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Group Work
Part 3
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Types of Groups
Task groups: to improve or resolve
production and performance related to
Psychoeducation groups: to impart information
and skills.
Counseling groups: to help members cope
and adapt to problems of living.
Psychotherapy groups: to reduce emotional or
psychological dysfunction in members.
Similarities of Types
Leadership is based on same set of core
group work competencies.
All seek to provide help and reach goals.
All involve member interaction and leader
All utilize basic group processes.
Differences of Types
Task groups focus on work performance.
Psychoeducation groups are educational and
usually very structured.
Counseling groups are developmentally-oriented
and seek to improve coping with “normal”
adjustment issues.
Psychotherapy groups are remediationoriented and seek to reduce psychopathology.
Task groups are conducted to enhance or
resolve performance and production goals in
work groups.
The task group leader functions as a facilitator,
using group collaborative problem solving, team
building, program development consultation,
and/or system change strategies.
Group leaders need to understand organizational
dynamics (i.e., how organizations function)
because task groups often occur within
organizations, such as business settings, schools,
religious institutions, and associations.
Understanding community dynamics also is
important for group leaders because task groups
often occur within communities and neighborhoods.
Political dynamics, such as power and influence
in organizations and communities, are important
for task group leaders to understand because
task groups usually are part of a larger political
Task group leaders frequently use standard
group discussion methods to guide interaction,
methods that often follow a general problemsolving approach.
All ethical principles associated with group work
are relevant to task groups.
Specific considerations are concerned with
maintaining a task/work focus rather than a
personal focus and with keeping a connection
between the work of the task group and the
larger organization of which it is a part.
Program development and evaluation knowledge is critically important for task group
Steps in a typical program evaluation plan
Define the problem
Set the objective
Choose among alternate strategies
Prepare for implementation
Design the evaluation
Use evaluative information.
Knowledge of consultation principles and
approaches is necessary for task group leaders
Consulting often occurs in order to develop
task groups within an organization or
Task groups are frequently part of an ongoing organizational consultation project.
Task groups and process consultation are
highly synchronous.
The consultation knowledge and skills areas
with which task group leaders should be
familiar include those associated with:
Human interaction processes
Communication processes
Functional roles of group members
Group norms
Leadership and authority
Intragroup processes
Consultation knowledge and skills continued
Establishing contact and defining the
Selecting a setting and method of work
Data gathering
Intervention (including agenda-setting,
observation, feedback, coaching
structural suggestions, evaluation of
results, and disengagement).
The focus on task and work is a distinguishing
feature of task groups.
Leaders collaborate with members to set goals
and agenda and to develop on-going monitoring
procedures to keep the group on task.
Human relations are critical supports in task
groups, but are not the predominant focus.
Clear goals are essential to task groups and the
goals should be specific, attainable, performancebased, measurable, and observable.
Leaders help members to define goals that are
production and performance-based, rather than
related directly to personal change.
Task group leaders need to mobilize member
energy and resources to accomplish previously
established goals.
Involving members in goal creation and planning
for goal accomplishment is an important
motivational approach.
Attending to human relations dimensions also
provides a critical source for member energy
Task group leaders need to provide decisionmaking options clearly and to define their
relative advantages and disadvantages.
Task group leaders need to help members
understand that group life naturally involves
conflict, to teach members how conflict fits
developmentally into group functioning, and to
help members recognize when conflict is obvious
and/or when it is present but not obvious.
Effective leaders help members to understand
how positive human relations are essential to
task group success.
Leaders must continually attend to human
processes and human relations because group
members will tend to avoid them in favor of the
task or avoiding the task.
Process observation and feedback are crucial
leader skills in task groups.
Process observation should focus on level of
participation, influence, feelings, decisionmaking, task maintenance, group climate,
membership, and norms.
Feedback needs to be specific, immediate,
descriptive, behavioral, and presented first,
with a focus on positive elements and always in
a tentative, non-authoritarian manner.
Task groups usually are not independent entities,
but part of a larger organizational system.
Therefore, leaders must be sensitive to the larger
organizational and political system.
Task group activities must be kept in balance with
the larger system.
Psychoeducation groups feature transmission,
discussion, and integration of factual
information and skill building through the use
of semi-structured exercises and group process.
Psychoeducation groups often are focused on
prevention, which means stopping from
happening or reducing the likelihood that
something bad will happen.
Primary prevention is a “before-the-fact”
intervention intended to reduce incidence or
occurrence of new problems.
Being “at risk” is an important prevention
concept that means a person is likely to have
something bad happen to him or her.
Being “at risk” exists on a continuum ranging
from low risk potential to high risk potential.
The lower risk levels are associated most closely
with primary prevention. However, psychoeducation groups can be conducted with people
anywhere along the continuum.
Psychoeducation groups typically involve
instructing or delivering information to
members and developing skills.
Sessions are designed systematically to
disseminate information clearly (and in an
organized manner) and to build skills.
Links among goals, methods, strategies,
activities, delivery, and evaluation are vital for
effective psychoeducation groups.
The psychoeducation group leader needs to be
particularly knowledgeable of the content for
the group.
Research and concepts in the applicable area
(e.g., substance abuse or social problem solving)
need to be mastered and then that mastery
drawn upon appropriately within the group.
Psychoeducation group leaders need good
skills to obtain (i.e., select and recruit)
members, particularly when potential group
members are “at risk.”
Knowledge of epidemiological techniques,
social indicators, demographic profiles, life
transitions, human and system development,
and social marketing can all be helpful.
Knowledge of human development over the life
span, augmented by knowledge of human
diversity, contributes strongly to effective
psychoeducation group leadership.
Human development must be understood
ecologically, including knowledge of important
contexts such as environment.
Effective application of principles of structure are
fundamental to psychoeducation groups.
Leaders need to know how to design a (at least
semi-) structured group experience from
beginning to ending session.
Leaders also need to know how to structure each
session relative to goals, methods, and roles, and
how to use structured exercises within sessions.
When psychoeducation groups are used for
prevention, the concept of empowerment is
especially important.
Empowerment refers to group members’ selfperception that they are capable and in
control, that their life condition is not
whimsical, and that they are powerful
shapers of their own destinies.
Special ethical considerations revolve around
privacy issues in psychoeducation groups.
When prospective members currently
unaffected by a disorder (i.e., who are
“healthy” or at low risk) are recruited, care
must be given to not be invasive of their
Another ethical concern revolves around
attending to unique needs of members.
Psychoeducation groups can easily become overstructured and unbalanced, resulting in
excessive information delivery.
Except when intended and understood by all,
unique member needs can become ignored
through “information overload.”
Effective leaders know the advantages (e.g.,
that they are focused, informative, skilldevelopment-based, efficient, and have
preventive potential) and disadvantages (e.g.,
that they can minimize group process human
relations or member participation) of
psychoeducation groups.
Leaders develop ideas for a psychoeducation
group from literature reviews and local (needs)
Topics appropriate for a psychoeducation group
(e.g., transition from middle to high school)
should match the local needs, resources, and
Psychoeducation group leaders plan their groups
best by including input and/or involvement of
“target” population members.
Sometimes representative members of the
“target” population are included in planning the
Counseling groups are conducted by group
counselors to improve coping with problems of
living by focusing on interpersonal problem
solving, interactive feedback, and support
methods within a here-and-now framework.
Group counselors need to understand the
major personality and counseling theoretical
approaches for group counseling, such as
Psychodynamic, Behavioral, Transpersonal,
Cognitive-Behavioral, and Humanistic.
Advantages of group counseling include its
interpersonal orientation, generation of
therapeutic conditions, support, problemsolving, cost-savings, and development of
interpersonal learning.
Disadvantages of group counseling include
difficulties in organizing groups and obtaining
individual assistance, and threats to
Knowledge of interpersonal dynamics is essential
for group counselors.
The most important interpersonal dynamics in
this regard include:
Group processes (e.g., participation
levels and task and maintenance
behaviors ).
Therapeutic factors (e.g., instillation of
hope and altruism).
Feedback and self-disclosure
Because counseling groups are most often used
to resolve interpersonal problems, knowledge of
problem-solving steps is important:
Identify the problem
Set goals
Consider and choose a strategy
Implement the strategy
Evaluate the success of the strategy
Because group counseling is an interpersonal
activity, effective assessment of interpersonal
phenomena is important.
Capacity to engage with others as well as
interpersonal needs for inclusion, control, and
openness are examples of important interpersonal dimensions to assess.
Group counselors also need to understand
when and how to make referrals and have a
referral resource list from which to draw.
Referral may be necessary during selection
or during the course of the group, such as
when the group topic is not relevant to a
potential member’s needs or when the level
of functioning needed is beyond skill of
group counselor.
When forming a counseling group, the counselor
must seek to create a match between the group
and prospective members.
The group’s goals and expectations and
individual group members’ level of functioning, availability, and motivation should be
considered in this matching process.
Prospective members of counseling groups may
be obtained through referral from case loads or
through recruitment and marketing.
Counselors should explore goals, level of
functioning, expectations, motivation, and obtain
informed consent during the group formation
Group counselors should be able to recognize
self-defeating behaviors of clients during their
participation in the group, and note
relationships between professed goals and
actual behaviors.
Group counselors also should become adept at
observing agreements and discrepancies
between verbal and nonverbal behavior.
Group counselors should be able to develop
reasonable hypotheses about the meaning(s) of
nonverbal behavior.
They also should be able to work with nonverbal
behavior and to be sensitive to individual and
cultural differences.
Group counselors should be able to conduct
interventions that are consistent and appropriate
with a group’s stage of development and with
member’s developmental progress.
For example, certain leader interventions
appropriate at the Forming stage of a group
might not be appropriate at the Working stage.
Counseling groups often experience conflict and
other incidents that might become significant
impediments to the progress of the group.
Counseling groups also may sometimes have
members who behave excessively or inappropriately.
For example, they may be demanding or under
the influence of a substance, or they may
monopolize, withdraw, fight, flirt, walk out, or
These “critical incidents” should be anticipated
and responded to by leaders with sensitivity
and skill, capturing the moment to allow the
group to maintain itself and to move ahead.
Group counselors should learn how to use
major strategies, techniques, and procedures
that are consistent with their (personal)
conceptual framework and with the group
Such activities might include use of selfdisclosure, feedback, confrontation, modeling,
or skills training.
Group counselors should know how to help
members transfer their learning from the group
to their lives outside the group.
Relating group events and experiences to the
“real world” is very important, including helping
members to integrate and apply learning and to
try out small changes first.
Group counselors also can help members
generalize group learning.
Useful techniques in this regard include
making use of assigned homework, viewing
videotapes in the group, role playing, or
keeping journals.
Co-leadership in a counseling group is a
desirable and often preferred model because it
provides another role model for members, a
support resource for each leader, a “built-in”
capacity for leader processing, and safety.
Functional co-leadership requires a good initial
match of leaders and maintenance of an open
and sharing working relationship between
Counseling groups, like other groups, need to
be assessed and evaluated for their on-going
and overall effectiveness.
Leaders can collect relevant data during
sessions, at the end of sessions, or using a
pre-and post-test design.
The data should be used to help the group to
progress and to determine its value to each
Psychotherapy groups are conducted by
therapists to reduce psychological and/or
emotional dysfunction through exploration of the
antecedents to current behavior by using
intrapersonal and interpersonal assessment,
diagnosis, interpretation, and connecting
historical material with the present.
Clients with diagnosed or diagnosable dysfunctions
are very suitable for group psychotherapy.
Therefore, for psychotherapy group leaders,
knowledge of abnormal behavior is essential
because members enter the group with varying
levels of dysfunction.
In addition, leaders of psychotherapy groups
must understand not only current abnormal
behavior, but also how abnormal behavior
Therefore, knowledge of psychopathology and
its relationship to normal and abnormal human
development is necessary.
Knowing the relationship of personality theory
to group psychotherapy also is important for
psychotherapy group leaders.
Therefore, they must possess a thorough
understanding of human development and
personality development.
Leaders of psychotherapy groups also must
know crisis theory and its relationships to
helping and to group psychotherapy.
In psychotherapy groups, crises may arise with
some regularity, but they can provide opportunities for the leader to promote change.
Knowledge of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
(IV) of the American Psychiatric Association is
important for psychotherapy group leaders.
This knowledge is useful to assess prospective
clients in relation to DSM-IV categories and to
integrate assessment data with criteria for
group member selection.
Special screening attention needs to be given by
psychotherapy group leaders to selecting group
members who could benefit from group.
Group members included can be those from a
wide spectrum of psychological and emotional
However, those with poor reality contact or
character disorders are not good candidates for
group psychotherapy.
Self-defeating behaviors of many unique kinds
can be experienced in psychotherapy groups.
Therefore, leaders need to be able to manage
behaviors that are antagonistic to a member’s
needs and/or goals, represent an extreme
dysfunction, or heighten liability.
Intervening in critical incidents within a
psychotherapy group could involve situations
that are at higher risk than in other forms of
group work.
At times, these critical incidents may include
crises or emergencies that require direct leader
Disruptive members in psychotherapy groups
can evidence dramatically pronounced
expression of behavior.
These more obvious and extreme disruptions
may require direct (perhaps even physical)
intervention on the part of the leader to
manage the member’s behavior and the
group itself.
Hospitalization may sometimes be necessary
for a member of a psychotherapy group, and
therefore leaders must know procedures for
instituting hospitalization, should that be
Transfer of learning may require increased
support, gradated trials, and repeated attempts
in psychotherapy groups .
Assessment procedures for evaluation in
psychotherapy groups may need to be focused
more closely than in other groups on the
individual’s accomplishment of gradated goals.
Assessment of psychotherapy group member
contributions is often concerned with modest
This concludes Part 3 of the
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