process. A well
planned programme gives direction to the group and
enables each member to know and prepare his/her
responsibility. The group worker should possess abilities
and skills to guide the members through an effective
programme planning process. The programme planning
process includes (i) setting goals (ii) brainstorming with
members (iii) planning the programme in line with the
goals (iv) obtaining the approval of the group (v) assigning
(vi) implementation of the programme (vi) periodic
evaluation and feedback (vii) Follow-up

Concept of Programme Planning

Groups achieve their objectives through programmes that
are split into achievable targets, tasks and activities.
Therefore, deciding on appropriate programmes becomes
very important for the progress and development of group
and its members.

*Dr. R. Nalini, Pondicherry University, New Delhi


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Programme as a concept and working tool is not prominent

in the group work literature. This may be because it tends
to be equated with a structured, goal-oriented approach.
In reality, every group has a programme if we define it as
what the group does as a means of trying to achieve its
aims. With this definition, a decision to run a group on an
existential creative spontaneity basis is as much a
programme decision as is an elaborate timetable of visits,
talks and structured activities. There is distinction to be
made between potential or planned programme and actual
programme. The former is what is planned in advance,
the latter is what the group actually does, and the two do
not always coincide.
Some basic considerations affect decisions about
programme. The first two are philosophical as well as

Structure and Spontaneity: Every group has to reach

some balance between prearranged structure and
spontaneous development. Some groups are so
preplanned and rigid that there is no scope for
response to the needs of individual members and their
unique group. Others are so vague and unstructured
that they drift along aimlessly, without anyone really
knowing what they are there for, or what they are
supposed to be doing. Groups need both the security
of some known structure and the flexibility necessary
for learning and change.


Person and Task: Every group is concerned with its

members as people, and with the tasks for which it is
met. A group with person-centered aims, as in group
psychotherapy, is likely to devise a person-centered
programme. A group which is highly task-oriented,
whether the task is located at the individual, group or
community level is likely to devise a programme

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


emphasising procedures, decisions and the monitoring

of task achievement. Most social work groups require
a sensitive balance between focus on persons and
focus on task. This is one reason why programming is
a highly skilled aspect of group work.

Individual Factors: Programme depends on what the

members are capable of, and this varies according to
age, verbal ability, motivation and self-control. In
groups with a wide ability range, programme needs to
include activities adaptable to individual differences.


Group Factors: Programme takes into account fixed

factors such as group composition and size, and
variable factors associated with the stage of
development the group has reached, and its current
state. This includes group morale, cohesion, conflict
and the level of commitment to task.


The Individual and the Group: Programme should be

consistent with what has been agreed with individuals
and the group in the initial contract, although as the
group develops, needs and interests change, and
opportunities for renegotiating programme should be
available. Programme involves a blending of activities
which include the whole group with those which
individuals undertake on their own, or in pairs, or
sub groups. As a guideline, individual and pairs
activities may be more needed in the early stages when
group experience is rather daunting for some


Resources: many activities need resources, both cash

and in kind. This may be a real limitation on
programme and it is unethical to raise members
expectations about exciting activities unless necessary
resources will be available.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Given these basic considerations, the groupworker then

faces a number of questions. The choice within this range
is dependent not only on the task, resources and member
capabilities, but also on the skills and capability of the
groupworker. Group members are quick to sense whether
the worker feels comfortable with the methods she is using,
and if she reveals excessive anxiety and uncertainty it will
be transmitted rapidly to others. It may make them
reluctant to engage in the activity, and more vulnerable to
failure. Groupworkers wishing to extend their repertoire
of activities and skills by trying out a new approach for
the first time, can usually do so with more confidence if
they have rehearsed it beforehand in the relatively safe
setting of the team or a training session, perhaps using
video play-back (Brown, A; 1994: 97-98).
For people to be served effectively in a group, sound
preparation for the initiation and subsequent development
of that group is essential. Thorough and thoughtful
planning contributes mightily to the success of social group
work. Planning comprises the thinking, preparation,
decision-making, and actions of the group with facilitation
by the social worker. Max Siporin notes, the planning
process is deliberate and rational, designed to assure the
achievement of specific objectives. The programme
decisions are based on knowledge of social contexts, group
processes, agency policies and procedures, and
assessments of clients in their networks of interacting
social systems.

Principles of Programme Planning

Providing a programme of activities is one of the main tasks
of a group. Planning the groups activities in advance helps
a group run smoothly because:

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


Members understand and accept their responsibilities

Optimum utilization of resources

Better coordination between group members, agency

and the worker in accomplishment of objectives

Programmes in group work have to be effective since the

groups effectiveness is largely dependent on its
programmes. Programme planning is an instrument in the
hands of the group and the worker and its efficient use
results in feasible, well thought out programmes.
Programme planning in social group work has to follow
certain principles, termed by Trecker (1955) as the criteria
of effectiveness:

Programme should grow out of the needs and interests

of the individuals who compose the group

Programme should take into account such factors as

age of group members, cultural background, and
economic differences

Programme should provide individuals with

experiences and opportunities which they voluntarily
choose to pursue because of their inherent values

Programme should be flexible and varied to satisfy a

variety of needs and interests and to afford a maximum
number of opportunities for participation

Programme should evolve from the simple to the more

complex with movement coming as a result of group
growth in ability and readiness. Movement from
initially personal to social or community concerns
should be an ultimate objective if our programmes
are to have a greater social significance.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

A Set of Guidelines to Programme Planning

Stage 1

What is the objective of the programme?

What is the group members wants/welfare
What are the resources accessible?
What is the relevance of the programme to the
groups objective?

Stage 2

Splitting the programme into smaller realizable

goals and tasks

Actual implementation commences

Stage 3

Periodic evaluation of the programme and

progressing to the next phase of the programme
based on the evaluation and inputs of members

Stage 4

Reflection giving members a chance to look back

on their experiences of the programme and see
how they have progressed, in the process.

Factors Influencing Programme Planning

All initiatives and efforts of the group in pursuit of fulfilling
its goal is considered to be a programme in the social group
work context. Though one tends to equate programme with
activity, let us be clear that programme is a concept that
comprises of not only activities but also emotional aspects
such as group bonding, communications, experiences etc.
One important aspect is that all these should result out of
conscious planning by the group under the guidance of
the worker. Programme is thus a process rather than the

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


periodic culmination of a process. In the light of the above,

let us discuss the factors influencing programme planning:
The primary responsibility for programmes in groups lies
with its group members the group worker is only a
facilitator in the entire process. The programmes have to
be person-centered, catering to the requirements of its
members. The group members, therefore, have to engage
themselves to their best possible extent in programme
planning, fully understanding that its successful
implementation calls for their cooperation and
If a programme has to be person-centered, it has to respond
to the wants and welfare of the group members. The group
worker has to make the group understand that (i) there is
a vast distinction between the wants of the group members
and their welfare (ii) This can be gathered when group
members put across their views during programme
planning sessions. However, when group starts spelling
out ideas for the programme, the worker needs to carefully
evaluate them on the basis of collective interests, fine
foundation, feasibility in terms of resources and agencys
objectives, feasibility of personal partaking of members
and also of groups cooperation.
It is of equal importance that the worker consistently taps
the wants and welfare of the group from its members.
Gathering this vital information is not a one time affair to
be done in the initial stages of the programme, but has to
flow at periodic intervals to ensure that the programme is
on the right path. The worker has to understand and also
convey to the group members that programme planning is
an ongoing process that as the programme evolves in
sequence, one could comprehend the groups progress as
Any discussion of programme in social group work must
take into account such items as content and area, media


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

of expression, and methods of conducting it. Programme

area or content refers to a segment of life experience that
has general meaning for the individuals at their specific
point of development. The programme process is not
segmental; in actual work all these are interrelated and
almost indistinguishable (Trecker; 1955).
In order to grow and execute its programmes, the group
has to have systems for:

Decision-making and its support from group members

Delegation of responsibilities and its accountability

Develop whole-hearted involvement of all the group

members, in all the phases of a programme such as
planning, execution, evaluation etc.

Direct day-to-day affairs of the agency and its members

The group worker enables the group to understand their

role in programme planning and implementation that
programmes are successful largely due to the members
willingness to share responsibilities. During the planning
stages, the group members should clearly assign and
accept duties and responsibilities individually, in pairs
or through forming smaller committees within the group.
The group worker assists the members in functioning in
unity towards executing the programme.
Healthy, purposeful and friendly communication among
group members is the essence of programme planning and
development. The group workers role here is imperative.
He steers the group members to meaningful
communication which in turn leads to the group working
towards aims that reciprocate with the agencys
functioning. Thus communication is a fundamental mode
on the road to the groups goals.
Thus, the programme planning process is influenced by
various factors such as: (i) consistent unearthing of the

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


wants and welfare of members (ii) identification of the point

wherein the programme shall commence (iii) studying and
scrutinizing work responsibilities involved in programme
execution (iv) delegating duties and responsibilities to
various members (v) synchronization of individual efforts
and striving for harmony among the group members and
programme evaluation
A Sample Programme
The following is a very brief outline of a programme to
help a group learn listening skills.

The Indicators are how the leader identified the need

of the group and what skill to develop

The Activities are how the group learned and practiced

the skills

The Skills Practiced breaks the skill down into small

achievable steps and each activity is matched to the
step it helps the group to take

The Learning is the aim of the programme/activity

Identify The Need Activities

Skills Practiced The Learning

A group has
Group games asking and
trouble listening to
waiting for a reply
each other
listening for
another persons
Members have

Listening is
important for
having fun and

trouble taking
turns to make a games &
caused by not
taking time to
solving game
in which the
group has to
difficult to
listen to each
facilitate group other

Awareness of
listening skills

What skills
make me a
better listener

Practice of the
skills learnt so
far Practicing
the skills

The group
works better
when we listen
to each other

Recognition for
being good at
the skills


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The above outline shows how very different activities can

help the group learn listening skills. Lots of different skills
can be developed in this way from practical skills like
swimming to complex skills like team work.

Recording in Social Group Work

Writing and maintaining group work records is an essential
element of professional social work. A recording well done
saves the group worker the trouble of having to emphasize
to the agency about the groups progress in various aspects.
But how seriously does the social work fraternity take up
recording or written communication? Let us read what
experts have to say on this:
We believe that it is important that social work educators,
students and professionals focus on developing their
written communication skills for a range of reasons. These

Writing is a core mode of communication in many fields

of social work practice. The capacity to communicate
effectively in writing can enhance practice in many
ways, from promoting inter disciplinary team
communication to advancing the capacity to attract
funds and influence policy

Writing skills, like all professional skills, can be learnt.

Just as social work professionals can develop effective
spoken communication skills, so too their professional
writing skills can improve through sustained attention
and effort

Written communication can represent complex

matters better than speech can. So it is a vital tool for
social workers, who are often involved in complex

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


situations with individuals, families and communities

and need to be able to convey the intricacies to others
who may have limited first-hand experience of the
specific situations. In addition, some professional
writing tasks, such as completing tender documents,
can require the integration of detailed and complex
information in a succinct and cohesive format.

Social workers approach to writing should reflect the

distinctive character of their professional purpose. This
is shaped by the institutional context and audience,
and must always be driven, at least in part, by
professional knowledge and an ethical value base
(Healy & Mulholland; 2007: 2-3).

Principles of Recording in Social Group

Recording in social group work aims to make better the
quality of service to the members. The agency could assess
the quality of its service, thereby understanding its
efficiency. Group records are imperative in study, research
and experimentation.
Principle of Flexibility: the record must be adapted to the
agencys purpose because group work practice and agency
purpose are inseparably interwoven
Principle of Selection: worker does not include everything
in his record but selects significant material in the light of
individual and group development
The Principle of Readability: form and style are important
and that clarity of expression is essential for all written
The Principle of Confidentiality: the record is a professional
document and that as such its contents are guarded by as
sense of professional ethics.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The Principle of Worker Acceptance: the worker must accept

his responsibility to write records because of his conviction
that records have value in rendering high quality
professional service. (Trecker; 1955: 208)

Types of Recording in Social Group Work

Group work recording is more difficult than recording oneto-one interviews because of the complex nature of a small
group. In groups with a task oriented focus, recording will
be concerned with tangible tasks, plans, actions and
decisions. In a person-oriented group, where feelings,
relationships, and non-verbal communication receive high
priority, recording is dealing with intangibles, perhaps the
most difficult of all to write about. Most group records
attempt to communicate both content and process. Group
work recording has several different purposes as follows:

Agency requirements

Training and skill development

Planning, evaluation and research

For direct use in work with members (Brown, A; 1994:


Thus recording in group work is based on (i) Contents and

(ii) Process.
Content Recording:
Numerical information on registration, enrolment and
attendance of individuals and groups
Programme reports, depending on the types of activities
the group is involved in.
Process Recording:
Another kind of record kept by group workers is the
chronological narrative write up of the group-work process

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


as it develops. In this kind of record each meeting of the

group is described in full detail. It is a process record in
the sense that primary attention is given to the
participation and interaction of the members, with a view
of determining the role of each individual in the affairs of
the group. The major value of the narrative process record
from the standpoint of the worker is that such records
help the worker to do a more effective job with his groups.
Every other purpose is in a sense a sub purpose of this
major one: to improve the quality of experience provided
for the group. The record is thus a tool in the process of
understanding the group and learning how to help it. The
process records help the worker to (i) become more aware
of the members of the group (ii) see emerging and changing
interests of the individuals (iii) see evolving needs and how
these needs are being met (iv) see the development of skills
and social attitudes (v) becomes sensitive to special
problems which may interfere with the individuals full
use of the group (vi) it shows the variety of patterns of
interpersonal relationship which take place within the
group (vii) The development of the workers relationship
and role can be ascertained from careful recording of what
he does while helping the group. (Trecker; 1955).

Contents in a Group Work Record

A group record is expected to hold the following information.
This is especially important in the case of a worker leaving
the group and when a new group worker takes over. By
referring to the group records, (assuming it is done
professionally), the new worker can be relatively at ease
since group records consist of information that enables
him to take hold of the appropriate strings.
Given below is a gist of the contents a group work record
shall consist of:

Individual behaviour of the group members


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Nature and degree of members involvement in the

groups affairs

Source and progress of suggestions, initiatives and


The workers role with minute details of what he exactly

does in executing his responsibilities

The workers thoughts and feelings about the group


The development, transformation and evolution

observed in members and in the group as a whole

Affiliation among the group and the agency community

relationships inclusive

Tips on Recording
Thus, recording skills calls for the workers keen
observation, understanding of dynamics of relationships
within individual members and among the group as a whole
and understanding the importance of how group
cohesiveness is built. The worker also consciously puts in
writing his contribution to the groups functioning.
Recording is not difficult, but thinking and analysis that
precede the actual writing is difficult. Here are some tips
for recording in social group work:

Organize a concise, thematic sketch prior to putting

things in writing as it facilitates in arranging the
information/facts and in the choice of the main issues

Clear-cut language, concise sentences, frequent

paragraphing along with appropriate titles all through
the document assists in subsequent assessment

All the records should be accompanied with the dates,

place and time to ensure

Programme Planning in Social Group Work


The dating of all entries is important because it shows


Regular summations of individual and group progress

are important means for appraisal of the groups

Thus, programme planning is a significant part of social
group work and the group worker is expected to navigate
the group with its individual members in this process.
All groups have natural processes or group dynamics and
the skill of the group worker lies in developing a programme
of activities which phase in with the stages and condition
of the group, to provide the best possible opportunities for
task achievement. Group workers need to be flexible and
pragmatic in their use of programme, drawing on different
sources and ideas (Brown, A; 1994).
A proper record of all his initiatives will be a knowledge
bank from which academicians and practitioners alike can
draw from and build upon.


Brown, A. (1994). Group work. Burlington, USA:

Ashgate Publishing Company.


Healy, K., & Mulholland, J. (2007). Writing skills for

social workers. London: Sage Publications.


Konapka, G. (1963). Social group work: A helping

process. Englewood Cliffs, New York: Prentice Hall.


Northen, H., & Kurland, R. (2001). Social work with

groups. New York: Columbia University Press.



Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Trecker, H.B. (1955). Social group work: Principles and

practices. New York: Whiteside.






Programme Planning in Social Group Work


Concepts and Dynamics of

Self Help Groups (SHGs) in
Indian Context
*Joseph Varghese

Self help and mutual aid are the foundational principles
of social work. Professional social work evolved in the West
where self help groups were mainly used for addressing
psycho-social issues. It was used to mainly to provide
emotional support and train people through groups.
However in developing countries SHGs began to be used
for empowerment and economic development. Here we
focus on those SHGs, which are used for these purposes.
SHGs are being increasingly used developmental
programmes of government and NGOs. A number of
strategies were used to alleviate the problem of poverty by
both governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Some of them were partially successful and others were
failures. Community based approaches, family based
approaches and individual based approaches were used.
However each of these strategies had its limitations. For
example, in the community development programmes the
elite and already well off gained at the expense of the poor
thereby reducing the effectiveness of the programmes.
Similarly individual based programmes imposed conditions

*Mr. Joseph Varghese, Christ University, Bangalore


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

on the beneficiaries that could not be regulated by the

department and banks. Institutional constraints like the
corruption and red tape in the government also remained
which prevented the effective implementation of the
programmes. Group based approaches like Development
of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) were also
used occasionally, but they did not have the wide spread
recognition that they have today. SHGs have now become
an integral part of development strategy of governmental
as well as non-governmental organizations.
SHGs grew out of the developmental experiences of the
various stakeholders concerned in the process- the
beneficiaries, banks (creditors) and the government. We
will see in the sections below the advantages of using SHGs
for all these stakeholders. The wide spread use of SHGs
for empowering people especially women, has upto a large
extent proved its worth. But there are also criticisms of SHGs
as a tool for development and we will look at them too.

Concept of SHGs
According to the Reserve Bank of India
Self-Help Group (SHG) is a registered or unregistered group
of micro entrepreneurs having homogeneous social and
economic background voluntarily, coming together to save
small amounts regularly, to mutually agree to contribute
to a common fund and to meet their emergency needs on
mutual help basis. The group members use collective
wisdom and peer pressure to ensure proper end-use of
credit and timely repayment thereof. In fact, peer pressure
has been recognized as an effective substitute for collateral.
(Reserve Bank of India, FAQs).
Malcolm Harper has defined SHGs as groups of women
whose primary purpose is to save and then to take loans,
initially from their own funds but eventually from a bank.

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


Its main advantages are

An economically poor individual gain strength as part of a
group. Besides, financing through SHGs reduces
transaction costs for both lenders and borrowers. While
lenders have to handle only a single SHG account instead
of a large number of small-sized individual accounts,
borrowers as part of a SHG cut down expenses on travel
(to and from the branch and other places) for completing
paper work and on the loss of workdays in canvassing for
loans (RBI, FAQ)
But this definition is rather limited in as it views SHGs
merely as an instrument of providing credit to the poor.
SHGs are now viewed as having a role in empowering the
whole community through the efforts of the members.
SHGs members are credited with organizing successfully
the community to ban arrack in AP, fighting against child
marriage and protecting forests. Supporters of SHGs
attribute the success of many community initiatives to
the leadership provided by conscious members of the
SHGs. Therefore the definition though useful does not fully
satisfy our purpose.

Characteristics of SHGs
SHGs consist of group members, male or female who come
together and form a group. Often it is an outside agency, a
government agency or a NGO that encourage the
individuals to form this group. The group has to be formed
carefully as an unplanned group will face problem and in
all probability will terminate leading to frustration in the
Ideal characteristics of SHGs

Number of group members is between 8-15. Ideally

the number is upto 12.



Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Homogeneity or similarity in social background

Group members are mostly women though there

exist mens groups also.

Same sub caste or caste group. Members existing

solidarity helps increase group unity and prevent
factions in the group

Economically they belonging to the same class

and do not have major difference in income levels

Living close by; preferably within walking distance

The group has an advantage if all members belong

to Below Poverty Line (BPL) Category. The
government gives subsidy to the groups, which
increases the amount of revolving capital of the
group and the morale of the group.


Members get along in a group and are ready to take

instructions from group leaders.


Members are able to contribute the fixed amount of

money to the SHGs.


Decisions regarding the group are made through

democratic and participatory methods by the


After a period of time the SHG can be registered (many

SHGs remain unregistered) and a bank account started
which will formalize the functioning of the SHGs. Bye
laws and rules are framed which regulates the
functioning of the SHGs


The group also elects a group president, secretary and

treasurer with prescribed roles for each post.

Process of Forming SHGs

Any group goes through certain stages of development from
the beginning to the end. According to the widely applied

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


theory of group development advocated by Tucker the

stages that group are (1) Forming (2) Storming (3) Norming
(4) Performing and (5) Adjourning. The pace at which the
group moves from one stage to another is based on number
of factors that exist in the group. Hence homogeneous
groups are preferred over heterogeneous groups; member
who is previously known to each other is preferred over
persons who are unknown; difficult persons are avoided.
The length and effectiveness of the group will depend
largely on qualities of the members. Often government and
NGOs have set targets for their staff to initiate SHGs which
results in poor quality of groups which either break into
smaller groups or simply close.
First Stage
Government, NGOs or Banks, forms SHGs. Often
employees or volunteers from any one organization go to
the rural community or to urban slum community. They
interact with the community women and explain to them
the advantages of forming SHGs. It is pointed out to the
women they often have to borrow money for emergencies
or for investing in their economic activities. They usually
approach the local moneylenders for their requirements
who charge exorbitant rates for their loans. A 10 percent
per month interest rate , which works out to 120 percent
per year, is common. Further, the first month interest is
deducted from the principle itself.
In course of time the principle and the interest become a
large amount, which the debtor is unable to repay.
Consequently she has to part a precious asset like land
or jewelry or take another loan to settle the previous loan.
Either way he has been pushed further into debt and
poverty. People are very familiar with the pattern and
understand the situation very easily. A skilled
communicator will often ask questions regarding their


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

financial situation to the community members who would

then tell her of their problems regarding money. Then
the group worker will present the formation of SHGs as a
solution to the problems. She will list the advantages of
forming SHGs which are to promote savings, access
cheaper credit and ensure better returns on the
investment. The group worker will also tell how the SHGs
can be linked to the bank and if all members are BPL can
get subsidy (need not be returned).
People will generally have their doubts. Doubts can be
related to the functioning of SHGs- Who will keep the
money collected from the members? Who will prepare the
accounts? Who will deposit the money in the bank? Who
will decide who should be given the loan? Who will settle
disputes between the members? Is there is a danger of
losing money? What if the person who has taken loan does
not return the amount? What options will the SHGs have
to recover the amount? Can the members perform the
functions needed for SHGs. Will all members cooperate?
Will they attend the meetings and deposit the contributions
regularly? What if due to genuine reasons members are
unable to attend or deposit the amount?
The animator will answer the questions by saying that the
group members can perform the required tasks by
themselves. If needed they will be trained to conduct
meetings, maintain accounts and deposit money in the
bank. Attendance and depositing money is compulsory
and fines will be imposed on members who are absent for
the meetings or do not deposit their contributions on time.
The animator will explain that these rules and regulations
are needed for the proper functioning of the groups and
they are applicable for all. Instances of successful
functioning of SHGs and their benefits to the members
are cited to boost the confidence of the members.

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


If the communitys members are convinced and agree, one

or more, groups are formed in the village. Usually it will
take one to two months with regular weekly visits to the
community to form the SHGs. If the animator is known to
the community or is introduced by an influential person,
the formation of SHGs may be quicker and easier. In some
communities people might have had a bitter experience
with savings and credit programme in which many of them
losing their money to unscrupulous persons. The animator
would have to work harder to persuade people to trust
Selection of members is based on the criteria, which has
been mentioned before. Homogeneity in caste, class and
social background; proximity; financial conditions are some
of the criteria used. Close relatives cannot be members of
the same group- mothers and daughters and mother in
laws and daughters and sister-in laws are not allowed to
be part of the same group.
Usually once groups are formed, members are encouraged
to name it. The name can be of a flower like rose or name
of the place or even a name of the member. Members are
then shown how to perform these tasks- begin the
meetings, take attendance, conduct the proceedings,
maintain accounts, write the minutes of the meetings, get
signatures/thumb impressions of the members, take
decisions regarding the group functioning and close the
meetings. Thereafter the members are ready to take
responsibility of the groups meetings. Meetings are held
every week or at least every month.
The following documents are needed (1) Minutes book in
which the proceedings of the meeting are recorded.
(2) Savings and loan register where the amount is recorded.
(3) Weekly registers (4) Members passbook where the
individuals saving and loans are recorded.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Some of rules and regulations that will have to be agreed

upon are the following:

Venue and time of meeting are fixed which is

convenient to all members


Penalties for non-attendance and late coming


Agreement on amount of saving for each member


Procedure for giving small loans to each other, interest

rates and repayment schedule


Methods to take decisions regarding loans from banks

and repayment


Procedure for taking other decisions regarding the


A typical group meeting will start at the appointed time of

the week. The place of the meeting can be the house of the
members, the school building or the office of the e NGO or
any other place, which is convenient to the members. At
the appointed time the meeting begins. Members are
expected to come themselves not send their children or
anybody else. Any one coming late is usually fined a
nominal fee, which is added to the common pool. However
individuals with valid reasons are exempted- sickness to
self, children or close relatives and being out of station
are examples. But the group members decide whether the
reason is genuine or not.
Once the members are all present, a song may be sung
especially if a guest is present. Attendance is taken in the
attendance register and then the contributions are taken
from all members. The amounts are recorded in their
personal passbook and in the accounts register. The
secretary writes down the minutes and treasurer updates
the accounts register. Then matters of common interest
may be discussed. A member may want a loan for personal

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


reason or for making investments in a new enterprise. She

may request for a loan of Rs.1000 from the common fund.
Members have to decide whether the loan can be given or
be refused. They will have to be taken into consideration
the genuineness of the reason for requesting the loan, the
capacity of the member to return the loan, past
performance of the member in repaying loans, amount
available with group and other factors. At times there may
be more than one member demanding loan and the group
has to decide to whom the loan will be given. Group
members are also encouraged to discuss common problems
facing the community and steps needed to address the
problem. For example, the anganwadi needs a new worker
and group may decide to present a petition to the
panchayat. Different responsibilities may be distributed
to the group members. All these discussions are recorded
in the minutes book. If no group member can write then
an outsider is requested to write the minutes of the
There are number of sources for conflict at this stagemembers dont understand why they have to pay fine when
they break the group rules especially when it is said that
it their group; members are offended by the actions and
comments of others; members are offended when their
demand for loans are rejected by the group; factions;
members feel that they are investing too much time for
too little. There have been also instances where conflicts
outside the group have adversely affected the functioning
of the group.
The group worker usually settles these conflicts by
speaking to the members and convincing them of the
importance of the following the rules and staying in the
group. The degree of the success of these efforts depends
on the nature of rapport between the group worker and
the members.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Second Stage
If the group survives the earlier phase then it goes to the
next phase. Meetings are held regularly and members
would accept the rules and regulations and agree that it
is in advantageous for them. Loans should be taken and
repayments done on time. The account books and
passbooks are updated regularly. Conflicts are settled
without outside help.
After two to three meetings the group can start a saving
bank account with the bank. But usually it takes more
time than that as the members must get used to the
functioning of the SHG and build their confidence. Starting
the account in the bank, which forms the first step towards
accessing loans, is called SHG- Bank Linkage. The group
members have to collectively pass a resolution to link their
SHG with the Bank and apply for opening of the account.
Three members should be authorized to operate the
account and two of them can operate the account. A copy
of the rules and regulations of the SHGs has to be
submitted to the bank. Usually the secretary and treasure
operate the group account and from then on the periodical
collections of the group are deposited with bank within
two days of the meeting. The updated passbook is
presented to the group members in the next meeting.
The amount deposited with the Bank grows with the
increase in group deposits and also the interests on the
loans that the members have taken.
Once the SHG has been in existence for a period of time
banks decide whether they are ready to get loans. The time
period differ from bank to bank. For example Andhra Bank
stipulates that the group should have been in active
existence for at least a period of six months.


Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups

The bank will provide loans to the group as a whole not to

individuals. The SHG is taken as entity and members serve
as guarantors. The amount of the first loan can be upto
four times the amount of saving done by the group. The
loan amount becomes part of the revolving fund from which
members can take loan on an individual basis. Alternatively
the group can collectively start an income generation
programme. After the loan is returned by the members
they can take another loan which is six times the saving
of the SHG and the after its repayment the loan amount
can be upto eight times the savings.
But first the heath of the SHG is assessed and seen whether
it meets the criteria set by the bank to avail loan facilities.
Fulfilling the criteria mean that the SHGs enjoys good
heath and will repay the loans - the main concern of the
The suggested criteria is given belowSr. Factors to be
No. checked

Very good



Group Size

15 to 20

10 to 15

Less than 10

Type of members Only very poor


2 or 3 poor Many not poor


Number of

Four meetings
a month

Less than two
meetings in meetings in a
a month

Timings of

Night or after
6 pm

7 to 9 am

Attendance of

More than 90% 70 to 90%

Less than 70%

Participation of

Very high level

Low level

Savings collection Four times

withing the group
every month


Other timings

Three times Less than three



Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Amount to be

Fixed amount



Interest on
internal loan

upon purpose

24 to 36%

More than 36%

10 Utilisation of

Fully used for

Loaning to

Partly used Poor utilisation

for Loaning
to members

11. Loan recoveries

More than 90% 70 to 90%

Less than 70%

12 Maintenance
of books

All books are


loans, etc.)

Irregular in

13 Accumulated

More than
Rs. 5000/-


Less than

14. Knowledge of
the Rules
of the SHGs

Known to all

Not known to

15 Education

More than
20% of
can read
and write

16 Knowledge of

All are aware

of Govt.

Less than 20
per cent know
to read and
Most of the No one knows

(Source: A Handbook on forming self-help groups, NABARD

Another facility for groups who meet the criteria and are
formed by BPL members is subsidy. Subsidy by the
government, which need not be repaid, ranges from Rs.
20,000 to Rs.100,000.
The savings of the members, subsidies if any received from
the government, the interest on loans and bank loan are
the financial assets of the SHG. The growth of the deposit

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


and growth of lending is the growth of the Self Help Group.

As the amount grows so will the loans which can be given
to the members. The objective would reach if the process
Third stage
Once the group has stabilized itself then it should ideally
become a peoples institution. However even though
activities other than collection and giving loans to members
are encouraged many SHG limit themselves to doing only
There are example of NGOs initiated SHGs encourage
training programmes for the members like literacy classes,
hygiene classes etc.
There have been instances when SHGs members have
come together and demanded action from the authorities
and succeeded in persuading them to do so. Example SHG
members led a movement demanding the implementation
of prohibition in the state which was accepted by the
Creating federation of SHGs is a strategy to strengthen
SHGs that has been tried out in some places. SHGs are
grouped into clusters and cluster level association for the
SHGs are started and many CLAs form a federation. Thus
it enables the SHG members of a small group to become a
part of the larger group and function as a pressure group.

Advantages of SHGs
The evolution of SHGs in India can be traced to the efforts
of NGOs and governmental organizations to provide credit
to the poor. SHGs proved to be very useful for all


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Advantages for the people

1) SHGs provide cheap credit to the poor
Credit - plays an important role in the lives of the poor as
it does in the lives of others. Credit is accessed for investing
in any enterprise however large or small it may be. Rarely
does even the biggest entrepreneur have enough money
to start her business.
Credit can be accessesed in different ways. She usually
has to access credit from any of the following sourcesidentify partners to invest, borrow money from banks and
other lending institutions, borrow from non institutional
lenders like money lenders, raise money from the public
directly in form of shares and debentures. Each of them
has weakness and strengths. However the sources for the
credit for the poor is limited.
The poor hesitate to go to the institutional lenders. They
prefer to go to the moneylenders and pawn brokers who
charge them very high interest rate. But they are preferred
as the credit they provide is quick and transaction costs
low. Studies show that the poor often pay higher interest
rates than the rich. Unfortunately they do not have many
options and are forced to pay higher costs.
SHGs are promoted as sources for timely, cheap and viable
credit. SHGs encourage regular savings as every member
has to contribute an agreed upon amount of money every
week. SHGs encourage disciplined borrowing and
repayments. Group makes decisions as to whom to lend
money and how it will be repaid. Defaulters are pressurized
by group members to return the loans with interests.
Group pressure is the key to the success of SHGs. Thus
repayment rates in SHGs are comparatively better than in

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


The transaction costs are low as the cost traveling; filling

forms, producing necessary documents needed to apply
for the loan in bank is not needed. The group members
will assess the need of the member and provide the loan
with minimal formalities.
SHGs charge interest, which are below that of the money
lenders thus increasing the access to the poor to credit.
The interest paid is also returned to the group common
fund which ensures that no outside agency benefits.
Bank-SHGs linkage enables the group to take loans from
the bank with group as collateral which means increased
volume of credit available to the members.
SHGs also start new group business ventures that can
increase their incomes.
Participation in SHGs with regular meetings, maintaining
accounts interacting with bank officials and others
improves the confidence of the members leading to
womens empowerment. Often participation in the SHG
related activities provides the only opportunity for many
rural women to work without male interference and
Increased income and participation leads to improved
status in the family and the community. It is observed
that awareness levels of the SHGs members are found to
be higher than non-SHGs members.
Advantages to the Institutional Lenders
Lending to the poor has been part of government policy
for many years. In fact this was an important reason for
bank nationalisation in 1969 and again in 1980. However
banks are reluctant to advance credit to the poor. Some of
the important reasons are given below-


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The poor have minimal assets which often cannot be used

as security or a guarantee against a loan from the lending
institutions. Hence they are not considered credit worthy
and there is great reluctance to extend credit to the poor.
Poor people including hawkers and micro entrepreneurs
need credit but numerous problems making it difficult for
them to access credit. The non-availability of credit is major
barrier in the development of the poor in India.
Secondly bankers and institutional lenders are not trained
to deal with small and marginal depositors. Many of them
are illiterate or semi literate and require a lot of assistance
for successful interaction.
Thirdly, transactions costs are high for the bank if it has
to deal individually with small and marginal depositors
and borrowers. These depositors deposit small amounts
which involves a lot of paper work.
Fourthly recovery rates are poor as many borrowers default
on their payments and it is too costly for the bank to take
efforts to recover small loans through the legal and other
options available
All these conditions lead to a number of problems for the
lenders leading toReduction of profitability; reduced viability; administered
interests and lending costs leading to reduced margins;
Poor monitoring and poor loan recovery (Karmakar,1999)
SHGs resolve many of the problems of the creditor1)

Repayment rates are high and cheaper as group

pressure ensures most loans are repaid.


Many small deposits are accumulated so the numbers

of depositors grow without increased burden on the
services of the bank.


The social function of the Bank is fulfilled.

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


Advantages to the Government

Decades of government sponsored poverty alleviation
programmes have not been very successful. The creditbased programmes of the government have not been very
successful. These programme have had major problemsidentification of beneficiaries and subsequent recovery of
loans. Beneficiaries default on their repayment and misuse
the credit for non-productive purposes.
The use of SHGs has become a part of the government
strategy for women s empowerment and poverty
alleviation. States governments promote SHGs. They are
known by different names-

Impacts of SHGs
Bank-SHG Linkage
From the point of view the lenders the performance of the
Bank SHGs Linkage has been successful. The figure given
below indicate this
Performance as on 31 march 2006



No.of SHGs linked 2,238,565


Percentage of women groups in total groups 90%


No.of participating banks : 545


Commercial Banks 47

ii) Regional Rural Banks 158

iii) Co-operative Banks 340

Bank Branches participating 44,362


No. of States/UTs 31


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


No. of districts covered 583


No.of Partners 4896


Bank Loan Rs. in billion 113.98


Refinance Rs. in billion 41.60


No.of poor households assisted (in million) 32.98


Average Loan/SHG Rs. 50,917


Model Wise Linkage ( Cumulative) (%)


SHGs formed and financed by Banks 20

ii) SHGs formed by other agencies but directly

financed by banks 74
iii) SHGs financed by banks using financial
intermediaries 6
(Source . NABARD)
Impact of SHG on the women
A number of studies have been done on the different
aspects of SHGs. studies showed that most of women who
are members of SHG belong to the Below Poverty Line
1) SHGs and targeting the poor
The aim of SHGs is to assist the poorest of the poor.
However there is always opposition in the community and
in the family towards efforts to improve their status. Often,
since the poorest sections of the society are difficult to
organize SHGs are started for the well off.. However studies
have shown that upto 51 percent of the members are from
poor families(BPL), Many are women belonging to the
Schedule Caste community.(EDA Rural system Pvt limited.
2006). Harper (2003) found 77 percent of women in the
SHGs he studied are from the SC community.

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


2) Impact of membership on income

Many studies have shown that income of the members
have increased significantly. However some studies also
point out that the increase has not been sufficient to bring
them above the poverty line.( Swain, Ranjula Bali and Fan
Yang Wallentin Eda Rural system Pvt limited; 2006
Tankha, Ajay, ). Further it is widely accepted that SHGs
have helped to reduce the dependence on the moneylender
by making available credit during emergencies and for
creation of productive assets. Harper in his study found
an increase of 37.5 percent in the assets of families who
were members for seven years over those who were
members only for three years. He points out that one
reason could be the loans obtained from the SHGs.
NABARDs evaluation study of 560 members of 223 SHGs
linked to banks in 11 states showed that SHG members
realized major increases in assets, income and
employment. ASSEFA s study showed 95% of members
covered by the study reported increases in annual income
and 52% have reported an increase in net worth over Rs.
10,000. These studies confirm that income and assets of
families of SHG members have increased.
3) Impact of membership on social status
NABARD evaluation study showed that women members
were found to have become more assertive in confronting
social evils and problem situations.
Nearly half the poor member households had crossed the
poverty line. The social status of women has increased in
the family and in the community. (Ajay Tankha). Studies
conducted so far have shown that the SHGs membership
had a positive impact on the women and society. A major
study of 72 SHGs undertaken earlier covering over 1,000
SHG members in Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and
Karnataka (.Harper et al.1998) observed improvement in


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

members diet, assets and education. Similarly the EDA

study showed thirty percent of the SHGs were active
members in community.
4) Impact of SHGs on disaster related activities
Kim Wilson (2002) found that involving SHGs in predisaster and post disaster activities reduced the cost of
relief and rehabilitation. The reason for this is the close
cooperation that the SHGs could work with the community,
Panchayat and relief agencies.
5) SHGs promote social capital in society
Social capital has been defined by Robert Putnam (2000)
as network of trusts in the society. It has a public face and
the private face. The private face means that having more
social contacts will benefit the individual. The public face
relates to the benefit the society has because of network
of trusts existing in society. Putnam (1992) finds a positive
correlation between the social capital and good governance.
SHGs by their savings and credit activity promote increases
social capital in the society.

Criticism of SHGs
SHGs have been criticized as being one more fad in the
field of development which while not addressing the core
issue of oppression and discrimination tries to solve the
problem by providing credit to the poor. One commentator
calls the strategy of using the SHGs for development as
the last resort of the development planner. All other
reformist strategies having failed the success of the
Grameen Bank and other NGOs enabled the government
and the funding agencies to grasp on to the concept of
SHGs. At the first look, SHGs are ideal as it follows the
participatory approach and emphasizes on self and mutual
aid. But the strategy is meant again to avoid radical

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


measures that will hurt the interests of the powerful and

the rich.
Secondly, SHGs suit well in the strategy of the international
institutions like the World bank and other western based
aid agencies to make people part of the market as
consumers and producers. Critics who are suspicious of
the motives of these institutions attribute the growth of
SHGs to the furthering of this strategy by these
Thirdly, the entry of private micro finance institutions
(MFIs) into the rural areas has created a confusion in the
minds of the people. The aim of MFIs is to create profit for
them by providing micro -credit without any security.
Unscrupulous characters intending to cheat people run
some of these MFIs. To increase the volume of credit they
encourage poor women to form groups and assess easy
credit. Many of them are do not assess the financial health
of the group before the providing credit nor do they prepare
the members for handling money. Sometimes they provide
more than one loan to the same group without first one
being repaid. People fall easy prey to these schemes as
getting loans from them is easier and faster. They soon
fall into the debt trap. People often mistakenly associate
all types of SHGs with MFIs which brings bad name to the

SHGs have become a key component in the developmental
programme of the government and the NGOs. It has become
the instrument through which the credit; a important
prerequisite for development is being reached to the poor.
But an important aspect is that SHGs if handled properly
is a peoples institution, which can play a role in the
transformation of the society. Evidence from the field may


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

not give entire picture as research in same areas may be

lacking or is not available in the public domain. However
there is no doubt that the SHGs are playing an important
role in developing disadvantaged women in urban and rural

Harper, Malcolm (1998), Profit for the Poor - Cases in MicroFinance, Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Ltd., New Delhi.
Putnam, Robert (1992). Making democracy Work; Civic
traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press, New
Putnam, Robert (2000), Bowling alone; The collapse and
revival of American Community, Simon & Schuster, New
ASSEFA, Mid Term Assessment of Womens Development
Programme (mimeo), Chennai
Karmakar, K.G.,(1999), Rural Credit and self Help Groups,
Micro finance Needs and Concepts in India, Sage
Publications, New Delhi.
Swain, Ranjula Bali and Fan Yang Wallentin, does micro
finance empower women? Evidence from self help groups
in india, Working Paper 2007:24 Department of Economics,
Department of Economics Working paper 2007:24, Uppsala
University Uppsala. Downloaded from htt p:// on 10th January 2009
Siddiqui, H.Y.(2008), Group work; Theories and Practices,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Wilson, Kim (2002), The Role of Self Help Group Bank in
Linkage Programme in Preventing Rural Emergencies in
India, NABARD, Mumbai.

Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups


MYRADA, (2002) Impact of Self Help Groups (Group

Processes) on The Social/Empowerment Status of Women
Members In Southern India, NABARD, Mumbai
A handbook on forming Self Help Groups (SHGS)(not
dated), National Bank for Agriculture and Rural
Development, Mumbai


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Group Work in Community

*Joseph Varghese

Group work is very useful in the community. We have
discussed in detail the most widely used type of groups in
the community- the SHGs. In this chapter the other types
of groups will be discussed. Any number of natural groups
is found in the community. Most of them are spontaneous
efforts by the people themselves to control their lives by
helping others and getting help from others. Most of them
receive no or minimum help from professionals. However
they are effective in assisting those who are part of it. The
members do no think of their membership in the group as
something outside their normal course of life. It is part
and parcel of their life. For the poor the groups are
crucial part of their livelihood strategies and survival
strategies. They borrow money when needed, help building
each other homes, take part in joys and sorrows of each
others lives and assist each other in emergency.
Community based groups are based on neighborhood,
caste and extended kinship ties. Groups can also be formed
on the basis of many different criteria- members may be
suffering from the same illness; members may be
recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction; etc. One
important type of group that is increasingly being important
*Mr. Joseph Varghese, Christ University, Bangalore

Group Work in Community Settings


are the social action groups that aim at achieving social

justice for the disadvantaged. We will discuss the relevance
and functions of these groups for the society and for their
members. We will also study community-based groups,
which serve people with different problems.

Social Action Groups

Social work is not only associated with treatment and
delivery of services, it is also involved in challenging
discriminating practices and advocating the rights of the
marginalized. Right from the days of the settlement
movement social work pioneers have aimed at system
transformation and social reform. It has been realized that
treating individual clients alone will not solve social
problems. Social institutions have to be transformed and
exploitative structures destroyed. These methods are
usually considered part of the domain of the Social work
method of Community Organization.
According to Rothman (1968) three models of community
organization are- Social Planning Model, Locality
Development and Social Action. Though community
organization aims at mobilizing the community it is the
groups that actually that does much of the work. According
to (Staples in Gravin et al, 2004; 346) the group setting is
an ideal access point for most community members to
engage in social action. Small groups maximize
opportunities for participation in process of discussion,
analysis, consciousness raising, decision making and
planning. He further says that before every event held in
the community, smaller meetings are held for variety of
purposes including action research, leadership training,
executive decision making, strategic analysis, community
education, recruitment, action planning, negotiating,
lobbying and evaluation. These tasks done largely in groups
determine to large extent the success or failure of the
community organization process.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

As you know group work groups are divided into two types
(1) Treatment group that consists of personality
development groups, educational groups, recreational
groups, support groups and therapeutic group (2) Tasks
groups includes committees and councils. The main
purpose of the task groups are to accomplish that tasks
or programmes that has been entrusted to it. Social actions
groups belong to category of Task groups. It usually
consists of a small number of members who may belong
to the community or are outsiders to the community or
both. They take up an issue that they identify as having
an adverse effect on the well being of the members of the
community. They identify the causative factors that lead
to the problem. Institutions, practices and values that
cause the problems are identified. The agent can be the
government itself or a government department, police,
industries, social groups, organizations whose actions or
inactions has lead to the problem. Many times it is the
combination of factors that lead to the problems.
Government inaction invariably contributes to the problem.
The action group believes that the problem can be alleviated
if people unite and challenge the powerful and force them
to act in public interests. When people participate in the
process of decision-making and thereby gain mastery over
their lives it is called empowerment.
Empowerment is long process in which people first
understand the reality of power structure around. They
understand the interconnections between the social
structures and how it controls their lives. Pablo Friere calls
this process conscientization. They have to get rework on
their images. They must stop seeing themselves as passive
and powerless. They must begin see themselves as agents
of social transformation.
Groups are ideal for this kind of activity. Cox (1991) gives
the following reasons (1) Groups facilitate sharing of

Group Work in Community Settings


experiences which will help describe the reality as they

view it themselves (2) Successful cases of overcoming the
powerlessness can motivate and inspire others (3) Members
discussion can confront each other with their fears and
hopes facilitating the consciousness raising (4) Learning
with each other increases knowledge of the political
Social action groups are formed on the basis on the
following (1) Geographical area like neighbourhood,
community, and people living in close proximity. Since
they live close by they are likely to have the same problems
and more importantly share a common identity. Common
concerns like housing, public utilities environmental issues
are then taken up by the action groups. Sometimes the
community members are part of formal organizations like
resident welfare associations and community based
organizations. Again often committees are formed within
these organizations to deal with the authorities. (2) Another
type of groups is based on the particular issue such as
women rights, dalit rights and tribal rights, consumer
awareness and rights and land rights. (3) The third type of
groups is based on identity like ethnicity, religion, sexual
orientation, and mental or physical disability.
According to Rothman the goal of social action is to bring
about a shift in how resources and power is distributed in
the society. It is their belief that there is asymmetrical
division of power and resources, which leads to the
dominant sections using power to attain their goals at the
costs of the community. Consequently the disadvantaged
sections experience injustice and deprivation. Conflict,
confrontations, agitation, protests, PILs, negotiations and
strikes would be some of the techniques to be used
For example, an industry lets untreated affluent to the
river, which causes pollution, contamination of water


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

bodies and land degradation. If industry is unwilling to

listen to the pleas of the people the only strategy that would
yield results would be challenge the factory using the legal
means, holding protests and publicizing the problem using
the media.
Social Action Groups in India
In India social action groups began to make its presence
know during the 1970s. That decade was turbulent times
in the life of the nation. The declaration of emergency; the
war with Pakistan; rise in prices; the frequent strikes and
protests; the controversial family planning programme and
demolition of slums; numerous arrests of social activists;
rise of naxal movements; student protests are some of the
important events that shook the nation. . The political
system especially the political parties to a large extent lost
their creditability. The police and the bureaucracy also
lost its credibility. Many people felt that there is a need for
alternatives from outside the prevailing system. Social
action groups emerged out of this situation.
Most of activists were from middle class families. (Kothari,
1987; 441, Sheth, D.L.,1984; 258, Sharma, S.L.255, Sethi
1984;305). They were disillusioned with the mainstream
parties who advocated change but in practice maintained
status quo. Their bitter experience during the emergency
made them ideologically anti state and anti bureaucracy
(Kothari, 1984; 220). They rejected the idea that the state
could ever be an instrument of justice and liberation. They
rejected the developmental paradigms set by the state
(Kothari, 1984,220, Sheth D.L.,1984, 259). They saw the
problems of India not only in economic terms but also in
cultural and social dimensions.
Consequently their strategies for development were
different. They believed in living among them and taking
part in their struggles rather than dictating instructions

Group Work in Community Settings


to them for development. Peoples knowledge and

experience was respected and integrated with the group
strategy for development.
Conscientization and building people movements were the
main instruments. Marxian and Gandhian ideologies
influenced most of social action groups. However over the
course of time many of these groups turned in formal
organizations- some of them even became as bureaucratic
and corrupt as the government institutions that they
challenged. It is also observed that some of them built
alliances with the government and co-opted into the
Another controversy with these groups is the foreign
funding and its role in the emergence of these groups.
Prakash Karat (1984) accused action groups of building
micro social movements with the intention of breaking the
larger workers and peasants movement, which had a
greater chance for social transformation-workers
movement, peasant movements and women movements.
According to him foreign agencies promote this role of the
action groups in mind when they fund the action groups.
So he concludes that social action groups organize people
into micro movements, which aim at small changes while
neglecting the macro level problems of capitalism and
imperialism. However as mentioned above these groups
emerged when large formal organizations like political
parties and the bureaucracy failed in attaining their
Political leadership of even revolutionary parties lost their
radical agenda when they attained state power. (Michel,
Robert, 1915). Therefore social activists were more
comfortable while working in small groups in which the
members knew each other personally and ideologically
similar rather than large organizations that could be


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

manipulated by the leadership for serving selfish motives.

Moreover small groups can give importance to every
member opinion, thereby reducing alienation of it
Social action groups have been helped by the Supreme
Court and High Courts accepting Public Interest Litigation
(PILs) to deal with problems. Public Interest Litigation
allows the activists to take up issues of public concern
and ask for judicial action. Similarly, the Right to
Information Act has enabled the activists to ask information
from the government departments and use it to compare
the reality on the ground. Both these developments opened
new avenues of action for the groups.
But it cannot be denied that there are number of
shortcomings of action groups. Some of them are as

Factionist and frequent splits in the groups


Personal factors often interfered with professional

conduct leading to blurring of line between
professional and private.


Empire building and monopolizing of issues


Working for publicity and fame and thereby neglecting

the real causes


Often outside leaders of these groups have

overshadowed community leaders because of their
knowledge and social network.


Corruption and mismanagement.


Leadership is authoritarian and dictatorial


Foreign fund based activity and priorities

Group Work in Community Settings


Some of the areas, which action groups have contributed,

are as follows1)

Promotion of human rights issues including protection

of the under trials; police atrocities including custodial
deaths rights of the arrested; encounter deaths;
juvenile justice; rights of sexual minorities. The
Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and Human Rights
Law network is just two examples of action groups.


Rights of people are displaced due to Development

Project. Examples -the Narmada Bachao Andolan and
Protest Movements against Tehri Dam in Uttrakhand.


Women rights issues like domestic violence, dowry,

and sexual harassment. Many of legislations have been
passed and existing laws modified due to the pressure
from action groups. For example, the Visaka judgment,
which deals with sexual harassment at work places,
is result of the action groups case against atrocity in
Rajasthan on a community worker.


Tribal issues like land alienation, displacement and



Environment issues pollution of rivers, lowering of

water table because of over exploitation by corporate,
damage to monuments has been taken up by the
action groups. The Centre for Science and
Environment, Delhi and Cost Ford are examples of
action groups that have intervened in environmental


Protest against forcible Land acquisition


Protection of the rights of informal labour like workers

working in house (domestic workers), brick kilns,
glass-manufacturing units.


Child labour



Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Animal rights

10) Right to housing and rights of people living in slums.

Steps for social action group
According to Carr (2008) the following steps can be
implemented to create and sustain a social action group
1) Engaging
The process in which the group worker engages the target
group- a community (a village where the National Rural
Employment Guarantee Scheme is not implemented
properly); a section of society whose rights are denied
(sexual minorities); collection of people whose rights are
violated (workers whose factory have terminated their
services illegally). The engagement phase will include
familiarizing herself with the various dimensions of the
problem. The laws related to the problem, government
policies, the response of the local authority, research
available and news articles could be studied. Another step
in the process is build rapport with the existing leadership
in the community and knowing their limitations and
Initial reflections- the group worker must understand the
situation and identify the principles that will guide her
action and her relationship with the target group.
Assessing system barriers- the group assess the various
barriers that stand in between the target group and its
objectives. Some of the barriers can be related to the
situation (like government indifference to the issue) or to
the target group themselves (lack of awareness) or be
related to the other issues (leadership of the group, past

Group Work in Community Settings


Finding allies and making contacts

Networking with like-minded groups, developing contacts
in the media and academic world and obtaining the support
of other communities are important function of the group
leader. In India personal contacts with the police,
bureaucracy and professionals (lawyers, doctors) are also
very useful. These allies and contacts can be useful in
many ways- increasing the knowledge base, for providing
professional guidance, recruiting new members,
contributing resources, arranging publicity and giving
2) Initiating the Group
Identifying members, seeking ways to motivate them to
join the group, finding resources and venue meetings are
the important tasks that have to be done. This phase can
be stressful one as convincing people to join is tedious
job. The group worker must be able to withstand the
problems of forming the group before she moves ahead
Recruiting participants
Individuals may initially agree and then refuse or refuse
many times before agreeing to join. There maybe occasions
in which personal and professional disagreements can
threaten to split the group or even end it. It is found that
recruiting members from the disadvantaged section is
Finding a venue and obtaining needed materials
An accessible place for meeting and materials needed have
to be organized. It is better if available resources are used.
Building trust
Any group has to have a certain level of trust and goodwill
among its members. This is crucial maintenance function.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The level of trust can be increased if opportunities and a

climate exist in the group to express ones opinions and
views. Similarly others should be able to respond to these
views freely without worrying about hurting the other
members or retribution.
Establishing collegiality
Perfect equality may not be possible in the group as the
group worker often is a person with more knowledge and
skills. However he should take care that he works with
the group rather than for the group. His example will help
set norms for the group regarding the rules of participating
and engaging. Further as mentioned earlier the various
processes in the group is itself an empowering experience
for the participants.
3) Facilitating the group
Establishing ground rules
Rules and regulations agreed upon by every members help
in maintaining the group. These rules and regulation can
be to govern a whole gambit of activity of the group. Group
discussions and interaction, decision making and other
process of the group should be subject to rules.
Facilitating consciousness raising
The discussions that take in the group has to raise the
level of consciousness in the group members. The group
workers should encourage group members to draw
connections between the problems that identify as personal
and the collective manifestation of these problems as
political issues (Carr, 2005). For example, the discussion
on poverty of families in a community is linked to the lack
of accessibility to economic resources and education
resources, which in turn is a political problem. The process
of raising consciousness will include challenging and

Group Work in Community Settings


removing many of the existing perceptions of the members

on their situation.
Supporting action
Group action should follow the raising of consciousness.
Action requires the utilization of all available resources personal and community based. The support network built
by the group including personal contacts and community
members, concerned students, activists is used. Action
should identify the target - the institution or person against
whom the action is taken. This target should be carefully
chosen as the success of the action depends on the how
much change is achieved in the institution.
Encourage praxis
Paulo Friere described praxis as reflection and action
directed at the structures to be transformed. Thus any
action should follow by reflection about its consequences,
successes and failures. A certain amount of learning takes
place in every action even if it fails in achieving its
objectives. The learning can be about the group itself, or
the community as a whole or about the power structures.
These learning can be analyzed by getting the members to
talk about it. The sharing of the views will increase the
level of consciousness. Based on these learning, future
action is planned and taken and the process goes on...
4) Transferring power
The ultimate aim of the empowering process is to make
the members independent, not make them depend on the
group worker. After a period the group members should
be able to function with limited or no support from the
group leaders. The group workers should be able to transfer
his skills and information to the group members. Some of
the methods used to build the capacity of the members


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

are training; handholding (members, performs under close

supervision) and delegation of authority.
5) Wraping up
The group worker must be able to leave the group at the
right time. The group members should be prepared for
this. Leadership should be created and trained and
resources identified for future use. Groups, whose
members are from highly disadvantaged sections, require
more time before they can function independently.
Social action groups will remain relevant for a long time to
come. Their effectiveness in countering social injustice
make them ideal vehicles for social transformation.

Group Work with Disaster Victims

Disasters are sudden events that cause large-scale damage
to human being and their property. The victims of a disaster
are not only those who die and are injured but also those
who survive. Both the category of survivors; injured and
the unharmed need psychological support. Another
important category of people who are in need of support is
the caregivers. Caregivers are those who give the survivors
emotional and social support. But the experience can be
stressful for the caregivers themselves.
Victims of the disaster are classified into six categories by
Taylor and Frazer
(1) The primary victims are those who are directly affected
by the disaster
(2) Secondary victims includes the friends and relatives
of the primary victims (3) The tertiary victims are those
involved in the rescue and recovery (4) The fourth
category are those in the community that are involved
in the disaster work (5) The fifth category are those

Group Work in Community Settings


who have not experienced by the disaster but

experience grief and pain (6) The sixth category of
victims are those who could have been victims, but by
chance escaped.
The care that the victims need are the following (1) Shelter
temporary and later on permanent if house destroyed (2)
food and medicines (3) Medical facility if injured (4)
Livelihood (5) legal aid filing for compensation, filing case
against perpetuators (6) Compensation (7) Psycho social
care and (8)Self help leading to self reliance.
Social worker is involved in every action
But the most important aspect of his work is psycho-social
care. The aim of psychosocial care is to treat the victims
who have undergone a traumatic experience.
According to Newburn (1993) the common reactions to
traumatic events are the following

Reliving the experience through dreams, flash backs

etc which may last for a period of time. For a proportion
of the survivors these reaction may develop into
Posttraumatic Stress disorder. (PTSD).


Bereavement Intense grief and feeling of loss. Relatives

and friends of the deceased may feel a sense of
unreality and numbness. Secondly, the feelings of guilt
of having survived when relatives and friend have not.
Some these feelings are mixed with that of elation at
having survived. Thirdly, there maybe a need to know
how the disaster happened.


The experience of the disaster affects the relations in

the family. Some families became stronger as a unit
while other families disintegrated.


Phobic reactions to sounds, smells and sights


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Lives of the disaster victims disrupted due to various

tasks like filing for compensation, inquests requests


Intrusions by the media and others who want to obtain



The experience also affects the behaviour in the

workplace in the future.

Seven basic principles of psychosocial care are given below.

(Sekar et al, 2005).

Ventilation. The most important work with the victims

of disaster is listening to the accounts of the relative
and the survivors (Newburn, ibid). The ventilation
process can be done individually and in groups.
Groups have a number of advantages, which will be
elaborated, in the next section.




Active listening which includes the following (1)

Maintaining eye contact (2) responding occasionally
while listening (3) Avoid interruptions (4) Accept and
(5) empathize


Externalization of interests of the survivor which

means that the survivor is encouraged to engage in
productive purposes which will increase their self
worth and self esteem.


Social support; encouraging people receive and give

emotional support.


Relaxation and recreation yoga, games and physical

exercises help recovery of the victims


Facilitating reconciliation and rehabilitation.

You can see that all these principles can be effective if it is

done in the group. The advantages of group-based
treatment of victims are as follows.

Group Work in Community Settings



Sharing the victims painful experiences in a group

where other victims are present. Universalization of
experiences and identification with every other
problem take place in the group sessions. Knowing
that others also have gone through the experiences
and knowing how they are coping with the situation
is helpful for the victims.


Recreational and relaxation activities are more

enjoyable if they are done in groups.


Engaging in productive work (for example gardening,

basket making building houses)in team motivates the
members to engage in these activities on regular basis


Efforts like starting SHGs for women can be a start

for the rehabilitation of the victims.

A large number of victims can be treated using group work.

Secondly, special groups for the vulnerable Groups for
women and children can take care of their special needs
as these sections are more vulnerable than others and
need special care. Thirdly, these groups survive even after
the social workers and the administration go and is a
source for support for disaster victims after a long time.

Groups Work Among the Substance

Group work among the substance abusers can be done in
institutions as well in the community. Usually the group
members meet in a common place- religious places, school
or community centres. There are a number of approaches
available to solve the problem of substance abuse and
According to Fisher (in Gravin(2004)), group work is an
appropriate method to deal with the problem of addiction-


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Group reduce the sense of isolation often experienced

by persons with the substance use disorders, who may
experience a sense of relief to discover that other people
are struggling with similar problems.


Groups can instill hope in the persons that they can

recover when they observe others deal successfully
with similar problems.


Groups provide opportunity for the members to learn

to cope with problems of substance abuse when they
observe others coping with similar problems.


Groups can give new information to the members given

by the group worker, guest lecturer, instructors and
other members.


Positive feedback about their worth, skills and abilities

from other members will improve their self concept
(self worth and self image)


Groups provide reparative(alternate ) family

experiences as the group members give the support
and assurance that they sometimes do not receive from
their own families. They may try out new behaviours
which can be used in the their own families.


Groups provide emotional support to the members

when they experience stressful and difficult situations
outside the group. Encouragement, reinforcement and
coaching can happen in the group.


Groups help the members acquire social skills that

are needed to cope with anxiety situations instead of
depending on substances for dealing with difficult
situations in life. Members can coach and guide the
members who need such skills.


Group members can confront each other in very

powerful ways regarding the substance abuse.
Confrontation in substance abuse is important as most

Group Work in Community Settings


of the abusers are in the state of denial. Confrontation

by other who had similar problems is particularly
10) Groups are cost effective as many members can be
treated simultaneously.
11) The benefits of group work may exceed beyond the
group and benefit others who are in some way related
to the members- family members, employers.
Important principles and techniques as suggested by Corey
and Corey (1987)to increase effectiveness of Groups

Emphasize on abstinence from the substance/ alcohol

is important.


A minimum degree of motivation is needed in the group

members to make the group experience work for their
benefit. This requirement is important as many of the
patients in the groups are forced by their family
members to join the group. Thus group members lack
interest in the group process and therefore neither
contributes nor gains from the experience. Many of
them are not confident about the role of groups in
their treatment process.


Another important requirement is that the members

should have the capacity to perform as a group
member. Often his physical and mental condition is
such that he is not able to participate in the group.
Substance abuse has destroyed or retarded his
capacity to act normally; if the person is undergoing
treatment drugs are administered to him to detoxify
his body, which has sedative effects on the body. It is
observed that many members are not even able to sit
in upright position and listen to the group worker.


Members suffering from mental illnesses is to be

excluded as these group often refer to a higher power,


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

which will increase their tendency to hallucinate.

(Fisher, ibid)

The first phase of the group work should have sessions

that are highly structured- well planned with clear
objectives . After a few sessions an interactive approach
can be used and greater freedom allowed to the


Most of the activities are focused on here and now

activities, activity-based programme like those needing
movement of the body are recommended.


Role plays; problem solving, feedback, self-disclosure,

confrontation, creating social support network and
providing information are important techniques.

Alcoholic Anonymous
Alcoholic Anonymous(AA) is a global organization, which
uses the group approach to stop alcoholics, abstain from
alcohol. AA was found in 1936 by Bill Wilson who himself
was a recovered alcoholic and through his experiences
concluded that the best persons to help an alcoholic are
other alcoholics. Based on the principles of self-help and
mutual aid AA has developed a model for helping alcoholics.
The AA has been estimated to be more than 2 million
around the global. Local chapters (called fellowships) of
AA can be found in major cities and towns in India. Usually
newspapers list the AA meetings taking place in the city.
AA follows a well-defined program structure of steps and
traditions that have been codified in the books, pamphlets
and brochures.
AA follows in the twelve traditions their experience has
taught them to be useful.

Group Work in Community Settings



Each member of Alcoholics Anonymous is a small part

of a great whole. A.A. must continue to live or most of
us will surely die. Hence our common welfare comes
first. But individual welfare follows close afterward.


For our group purpose there is one ultimate

authoritya loving God as He may express Himself in
our group conscience.


Our membership ought to include all who suffer from

alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to
recover. Nor ought A.A. membership ever depend upon
money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics
gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an
A.A. group, provided that, as a group, they have no
other affiliation.


With respect to its own affairs, each A.A. group should

be responsible to no other authority than its own
conscience. But when its plans concern the welfare of
neighboring groups also, those groups ought to be
consulted. And no group, regional committee, or
individual should ever take any action that might
greatly affect A.A. as a whole without conferring with
the trustees of the General Service Board. On such
issues our common welfare is paramount.


Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a

spiritual entity having but one primary purposethat
of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.


Problems of money, property, and authority may easily

divert us from our primary spiritual aim. We think,
therefore, that any considerable property of genuine
use to A.A. should be separately incorporated and
managed, thus dividing the material from the spiritual.
An A.A. group, as such, should never go into business.
Secondary aids to A.A., such as clubs or hospitals,


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

which require much property or administration, ought

to be incorporated and so set apart that, if necessary,
they can be freely discarded by the groups. Hence such
facilities ought not to use the A.A. name. Their
management should be the sole responsibility of those
people who financially support them. For clubs, A.A.
managers are usually preferred. But hospitals, as well
as other places of recuperation, ought to be well
outside A.A.and medically supervised. While an A.A.
group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation
ought never go so far as affiliation or endorsement,
actual or implied. An A.A. group can bind itself to no

The A.A. groups themselves ought to be fully supported

by the voluntary contributions of their own members.
We think that each group should soon achieve this
ideal; that any public solicitation of funds using the
name of Alcoholics Anonymous is highly dangerous,
whether by groups, clubs, hospitals, or other outside
agencies; that acceptance of large gifts from any
source, or of contributions carrying any obligation
whatever, is unwise. Then too, we view with much
concern those A.A. treasuries, which continue, beyond
prudent reserves, to accumulate funds for no stated
A.A. purpose. Experience has often warned us that
nothing can so surely destroy our spiritual heritage
as futile disputes over property, money, and authority.


Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever

nonprofessional. We define professionalism as the
occupation of counselling alcoholics for fees or hire.
But we may employ alcoholics where they are going
to perform those services for which we might otherwise
have to engage nonalcoholic. Such special services
may be well recompensed. But our usual A.A. 12 Step
work is never to be paid for.

Group Work in Community Settings



Each A.A. group needs the least possible organization.

Rotating leadership is the best. The small group may
elect its secretary, the large group its rotating
committee, and the groups of a large metropolitan area,
their central or intergroup committee, which often
employs a full-time secretary. The trustees of the
General Service Board are, in effect, our A.A. General
Service Committee. They are the custodians of our
A.A. Tradition and the receivers of voluntary A.A.
contributions by which we maintain our A.A. General
Service Office at New York. They are authorized by
the groups to handle our over-all public relations and
they guarantee the integrity of our principal
newspaper, the A.A. Grapevine. All such
representatives are to be guided in the spirit of service,
for true leaders in A.A. are but trusted and experienced
servants of the whole. They derive no real authority
from their titles; they do not govern. Universal respect
is the key to their usefulness.

10) No A.A. group or member should ever, in such a way

as to implicate A.A., express any opinion on outside
controversial issuesparticularly those of politics,
alcohol reform, or sectarian religion. The Alcoholics
Anonymous groups oppose no one. Concerning such
matters they can express no views whatever.
11) Our relations with the general public should be
characterized by personal anonymity. We think A.A.
ought to avoid sensational advertising. Our names and
pictures as A.A. members ought not be broadcast,
filmed, or publicly printed. Our public relations should
be guided by the principle of attraction rather than
promotion. There is never need to praise ourselves.
We feel it better to let our friends recommend us.
12) And finally, we of Alcoholics Anonymous believe that
the principle of anonymity has an immense spiritual


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

significance. It reminds us that we are to place

principles before personalities; that we are actually to
practice a genuine humility.
The success of AA is seen in the millions of people who
have benefited from the programme. It is acceptance can
been seen in the groups being formed on the similar
principles for other problems- schizophrenia, parents, child
abused adults, overeaters etc. Some of these groups uses
approaches which are slightly different from the AA but
the AA remains a popular model for handling problems
through life changing peer led self groups. (Kurtz in Gravin,
One aspect that is interesting to social group workers is in
the emphasis on the nonprofessional approach, which
means that for the core activity of conducting group
meetings, strictly no outside professional assistance is
allowed. Professional assistance is used for the other
services needed.
Group work among the caregivers
Caregivers are individual who take primary responsibility
of attending to the needs of the patient and the victim(in a
disaster). Care giving can be a stressful activity due to the
following reason.(1) The needs of the person has to be taken
care of which can takes a lot of time which will reduce the
time available to the caregiver for his/her personal and
professional issues. (2) behaviour of the person can lead
to frustration to the caregiver. (3) The grief and frustration
of the patient affects the mental well-being of the caregiver
(4) Care giving is physically demanding and can lead to
fatigue and physical strain (5) In some diseases like AIDS
caregiver may be stigmatized by his/her association with
the patient (6) Caregivers suffer from the knowledge that
there is no hope of a cure for the ailments affecting the
patient and that the condition is life long. (7) Caregivers

Group Work in Community Settings


often have to sacrifice many of their own hopes and

aspirations because of their primary duty as a caregiver.(8)
Care giving can have financial loses in terms of loss of
income for the caregiver and because of medical costs of
the patient.
Care giving is defined as Due to someone whose life is in
some way restricted by the need to be responsible for the
care of someone who is mentally ill, mentally handicapped,
physically disabled or whose health is impaired by sickness
or old age.(Baroness Pitkeathley Its my Duty Isnt it?
1989). The physical and psychosocial affect on care giving
has been subject of numerous studies. The caregiver often
experiences conflicting emotions. On the one hand, she is
aware that the person is in need of care and on other hand
she may begin to dislike the patient for being a burden on
her. These issues have to be dealt with if caregivers have
to be effective and at the same time maintain their own
psychosocial health. Caregiver groups has thus become a
major research issue (Campbell in Gravin, 2004)
The groups are categorized as (1) Psycho educational
groups, which focus on information about the problems
and improving emotional health, mainly coping with
frustration. (2) Psychotherapy groups dealing with the
problems of loneliness, hopelessness and loss of
companionship.(3) Support groups which involves mainly
sharing of experiences and problems

Group Work Among Young People in the

Group work among children, teenagers, adolescents and
youth are important in India. Each of these categories will
have a different set of problems depending on the situation
that they are in. The major factors that will have an
influence on their behaviour are


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

1) Type of family
2) Neighbourhood
3) Whether studying or no
3) Educational qualifications
4) Type of school
5) Income level of family
6) Personal History
The type of groups which can be organized for them are
(1) Educational groups which will teach them social skills,
help them cope with difficult life situations and develop
attitudes (2) Recreational groups which give the members
enjoyable experiences which will keep them away from
risk behaviour and develop healthy lifestyles.(3) personality
development groups which will enable them to improve
their self image and improve confidence levels.
Some of the themes, which can be taken up by Corey and
Corey are1)

Dealing with alcohol abuse and drug abuse


Learning to cope with feelings of depression, guilt,

anxiety, anger, rejection, hostility and loneliness.


Exploring conflicts at home


Post school plans and careers


Discuss matters related to love and intimacy if

culturally appropriate


Defining sex roles


Exploring identity issues


Considering issues related to autonomy and



Conflicts with parents and how to appreciate them

Group Work in Community Settings


In Indian situation the following themes can also be tried


Academic performance


Influence of media and how to deal with it


Rights of the children


Concerns of environment.

Dealing with young people


Young people may resist the group workers efforts to

deal with relevant topics and express preference for
games and sports. While group self determination is
an important principle of group work. The group
worker must find ways and means to reach the
objectives without alienating the members. These
efforts would include relating the activities to the


The group worker must in his actions earn the trust

of the members without which the group will not
function. Therefore he should be open and honest with
the group members. He can also reveal information
about his own experiences as a child and youth to the
degree that he is comfortable. It need not be strictly a
professional relationship.


The group member must remind himself often that it

is for the benefit of the group members that the group
work is being conducted not for his persona; benefit.
In the hierarchical society like ours often the group
worker thinks that he knows better than the members.
Most often, he does not nor must assume to know


Individual meetings should be held with members who

are not cooperative or are disrupting the group


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Group worker should delegate tasks to the members

whenever possible trusting in their capacities.
Mistakes done by the members in the tasks should be
seen as a learning process.


Most importantly groups should be formed of same

sex and the same age group. Heterogeneous groups
rarely work in India.

The chapter has shown the different settings in the
community where group work can be practiced. We have
seen the role of the social action group, which fights for
justice. The contribution of these groups in securing justice
for the disadvantaged is significant. When formal
organizations are increasingly seen as ineffective groups
are seen as better options.
Funding agencies are increasingly looking at these groups
to bring about change in the society. They provide funds
for capacity building and leadership training in these
groups. The courts in India have also in its various
judgments appreciated the role of these groups in bringing
to issues to the public domain. In India, where
opportunities for group work in institutional settings are
limited, group work in community becomes important.

Bhat, Anil (1989). Development and Social Justice; Micro
action by weaker sections, Sage Publications, New Delhi.
Gravin, Charles, D. et al (ed), 2004, Handbook of Social
Work with groups, Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Newburn , Tim(1993), Disaster and After, Social work in
the aftermath of disaster, Jessica Kingsley Publications,

Group Work in Community Settings


Phillips Julie (2001)., Group work in Social Care; Planning

and setting up groups, Jessica Kinsley Publications,
Karat, Prakash(1984), Action Groups, voluntary
organizations: A Factor in Imperialist Strategy, Marxist
Vol2. April-June,
Kothari, Rajni (1984), The Non Party Process, Economic
and Political Weekly, Vol.XIX, No.5.
Sharma, S.L.(1992). Social Action Groups as Harbinger
of Silent Revolution, Economic and Political Weekly, XXVII,
Sheth, D.L.(1984). Grassroots Institutions in India
Economic and Political Weekly, Vol XIX NO.8.
Trecker, Harleigh (1972), Social Group Work, Principles
and Practices, Follet Publishing Company, Chicago


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Group Work in Institutional

*Joseph Varghese

Group work is used in numerous institutions- hospitals,
child welfare institutions, alcoholic and drug rehabilitation
agencies, old age agencies, family counselling agencies and
industries. Group work, if effectively used can alleviate
the problems and reduce its psychosocial effects.
Every institution has its own ideology, implicit or explicit.
It influences the way the organization leadership and other
employees view group work. It will determine to a large
degree, the support, the group worker will get from
institution for doing group work. The institution will also
expect the group work sessions to further those goals that
are set by the organization. Thus the group worker will be
expected to work within the framework.
Group work in formal institutions has its own advantages
and limitations. The group worker will have to understand
the organizational context in which group is being done.
Every organization is unique and has to be understood in
its own way. This chapter will introduce the different
institutional settings; their unique characteristics and the
use of group work in these settings.

*Mr. Joseph Varghese, Christ University, Bangalore

Group Work in Institutional Settings


According to Kirby (quoted in Trecker, 1972) the major

areas in which the group worker performs in an
institutional setting are as follows

The direct practice of social group work with small

groups of clients and patients.


Working with other staff members toward helping them

understand the group process in the institution.


Sharing with other staff members the group workers

observation and recommendations with reference to
individual and group behaviour in the agency.


Sharing with other staff members the group workers

observation and recommendations with regard to
social climate and group living factors in the


Analyzing the need for and recommending the

formation of various kinds of groups to meet the needs
of the individual clients of the agency.


Assuming the responsibility for coordinating and

enriching the recreational program along with
supervising and training recreational staff and


Assuming the responsibility as a professional group

worker for helping in maintaining the limits and
standards of the agency.


Interpreting the agency programme to the community

through contacts with volunteer groups, community
agencies, service clubs and similar organizations.

Group Work and Child Welfare

The function of child welfare is to ensure that workers
evaluate incidents of potential maltreatment, supervise
children deemed at risk for ongoing abuse and neglect,


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

develop effective services to reduce re-occurrence of

maltreatment, and discharge those children believed to
be safe (Rittner, 2002 quoted in Rittner in Handbook of
Social Work with Groups, 2004; 245).Child welfare
programmes in India are reflected in the constitution and
five year plans. The National Policy for children 1974
provide the much needed guidance. The constitution
advocates that the State shall provide adequate services
towards children, both before and after birth and during
the growing stages for their full physical, mental and social
development. A comprehensive health programme,
supplementary nutrition for mothers and children, free
and compulsory education for all children up to the age of
14 years, promotion of physical education and recreational
activities, special consideration for children of weaker
sections like SCs and STs and prevention of exploitation
of children are some of the major benefits enlisted. The
legislations related to the child welfare are The Child
Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, Child Labour (Prohibition and
Regulation) Act, 1986, The Juvenile Justice (Care and
Protection of Children) Act, 2000, The Infant Milk Substitutes,
Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production,
Supply and Distribution) Act, 1992 The Pre-conception and
Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique(Prohibition of Sex
Selection) Act, 1994, The Persons with Disabilities (Equal
Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation)
Act, 1995, The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, The
Guardian and Wards Act, 1890, The Young Persons
(Harmful Publications) Act, 1956.
Various governmental ministries and departments look
after child welfare in India. In the Union government the
Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, Ministry of Social
Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Labour along with
other ministries are involved in child welfare policies and
programmes. State governments run observation homes,

Group Work in Institutional Settings


children home for boys and girls, sishu bhavans etc. The
state governments also run the juvenile justice board and
child welfare committee. The civil society is also engaged
in a large scale in child related issues. Many NGOs have
taken up the cause of child rights, prevention of child
labour, adoption services and, the care and rehabilitation
of juveniles. Orphanages and homes for children are also
run by NGOs and religious organizations. It is but natural
that a variety of organizations at different levels work for
the welfare of the children-they being future citizens of
the country. Child welfare and child rights are important
areas of social policy. From social work profession point of
view child welfare is important for one more significant
reason. Many problems of adults are directly related to
their experiences as a child. The Adverse Childhood
Experience Study on about 17,000 adult participants show
significant correlation between childhood trauma and
negative sequences in later life. Thus to prevent social
problems later on, it is important that problems of children
are handled effectively and sensitively.
Group work has been used effectively to deal with many of
childrens problems in different institutions. We will see
how it is used in different settings. It would be not be
possible to cover all settings. Before we see how group
work principles and knowledge is useful for practice with
children its usefulness to the professional themselves has
to be highlighted. Different professionals work in these
organizations and often have to work together- a group
activity in itself. Social workers often work with lawyers,
doctors, child psychologist, policemen and public officials
to solve children problems.
Group work objectives in child welfare agencies are:

Training them in alternate behaviour patterns. Many

children are from dysfunctional families and lack


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

appropriate role models in the family. Handling

frustration, anger, and disappointment becomes
difficult for these children leading to harmful reactions.

Training in survival skills-maintaining relationships,

seeking assistance, keeping jobs etc.


Treatment for symptoms related to anxiety, depression,

posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and
poor interpersonal relations. Many children in the
street are addicted to fluids (mainly whiteners) and
drugs, which need cure. Incidence of Psychiatric
problems is also high.


Training in personality development especially building

self-confidence and self-esteem, public speaking and
ability to face personal interviews.


Recreational activities in their free time- play groups etc.

Group work in juvenile homes

According to the Juvenile Justice Act 2000, two types of
children need intervention (i) children in need of care and
protection and (ii) Children in conflict with law. The first
category are children who have been child labourers, found
begging on the street and the second category are children
who have committed crimes but cannot be tried in normal
courts as the law does not allow children (below the age of
eighteen) to be tried here. The first category children are
produced before the Child Welfare Committee(CWC) which
then determines what is the best course of action for
securing the childs future. The CWC may order the child
to be placed in a government run Children home for Boys/
Girls if they find that the family does not exist or is
incapable of looking after the child. Alternatively it may
hand over the child to NGO run fit institution. Either way
these institution will then look after the child till he is an
adult and fend for himself or herself. Meanwhile if any
parent wants him back arrangements are made.

Group Work in Institutional Settings


An effective child rehabilitation programme will be sensitive

to the child s psychological condition and his social
Unfortunately, the organizations are bureaucratic in nature
and the special needs of children are ignored. Problems of
the child due to ill treatment and abuse are not addressed
adequately. Current research demonstrates that if earlier
maltreatment occurs, most likely the child is to develop
associated behavioural and emotional problems. (Heffernan
& Cloitre 2000, Zanarini et al., 2002) To make matters
worse often the condition of children deteriorates after they
experience neglect and abuse in these organizations. The
group worker should be able to take into consideration
these factors when he plans his group work programme.
The purposes of doing group work in juvenile delinquents
centers are 1)

It seeks to facilitate adjustment in the center

Group can be used to develop a positive attitude in
the inmates about the agency. The inmate will learn
to accept the unavoidable strains of life there and make
use of the opportunities available.


It seeks to further diagnostic understanding

Individuals behaviour in a group situation helps the
social worker in getting data about the inmate. This
data is useful to understand his present situation and
to plan his future.


It sought to contribute to the beginning of the

treatment process
Again it is in the group situation that the nature of
the inmate relationship with others can be assessed.
The value systems that the inmates have are
understood and its consequences are known. Through


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

the group process the inmates receives feedback about

his behaviour and gains insight into his behaviour.
Greater self-awareness could be the beginning of the
treatment for the inmates.

It sought to meet normal growth needs

The inmates are experiencing a crucial developmental
phase in their lives and confinement to the agency
can be frustrating. Opportunities for making choices,
self-expression, exhibiting leadership and participating
in activities could help them develop healthier


It seeks to influence the institutional milieu

Obtaining opinions. feedback and views of the inmates
improves the agency climate.(quoted in Trecker, 1972)

Example of group work in juvenile delinquent

Group approach to intervene in client problem is used in
an agency for juvenile delinquents. The agency is a fit
institution under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. It is
allowed to reside delinquents who have been ordered by
the juvenile justice board to be placed in institutions for
reform and observation. Most inmates are from
economically backward and dysfunctional families. Often
families are unwilling to accept them after the police charge
them with a crime. Arrested for crimes and public
humiliation as a result of it, and bitter experience in the
police station and with the police causes trauma to the
juvenile. His self esteem and confidence is negatively
affected. There is a need therefore to reconstruct his
The agencies training programmes and activities are done
in groups. They are open-ended groups which do not go
beyond the use of groups in a very general way. But group
work is used in the weekly meeting this agency has with

Group Work in Institutional Settings


the inmates. It is held every Sunday with the director and

the inmates only. Other staff members are not allowed so
that free communication takes place in the group. The
aim of the group sessions is to empower the inmates by
giving them opportunities to participate in the functioning
of the agency. Secondly, there are often problems between
inmates as they live together in the agency. There are
quarrels and fights between inmates. Thirdly, many issues
related to division of responsibilities and common problems
faced by inmates are addressed through group work. Often,
there are complaints about the staff members actions
which the inmates find offensive. The aim of group sessions
is to address these issues. There is no restriction on the
members raising any issues if they are done so in a proper
way. But the issues are to be resolved in democratic and
participatory way. The director who is also the group worker
discusses the matters raised by the members. The aim is
to train the inmates in democratic ways of behaviour and
control of frustration and anger. Further the self esteem
and self confidence of the inmates is improved as they are
treated with this respect. The group feedback improves
the agencys functioning as bureaucratic and insensitive
practice are identified and set right. This group can be
termed as a training group which trains new behaviour to
the inmates.
Group work with street children
An international NGO conducts a week end camp for street
children. Street children many of whom come to their open
shelter- shelter for street children are without any
compulsions or rules and regulations. Children are free to
come and leave the shelter whenever they please. The
shelter provides them facilities to sleep, to take bath and
watch television. Many children become attached to the
agency and to the staff members. Once a rapport is
established the staff members attempts to influence the


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

childs behaviour through various life skills and survival

skills are common. A variety of means are used to do thisactivities mainly group based, games and sports, film
shows etc.
An important element in the education of street children
is organising an annual camp. The annual camp is held
for three days in a location away from the city. The location
has an informal situation again with minimum restrictionsonly time for various activities are fixed and children are
not allowed to hurt each other. Otherwise the campers
are allowed to move freely and act without restrictions.
Learning sessions are organised where information about
various issues are given. Issues are directly related to the
life of a street child. Issues like HIV/AIDS, substance abuse
and vocational trainings are discussed. Animators who
can communicate skillfully with the target group conduct
these sessions. Subjects are presented in very simple and
informal way. Question regarding the subject is thrown
open to the audience and they are encouraged to try answer
them. Clarifications are given when necessary. The
sessions prove to be beneficial to the campers.
In between the sessions camper spend their time watching
movies and playing games. Some climb the coconut trees
and pluck coconuts. Others even indulge in habit of
inhaling whiteners and smoke.
The agency has adopted this strategy to reach to the most
vulnerable and at the same time the most unreachable
section of children. Street children for all the trauma they
experience in the street still prefer to be free and away
from the fetters of the institution. Thus the agency has
modified its institutional approach to the open approach.
Group work has been also modified in line with this
approach. No longer does the group worker insist on the
group meeting on the predetermined place and time

Group Work in Institutional Settings


regularly. However, most of the principles of group work

can be observed in the approach. Principles of acceptance,
group self determination, functional flexible organization
are used with suitable modifications. Self-help and mutual
aid are stressed. Members are encouraged to help and
learn from each other. Networks among the children are
encouraged to substitute for families as a support system.
mentoring by senior street children of the younger children
is done purposefully.
The approach of the agency can be seen as a innovation in
group work in institutional settings. Its adaptation of the
group work is creative and can be used in other agencies.
Group work with parents of mentally challenged
An NGO work with Spastics children organizes support
group for the parents of the children of mentally challenged.
A staff member of the agency says that the parents of these
children need treatment as much as the children do. Newly
enrolled parents are encouraged to join existing groups.
These groups are meant for sharing and learning session.
Parents are often in the state of denial about the condition
of their children. They cannot see why this should happen
to them and their children. Parents are depressed and
anxious about the future of the children. They do not know
how to react when their children are unable perform the
actions that other children are able to do. Answers to most
of the problems are found in the group-shared knowledge
and from the experiences of other parents. The group
facilitates the process of universalization of experience and
the installation of hope.

Group Work and Geriatric Care

Geriatric care is becoming important in the present world
as people are healthier and live longer. The problem is


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

more in Western countries than in India and other

developing countries. In India the breakdown of joint
families, rise of the nuclear families, individualism and
lack of living space in urban areas have made the care of
old age a challenge to society. The government of India
has list of about 1000 old age homes in India which provide
free care while others do so on a paying basis. The number
of old age homes are likely to increase in the future.
Old aged persons suffer from a number of mental and
physical ailments. More importantly, their social situation
and their somatic condition affect their physical condition.
They need special care and attention. According to Corey
and Corey(1982;348) some of the major characteristics of
the old aged are1)

Intense loneliness and social isolation; loss; poverty;

feeling of rejection; struggle to find meaning in life;
dependency; feeling of uselessness, hopelessness and
despair; fear of death and dying; grief over other
peoples death


Difficulty in reaching the old aged and greater

resistance to counselling and other intervention.


Short attention span


Medication induced problems of concentration.


Poor reality orientation


Poor attendance at group sessions


Need for support and encouragement is greater than

that of confrontation


Greater need for being listened to and understood.

The types of group that can be organized for the aged are
the following.

Group Work in Institutional Settings



Support group
These groups can give psychosocial support to the
members which will address the problems of social
isolation and loneliness. Very often the elderly live
together but have minimal interaction because of some
of the problems mentioned above. Groups bring the
members together and promote interaction. Often the
focus of discussion is the feelings of hopelessness,
uselessness, despair and regret over past
events.(Susan Rice in Greif and Ephross,2005; 152)
Many group activities have been suggested - going on
an imaginary trip with the other members, picking up
a new name and discovering what it means to them,
drawing picture of yourself and your family and
describing pleasant experiences of the past( Corey and
Corey, 1982;343). Reminiscencing in an important
process for the elderly and is proved beneficial for them.
It can be in the oral or written form. Butler called
reminiscences as a naturally occurring, universal
mental process characterized by the progressive return
to consciousness of past experiences and particularly
the resurgence of unsolved conflict, simultaneously
and normally these reviewed experiences and conflicts
can be surveyed and reintegrated. (Quoted in Campbell
in Gravin et. al.2004; 281). However Campbell also
mentions that not all want to review past experiences
and the technique should be used based on the need
and willingness of the elderly themselves. Another
technique used is to list down the various items related
to the life of the members- Most stressful situation,
aspect in the personality one want to change and
something one wants to self disclose (Corey, ibid; 354)


Recreational group
These groups can be used to enable the elderly spend
time in an enjoyable manner. Activities can include


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

group games which will involve all the members of

the group either as direct participants or as a team.
Depending on the physical and mental condition
games can be chosen.

Therapeutic groups

Therapeutic groups include standardized and nonstandardized group therapies. The standardized group
therapies are Dialectical behavior therapy and Cognitive
behavioural therapy while the non-standardized therapies
use non structured means focusing on emotional condition
of the members and life review. Studies have found these
therapies to be useful. (Campbell in Gravin;
2004;278-280). Members have been empowered by these
group experiences, reducing isolation and achieve greater
control and meaning in their lives.
Group workers who have worked with elderly found that
much of the information about the elderly are wrong and
based on false assumptions. Some of the false assumptions
include (1) The inability of the elderly to change for the
better (2) Ability to contribute positively to the betterment
of others (3) Willingness of the elderly to take part in group
activities. On the contrary group have been found to be
generally beneficial to the elderly.

Groups Work in Psychiatric Setting

Group work is an important component in the treatment
and care of mentally ill people. It is being increasingly used
in mental health setting in India and abroad. The incidence
of mental illness is high in India.A trend in the care of
mentally ill which is influencing the practice of group work
is de-institutionalization- increasing numbers of mentally
ill people were being taken care in the families and in their
homes rather than being confined to the hospital. (Gravin
in Greif et al.; 2005)

Group Work in Institutional Settings


Some of the characteristics of the seriously mentally ill


Many suffer from multiple problems- Mental illness

with substance abuse or alcoholism.


Severe mental illness limits the ability to cope with

stress and function adequately in stressful situations.


They are unable to perform daily tasks.


Their behaviour is unpredictable leading to difficulties

to the family members and others


Incidence of homelessness and destitution is high


Many of them having exposed to drugs and alcohol

exhibit aggressive and rebellious behaviour which
makes managing them a big challenge to the social
workers and other professionals. Gerhart, 1990,
quoted in Garvin in Greif, 2005; 32)

According to Rostov the goals of group work in psychiatric

settings are:

to socialize including forming satisfying social

relations, establishing an awareness of others, learning
and relearning social skills


to offer ego supports and develop ego strengths as

well as broadening interest and scope of activities,
building self confidence, self esteem, self worth,
achieving tangible things, acceptance..


to test and see cause-and-effect relationship


to increase responsibility, develop good judgments and

self control and handle group living problems


to influence one another in a positive way, develop

better morale , and challenge group hostility


to feel and exert some control over ones future


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


to adjust to a new mode of living and interrupt the

deterioration process and counteract the regression
of institutional living


to prepare and test for discharge and return to

community life


to promote insights, develop the proper perspective

on problems and feelings, release and drain off

10) to accept ones illness and prepare for and use the
individual and other therapies more positively
11) to increase the opportunities for observation and
diagnosis by the staff. (quoted in Trecker,1972; 178)
Research available has indicated that group work has been
useful for the members. George Getzel surveyed the
available research and summary of his findings are
presented here. Some of the research he surveyed -Moore
and Starkes observed that the use of group work with
mentally ill individual in short stay homes increased their
capacity to avail its services. In other words the
organizational milieu improved when group work was used.
Somewhat similarly, Robert and Smith found that group
work created a sense of community in the psychiatric ward
and improve their capacity to adjust to the external
environment. Armstrong who observed that groups do
prepare the mentally ill for the future did increase their
capacity has supported these conclusions. Group work
has also been found to be useful in the treatment of mental
Garvin suggests principles, which has been found useful
in the process are:

Groups sessions with the mentally ill should be highly

structured, meaning that the group worker should take
control of sessions by planning the activity well.

Group Work in Institutional Settings


Patients condition does not generally allow them to

take initiative and contribute to the session beyond a
certain level. Hence, it will be upto the group worker
who has to plan how he is going to give his presentation
to share information, identify problems and resolve
the various issues.

Training the members in new skills is an important

component in the treatment process which while
increasing their capacity to become self reliant to the
extent possible also increases their confidence.


Each group session should be a rewarding one in the

sense that the members should derive some pleasure
and enjoyment from it. Patients may be undergoing
significant stress to attend the session and unless they
feel good they may not want to attend the sessions. A
game, a play, a music or a craft may be ideal activity.


The group worker must be able to create a sense of

accomplishment and achievement in the members
which can be done by teaching a social skill or
improving on the existing skill.


The group worker should also be careful that anxiety

producing events and actions should be avoided and
be prepared to deal with them. For example, the
abnormal behaviour of one of the members like
hallucinations, will create fear in others. The behaviour
should be explained to the members, if possible or
else avoided altogether.

Example of group work in mental heath setting

Group sessions were conducted for patients in a mental
health setting for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
As you know OCD is a neurotic disorder that compels
individuals to repeat specific behaviour though he or she
has no desire to do so. It may affect 2 to 3 percent of the
population. The main activities were role-plays, counselling


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

and skill training. At the end of the group sessions the

researcher finds that adherence to treatment and social
skills are improved. (George, Tony Sam, 2002)

Group Work in Hospitals

Hospitals are important settings for social work practice.
Psychological factors and physical health are related.
Adverse psychological negative factors can worsen the
health conditions of the patients. The recognition that the
healing process is more than what the medical model
advocated is wide spread in India and more so in the
developed countries. Getzel notes an increase in the
interest in group work practice and corresponding increase
in the health system s efforts to make group work more
responsive to the clients need.(Getzel in Garvin ;2004;196).
Another important factor is the growing importance of
multidisciplinary teams which will address the various
dimensions of the illnesses and its effect of the patient.
Teamwork, therefore is an important method of work in
health care settings. Thirdly, group work is seen as
humanizing the bureaucratic system and giving holistic
care for the clients. Lastly group work is cheap and effective
in disseminating information to the clients.
Type of groups that are used in the hospital are:
1) Educational Groups- Educational groups disseminate
information about the disease and its effects on the
patients. They educate the person about the causes
of diseases, its effects on the body, its pattern of
progression and its debilitating effects. They are
trained to avoid those behaviour patterns that will
worsen the conditions. Adherence to the treatment
process like taking medicines and taking the necessary
tests are taught. For example, cancer affected
individuals are told about the cancer and its treatment.

Group Work in Institutional Settings


In the sessions the group members are educated about

the various aspects of cancers- its causes and its
effects. Fears about early death, pain and
disfigurement are discussed. Patients fear about the
effects of chemotherapy on the body and hair are
discussed. Clarifications and doubts are removed.
Often it is the members themselves rather than the
group worker who provides knowledge to the group
members. Experiences are shared in the group to help
The free sharing of experiences and information is
more an effective tool for educating the patients rather
than through other methods

Support groups- These groups provide the necessary

social and emotional support to the patients. Often
the experience of knowing that a potentially life
threatening illness is shocking to the patient.

Weissman defines 15 coping strategies in cancer patients

but the same coping patterns have been applied to other
types of patients(Lillington, Barbara: !985)- rationalization;
seeking of additional information; sharing concerns with
others; Displacement; confrontation; Fatalism Acting out
; repeating previous behaviour; Tension reducing behaviour
like taking alcohol ; social isolation; blaming others;
compliance to authority and masochistic surrender. Many
of these coping strategies have a negative impact on the
psychosocial health of the patients.
Group work can enable the patients to have an appropriate
coping mechanisms keeping in mind the individuals needs
and her environment. It will result in better quality of life
and better adherence to treatment programme.
Universalization of the experience and identification with
others are important processes which take place in the
group. Newcomers whose have been recently diagnosed


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

with cancer are relieved to see the cancer survivors who

have successfully battled with the disease. Cwikel and
Behar(1999) study of intervention in cancer patients found
that group interventions helped in the treatment phase.

Training groups- Training groups focus on teaching

new social skills to the patients which would help them
after they are discharged from the hospitals.

Practice principles health settings

Daste and Ross (in Grief and Ross;2005 ) make following
Firstly, Group work in health setting needs to understand
that patients suffer from pain and fatigue due to illness
and often due to their treatment. She should therefore
encourage patients to attend the meetings but not use
excessive pressure.
Secondly, the group worker should be flexible in her
approach to group. The treatment cycle may vary with
person to person and therefore the time period of attending
the group sessions cannot be specified.
Thirdly, individualization of clients is another important
aspect, as clients characteristics will differ in terms of
stages of disease, social support available in family,
community and workplace and the psychological condition.
Fear of death, fear of disease recurrence, problems related
to treatment (pain, changes in appearances, fatigue),
changes in relationship and economic issues (income,
future job prospects, costs of treatment,) are important
concerns that group worker must address.

The practice of social work in different settings has been
described briefly and important practice principles have

Group Work in Institutional Settings


been highlighted. The list is not comprehensive and as

group work in its generic form can be practiced almost
anywhere. Also institutions differ in many ways even when
they are dealing with the similar problems. This will no
doubt influence the practice of social work. The group
worker would therefore be flexible in his approach. Group
work practice has to adapt to the institutional requirement
and clients need.
These are some of the important institutions that group
work is practiced. The practice of social work in different
settings has been described briefly and important practice
principles have been highlighted. The list is not
comprehensive and as group work in its generic form can
be practiced almost anywhere. Also institutions differ in
many ways even when they are dealing with the similar
problems. this will no doubt influence the practice of social
work. The group worker would therefore be flexible in his
approach. Group work practice has to adapt to the
institutional requirement and clients need.
Group work is certainly being practiced in many
institutions in India. But as mentioned earlier mostly nonprofessionals are practicing it in a generic form and in
majority of the cases no particular theory seems to guide
the practice. More importantly, no efforts are made to
evaluate the process. Records maintained convey bare
minimum from which nothing very significant can be
learnt. The benefits of group work are evident. But there
is need for evidence to show the importance of group work
in these settings. Professional social workers have to work
towards that goal.

Lillington, Barbara(1985), Psychosocial Response to
Traumatic Physical Disability, Social work in Health Care,
Volume 10(4), Summer.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Breman-Rossi, Toby(1994), Social Work: The Collected

Writings of William Schwartz, F.E. Peacock Publishers Inc.
Brown, Allan(1994), Group Work, 3rd edition, Ashgate
Publishing Limited, Hampshire.
Dwivedi, K.,N., and Robin Skynner(1993), Group Work with
Children and Adolescents: A Handbook, Jessica Kingsley
Publishers, London.
Corey and Corey (1987), Groups Process and Practice,
Third edition, Brook/Cole Publishing Company, California.
Cwikel J.G.& Behar L.C. (1999), Psychosocial Response
to Traumatic Physical Disability, Social work in Health
Care, Volume 29(4), Summer
Greif, Geoffrey Land Paul Ephross(2005), Group work with
Population at risk, Second edition, Oxford University Press,
New York.
Gravin et al. (2004), Handbook of Social work with groups,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Siddiqui, H.Y. (2008), Group Work, Theories and Practices,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Trecker, Harleigh (1972), Social Group Work, Principles
and Practices, Follet Publishing Company, Chicago.
George, Tony Sam (2002), Unpublished PHD dissertation,
NIMHANS, Bangalore.


Group Work in Institutional Settings


Group Work in Educational

*Joseph Varghese

Educational institutions offer diverse opportunities to
practice group work. The group members are readily
available and no special efforts are required to collect them
and form groups. The students learn in groups and are
therefore comfortable to be in groups. A variety of activities
can be done with the group. Most importantly, the young
enjoy the sessions and simultaneously be benefited. The
chapter will give an account of the practice of group work
in different educational settings.
Present day educators seek to provide holistic education
to the student, not just improve his memory and his
retention powers. Holistic development aims at producing
a balanced and well integrated human being with
sensitiveness to fellow human beings and his environment.
While teachers are required to teach the syllabus it is being
recognized that other professionals are needed to take care
of other dimensions of the students personality. Group
work seen in this context is an apt method to bring about
this transformation in the student.

Group Work in Educational Setting

Modern life imposes significant stress on everybody
including the students. Sometimes it is wrongly assumed
*Mr. Joseph Varghese, Christ University, Bangalore


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

that just because there has been an increase in the

technology and comforts available to present students they
are better off than the earlier generations of students. But
they face pressures from many quarters- parents who
expect them to be excellent in academics, friend and peers
who expect them to conform to their norms. The media
creates expectations which when unfulfilled creates
frustration. According to Coppock and Dwivedi (Dwivedi,
2005, 265) upto 20 percent of children experience
behavioural and emotional problems that require
professional help. US schools have seen incidents like
shooting by students of their classmates and teachers due
to emotional problems. Schools in India have not witnessed
similar incidents but there are indicators that school
related problems will increase. Media has often
reported cases of students hurting and murdering their
classmates for money or avenging past insults.
Educational institutions have begun to respond to the
situation and employed counselors and social workers to
deal with student problems. However schools need group
work not only to address behavioural problems but also
to enhance the capacity of normal students to deal
with their life situations. These issues can be related to
education beyond the curriculum; personality
development; life skills education, health and recreation.
The practice of group work in school will be influenced by
the dynamics of the larger social systems- the school and
the society. The various use groups will be put to and its
goals will be determined by the ideology and the approach
of the school management. The resources and
administrative support the group worker receives will
depend on the priorities of the management. The least
available resource in the school is time and the place to
conduct group work. Syllabus centric teaching practiced
in most of our schools leave little or no time for other

Group Work in Educational Settings


activities. Teacher need to finish the syllabus find time

spend for other activities a waste of time. Management
should be convinced that student would benefit from the
group work in tangible terms. Further, parents should be
convinced of the benefits of group work. Last, but not the
least students should be convinced that group work will
be beneficial for them. Convincing the various
stakeholders about the usefulness of group work is an
important task for the group worker.
The advantages of using group work in the school are (1)
Students spend a lot of time in groups and are
comfortable working in it (2) students are familiar with
the school environment and no special efforts are needed
to make them participate in group. (3) Group work can be
expected to improve the relationship between students and
teachers, and between students, which will improve the
quality of learning.
However, there are a number of factors/ disadvantages
that can restrict the use of group work in schools. Some of
them are the following (1) The lack of time does allow the
practice of group work (2) Place for doing group is lacking
(3) The paucity of staff who are equipped with the necessary
skills and attitudes. (4) Evaluating the effectiveness of the
groups which will increase support and participation (5) if
only children with problems are forced to participate there
maybe resistance as they feel that they being singled out
from others. (Ibid, 268).
The major problems identified among school students areExcessive fighting; Inability to get along with peers;
frequent hurting of other children; violation of school
children; poor attitude toward the school; stealing; violent
or angry outbursts; neglected; neglected appearance;
hunger symptoms; chronic tiredness; lack of supervision


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

at home and excessive truancy. (Corey and Corey, 1982;

The type of groups that can be used in the schools are1) Educational groups Educational groups will enable
the students in learning about subjects that are not
part of the curriculum. The areas of education can be
life skill education, HIV/AIDS, public speaking etc.
Value education can be taught through stories and
parables. Songs that motivate the members can be
sung. Competitions like essay writing, handwriting and
spelling can be organized.

Recreational groups Recreational groups will provide

the activities like games and sports. It is advisable
not to limit the activity to the game and have a
discussion on the group dynamics observed in the
group. The contributions of members, the presence of
subgroups and isolates can be observed and
discussed. Group experiences if carefully chosen will
help growth in their personality.


Personality development groups seek to develop selfconfidence and self esteem. Skills to face interviews,
public speaking and grooming habits can be improved
in groups.


Treatment groups These groups can identify the

causes of psychosocial problems found in the
children. Students may need social skills training.
Verduyn, Lord and Forrest studied the outcome of one
such training on children in the age group of 1013years and found significant changes and specific
changes. (Dwivedi, 2005; 274)

But given the nature of the setting it would be difficult to

conduct formal group work at fixed time and place.

Group Work in Educational Settings


Trecker suggests using the adaptations based on Wyers

contributions. Wyer suggests five kinds of groups can be

Cluster groups- These groups were used when one or

two isolate or scapegoat were referred to the group
worker. Since the number of such students referred
at a time was small it was not possible to conduct
group only for them nor was it possible for students
from different schools to come together. One solution
tried out was the cluster approach wherein the referred
student was placed in a group in which other members
were students functioning normally. The group
sessions are so designed that the dysfunctional
students needs are addressed- his/her problem is
described, the students view point is brought to the
open and perception of the other members are
discussed. Support from the other members for the
dysfunctional student is encouraged. The interaction
between the members and the dysfunctional student
is expected to bring about change in the behaviour of
the student.


Classroom groups- Classroom groups are used when

it is found that it is not individuals or group of students
that are dysfunctional but the entire class is
dysfunctional. Therefore the whole class should be
taken as a group and needs to be treated. The causes
for these problems can uneasiness with teachers, guilt
over scapegoating, over identification with the students
who are victimized, conflicts between groups within
class and inability to perform as per expectations. The
cause of the problem may lie in a few students or the
whole class. The group worker uses the whole class
as group and address the problem by using group
discussions and role plays.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Splinter groups These groups consist of problematic

children who cannot be separated and treated. The
difference between the cluster group and this group
is the different approach used. In this group the
dysfunctional members are identified and his identity
revealed. He chooses from the class a smaller group
consisting of a few members. The group worker then
describes the problem to the group and its affects on
the affected student. Certain activities are chosen
which will attract the larger student body to the smaller
group and interact with it. If successful the smaller
group status improves and so does the status of the
dysfunctional student.


Telescopic groups are groups which meet five or six

times in a short period of time. A current problem is
taken up as a major issue. For example absenteeism,
and group formed by members who are found to be
excessively absent. The members are made aware of
the reason for being part of the group. A plan is made
for a group which includes activities which are
gratifying and ego supportive.


Socio educational groups These group involve the

other stakeholders like the parents and staff members
to improve the school functioning. For example
,suitable parents are depending on their need, aptitude
and interest are taken as members of the group. They
are informed that the purpose of the groups is to
improve their performance as the parents. Sessions
are planned which will provide them with new skills
and knowledge. Films, lectures, role plays and member
presentations are the best means.

Student Friendly Environment

Group Work has to ensure that a student friendly
environment is prevalent in the school. In this context the
group worker has to focus on the following issues:

Group Work in Educational Settings



Sensitizing teachers to understand the common

emotional problems of students


Training teachers in basic counseling skills (bare foot



Training teachers to identify and refer students who

need professional mental health intervention.


Training students in sex and sexuality


Imparting life skills education.


Promoting a conducive environment and to eliminate

problems like ragging, teasing and bullying.


Helping students to cope with academic stress


Training teachers to adopt non aggressive styles of

promoting discipline.


Interacting with parents as a group and to educate

them on the psychosocial needs of their children.

Principles to be followed while working with children

1) Confidentiality is very important as children are not
often able to keep personal information to themselves.
Hence the group worker should use terms very
carefully. Words that will be understood wrongly by
students should be avoided.

Avoid using sides. Students may blame teacher or

parent for some of the difficulties they face. It is
important that the group works describes the problems
rather than point fingers at others.


Explain the purpose of the group and its goals to the

members. Do not underestimate the students capacity
to understand the group work.


Listen to the opinion of the members even though you

may disagree with it.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups


Choose those activities and games which will be useful

and enjoyable for the members.


Prepare for termination as students may become

attached to you and will suffer if you leave them


Homogeneity in terms of age, sex and class is a

prerequisite for successful group work in children.

Camping and Indian Youth Organizations

Camping signifies the establishment of temporary living
quarters in an underdeveloped area (Schwartz). The
purpose of camping is to give opportunities for people to
move outdoor and use the natural environment for
recreational purposes. Many organizations use camping
as means to develop young minds. The experience of
camping is aimed at the following goals- to improve the
teamwork skills among the members; to help members
develop a better understanding the behaviour of others
and their own behaviour; improve communication skills;
better his/ her leadership qualities.
According to the American Camping Association the
following are the benefits of campingSocial Skills Development




Self-respect and Character Building




Group Work in Educational Settings


Community Living/Service Skills





Camping provides group worker numerous opportunities

for practice. According to Schwartz the group workers
concern with both learning and play coupled with the
intense preoccupation with the benefits of the small group
experience, found in camping both a stimulating outlet
for service and a ready-made laboratory for demonstrating
the social importance of group experience under
professional leadership.
In India a number of organizations conducts camps for
children and young people- National Social Service (NSS),
National Cadet Corps (NCC), Bharat scouts and guides
and Nehru Yuvak Kendra (NYK). A number of private
organizations also conduct camp. We will briefly study
about these organizations.
NSS was started on 24th September 1969. The main
Objectives of NSS are:

Understand the community in which they work.


Understand themselves in relation to their community

iii) Identify the needs and problems of the community

and involve them in problem solving.
iv) Develop among them a sense of social civic

Utilize their knowledge in finding practical solution to

individual and community problems.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

vi) Develop competence required for living and sharing

vii) Gain skills in mobilising community participation.
viii) Acquire leadership qualities and democratic attitudes.
ix) Develop capacity to emergencies and natural disaster,

Practice national integration and social harmony

An important activity of the NSS is the 10 day rural camp

in remote areas. Usually a theme is chosen for the campLiteracy, development, health. Spreading awareness among
the people about the issue, sharmadan, community meals
and group games are the important component of the
National Cadet Corps
National Cadet Corps is a Tri-Services Organisation ,
comprising Army, Navy and Air Force, engaged in grooming
the youth of the country into disciplined and patriotic
The aims of the National Cadet Corps (NCC)

To develop qualities of Character, Courage,

Comradeship, Discipline, Leadership, Secular
Outlook, Spirit of Adventure and the ideals of Selfless
Service amongst the Youth of the Country.


To Create a Human Resource of Organized, Trained

and Motivated Youth, to Provide Leadership in all
Walks of life and be Always Available for the Service of
the Nation.


To Provide a Suitable Environment to Motivate the

Youth to Take Up a Career in the Armed Forces

Group Work in Educational Settings


Nehru Yuvak Kendra

Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan was started in 1972, and
has been active ever since in providing the youth of the
country with opportunities to grow and develop themselves.
It currently has 500 district level offices, 2.16 lakh village
level youth clubs and 80 lakh rural youth affiliated to it in
13-35 age group. The NYKS today prepares over 11,000
youth leaders every year.

Possible Activities for Young People

Play is used as recreational and a therapeutic tool.
Recreational activities of the children like games and sports
are useful for the children to develop healthy physical and
mental status. Play can be used in children groups for
the following (1) Play is a natural activity for the child and
the worker gets to observe him in this situation. These
observations will be more helpful in assessing the childs
behaviour than in a formal setting interviewing the child.
He is likely to be intimidated by a formal interview
(2) Playing helps build rapport between the child and the
worker (3) Playing also contributes to creating a favorable
child friendly atmosphere in the school (4) It can give
opportunities to develop a persons social skills.
Outdoor games like cricket, football, throw ball, kho-kho
can be used, so can indoor games. The effectiveness of the
experience of the game is increased if discussions follow
the game. The discussion that follows should focus on the
behaviour of the members during the game. The team work
they exhibited, the levels of cooperation they achieved and
so on. The discussion should be aimed at increasing their
self-awareness and thereby contributing to their personal
growth. The group worker should therefore encourage
members to share their feeling and opinions on the game,


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

his own performance and of others. Members are also

encouraged to react to the opinions expressed by others
on them. The group will be a mirror for the members which
will increase their insight into their own behaviour.
Play is also used therapeutically. But it is only after
adequate training should group workers use these
therapies. Play in children is equivalent to association in
adults (Dwivedi, 2005). By using the techniques of
association the adults unconscious mind is probed and
understood. Association can be used in children and a
suitable alternative is play. Many of the childs feelings
and emotion that remained unexpressed is revealed while
playing with toys and drawing. The group worker interprets
these actions and assesses the childs behaviour.
Songs, dances and exercises
Songs, dances and exercise which is done along with
children of similar ages help improve the childs mental
health. Such activities require the child to coordinate with
the actions of others. Also most of these activities involve
numerous repetitions of the same actions. The true effects
of messages and learning in ritualized context are powerful
in penetrating the depths of consciousness. (Dwivedi, 2005)
Drills are used to develop coordination and alertness in
the students.
Psychodrama is a more advanced means of treatment for
children, adolescents and youths. Drama can be used to
provide learning experiences to the participants and the
viewers. Boehm and Boehm give the seven stages of
community theatre:

Establishment of a group of community members who

initiate the idea;

Group Work in Educational Settings



Group discussion of issues, problems and conflicts in

the life of the community and the actors;


Collection of material in the community (for example,

articles, photos, recordings);


Creation and writing of the play by the group;


Production and rehearsal of the play, as well as

preparation for its performance (with the help of other
community members, such as in preparing the stage,
building the scenery and selling tickets);


Performance of the play in the community and

elsewhere, with an emphasis on dialogue with the


Development of leadership within the group and a

common effort to influence the socio-political system
outside the framework of the theatre.

Group work in educational setting can play an important
role in moulding individual personalities beyond the
curriculum. Equally important the maladjusted student
can be better addressed by combining the group work with
counseling. It also helps other students to understand the
problems of the students who take part in the treatment
Problems like time and support for group work can be
dealt with if its results are positive and shown to the
management. Existing organizations like NSS and NYK can
be used to boost group work practice in educational settings.

Boehm, Amnon and Esther Boehm, (2003) Community
Theatre as a means of Empowerment in Social Work; A


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

Case Study of Womens Community Theatre, Journal of

Social Work 3; 283.
Lillington, Barbara (1985), Psychosocial Response to
Traumatic Physical Disability, Social work in Health Care,
Volume 10(4), summer.
Breman-Ross., Toby (1994), Social Work: The Collected
Writings of William Schwartz, F.E.Peacock Publishers Inc.
Brown, Allan (1994) Group Work, 3rd edition, Ashgate
Publishing Limited, Hampshire.
Dwivedi, K., N., and Robin Skynner(1993), Group Work
with Children and Adolescents: A Handbook, Jessica
Kingsley Publishers, London.
Corey and Corey (1987), Groups Process and Practice,
Third edition, Brook/Cole Publishing Company, California.
Cwikel J.G.& Behar L.C. (1999), Psychosocial Response
to Traumatic Physical Disability, Social work in Health
Care, Volume 29(4), Summer
Greif, Geoffrey Land Paul Ephross(2005), Group work with
Population at risk, Second edition, Oxford University Press,
New York.
Gravin et al. (2004), Handbook of Social work with groups,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Siddiqui, H.Y. (2008), Group Work, Theories and Practices,
Rawat Publications, Jaipur.
Trecker, Harleigh (1972), Social Group Work, Principles
and Practices, Follet Publishing Company, Chicago.


Group Work in Educational Settings


Role of Social Worker in

Group Work
*Manju Kumar

You may look at this chapter as a recapitulation of all that
you have learnt about the method and practice of social
group work, especially, in terms of what a group worker
does in different kinds of groups, within the context of
values and philosophy of social work profession.
Social workers adopt many roles to achieve their goals of
social justice, the enhancement of the quality of life of
people, and the development of the full potential of each
individual, family and group in society. Some social
workers act as planners and developers of services. Others
manage services and try to ensure that systems work
smoothly. Some act as advocates and negotiators for those
discriminated against or unable to act for themselves.
Other social workers work as therapists with individuals,
couples, families and groups as they deal with issues that
arise throughout their lives. Some social workers act as
information givers, providing enquirers with information
about a large range of resources and services. In some
areas of practice, such as corrections and child protection,
social workers make assessments of situations and may
write reports with recommendations that may affect the
lives of those with whom they work.
*Ms. Manju Kumar, Dr.B.A.R.C, University of Delhi


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The very fact that social group work has been acknowledged
as a method of social work implies that group work method
shares with other social work methods the goal, basic
premises, values and beliefs, generic principles and
interventional strategies of social work profession. The
concept of role is widely used to clarify group workers
authority, responsibilities, functions, and tasks; thereby
highlighting the impact of group work practice on persons
who come together as members of a group.
For the sake of convenience, the term group worker in
the masculine, rather than social worker in group work,
will be used throughout the following discussion.

Concept of Role and its Implication for a

Group Worker
Role and status are two important concepts which prove
to be valuable in explaining the responsibilities, obligations
and power that devolve on the group worker in his capacity
as a professional associated with some social agency.
Role: Definitions
The dictionaries define role as the actions and activities
assigned to or required or expected of a person; normal
or customary activity of a person in a particular social
setting; and, behavior in relation to a specific function or
task that a person (the group worker) is expected to
perform. The roles are concomitant to a status or a social
position. A set of expectations govern the behavior of
persons holding a particular role in society; a set of norms
that defines how persons in a particular position should
As a sociological term, a role is described as a
comprehensive pattern of behaviour that is socially
recognized, providing a means of identifying and placing

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


an individual in a society. It also serves as a strategy for

coping with recurrent situations and dealing with the roles
of others.
The social worker is an achieved status, a position that a
person assumes voluntarily which reflects personal skills,
abilities, and efforts. Roles associated with this status are
governed by the norms, standards and professional ethics.
A role, therefore, is a series of actions which guide and
determine our behaviour according to what is expected of
us in a certain situation. Roles generate consistency and
predictability of behaviour. All roles are functional in that
they serve some purpose.
Each social status, further, involves not a single associated
role, but an array of roles or role-set, that is, a complement
of role-relationships in which persons are involved by virtue
of occupying a particular social status. While working with
groups the social worker performs a variety of roles,
depending on different situations, groups and persons.
However, the roles remain relatively stable even though
different people occupy the position of a group worker.
The discussion of roles of group workers, therefore, is
useful in conceptualizing their activities, evaluation of
professional interventions, and training of new
Roles of a social worker working with Groups
Widely quoted authors Compton and Galaway (1984)
focused on social workers, interventive roles whose
enactment meant the translation of expectations (of the
profession) into behaviour. These roles refer to the
behaviours through which the client an individual, a
family, a group or a community expects the worker to
help accomplish goals, agreed upon mutually by the client


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

and the worker. The roles conceptualized by the authors

include the following:

social broker connecting the client system with the

community resources based on broad knowledge of
community resources and the operating procedures
of the agencies; the worker may bring the specialized
resources to the group; referral is a basic part of
enactment of the brokers role.


enabler assisting clients to find coping strengths

and resources within themselves to produce changes
necessary for accomplishing the stated objectives with
the supporting and enabling function for the client,
whether individual or group; for example, the worker
who assists a group of residents in a community in
thinking through the need for and then in identifying
ways of establishing a day-care centre; who helps a
group to identify sources of internal conflict and
influences blocking a groups goal achievement and
then to discover ways of dealing with these difficulties
is serving as an enabler in relation to the group.
Encouraging verbalization, providing for ventilation of
feelings, examining the pattern of relationships,
offering encouragement and reassurance, engaging in
logical discussion and rational decision-making are
other avenues through which enablers role may be
enacted. (Compton & Galaway, 1984, p. 430)


teacher providing groups with new information

necessary for coping with difficult situations, assisting
group members in practicing new behaviour or skills.
It is different from brokers role as it implies providing
additional resources to members environment; for
example, supplying information about low cost
nutritional diet; informing parents regarding child
development for coping with difficult problems of
children; providing vocational guidance to adult

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


patients requiring rehabilitation after loss of limbs.

Teachers role helps group members make informed
choices and cope better with social reality. One
important dimension of this role is role-modelling offering to group members a model of behaviour, of
communication and relating.

mediator efforts to resolve conflicts that may exist

between the client system and external systems like
other persons or organizations by finding a common
ground on which they might reach a resolution of the
conflict (utilizing techniques of constructive conflict
resolution); for example, residents group wishing to
secure a playground but not having adequate political
clout to do so.


advocate Speaking for the client (individual, family,

group or community) by presenting and arguing the
clients cause. It becomes essential when working with
client-systems who belong to disadvantaged and
marginalized groups in society, are oppressed due to
structural social inequalities, or are invisible and
voiceless. Advocacy is becoming increasingly popular
role of social workers in the context of focus on social
justice concerns and human rights. Unlike other roles,
advocacy can be used without direct involvement of
the client-system.

Besides these roles conceptualized by Compton and

Galaway, others mentioned in social work literature include
the roles of Organizer (covering planning and implementing
action), consultant and facilitator. The role of facilitator is
relevant in the changed perception of group members as
interdependent entities engaged in mutual aid based
support groups and self-help groups which require minimal
professional intervention.
On one point all the experts agree that the roles mentioned
above are neither discreet entities nor comprise an


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

exhaustive list. There is often blurring of boundaries and

hence overlap. The roles also get into a new constellation
as and when required by the demands of the situation,
purpose of the group (the client) and the dynamics
emerging out of interaction among the three basic elements
of group work practice, that is, group (along with its
members), worker and the social environment.

Group Worker as A Leader of the Group

One of the frequently debated dimensions of the role of a
group worker is that of leadership. While some authors
perceive group workers in the role of group leaders others
focus more on the workers helping role. A brief exposition
of both the perspectives follows below.

Leader refers to a person who is designated to exert

positive influence over others. The process and the
function through which he does so are defined as
leadership. Leadership is a process by which a person
influences others to accomplish an objective and
directs the group in a way that makes it more cohesive
and coherent. Leadership is criticalfor the vision and
to see the commonalities; to see the group through;
and to identify and mobilise resources for the group.
The group worker occupies the position of a leader on
account of his employment with the social agency;
the position which gives the worker authority to
accomplish certain tasks and objectives, based, in
turn, on professional knowledge and skills.
As a leader, the worker is the central person in the
group, often being the person who formed the group
and to whom more communications are made than
anyone else. At the initial stages of group formation,
the worker decides about the membership, structure
and the rules of conducting the group sessions. Even

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


later, if the members are not sufficiently confident,

the worker may have to play an active role in guiding
members to take necessary decisions about group
structure, norms and tasks to be performed by
different members.
Another facet of the role as a leader is that the worker
acts as an influence person. Influence has been
defined as the general acts of producing an effect on
another person, group, or organization through
exercise of a personal or organizational capacity.
Influence is powerful in that it can produce change,
persuade or convince, overcome obstacles, motivate
and bring about attitudinal changes. As a leader and
an influence person, the workers input is to create a
climate favourable for the needed work (achieving the
group goal), heighten the motivation of those who need
to work, provide a vision for the work to be done
together, and deal with the resistance involved. An
important base for influence is the skill and knowledge
of the worker in developing and using relationships
with a variety of persons in a variety of situations.
The relationship between the worker and the group
members is a major source of a workers influence.
Influence can be exerted by those who know about
and can use the planned change process. Influence
derives from understandings about human
development, human diversity, the variety of social
problems, and the availability of services and
resources. (Johnson, p. 89)
The real power of the worker arises, therefore, from
his capacity to influence situations within the group to influence, guide and direct group processes and
interactions within the group. The fact that group work
is described also as guided group interaction goes to
validate the group workers role as a leader who guides


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

as well as directs group situations and processes so

as to achieve group goals. The worker is an important
influence on members behaviour, interpersonal
relationships, patterns of communication, on roles
members are willing to perform, and on realization of
groups purpose. The worker may, for supporting the
groups purpose, influence persons and systems
operating in the external environment of the group in
the form of negotiation, mediation, referral, and
Despite the fact that the worker has authority and
power to influence the group processes, the worker is
bound by professional ethics or code of conduct to
use this power in the service of the clients, that is, the
group members and not for his own ends. Workers
need to be aware of the nature of the power and
influence they wield in relationship with the group
members. Every effort needs to be made to guard
against the potential for abuse of power with the clients
(group members). These two facets of group work
functions, namely, expertise and its selfless use for
the benefit of group members place the worker at a
distance from the members. Although the worker
participates in the group processes, he is not a member
of the group in the same way that the other
participants are. Unlike the group members, a worker
is mandated to participate in the group on account of
his professional understanding of the members needs
and interests. The worker, in fact cannot deny
authority devolved on him. Reluctance or refusal by
the group worker to provide leadership to act on his
authority can be very damaging at critical stages of
transition when the group rightfully looks to the worker
for guidance, reassurance and structure. (Benson,
p. 38)

Role of Social Worker in Group Work



The other view point focuses on the worker in the

helping role. The worker is seen in the group as an
enabler to do things with the group rather than for
the group. His influence, it is claimed, is indirect rather
than direct. A great deal of facilitation may be done
nonverbally, with eye contact and a nod to someone
who is trying to participate or a smile when a member
has made a valuable contribution. He works through
the members of the group, helps members to determine
groups objectives and purpose; helps them to develop
group-feeling; acquire an understanding of their
capacities and limitations; recognize internal conflicts
and problems and to resolve the same with the
workers help. The worker helps the group to identify
indigenous leaders to take responsibility for groups
effective functioning. (Trecker, p.26)

Another role which is preferred by those favouring a nonleadership stance is that of a facilitator. The group worker
is not seen as the only expert in the group. In fact, each
group member is a potential leader and helper for the other
members. The primary task of the group worker is to
facilitate the group process so that the group becomes a
prime influence on the behaviour of the group members.
Facilitating the group process involves motivating and
assisting members to participate actively and
collaboratively in the process because the primary means
of help in the group is the support and challenge members
give to each other, supplemented by the workers inputs
to the members work. The group dynamics comprising of
interactions, relationships, communications, and role
performances within the boundaries set by the members
themselves by definition, is the prime source of change,
growth and satisfaction. The worker facilitates this process
to run smoothly, without conflicts and road blocks so that
members can benefit from positive and constructive group
experience. The group worker makes it possible that the


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

group becomes a mutual aid and mutual need-meeting

system, a primary source of help.
In the role of a teacher the worker teaches the group how
to function as a group. The group members, identifying
with the worker, are likely to learn roles of a leader.
Leadership will shift during the course of a groups life
with several members taking turns as leaders, or sharing
leadership depending on the session or content.
In a support group of parents of disturbed children, the
worker and parents both perform the role of experts,
though in different spheres. The worker has to appreciate
the expertise of parents in the context of their experiences
of having a disturbed child. In encouraging and guiding
one parent, the worker shares his helping role with other
members (parents) of the group.
The aim of the facilitator is a) to establish the conditions
and trust in the group whereby members can help one
another and then to get out of the way to allow them to
do it; b) to benefit the persons in a group through making
as full use as possible of the potentials of the group as a
medium for help. Although, the extent to which this is
possible will depend on the type of group in question.
(Whitaker, 1985) In the final analysis, however, the
facilitator has ultimate responsibility for the group and
can never give this over.
Social group work is often best done by combining these
roles. A competent worker will move from one to the other
as needed by the group. It is important not to be more
active, not to be a leader or a teacher, when the group can
do just fine with a facilitator or enabler. The idea of many
groups is to have members exercise self-determination and
learn how to make more effective decisions. The
achievement of these goals is threatened by a dominant
group worker. It is also important to recognize when the

Social Groups: Characteristics and Significance


group needs a leader and to act effectively if so, or to teach

when the group needs to learn new ways to interact or
need new information. The most important thing is to be
aware that groups have different needs at different times
in their development, and that different groups need
different mixtures of these roles. Three main activities of
the worker, described first by Benne and Sheats in 1948
(cited by Benson, p.70) whether as a leader or a facilitator/
enabler include task, maintenance and personal functions.
Task functions refer to those needs and behaviours and
roles that are required to help the group achieve its goals;
the second, maintenance functions encompass those
behaviours and roles that help the group look after its
emotional and interpersonal well-being; and the third
functions are concerned with personal motives, needs and
interests that each individual member brings to the group.

Role Differentiation: Factors Affecting

Roles of Group Worker
In the preceding discussion, there have been numerous
references to changes occurring in the perception of group
workers roles according to different group situations. Here
we are selecting two important factors which influence the
roles of a group worker, namely, the purpose and types of
group. Because groups and the situations within which
they operate are so different, the worker needs to first
understand the group and the circumstances surrounding
it before attempting to define specific aspects of his role.
(Trecker, p.34)

Purpose of the Group and Roles of a

Group Worker
Purpose for which a group comes into being is the most
basic determinant of what the workers responsibilities are.


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

The amount and nature of help that the group members

expect from the worker, the amount of autonomy that the
members are anxious to retain and the content of the group
experience (programme) that is essential or advisable to
achieve the specific purpose are some of the important
determinants of the workers role.
Purpose is the dynamic force that can be mobilized into
different groups. Groups based on purpose provide
different group experiences to its members. Accordingly,
the interventive roles expected of the group worker also
vary. While the basic three elements of the workers role
task-achievement, group maintenance and personal need
satisfaction remain constant (though with varying
emphases and combinations), the purpose determines the
nature of relationship between the worker and the group
members through which these functions are performed.
Given below are some of the categories of purposes for
which the groups come into existence.

Enhancement of relationships to resolve problems

in social relationships, to cope with deficits, to
strengthen mutual and reciprocal relationships.
Whether the purpose is to correct maladaptive patterns
of relationships or to help normal persons grow
socially, the worker has to use his authority in a flexible
manner. The specific purpose will determine whether
he provides direction, support, a role-model, a
comfortable and a stress-free environment in which
to interact and relate; or he facilitates content of the
group experience (programme) that offer opportunities
for expression, mutual give and take, and growth.

Dealing with problems of social functioning- One of

the purposes which traditionally belong to group work
practice is dealing with problems of social functioning.
The worker engages the group members in problem-

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


solving process and helps them to acquire coping skills

in the context of problems of social functioning.
Whether the worker has a more directive and active
stance or relatively more non-directive depends more
on the needs and capacities of the group members
than on the workers orientation.

Enhancing Social competence is preventive in nature.

The need for group work service stems from lack of
adequate knowledge, social experience, and skills for
coping with anticipated event or situation out of a
psycho-social development phase or transition to a
new or changed role like persons about to get married,
or prospective adoptive parents; and persons with
physical disability to get socialized into new or changed
roles expected of them. Teaching, information giving,
brokering, facilitating role-rehearsing and help develop
a structure to the group that provides safe and
comfortable group environment for experimenting are
some of the roles expected of the worker. The worker
may also have to engage in referral, negotiation for
procurement of needed resources and services,
mediation, and advocacy.

Coping with stress development of capacities to cope

effectively with stress caused by situations due to life
transition, life-threatening illness, divorce, physical
violence, or rape. Members need support from the
worker but also from their peers or members of the
group. They need to disclose and manage emotions,
release tension, enhance damaged self-esteem, and
discover new ways of dealing with stress and realities
of life. The workers role primarily is that of an enabler
or even that of a therapist. The worker, though,
encourages the members to draw upon the potentials
of group processes as medium of help. He offers
necessary information about available services and


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

provisions that the members can have recourse to so

as to deal with post traumatic experiences. Handling
emotions, clarification and interpretation are
important inputs by the worker. His role in establishing
group structures and patterns of open communication,
and encouraging participation in group processes go
a long way in alleviating stress of the members.

Empowerment Democratic, empowering and

participatory approaches are inherent in the ethos,
Group Work as being a part of the broader Social Work
Philosophy. Helping people to help themselves
implies workers intervention to empower people to
take charge of their own lives. However, empowerment
belonging to the category of purposes of group
formation is more specific. It acquired prominence
relatively recently due to social works adopting
securing of social justice as its mission.

Empowerment comes through being able to understand

how the problem lies outside the individual and results
from oppressive policies, practices, behaviours and the
ideas on which these are founded. Empowerment becomes
a strategy of choice while working with minority groups,
disadvantaged groups, women or populations at risk. It is
meant to provide the group members with support, skills,
understanding needed to allow them take control of their
own lives and achieve power in situations where earlier
they felt powerless. Considering that power equation is
tilted in favour of the worker in worker - member
relationship, it is essential that the members feel equal to
the workers, engage in a dialogue rather than submit to
directives of the worker. Once the necessary information
for consciousness-raising has been provided, the members
are expected to take their own decisions, deal with internal
conflicts, and negotiate with external systems. The worker
may need to be more active initially while motivating the

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


members to form the group; then, perform the role of a

teacher, facilitate the process of capacity building, engage
in supportive roles to enhance their self-esteem and
sometimes assist in negotiating with the systems which
have been oppressive and discriminatory towards the group
members. However, the purpose of empowering the
members precludes continued or active role of the
professional. The mutual-aid potential of the group, rather
than the expertise and authority of the worker, is heavily
drawn upon. People, who come together as a consequence
of having similar problems or concerns, find themselves
in a position where they can collectively confront these
forces of oppression, in ways which they could not do
single-handedly. Empowerment connotes that members
have acquired necessary capacity, skill and confidence to
deal with oppressive life experiences. The role of the
professional facilitator who is successful in empowering
peer leadership will gradually transfer into that of a
consultant to deal with specific work-related problems.
The discussion above does not include a complete list of
purposes for which people come together in groups. It is
only illustrative of how purposes affect the kind of roles a
group worker is expected to perform in the group.

Types of Groups and Roles of a Group

One of the important determinants of roles of a group
worker is the type of the group with which he is engaged.
The workers inputs, stance, approach and style is
differentially aligned to the type of a group is it voluntary
group or involuntary? Has the group been deliberately
formed or has sprung up spontaneously? Is group openended with fluid membership or closed with specified
tenure and fixed membership? Is the group comprises of


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

children, adults; able-bodies or differently-abled? Is it a

support group, self-help group, social action group, interest
group or a treatment group? Keeping generic roles in mind,
the worker offers a combination of different roles, in varying
emphases and perspectives.
Involuntary groups in which members participation is
mandatory- like group of probationers or delinquent youth
the worker has to put in considerable time and effort to
clarify the purpose and win the members trust. As the
worker is perceived to belong to the establishment with
power to supervise their bahaviour and reactions,
maintaining records and reporting to authorities, this task
is very tough and requiring deep empathic understanding.
The worker has to deal with internal conflicts, to facilitate
establishment of safe and stress free group structures and
norms, and to encourage interest-based programme
content. Challenging and confrontation, interpretation and
building self-esteem along with provision of support are
vital interventive roles of a worker in such groups.
In open-ended groups, the worker is responsible in helping
existing members to accept new members, the latter to
understand the group structure and rules of participation;
and help members review groups purpose. Since
composition of a group impacts the group dynamics in a
significant way, the gate - keeping becomes an important
function of the worker. Open-ended groups pose another
challenge to group leadership-whether professional or
indigenous -, that is, the size of the group at any given
time. The kind of programme that the group wishes to
engage in may present limitations either because the group
has become too large or too small; the skill levels may also
change. The worker has to quickly assess the situation
and enable the group members to adapt to the new
situation; divide the group into sub-groups or change the

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


We have already mentioned that workers role in support

groups is of a facilitator; helping members to draw upon
the helping potentials of their peers (members) in the group.
The workers role in self-help groups involves more behindthe-scene activities, such as recruiting, linking group
members with other groups and systems, limited role as a
facilitator within the group, supporting indigenous leaders
and acting as a consultant. Worker rarely has an active
role in the groups activities.
The worker has considerable control over who is invited to
join a therapy group. Therapy groups seek to produce
individual growth and change through the relationships
established among members with the help of a professional
therapist. Using professional methods, therapist
encourages and interprets here and now events among
members to produce insight and change. The worker often
plays an active role in helping the members decide group
structure and group norms. As far as the interpersonal
relationships are concerned, the worker is more of an
enabler than a leader. The worker, however, is responsible
for group maintenance and personal growth tasks,
encouraging the members to identify and plan positive
programme content as an instrument for achieving
treatment goals.
Task groups clearly focus more on accomplishing a specific
task. While the task-related responsibilities of the worker
take precedence over the other two, namely personal
growth and group maintenance, the latter are nevertheless
as essential because it is through the instrumentality of
the positive group experience that the goal of task
accomplishment is achieved. Depending on the level of
skills and capacities of the members, the group - feeling
in the group, the worker has to undertake roles comprising
all the three components. Recreational groups also need
development of group cohesion before the content of group


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

experience adds to the pleasure and satisfaction of the


Stages of Group Development and Roles

of A Group Worker
In earlier chapters you have learnt that groups change
overtime. Group process is a frame of reference which
limits, focuses and directs the workers efforts in a group
(Saari & Galinsky quoted by Benson, p.74) It is based on
the assumption that group process can be controlled and
influenced by the workers actions. Group process can be
defined as change over time in the internal structure,
organization and culture of the whole or part of the group
or individual member. There is a movement and change
in the quality of interactions, relationships and
communication patterns, in the degree of trust and
cohesion, and in the nature of members participation in
groups programme. To observe and understand these
changes occurring over time in the groups life span,
comprehending the concept of group development is very
useful for the group worker as it helps him to determine
what needs to be done at a given point of time. Groups do
not move sequentially through discreet phases; they may
move backwards and forwards or sideways. Each group
may spend different amount of time at any one phase of
growth or may even move cyclically. Consideration of broad
phases of development in terms of major tasks expected
of the worker is likely to prove more useful, especially to a
new professional.
At the pre-group or pre-affiliation stage, the worker acts
as a visionary who establishes the need and feasibility of
launching a group and then a motivator to recruit potential
members to the group. The role of the worker changes
once the members have come together. At the initial stage,
variously designated as inclusion, forming, orientation or

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


affiliation stage, the members look to worker for direction,

structure, approval and help at difficult times. The worker
has to be more active at this time as the members are
dependent on the worker. The worker welcomes all the
members; allays their anxieties; helps members to
communicate with each other and explore; clarifies
purpose; to make connections among the members; and
establish tentative group structure and norms, that is rules
for conducting group sessions and for members
participation. The worker assumes a nurturing and guiding
stance with the members.
At the beginning of the middle stage, the previously
friendly members may reveal a negative streak. The
members here are seeking individual roles. In what is
described as storming or stage of seeking power control,
conflicts develop and there is search for individual
autonomy. If not handled appropriately, there may be drop
outs. The worker recognizes this conflict as a natural
phenomenon and helps the group to revise group structure
and group norms. Development of new norms is ensured
through members sharing of ideas and feelings about their
expectations from the group and about how the group
should function. Giving opportunity to the members to
express their feelings and ideas, the worker plays a vital
role in group maintenance. He encourages the members
in the tasks of harmonizing, compromising, setting
standards and expressing group feeling. At the same time
he ensures that individual goals are not submerged in the
group goals. He ensures that each member gets an
opportunity for expression of ideas and feelings. The
worker, while performing the roles of facilitator and enabler,
does not relinquish his control over the group processes.
Judicious use of challenging and confronting and clarifying
issues helps the members to view their behaviour in the
right perspective. His interventions enable the members


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

move from less intimate to more intimate system of

relationships within the group. Setting of norms (also called
stage of norming or negotiation) and emergence of
indigenous leadership take the group to the next level of
development. The members engage in conflict resolution;
goals, roles and tasks are designated and accepted. Group
traditions are stronger, norms develop, personal
involvement intensifies; group cohesion is stronger; and
members are freer in sharing information and opinions.
(Johnson, p.207)
After the control issues are resolved, the group now settles
down to work on its tasks and goals, whether dealing with
personal problems and anxieties of the members or
accomplishing tasks for which the group came into being.
Variously called performing, functional, operation or
cohesion stage, the role of the worker becomes less active
and more facilitative or consultative. The worker provides
support, or relevant information, The members work
together more effectively. There is growing ability to plan
and carry out projects relevant to the purpose of the goal.
There is higher degree of integration and cohesion. The
worker moves into a less central role. The worker monitors
the groups functioning, gives appropriate feedback to the
group whether there is an affinity between the purpose
and the group programme. Here the workers influence is
more indirect and subtle than direct. The group will expect
the worker to be available and provide necessary inputs
in case of crisis or some difficulty. Encouraging members
to make choices and fostering creativity are other tasks
that a worker performs at this mature stage of the group.
Termination, disintegration, separation, mourning or
ending stage requires different set of inputs from the
worker. According to Benson (p.155), the worker is again
more dominant in this stage and offers a mix of nurturing,
guidance, and protection and support roles. The worker

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


deals with physical fact of separation; feelings of anxiety

and facilitates members intellectual understanding of what
have they gained through the group experience. The worker
helps the members to assess their group experience and
to identify ways of stabilizing the gains achieved.
Identifying a groups stage of development allows the
worker to respond to the group with better understanding
about structures and functioning of the group which is
a means for enhancing the interactional process of the
group. (Johnson, p. 208)

Depending on the needs of the individual members,
purpose of the group and the stage of group development,
the group worker performs a range of roles in his work
with the groups- ranging from role of a leader, organizer,
motivator, and planner to helper, broker, enabler,
facilitator, guide, consultant, mediator, advocate and rolemodel.
Authority and power are inherent in a group workers
position on account of his professional knowledge, skills
and access to certain resource. While the worker need not
deny this, he is expected to make judicious use of his
authority in the service of the client groups and not for his
own benefit. The professional code of conduct offers a
number of safeguards to make it possible. The challenge
before the group worker is that even while performing the
role of a leader, he shares this role with group members.
Each group member is a potential helper in the group and
may offer a particular kind of expertise. Even when he
directs the group members, he is expected to facilitate the
members capacity to get empowered to do things
themselves, to take control of their own lives; in short,
encourage the emergence of indigenous leadership. The


Social Group Work: Working with Groups

worker has to operate from democratic, empowering,

participative perspectives maintaining strength - based
orientation. He is committed to foster groups mutual-aid
propensities. Besides, the worker does not perform any
one role from among those mentioned above, at any given
point of time. He is usually performing a mixture of different
roles, the emphasis and amount of the ingredients being
different in different groups and situations. As mentioned
earlier, social group work is often best done by combining
these roles. A competent worker will move from one to the
other or combine them as needed by the group.

Compton, Beulah Roberts, Galaway, Burt, Social Work
Processes, 1984, 3rd ed., he Dorsey Press, Illinois.
Malekoff, Andrew, Group Work with Adolescents: Principles
and Practice, The Guilford Press, New York, 2nd Edition,
Wilson, Gertrude, Ryland, Gladys, Social Group Work
Practice: The Creative Use of the Social Process, Houghton
Mifflin Co., The Riberside Press, Cambridge, USA, 1949.
Brown, Allan, Groupwork, Gower Publishing Company
Ltd., Aldershot 2nd ed. 1986
Johnson, Louise C., Social Work Practice: A Generalist
Approach, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 6th Ed.1998
Northen, Helen & Kurland, Roselle, Social Work with
Groups, Columbia University Press, New York, 3rd Ed.2001
Benson, Jarlath F., Working More Creatively with Groups,
Tavistock Publications, London, 1987

Role of Social Worker in Group Work


Konopka, Gisela, Social group Work: A Helping Process,

Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1972, 1963
Balgopal, Pallassana R. & Vassil, Thomas V., Groups in
Social Work- An Ecological Perspective, Macmillan
Publishing Co. Inc., New York, 1983
Trecker, Harleigh B., Social Group Work: Principles and
Practices, Association Press, New York, 1955.
Australian Association of Social Workers 2002

Social Group Work:

Working with Groups

Gracious Thomas

School of Social Work

Indira Gandhi National Open University
Maidan Garhi, New Delhi 110068

July, 2010

Indira Gandhi National Open University, 2010


All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any

form, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission in
writing from the Indira Gandhi National Open University.
Further information on the Indira Gandhi National Open University
courses may be obtained from the Universitys office at Maidan
Garhi, New Delhi-110 068.
Printed and published on behalf of the Indira Gandhi National
Open University, New Delhi by Director, School of Social Work.
Print Production: Mr. Kulwant Singh

Laser typeset by Tessa Media & Computers, C-206, Abufazal

Enclave-II, Jamian Nagar, Okhla, New Delhi
Printed at:

This volume on Social Group Work: Working with Groups
will orient you to one of the important primary methods of
social work, that is, Social Group Work Social Group Work
is an important method of Social Work for several years
now. Since people in the society live and work through
various groups, the problems arising as a result of social
malfunctions can be better addressed by working in group
settings. There are seventeen chapters in this book which
talks about group, relationship between case work and
group work, how group work evolved and its advantages
and disadvantages in social work practice; theories related
to group work and the various models of practicing it;
factors affecting group formation, the tasks of a group
worker and the principles governing group work practice,
leadership and skills development in social group work,
the skills and styles of leadership, the techniques of group
work, relevance of life skills education in social group work,
programme planning in social group work, and identify
the role of a social worker in a group.
Social Group: Characteristics and Significance gives the
learner comprehensive understanding about group, its
types and how group is significant in social work practice.
You will also be able to understand how group affects
individuals personality development. The chapter on
Historial Development of Group Work deals with how
group becomes important in social work practice. By
reading this chapter you will be able to differentiate
between group work and case work and trace the evolution
and growth of social group work. History of Social Group
Work in India talks about how group work developed in
India. It gives a picture of how group work evolved during
pre-independent and post-independent India. It also
presents some of the settings in which group work is being

practiced. Social Group Work as a Method of Social Work

will enable you to have an idea about the values, methods
and purpose along with advantages and disadvantages of
social group work.
In Theories and Models in Social Group Work various
theories related to social group work are discussed. An
elaborate discussion is also presented on the different
models of social group work. The sixth chapter is on the
Stages/Phases of Group Development which describes
the various stages involved in the formation of group for
achieving its goal. It also throws light on the role of the
professional social worker during the various stages of
group development. From the chapter on Process of Group
Formation you will learn the process involved in the
formation of a group. You will also learn about the factors
affecting group formation, and theories of group. Values
and Principles in Social Group Work describes the values
underlying social group work practice and elaborates on
the principles governing group work practice.
The chapter Leadership and Power will enable you to learn
about leadership in the context of group work. It also
explains the theories of leadership, style of leadership,
factors influencing group leadership and qualities of a
successful leader. Skills and Techniques of Social Group
Work will give you an understanding of the roles of the
group worker and elaborate on the various skills required
for a group worker and how one can acquire them. The
chapter on Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social
Group Work describes the importance of life skills
education in social group work, the meaning of life skills
education and programmes and its need and relevance in
social group work. Programme Planning in Social Group
Work will introduce you to the concept of programme
planning the principles and factors influencing it, and
recording in social group work.

The chapter on Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help

Groups (SHG) in Indian Context introduces the you to
the concepts of SHGs. The deliberations enable you to know
about the characteristics of SHGs and their role in
empowering people, process of forming SHGs, its
advantages and shortcomings, and how SHGs have had
an impact on women. The chapter on Group Work in
Community Settings will help you to explore different
settings of the community where one can carry out social
group work. An elaborate discussion has been presented
on the principles and techniques used in group work with
victims of disaster, substance abusers and young people
in the community. After going through this chapter you
will also understand the limitations of working with groups
in each setting. While Group Work in Institutional Setting
will expose you to the group work carried out in
institutional setting like psychiatric setting, child welfare,
hospitals etc. Group Work in Institutional Setting will
enable you to explore the relevance and scope of group
work in educational setting. You will be familiarized with
the different techniques used in group work in educational
setting. You will also be able to identify different types of
educational setting and specific group work needed for
each of those settings. The last chapter elaborates on the
Role of Social Worker in Group Work. Factors effecting
roles of group Worker, role of group worker according to
the type of groups, stages of groups development and
the role of group worker have been described in this
The seventeen chapters compiled in this book have been
written in the Indian context by Indian professionals. I
am deeply grateful to the authors of various chapters who
include Dr. Sony Jose, Dr. Lakshmi Nair, Ms. Aishwarya
Jyotiram, Ms. Sreepriya, Mr. Joseph Varghese, Dr. Udaya
Mahadevan, Dr. Ranjana Sehgal, Ms. Manju Kumar and

Dr. R. Nalini for their much appreciated academic

contribution to the discipline of Social Work in India. I
hope this volume would be of immense help to social work
teachers, practitioners and students of social work.

Prof. Gracious Thomas

School of Social work
IGNOU, New Delhi.


Social Groups: Characteristics and


Sonny Jose, Lekshmi Nair


Historical Development of Group Work


Sonny Jose and Aishwarya Jyotiram


History of Social Group Work in India




Social Group Work as a Method of

Social Work


Joseph Varghese


Theories and Models in Social Group Work


Ranjana Sehgal


Stages/Phases of Group Development


Ranjana Sehgal


Process of Group Formation


Manju Kumar


Values and Principles in Social Group Work


Ranjana Sehgal


Leadership and Power


R. Nalini


Skills and Techniques of Social Group Work


R. Nalini


Relevance of Life Skills Education in Social

Group Work
R. Nalini



Programme Planning in Social Group Work


R. Nalini


Concepts and Dynamics of Self Help Groups

(SHG) in Indian Context


Joseph Varghese


Group Work in Community Settings


Joseph Varghese


Group Work in Institutional Settings


Joseph Varghese


Group Work in Educational Settings


Joseph Varghese


Role of Social Worker in Group Work

Manju Kumar