Introducing social work: a starter kit
Introducing social work: a starter kit

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Introducing social work: a starter kit

4.5 Examples of groups

  • Social groups: These could include a gardening group in a mental health day-centre, a newspaper-reading group in a residential home for older people, or a general discussion group in a group-home for learning disabled adults.
  • Educational groups: Managing money for young people leaving care, or a preparation group for individuals moving from a long-stay mental health hospital into the community.
  • Casework/remedial groups: issues linked to offending such as victim awareness or drug-related crime; or a group for children who have witnessed domestic violence.
  • Therapeutic groups: to help with anxiety and depression, self-esteem, bereavement, or identity problems.
  • Self-help and community-based groups: Alcoholics Anonymous, diabetes, brain-injury, parent/toddler groups, lobby-groups for local service improvements such as homelessness or disability.

Finally, watch this short clip of Mark Doel summarising his views about groupwork

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4
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Transcript: Video 4

I know there's talk about the decline in group work over the past decades. And there is, I think, some truth in this, and I can relate this to-- well, three different but related aspects. I think one is societal, in that we've moved more from collectivist solutions to individualist ones. And that has its own subtle effect, I suppose, on perhaps how we see groupwork vis-a-vis one-to-one work. There are professional, secondly, professional reasons, in that, as a profession, we-- social work-- have drifted away from the notion of practise methods as being important. It's interesting that if you read some of the literature from the 1950s, they talk about specialisms. And what they mean is, are you a specialist individual caseworker? A specialist group worker? A specialist family worker? A specialist community worker? So they defined specialisms not by service user groups but by methodology. And I think, actually, we need to return to a notion of methodology and specialist methods if we're going to reclaim a sense of professionalism. And thirdly, there are issues of accountability and what's often called managerialism. And there's a sense-- a false sense, in my mind-- that group work is more risky and less accountable than one-to-one work, less accountable in many respects, that you can't evaluate the impact on the individuals, and less accountable in that things are happening that you don't necessarily know about. Well, I think it's true that good groupwork does need an ability to let go and indeed to go with the process. And the irony is that I think the more one is able to do that, the less risk there is. And it's a fallacy to think that one can absolutely control risk. Interestingly, groupwork is more accountable. Because as a group worker, I am visible to seven, eight, nine, ten service users, and my co-worker, as well. And there's no reason at all why individuals within the group cannot account for their progress in the group, why one can't have individual evaluation as well as group evaluation. So in terms of organisations quite rightly wanting to know the cost-effectiveness of a group, it's relatively easy to build that evaluation into a group. And indeed, a good group should be evaluating itself, as well. But those are the reasons, I think, that groupwork has become less prevalent. What's interesting is that it's perhaps become less prevalent in social work, but the other professions are using groupwork more. Health professions – nursing, occupational therapists, et cetera, educationalists – do see the value of groupwork. And I hope we don't see our leading role as social workers lost to other professions. I hope we can reclaim groupwork as central to social work. In terms of the future, I am an optimist. I do think that groups are core and central to human life and to social work values. And I do think things do come in cycles. So I do think that group work will increasingly become more central to social work practise. It's a hope and an aspiration, and I guess time will tell.
End transcript: Video 4
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