University of Central Florida Group Work Sociology Essay

5 Essay Questions
Provide a comprehensive response to each inquiry /statement.

The complexity of working with groups must be properly understood to promote
healthy experiences and effective outcomes. Describe one factor that dominates the
influence of group participation and support your response.
Reflecting on your personal experience as a group member explain how verbal and non-
verbal communications impacted your involvement.
Working with groups is both similar to and different from working with individuals and
families. A highly competent counselor can be effective with either: group, individual or
family. What’s your position on this statement and why?
In all types of groups, leaders must promote emotional stimulation as well as
demonstrate caring to function optimally. What are the strongest and weakest aspects
of your personality characteristics that would be effective or ineffective for group
The word theory receives mixed reaction in the field of group work. What are the
advantages of operating from a theoretical base in group work.

Seventh Edition
A Counseling Specialty
Samuel T. Gladding
Wake Forest University
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gladding, Samuel T.
Groups : a counseling specialty / Samuel T. Gladding, Wake Forest University. —Seventh Edition.
  pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-13-390520-5—ISBN 0-13-390520-9
1. Group counseling. I. Title.
BF636.7.G76G55 2015
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
ISBN 10:   0-13-390520-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-13-390520-5
To my wife
and my children
Ben, Nate, and Tim
Who have all taught me anew that
sensitivity is a strength,
listening is a skill,
love is an action, and
life is a gift to be shared.
About the author
Samuel T. Gladding is a professor in the Department of Counseling at
Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He has
been a practicing counselor in both public and private agencies since
1971. His leadership in the field of counseling includes service as
president of the American Counseling Association (ACA), the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES), the Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW), the American
Association of State Counseling Boards (AASCB), and Chi Sigma
Iota (international academic and professional counseling honor society). He has also been the chair of the American Counseling Association Foundation (ACAF).
Dr. Gladding is the former editor of the Journal for Specialists in Group Work and the
author of more than seven dozen refereed articles in counseling journals, 41 books (including
revisions), and five counseling videos. In 1999, he was cited as being in the top 1% of contributors to the flagship journal of the American Counseling Association—Journal of Counseling and
Development—for the 15-year period from 1978 to 1993. Some of Dr. Gladding’s most recent
books are Family Therapy: History, Theory, and Process (6th ed., 2015), Counseling: A Comprehensive Profession (7th ed., 2014), The Counseling Dictionary (3rd ed., 2011), The Creative Arts
in Counseling (4th ed., 2011), Becoming a Counselor: The Light, the Bright, and the Serious (2nd
ed., 2009), and this seventh edition of Groups: A Counseling Specialty.
Dr. Gladding’s previous academic appointments have been at the University of Alabama at
Birmingham (UAB), Fairfield University (Connecticut), and Rockingham Community College
(North Carolina). He was also Director of Children’s Services at the Rockingham County (North
Carolina) Mental Health Center. Gladding served as a Fulbright Specialist in counseling to Turkey (2010) and China (2013). His books have been translated into several languages including
Turkish, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Polish, and Indonesian.
Gladding received his degrees from Wake Forest (B.A., M.A.Ed.), Yale (M.A.R.), and the
University of North Carolina–Greensboro (Ph.D.). He is a National Certified Counselor (NCC),
a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC), and a Licensed Professional Counselor
(North Carolina). Dr. Gladding is a former member of the North Carolina Board of Licensed
Professional Counselors (NCBLPC) and the Alabama Board of Examiners in Counseling.
Dr. Gladding is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Lifetime Achievement
Award from the Association for Creativity in Counseling; the Eminent Career Award from the
Association for Specialists in Group Work; the Thomas J. Sweeney Professional Leadership
Award from Chi Sigma Iota; the Gilbert and Kathleen Wrenn Award for a Humanitarian and Caring Person from the American Counseling Association; the Professional Leadership Award and
Outstanding Publication Award from the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision;
the Research Award from the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors; and
the Ella Stephens Barrett Award for Leadership and Service to the Counseling Profession from the
North Carolina Counseling Association. He is also a Fellow in the Association for Specialists in
Group Work and in the American Counseling Association.
Gladding is married to the former Claire Tillson and is the father of three children—Ben,
Nate, and Tim. Outside of counseling, he enjoys tennis, swimming, writing poetry, and humor.
Groups are a part of everyday life. We are born into a family group, and many of the most important events of our lives take place in the educational, recreational, and work groups of which we
are a part. Almost everyone is influenced daily by some type of group, and it can be justifiably
argued that we truly become human through our interactions in groups. Sometimes just the memory of a group experience or the attractions of an upcoming group event can have a powerful
impact on us. The groups with which we directly and indirectly associate affect us all.
The helping professions have worked with people in groups since the end of the 19th century. Professionals realize that, if used properly, groups have the power to help, heal, direct, and
support. Working with persons in groups has become an increasingly popular, diverse, and viable
means of promoting change and the accomplishment of tasks. Because each group is different,
group workers must be equipped with a variety of skills.
New to This Edition
My purpose in writing this new edition of Groups was not only to update the text with the latest
research but to make the seventh edition more user friendly, interesting, scholarly, and relevant.
To improve the book, I initially looked at how it was organized and how the flow of the chapters
could be enhanced to help readers more readily learn the essentials of working with groups. With
this goal in mind, I focused particularly on incorporating into the text examples and exercises that
could give the reader more practical techniques for conducting a group. I also wanted to give the
reader more examples of different types of groups and to provide creative methods for working
with groups.
I was able to accomplish all of these goals, and thus there are a number of substantial differences in this seventh edition when compared to the previous edition of this book. Major and
important new features to this seventh edition are as follows:
• More than 120 new references have been added and incorporated into the body of the text.
These references are all new from the last edition. Numerous older references have been
deleted as well, making the book more current than ever and more evidence based.
• Chapter overviews have been added, giving the reader an idea of the important points covered in the chapter.
• Brief introductory stories have been added to the beginning of each chapter.
• The number of chapters has been reduced from 17 to 16.
• The chapter in previous editions on the history of groups has been shortened, simplified,
and made into Appendix A with an accompanying chart (Appendix B) to make it more
• New material and updates on previous material covered in the book have been added to
each chapter. Some of the most notable additions include those that focus on social justice,
creativity (particularly the work of Keith Sawyer), different specialty groups throughout
the life span, technology and group work, brief groups, and groups for older adults.
• A new appendix, Appendix C, has been added, entitled “Some Prominent Self-Help Group
Organizations.” It lists prominent mental health associations that deal with troublesome
behaviors, such as addiction and eating disorders, and do so largely in self-help/mutual
help formats.
This book, like previous editions, examines essential skills required to be an effective worker
with groups in multiple settings.
Part 1 of this text (Chapters 1–7) concentrates on types of groups (task/work, psychoeducation, counseling, psychotherapy, and mixed) and how they develop, including their stages and
dynamics. Skilled group workers must be aware of and comfortable in dealing with the dynamics
and the development of groups over time, from their forming to their adjourning.
Part 2 (Chapters 8–10) focuses on ethics, legal issues, diversity, social justice, creativity,
and special kinds of groups. Ethical and legal aspects of working in groups are discussed, along
with specialty groups and the influence of culture, social justice, and creativity on groups.
Part 3 (Chapters 11–14) examines the role of groups throughout the life span. These chapters cover issues and procedures for working with groups that focus on children, adolescents,
adults, and older adults. Each of these age-and-stage groups has special needs that can be
addressed positively in a group setting. Different types of groups appropriate for various life-span
periods and circumstances are highlighted and discussed.
The final part of this book (Chapters 15 and 16) concentrates on theoretical approaches to
leading groups, describing eight of the most prominent approaches. Each theory is examined in
regard to its premises, practices, leadership, emphases, outcomes, strengths, and limitations. The
specific theories explored here are transactional analysis, reality therapy, Adlerian, person-centered, existential, Gestalt, rational-emotive behavior therapy, and psychodrama.
A Personal Note
I decided to write this book after reflecting on my own experiences in groups. In the late 1960s
and early 1970s, I was exposed to a variety of groups, including what were then known as
T-groups. I participated in group marathons, psychoeducational groups, self-help groups, task
groups, and counseling groups. I took formal courses in conducting groups at Yale, Wake Forest,
and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Later, I joined such organizations as the
Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW) and the North Carolina Group Behavior
Society. In my initial employment at a mental health center, I was required to lead psychotherapy,
counseling, and psychoeducational groups. In private practice and in my duties as a college professor and administrator, I have added task/work groups as a part of my experience.
Fortunately, I have had some excellent instructors and colleagues over the years. They
include Wesley Hood, Larry Osborne, Peg Carroll, Diana Hulse-Killacky, Jerry Donigian, Bob
Conyne, Chuck Kormanski, Rosie Morgannet, Beverly Brown, Janice DeLucia-Waack, Marianne Schubert, Johnne Armentrout, and John Anderson. I have also been enriched as a practitioner and a writer from my experience as president of the ASGW and editor of the Journal for
Specialists in Group Work.
I am grateful for the input of professional group workers who reviewed various editions of this
text since its original publication in 1991. They include Adrian Blow, St. Louis University;
­Roberto Clemente, University of Northern Iowa; Robert Conyne, University of Cincinnati; Dana
Edwards, Georgia State University; Thomas Elmore, Wake Forest University; Stephen Feit,
Idaho State University; Richard Hawk, Tuskegee University; Diana Hulse-Killacky, University
of New Orleans; Dennis Kivlighan, University of Missouri, Columbia; Brent Mallinckrodt, University of Oregon; Diana McDermott, University of Kansas; Bernard Nisenholz, private practice,
California; Susan Orr, California State University, Sacramento; John G. Pappas, Eastern Michigan University; Sally E. Thigpen, Northeast Louisiana University; Charles Weiner, Henderson
State University; Fred Bemak, George Mason University; Brian J. Den, Georgia State University;
Jean E. Griffin, University of Nevada–Las Vegas; Susanna A. Hayes, Western Washington University; Barbara Couden Hernandez, Indiana State University; Kathleen M. May, University of
Virginia; J. J. McWhirter, Arizona State University; Steven Pfeiffer, Florida State University;
Daniel Eckstein, Sam Houston State University; Kathy Evans, University of South Carolina;
Walter Frazier, Mississippi College; and Elizabeth Sites, Liberty University.
I want to especially thank the following reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions for the seventh edition: Joel F. Diambra, University of Tennessee; Mary E. Dillon, University of Central Florida; Diane M. Waryold, Appalachian State University; Jonathan Ohrt,
University of North Texas; and Brian Wortham, Texas A&M University–Central Texas.
Others who have been of great assistance to me with this project are former graduate students Jo Spradling (University of Alabama, Birmingham), Paul Myers (University of Alabama,
Birmingham), Regan Reding (Wake Forest), Beverly Huffstetler (Wake Forest), Erin Binkley
(Wake Forest), and Katie-Anne Burt (Wake Forest). All have been exemplary in helping me ferret
out original sources, in proofing pages, and in making changes at times in my sentence structure
to improve the clarity of this text. My youngest son, Tim, now in his early 20s, has also been very
helpful in making constructive suggestions, and my most recent graduate student, Derek Rutter
(Wake Forest), has been of assistance as well, in locating recent articles on groups. Then, of
course, the professionals at Merrill Education/Pearson—including my former editors, Vicki
Knight, Linda Sullivan, Meredith Fossel, and present editor, Kevin Davis—gave me much to
think about as well as encouragement.
My family group, to whom all editions of this book have been dedicated, has been patient
and supportive during my writing and rewritings. My wife, Claire, has given me encouragement,
support, and a healthy helping of humor throughout this process. My children—Ben, Nate, and
Tim—were 4, 2, and just born, respectively, when I began this project. They are now 28, 26, and
24. Time goes by quickly, and writing a revision of the book every four years has helped me keep
track of their lives and mine individually and collectively.
In concluding the seventh edition of Groups, I am more aware than ever of the importance of
collaboration in accomplishing goals and fulfilling dreams. The poet John Donne was correct in
reminding us that we are not isolated islands sufficient unto ourselves. We are connected to
humanity and have the power to help or hinder one another’s growth and development. It is in the
mixing of personalities and processes that the heart of group work lies, through which our past
gains meaning, and from which our present and future are created.
Samuel T. Gladding
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Brief Contents
PART 1 Group Development
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Types of Groups and Group Work 1
Group Dynamics 25
Effective Group Leadership 52
Forming a Group 80
The Transition Period in a Group: Storming and Norming
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
The Working Stage in a Group: Performing
Closing a Group 140
PART 2 Diversity, Social Justice, Creativity, and Ethical/
Legal Aspects of Groups
Chapter 8 Diversity and Social Justice in Group Work 163
Chapter 9 Specialty Groups and Creativity in Groups 186
Chapter 10 Ethical and Legal Aspects of Working with Groups
PART 3 Groups Throughout the Life Span
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Groups for Children 234
Groups for Adolescents 255
Groups for Adults 277
Groups for Older Adults 300
PART 4 Theoretical Approaches to Groups
Chapter 15 Transactional Analysis, Reality Therapy, Adlerian,
and Person-Centered Groups 319
Chapter 16 Existential, Gestalt, Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy,
and Psychodrama Groups 351
Appendix A History of Group Work 381
Appendix B History of Group Work Chart 392
Appendix C Some Prominent Self-Help Group Organizations
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Part 1
Group Development
Chapter 1 Types of Groups and Group Work
Classifying Groups 3
Task/Work Groups 5
An Example of Task/Work Groups: Teams 6
Psychoeducational Groups 9
An Example of Psychoeducational Group Work: Life-Skills
Development Groups 11
Counseling Groups 13
An Example of a Counseling Group: A Counseling Group
for Counselors 14
Psychotherapy Groups 15
An Example of Group Psychotherapy: Group Work with Abusers and
the Abused 16
Mixed Groups and a Proposed Regrouping of Categories 18
An Example of a Mixed Group: A Consumer-Oriented Group 21
Summary and Conclusion
Chapter 2 Group Dynamics
23   •   Classroom Exercises
Group Content and Group Process 27
Group Content 27
Group Process 28
Balance Between Content and Process 30
The Group as a System: A Way of Explaining Group Dynamics 32
Influencing Group Dynamics 34
Preplanning 34
Group Structure 35
Group Exercises and Activities 38
Group Interaction 40
Members’ Roles 43
The Effect of Positive and Negative Variables on Group Dynamics 45
Learning Group Dynamics 48
Group, Individual, and Family Dynamics 48
Persons 49
Processing 49
Summary and Conclusion
51   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 3 Effective Group Leadership
Leadership: A Concept in Search of a Definition 53
Group Leadership Styles 54
Leadership Styles for Different Groups 57
Personal Qualities of Effective Group Leaders 59
The Trait Approach 59
Personality and Specific Groups 60
Theory and Effective Group Leaders 60
Knowledge and Skills of Effective Group Leaders 62
Core Group Knowledge and Skills 62
Specific Group Skills 63
Group Leadership Roles and Functions 67
Leaders and Group Conflict 68
Co-leaders in Groups 70
Advantages 70
Limitations 71
Group Leadership Training 72
Group Supervision 76
Summary and Conclusion
Chapter 4 Forming a Group
78   •   Classroom Exercises
Steps in the Forming Stage 82
Step 1: Developing a Rationale for the Group 82
Step 2: Deciding on a Theoretical Format 83
Step 3: Weighing Practical Considerations 84
Step 4: Publicizing the Group 84
Step 5: Screening and Pretraining 86
Step 6: Selecting Group Members 88
Step 7: Selecting a Group Leader 89
Tasks of the Beginning Group 89
Dealing with Apprehension 89
Reviewing Goals and Contracts 89
Specifying Group Rules 90
Setting Limits 91
Promoting a Positive Interchange Among Members 91
Resolving Potential Group Problems in Forming 92
People Problems 92
Group Procedural Problems 95
Useful Procedures for the Beginning Stage of a Group
Joining 100
Linking 100
Cutting Off 100
Drawing Out 101
Clarifying the Purpose 101
Summary and Conclusion
101   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 5 The Transition Period in a Group:
Storming and Norming 103
Storming 105
Peer Relationships in Storming 106
Resistance During Storming 107
Task Processing in Storming 110
Working Through Storming 111
Results of Working Through Storming 112
Norms and Norming 113
Peer Relationships During Norming 114
Task Processing During Norming 117
Examining Aspects of Norming 117
Promoting Norming 118
Results of Norming 119
Summary and Conclusion
119   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 6 The Working Stage in a Group: Performing
Peer Relationships 122
Task Processes During the Working Stage 125
Teamwork and Team Building During the Working Stage 126
Problems in the Working Stage of Groups 128
Racial and Gender Issues 128
Group Collusion 129
The Working Stage of the Group and Groups that Work 130
Strategies for Assisting Groups in the Working Stage 130
Modeling by the Leader 131
Exercises 131
Group Observing Group 132
Brainstorming 133
Nominal-Group Technique 133
Synectics 134
Written Projections 134
Group Processing 134
Teaching of Skills 135
Outcomes of the Working Stage 136
Summary and Conclusion
Chapter 7 Closing a Group
139   •   Classroom Exercises
Preparing for Closing a Group 142
Effects on Individuals of Ending a Group 144
Premature Closing of a Group 145
Premature Closing of the Group as a Whole 145
Premature Closing Initiated by Group Members 145
Preventing Premature Closing 146
Closing of Group Sessions 148
Member Summarization 148
Leader Summarization 148
Rounds 149
Dyads 150
Scaling Activities 150
Written Reactions 150
Rating Sheets 152
Homework 152
Final Closing of a Group 152
Capping Skills in Closings 153
Problems in Closings of Groups 157
Denial 157
Transference 157
Countertransference 158
Handling the Closing of a Group Correctly 159
Follow-Up Sessions 159
Summary and Conclusion
Part 2
161   •   Classroom Exercises
Diversity, Social Justice, Creativity, and Ethical/
Legal Aspects of Groups
Chapter 8 Diversity and Social Justice in Group Work
A Brief Historical Overview of Diversity and Social Justice
in Groups 164
Stages of Social Justice 166
Challenges of Culturally Diverse Groups 167
Myths About Multicultural Groups 168
Goals of Diverse and Multicultural Groups 170
Assessing Cultural Diversity in a Group 171
Leadership in Culturally Diverse Groups 171
Working with Different Cultural Populations in Groups 174
African Americans 175
Hispanic/Latino/a Americans 176
Asian Americans 178
Native American Indians 179
Arab Americans 181
European Americans 182
Groups for Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Queers,
and Questioning Individuals 183
Summary and Conclusion
184   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 9 Specialty Groups and Creativity in Groups
Specialty Groups 187
Groups for Health Care Providers and Health Care Consumers
Groups for Military Personnel and Their Families 188
New Mothers’ Groups 189
Involuntary and Mandated Groups 189
Anger and Aggression Management Groups 190
Cancer Support Groups 191
Telephone Groups 191
Online Groups 192
Trauma Stress Groups 193
Disabled Persons Groups 194
Adventure Groups 195
Prevention Groups 195
Groups for Depression 196
Achievement Groups 196
Creativity in Groups 197
DeBono’s Six Hats Approach to Creativity 197
Eberle’s SCAMPER Model of Creativity 199
Sawyer’s Zig Zag Model of Creativity 201
The Six Hats, SCAMPER, and Zig Zag Ways of Working
with Groups as a Whole 201
Creative Exercises for Different Group Stages
Summary and Conclusion
212   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 10 Ethical and Legal Aspects of Working
with Groups 213
The Nature of Ethics and Ethical Codes 215
Major Ethical Issues in Group Work 217
Training of Group Leaders 217
Screening of Potential Group Members 218
Rights of Group Members 219
Confidentiality 219
Personal Relationships Between Group Members and Leaders
Dual/Multiple Relationships 220
Personal Relationships Among Group Members 221
Uses of Group Techniques 222
Leaders’ Values 223
Referrals 223
Records 223
Closings and Follow-Up 224
Making Ethical Decisions 225
Promoting Ethical Principles in Groups 226
Training Group Leaders 226
Continuing Education and Peer Supervision 227
Responding to Complaints of Unethical Behavior 228
Legal Issues in Groups 229
Community, State, and National Standards 229
Legal Action 230
Summary and Conclusion
Part 3
232   •   Classroom Exercises
Groups Throughout the Life Span
Chapter 11 Groups for Children
Types of Groups for Children 236
Group Guidance for Elementary/Middle School Children
Group Counseling Within the Schools 240
Group Guidance and Counseling in Community Settings
Setting Up Groups for Children 243
Nonverbal Versus Verbal Communication 243
Group Structure and Materials 244
Recruiting Members and Screening 245
Group Session Length and Number in Group 245
Gender and Age Issues 246
Role of the Leader in Children’s Groups 247
Studies on the Outcomes of Children’s Groups 249
Strengths and Limitations of Using Groups with Children
Summary and Conclusion
253   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 12 Groups for Adolescents
Types of Groups for Adolescents 257
Developmental Psychoeducational Groups 258
Nondevelopmental Counseling/Psychotherapy Groups 260
Setting Up Groups for Adolescents 263
Nonverbal Versus Verbal Communication 263
Group Structure and Materials 264
Recruiting Members and Screening 266
Group Session Length and Number in Group 266
Gender and Age Issues 267
Role of the Leader in Adolescents’ Groups 268
Problems in Adolescents’ Groups 270
Outright Disruptiveness 270
Hesitancy to Engage with Others 270
Polarization 271
Monopolizing 271
Inappropriate Risk Taking 271
Overactivity or Giddiness 271
Studies on the Outcomes of Groups for Adolescents 272
Strengths and Limitations of Using Groups with Adolescents 274
Strengths 274
Limitations 274
Summary and Conclusion
Chapter 13 Groups for Adults
275   •   Classroom Exercises
Types of Groups for Adults 278
Setting Up Groups for Adults 279
Role of the Leader in Groups for Adults 280
Studies on the Outcomes of Groups for Adults
Groups for College Students 281
Groups for Adults in Midlife 284
Groups for Men and Women 287
Groups for Couples, Families, the Divorced, the Widowed,
and the Remarried 293
Groups for Adult Offenders and Persons with Life-Threatening
Illnesses 295
Strengths and Limitations of Using Groups with Adults 297
Strengths 297
Limitations 297
Summary and Conclusion
298   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 14 Groups for Older Adults
Types of Groups for Older Adults 303
Psychoeducational and Task/Work Groups 303
Counseling and Psychotherapy Groups 304
Setting Up Groups for Older Adults 309
Role of the Leader in Groups for Older Adults 311
Studies on the Outcomes of Groups for Older Adults
Groups for Caregivers for Older Adults 314
Strengths and Limitations of Groups for Older Adults
Strengths 315
Limitations 316
Summary and Conclusion
Part 4
317   •   Classroom Exercises
Theoretical Approaches to Groups
Chapter 15 Transactional Analysis, Reality Therapy,
Adlerian, and Person-Centered Groups 319
Transactional Analysis Groups 321
Premises of Transactional Analysis Groups 321
Practice of Transactional Analysis in a Group 325
Role of the Transactional Analysis Group Leader 327
Desired Outcome of Transactional Analysis Groups 328
Evaluation of Transactional Analysis Groups 328
Learning More 329
Reality Therapy Groups 330
Premises of Reality Therapy Groups 330
Practice of Reality Therapy in a Group 331
Role of the Reality Therapy Group Leader 333
Desired Outcome of Reality Therapy Groups 334
Evaluation of Reality Therapy Groups 334
Learning More 336
Adlerian Groups 336
Premises of Adlerian Groups 336
Practice of Adlerian Theory in a Group 337
Role of the Adlerian Group Leader 338
Desired Outcome of Adlerian Groups 339
Evaluation of Adlerian Groups 342
Learning More 343
Person-Centered Groups 343
Premises of Person-Centered Groups 343
Practice of Person-Centered Theory in a Group 344
Role of the Person-Centered Group Leader 346
Desired Outcome of Person-Centered Groups 347
Evaluation of Person-Centered Groups 347
Learning More 349
Summary and Conclusion
349   •   Classroom Exercises
Chapter 16 Existential, Gestalt, Rational-Emotive Behavior
Therapy, and Psychodrama Groups 351
Existential Groups 354
Premises of Existential Groups 354
Practice of Existential Theory in a Group 354
Role of the Existential Group Leader 355
Desired Outcome of Existential Groups 355
Evaluation of Existential Groups 356
Learning More 357
Gestalt Groups 358
Premises of Gestalt Groups 358
Practice of Gestalt Theory in a Group 359
Role of the Gestalt Group Leader 362
Desired Outcome of Gestalt Groups 363
Evaluation of Gestalt Groups 363
Learning More 364
Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy Groups 364
Premises of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Groups 364
Practice of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy in a Group 365
Role of the Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy Group Leader 367
Desired Outcome of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy Groups 368
Evaluation of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy Groups 369
Learning More 370
Psychodrama Groups 370
Premises of Psychodrama Groups 370
Practice of Psychodrama in a Group 372
Role of the Psychodrama Group Leader 376
Desired Outcome of Psychodrama Groups 377
Evaluation of Psychodrama Groups 377
Learning More 379
Summary and Conclusion
379   •   Classroom Exercises
Appendix A History of Group Work
Uses of Groups Before 1900 381
Growth of Work with Groups: 1900 to the Present
1900 to 1909 381
1910 to 1919 382
1920 to 1929 382
1930 to 1939 382
1940 to 1949 383
1950 to 1959 384
1960 to 1969 385
1970 to 1979 386
1980 to 1989 387
1990 to 1999 387
2000 to the Present: Group Work Now 388
Social Justice 388
Training and Education 389
Technology 389
Research 390
Brief Group Work 390
Standards 390
The Future of Group Work 391
Appendix B History of Group Work Chart
Appendix C Some Prominent Self-Help Group
Organizations 395
Name Index
Subject Index
I live in a group
that contains many groups
all spinning in different cycles
like planets around the sun.
In each I am me,
and freely.*
Monkey Business/Fotolia
Types of Groups
and Group Work
*From “Planets” © 2010 by Samuel T.
Gladding. Reprinted by permission from
Samuel T. Gladding.
Chapter Overview
From reading this chapter, you will learn about
• Different classifications of groups and examples of each:
○○ task/work,
○○ psychoeducational,
○○ counseling,
○○ psychotherapy,
○○ mixed
As you read, consider
• The need for each type of group
• The intended outcomes of each type of group
• What types of groups you have been in or seen demonstrated and their effectiveness
Part 1 • Group Development
n April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, the third Apollo mission intended to land men on the moon,
was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. As portrayed in the movie Apollo 13, a midmission oxygen tank explosion not only aborted the goal of the mission but put the lives
of the astronauts aboard in jeopardy. To survive, the crew of the mission shut down the command
module and used the lunar module as a “lifeboat” during the return trip to Earth. Despite great
hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, and a shortage of potable water, the crew
returned safely to Earth on April 17, but only because a group of engineers devised a method to
help them meet their needs. The engineers took materials available within the spacecraft that had
been designed for one function and found ways to connect them to serve other functions so that
the astronauts could survive. If there ever was a time when the wisdom and power of a group
prevailed in the face of overwhelming odds, it was this mission, and the creativity that went on
within the engineering group behind the scenes after the astronauts sent back word to Mission
Control: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
Groups, whether on rescue or routine missions, are a part of everyday life and are defined
in many ways. Not every gathering or collection of people qualifies as a group, because they may
lack an awareness and purpose of seeing themselves as such (Meneses, Ortega, & Navarro, 2008).
The following definition, adapted and modified from Johnson and Johnson (2013), encompasses
the main qualities of groups. A group is a collection of two or more individuals who meet face
to face or virtually in an interactive, interdependent way, with the awareness that each belongs to
the group and for the purpose of achieving mutually agreed-on goals. From family councils to
town meetings, groups are an important component of everyday life. Healthy groups are contextually unique, are complex in regard to their multiple transactions, and are open systems as well
(Conyne & Bemak, 2004).
Groups vary according to type and purpose. There are four distinct group specializations:
task/work, psychoeducational, counseling, and psychotherapy. The Association for Specialists in
Group Work (ASGW) (1991, 2000) has defined and developed standards for each. Within these
types of groups are multiple purposes—for example, remediation, development, prevention, skill
training, and problem solving. There may be several types of groups that meet the purpose of
individuals joining them. For example, a psychoeducational group may be preventive and skill
focused, whereas a task/work group may be remedial, preventive, and problem solving. Thus, it
is prudent to focus on types of groups initially, because a number of types of groups can be beneficial to individuals seeking help.
That group work is effective has been established through multiple research-based studies
(Ward & Ward, 2014). Developing standards and competencies for group workers was a major
breakthrough complementing the evolution of the group work literature. Explicitly defining specific group types and establishing skills that need to be acquired and developed in each has fostered evidence-based interventions (Ward, 2006). Furthermore, exemplary training models set up
in educational institutions for each type of group have promoted the growth of competent group
leaders. Having such models allows programs that prepare group specialists from a variety of
disciplines to point to examples of what should be done in the preparation process of forming a
group as well as in the implementation of groups (Conyne, Wilson, & Ward, 1997).
Groups, if run well, are dynamic. They include numerous activities, which are verbal and
nonverbal undertakings a group and its members participate in, such as expressing themselves in
different ways and interacting with others. Activities rarely produce meaningful learning in and
of themselves. “Rather, it is the carefully selected and planned use of an activity, targeted for a
specific purpose with a specific group,” that when processed effectively is likely to lead to or
promote change and understanding (Nitza, 2014, p. 95). For example, Jill may be asked to
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
describe herself in five words to other group members as the group begins. If Jill is not asked or
allowed to explain why she picked the words she did, the activity will soon be forgotten and useless. However, if Jill is given an opportunity to explore the words she picked and why, she and
other group members are likely to understand her better.
In human service occupations, groups have usually been thought of as dedicated to mental
health issues, but they may focus on task and education agendas as well. Today, the concept of
group work is broad. That is why the Association for Specialists in Group Work (2000) defines
group work as
a broad professional practice involving the application of knowledge and skill in
group facilitation to assist an interdependent collection of people to reach their
mutual goals, which may be intrapersonal, interpersonal, or work related. The goals
of the group may include the accomplishment of tasks related to work, education,
personal development, personal and interpersonal problem solving, or remediation of
mental and emotional disorders. (pp. 329–330)
This chapter explores each type of group that has been well defined and that has educational
standards to match (task/work, psychoeducational, counseling, and psychotherapy groups).
Group work in the context of its purpose, structure, and intended outcome is also covered. In
addition, other models, past and present, for classifying groups are discussed, especially the goals
and process (GAP) model. The ways in which group purposes and skills can be combined are
also illustrated through an examination of the ways in which self-help groups operate. By being
aware of different types of groups and their purposes and group work as an entity, you should
gain immediate knowledge and insight into a growing and essential field of working with people.
Classifying Groups
Before exploring the four different types of groups, it is important to briefly examine how they
came into being. In truth, there is no systematic way these groups came to be recognized. Rather,
the process was one that has developed over time and has come in spurts. In fact, the classification system for categorizing group work is still being debated, as is discussed later in this chapter.
Need was part of the reason for the development of different types of groups. Group workers
needed a way to describe what they were doing and what could be expected. For example, contactfocused group theory was an early forerunner of the group type model. The focus of this theory
was on the purpose of groups. Three primary contact groups described in this theory were group
guidance, group counseling, and group psychotherapy. Mahler (1971) differentiated among these
groups as follows: (a) the group’s initially defined purpose, (b) the group’s size, (c) the management
of the content, (d) the length of the group’s life, (e) the leader’s responsibility, (f) the severity of the
problem, and (g) the competency of the leader. To further distinguish among these three groups,
Gazda (1989) emphasized that guidance, counseling, and psychotherapy groups could be viewed
along a continuum with overlapping goals, professional competencies, and unique distinctions.
A model that was even more comprehensive and useful in conceptualizing groups was the
specialty/standards model pioneered by Saltmarsh, Jenkins, and Fisher (1986). This model
evolved out of the realization that groups differ in their purpose and functioning. Not all groups
are created equal, and to try to conduct them in similar ways is neither prudent nor possible.
Thus, Saltmarsh et al. set up a model of group work known by the acronym TRAC, with each
letter representing an area in the total picture of group work: tasking, relating, acquiring, and
contacting (see Figure 1.1).
Process Enhancement
Part 1 • Group Development
Mutual Concern
Access to and Expansion of
Information and Awareness
Group Process
Process Recognition and
Catalytic Function
Nature of Management
Nature of
Skills Group
Restructuring and Rehearsal
of New Behavior
Control, Efficiency, Achievement
Task Achievement
FIGURE 1.1  The TRAC map of group processes and management.   Source: Robert E. Saltmarsh, Stephen J.
Jenkins, Gary L. Fisher, Figure 1.1: The TRAC map of group processes and management, “The TRAC Model: A
Practical Map for Group Processes and Management” Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 11, p. 32, Taylor &
Francis—US Journals, 1986, 32.
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
The main characteristic that distinguishes one type of group from another in this
model is the focus. Tasking groups are focused on task achievement. Relating groups
emphasize the options for movement within the life of each person. Acquiring groups
are directed toward learning outcomes that members can apply to others. In contrast,
contacting groups are focused on the individual growth of members. (Saltmarsh
et al., 1986, p. 34)
It is possible by using this model to explain how groups that start out in one major area
(e.g., tasking) may move into other areas (e.g., relating). For example, a group set up for a special
event, such as staging a race for a charity, may evolve into one where members simply enjoy getting together and hold frequent “reunions.” The TRAC model of groups clearly delineates group
process and management and the types of specific groups found in each of four areas. It was the
forerunner of the ASGW (1991, 2000) Professional Standards for the Training of Group Workers,
which delineated the four types of groups that we now discuss: task/work, psychoeducational,
counseling, and psychotherapy.
Task/Work Groups
Task/work groups “promote efficient and effective accomplishment of group tasks among people who are gathered to accomplish group task goals” (ASGW, 2000, p. 330). They are the “only
group type not inherently formed with personal psychological learning as a primary objective”
(Ward & Ward, 2014, p. 45). There are as many types of task/work groups as there are kinds of
everyday jobs and assignments. The major types of tasking groups, according to Saltmarsh et al.
(1986), are volunteer groups, mission groups, goal groups, and working groups. Task/work
groups also take the form of “task forces, committees, planning groups, community organizations, discussion groups, and learning groups” (ASGW, 1991, p. 14).
Regardless of type or form, all task/work groups emphasize accomplishment and efficiency
in successfully completing identified external work goals (a performance, an assignment, or a
finished product) through collaboration (Falco & Bauman, 2014; Stanley, 2006). Skillfully led
work groups engage workers in a process where problems are identified and explored and collaborative solutions are developed and implemented (Letendre, Gaillard, & Spath, 2008). Unlike
other groups, task/work groups do not focus on changing individuals. Whether the group is successful depends on group dynamics—the interactions fostered through the relationships of
members and leaders in connection with the complexity of the task involved.
Because task/work groups run the gamut from informal subcommittee meetings to major
Hollywood productions or corporate transactions, the number of members within a task/work
group may be large, but this type of group usually works best with fewer as opposed to more
people. In an analysis of group size, development, and productivity, Wheelan (2009) examined
329 for-profit and nonprofit work groups in organizations across the United States. She found
that groups
containing 3 to 8 members were significantly more productive and more developmentally advanced than groups with 9 members or more. Groups containing 3 to 6
members were significantly more productive and more developmentally advanced
than groups with 7 to 10 members or 11 members or more. The groups with 7 to 10
members or 11 members were not different from each other. Finally, groups containing 3 to 4 members were significantly more productive and more developmentally
advanced on a number of measures than groups with 5 to 6 members. (p. 247)
Part 1 • Group Development
From her study Wheelan concluded that work-group size is a crucial factor in increasing or
decreasing both group development and productivity. In small groups, unintended subgrouping
does not occur and members may focus more on the tasks at hand.
The length of a task/work group varies, but most are similar to other groups in that they
have a beginning, a working period, and an ending. Total quality groups found in business settings are a good example of task/work groups. These groups apply group methods “to solve
problems related to consumer satisfaction and quality” (Smaby, Peterson, & Hovland, 1994,
p. 217). Juries are another good example of task/work groups. The movie 12 Angry Men not only
illustrates how some task/work groups operate but shows the many facets of group process as
well (Armstrong & Berg, 2005).
Like other types of groups, task/work groups run best if the following assumptions are met:
• If the purpose of the group is clear to all participants,
• If process and content issues are balanced,
• If the systems of the group as a whole, leader, member, and subsets of members are recognized and acknowledged,
• If time is taken for culture building and learning about each other,
• If the ethic of collaboration, cooperation, and mutual respect is developed and nurtured,
• If conflict is addressed,
• If feedback is exchanged,
• If leaders pay attention to the here-and-now,
• If members are active resources,
• If members learn to be effective and influential participants,
• If leaders exhibit a range of skills for helping members address task and human relations
• If members and leaders take time to reflect on what is happening. (Hulse-Killacky, ­Killacky,
& Donigian, 2001, pp. 21–22)
There are, however, at least two major differences between task/work groups and other
types of groups. First, these groups may disband abruptly after accomplishing their goal. In this
way they have the most similarity to psychoeducational groups that may end hurriedly because
of time constraints, especially in a school setting. If members or leaders pay little attention to the
termination stage in a task/work group, then members may feel incomplete when the group is
finished. A second difference between task/work groups and other types of groups is that task/
work group members and leaders may have considerable contact with others in an organization
in which the group is housed. The reason is that task/work groups need input and feedback from
people who are not group members.
Task and work groups can either be rewarding or disappointing. What is the most satisfying
task/work group you were ever in? What made it so? What was the worst? What factors contributed to your being disappointed in the group?
An Example of Task/Work Groups: Teams
Task/work groups “have great importance for our everyday lives, our jobs, our government, and
our world” (Stanley, 2006, p. 27). A special type of a task/work group is a team. A team is a
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
group of “two or more people who interact dynamically, interdependently, and adaptively and
who share at least one common goal or purpose” (Azar, 1997, p. 14). In this respect, a team is
more than the sum of its parts. Just think of athletics teams, for instance, such as those in the
Olympics or at the college or professional level. There may be some players who are more skilled
than others, but if the team as a whole does not cooperate and work together to maximize strengths
and abilities, the team will fail to reach its potential.
Teams differ from other types of groups in four main ways (Kormanski, 1999; Reilly &
Jones, 1974): (a) They have shared goals, as opposed to individual goals, as in most groups; (b)
they stress interdependency more; (c) they require more of a commitment by members to a team
effort; and (d) they are by design accountable to a higher level within the organization. “A lack of
commitment to the team effort creates tension and reduces overall effectiveness” (Kormanski,
1999, p. 7).
Teams differ from task/work groups in at least a couple of ways. For one thing, more interdependence and accountability are evident in a team than in a task/work group. In addition, in a
team effort, there is more sharing of information and work toward a common goal than in a task/
work group. The result is usually a greater bonding of members to one another and more cooperation and unity in achieving a common objective (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). Table 1.1
describes other differences between teams and task/work groups.
Although teams can be classified in many ways, one of the more common is by setting.
From this perspective, teams are primarily found within work, sports, and learning situations
(Johnson & Johnson, 2013). Examples of teams can be found in environments in surgery (such
as the 4077th M*A*S*H medical unit of film and television notoriety), exploratory excision
Table 1.1
Task/work groups versus teams.
Working Groups
A strong, clearly focused leader is
Shared leadership responsibilities exist
among members.
The general organizational mission is the
group’s purpose.
Individual work provides the only products.
Effectiveness is measured indirectly by
group’s influence on others (e.g., financial
performance of business, student scores on
standardized examination).
Individual accountability only is evident.
A specific, well-defined purpose is unique
to the team.
Team and individual work develop products.
Effectiveness is measured directly by
assessing team work products.
Individual accomplishments are recognized
and rewarded.
Meetings are efficiently run and last for
short periods of time.
In meetings members discuss, decide, and
Both team and individual accountability are
Team celebration. Individual efforts that
contribute to the team’s success are also
recognized and celebrated.
Meetings with open-ended discussion and
include active problem solving.
In meetings members discuss, decide, and
do real work together.
Source: From Johnson, David W.; Johnson, Frank P.; Joining Together: Group Therapy and Group Skills, 5th ed. © 1994.
Reprinted and Electronically produced by permission of Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Part 1 • Group Development
(such as Lewis and Clark’s mapping of the Louisiana Territory), and flying (such as the miracle
landing on the Hudson River of a USAirways plane by its pilot, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger). In a work team, the emphasis is on interpersonal interaction in which members’
­proficiency and success in doing their jobs are maximized and their efforts are coordinated and
integrated with those of the other team members.
A second way to classify a team is by how it is used. Common uses include problem solving (e.g., ways to improve quality, efficiency, and the work environment), special purpose (e.g.,
facilitating collaboration between unions and management), and self-management (e.g., a small
group of employees who produce an entire product or service).
A final way teams can be classified is in regard to what they recommend, do, or run. Teams
that recommend include task forces that study and help find solutions for problems, whereas
teams that do focus on performance (Katzenbach & Smith, 1993). It is rare for a team to run something, such as an organization, especially a large and complex one such as Microsoft or AT&T.
A number of guidelines should be considered in establishing teams. First, it is important that
teams be kept small, half a dozen members or so at most, because large numbers of people generally have difficulty interacting constructively in a group. Second, team members should be selected
for their already-established expertise and skills as well as those they have the ability to master.
Therefore, effective teams are heterogeneous, and their members possess a variety of abilities. In
such groups, team members will often serve as “external memory aids” for one another and “divvy
up what needs to be remembered about a task, with individual members remembering different
aspects of the task and everyone knowing who knows what” (Azar, 1997, p. 14). A final necessity
for forming a team is to bring together the resources necessary to function, including both tangibles and intangibles, such as materials, support personnel, space, and time.
Once a team has been established, it must be structured and nurtured. A crucial ingredient
in this process is giving the team a mission and the independence to operationalize the goals that
go with the mission. Teams function best when they have a meaningful and worthwhile purpose,
such as winning an athletic competition or finding a cure for a disease. A further necessity in
structuring and nurturing a team is to provide opportunities for team members to interact face to
face or virtually and promote one another’s success (Johnson & Johnson, 2013). Frequent and
regular meetings are one way this may be done in a face-to-face way, but electronic communication, such as e-mail, Skype, and phone time, can also be counted as time spent together.
Other matters that must be attended to in structuring and nurturing a team, according to
Johnson and Johnson (2013), include the following:
• Paying particular attention to first meetings, especially what those in authority do in such
meetings because they are the role models for the members
• Establishing clear rules of conduct, especially pertaining to attendance, discussion, confidentiality, productivity of members, and constructive confrontation
• Ensuring accountability of the team as a whole and its members individually
• Showing progress, especially obtaining easy goals early in the life of the group
• Exposing the team to new information and facts that help them redefine and enrich their
understanding of their mission, purpose, and goals
• Providing training to enhance both task/work and teamwork skills
• Having frequent team celebrations and opportunities to recognize members’ contributions
to the team success
• Ensuring frequent team-processing sessions so the team can examine how effectively it is
working and discuss ways to improve
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
Overall, teams that function best emphasize continuous improvement of themselves on an
interpersonal, process, and product basis. They work as a group to create a culture that is supportive for members—one that gives them a sense of identity. At the same time, team members
focus on specific goals and missions they wish to accomplish and make sure their energy is constantly focused on outcomes that are directly related to their purpose. Effective teams also train
together, with the result being better performance over time, increased productivity, and fewer
mistakes (Azar, 1997). Teamwork is a set of skills that must be developed through practice and
feedback (Levi, 2014).
Case Example
Bradley at the Bat
Bradley has always loved baseball. He was never a
great player, but he has now joined the city recreation league and is a member of his company’s team.
He plays second base, and his colleagues applaud
him for both his effort and, at times, his efficiency.
Bradley is the lead-off batter. His job is to get
a hit and get on base. He finds that whenever he
comes to the plate his teammates cheer for him
whether he gets a hit or not. That makes him feel
good, and as a result he tries harder.
Bradley has noticed recently that he is
becoming closer to his fellow workers at his
company. There seems to be a spillover effect,
and whether he is at the ballpark or at his computer, Bradley is trying hard to do a good job. He
notices that he and others now, regardless of
where they are, use phrases such as “Let’s have a
winning attitude here” and “Let’s do this—for
the team!”
When have you seen a team positively affecting one
of its members? What do you think this says about
the power of teams and teamwork?
Psychoeducational Groups
Psychoeducational groups were originally developed for use in educational settings, specifically public schools. “The developmental nature of psychoeducational groups [proved] very useful when working with children’s self-concepts and attitudes toward school” (Villalba, 2003,
p. 264). One of the first types of groups to evolve in the development of group work, psychoeducational groups were premised on the idea that education is treatment not only because of the
knowledge acquired in the process but also because of the perceptions that may be changed as a
result (M. Young, 2013). Basically, psychoeducational groups, with well-organized and structured activities and exercises, help increase the self-worth of participants (Villalba, 2003).
Because of their structure, psychoeducational groups, in many instances, lend themselves to
work with cultural diverse populations (Champe & Rubel, 2012). Furthermore, drawing on
Yalom’s research on therapeutic factors, these groups provide information, socializing techniques, hope, and modeling (Waldo, Kerne, & Kerne, 2007). Sometimes psychoeducational
groups are simply referred to as educational groups or guidance groups.
Regardless of the name, “psychoeducation group work emphasizes using education methods to acquire information and develop related meaning and skills” (Brown, 1997, p. 1). Thus,
psychoeducational groups are able to function on multiple levels and with a wide variety of clients. They can be preventive, growth oriented, or remedial in their purpose and focus. Because of
their versatility, psychoeducational groups are increasingly being used in various settings outside
of schools, including hospitals, mental health agencies, correctional institutions, social service
Part 1 • Group Development
agencies, spiritual settings, and universities (Champe & Rubel, 2012; Christmas & Van Horn,
2012; Morgan, 2004). They include “discussion groups, guided group interactions, recovery
groups, support groups, orientation groups, educational groups, or student-centered learning
groups” (Rivera, Wilbur, Roberts-Wilbur, Phan, Garrett, & Betz, 2004, p. 391). Lefley (2009) has
found that psychoeducational groups help members who have serious mental illnesses “combat
social isolation, redeem self esteem and hope, and improve their life situation” (p. 369). Emotional
support and education rather than psychotherapy in many cases is what is needed and valued.
“The overarching goal in psychoeducational group work is to prevent future development
of debilitating dysfunctions while strengthening coping skills and self-esteem” (Conyne, 1996,
p. 157). For instance, Hage and Nosanow (2000) reported that an 8-week, 90-minute psychoeducational group for young adults from divorced families helped participants “reduce isolation,
establish connectedness, and build a stronger sense of their own identity and empowerment”
(p. 64). In addition, Morgan (2004) states that cognitive-behavioral or behavioral approaches for
offenders and mandated clients work well, especially if the psychoeducational group is structured
on a topic such as stress management, problem solving, or life skills. Because of their flexibility
and efficiency, psychoeducational groups may even be preferred in counseling and psychotherapy environments “when managed care policies demand brief and less expensive treatment”
(Brown, 1997, p. 1). They may also be preferred when the leader has less clinical experience and
wants the group members to realize immediately why they are in a group.
The size of psychoeducational groups will vary across settings (e.g., whether the activity is
in a self-contained classroom or in a public lecture hall), but a range from 20 to 40 individuals is
not unusual. In such large groups, discussion and skill practice can take place in subgroups. However, if subgroups are set up, they must be small enough to ensure that each member of the subgroup is not seriously limited in the available airtime (“the amount of time available for
participation in the group”; Brown, 1997, p. 4). Therefore, subgroups should be limited to 10 to
12 adult members at most, and fewer if the members are children.
The leader of psychoeducational groups is in charge of managing the group as a whole,
disseminating information, and breaking groups into subgroups when necessary. “Effective leaders are those who are skillful at managing time, are able to redirect the focus of the session when
appropriate, provide considerable structure for the group, and are competent at helping members
set clear, specific, and concrete goals” (Riva, 2014, p. 150). A leader who is not an expert in the
group’s focus area must bring in someone who is. The leader’s responsibilities then include managing the expert’s presentation as well as the group’s activities. The juggling of data, along with
processes ensuring that group members benefit from the group experience, is demanding. Timing
is crucial, and the group leader must be cognizant of group members’ readiness to approach certain activities (Jones & Robinson, 2000). To do the job well, a psychoeducational group leader
should take preventive steps before the group’s first session. These include planning for session
length, session frequency, number of sessions, and what will occur within sessions (the curriculum). Follow-up planning for subsequent sessions is crucial.
In the planning process, it is vital that the leader focus specifically on the design of the
group. Such attention to detail is a highly involved endeavor but has a tremendous payoff in keeping the group focused and on course (Furr, 2000). In designing a group, Furr advocates a six-step
process: (1) stating the purpose, (2) establishing goals, (3) setting objectives, (4) selecting content, (5) designing experiential activities, and (6) evaluating. Such a procedure leads to purposeful and meaningful outcomes.
Although the length, frequency, and number of sessions of psychoeducational groups will
differ according to the ages of the people involved and the stage of the group, these groups
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
u­ sually last from 50 minutes to 2 hours. In general, psychoeducational groups work best when
they have a regular meeting time, such as once a week. The number of sessions offered will
depend on the purpose, but the range varies from 4 to 20 or more sessions. The average number
of sessions is 8 to 10. Regardless of the number of sessions, psychoeducational groups should
have opening and termination sessions and at least one session dedicated to each of the goals of
the group (DeLucia-Waack & Nitza, 2014). However, all of these parameters are subject to
change as “emerging policies on parity for insurance coverage of mental health services . . . influence the length and focus of many psychoeducation groups, as part of the mental health care
system” (Brown, 1997, p. 13).
In general, psychoeducational groups stress growth through knowledge (ASGW, 1991,
2000). Summing up previous comments about such groups, Rivera et al. (2004) state that the
focus of psychoeducational groups is on transmitting, discussing, and integrating factual knowledge. Because of this focus, psychoeducational groups are “amenable to certain technological
applications,” such as computer-assisted programs, video and audio transmissions, and computer simulations (Bowman & Bowman, 1998, p. 434). Content includes, but is not limited to,
personal, social, vocational, and educational information. Activities in these groups can take
many forms but usually are presented in the form of nonthreatening exercises or group discussions (Bates, Johnson, & Blaker, 1982). For instance, in working with individuals who have
undergone cardiac transplantation and their families in a psychoeducational short-term group,
Konstam (1995) found that framing anger in a positive way helped the group to discuss this
normally “taboo” emotion for heart patients. Furthermore, the group process helped members
realize they were not unique in their experiences of anger. By the end of the group, anger had
significantly decreased.
One way to improve psychoeducational groups is to give members out-of-group homework
exercises (Morgan, 2004). For instance, instead of just talking about the positive aspects of anger,
group members might be assigned a photo opportunity of taking pictures of anger at work in a
positive way. They might find that mild forms of anger or frustration can lead to people planting
gardens, paving roads, or clipping hedges, all of which have a positive outcome.
When have you been a member of a psychoeducational group? What did you learn from the
experience? How did it help you or give you fresh insight or knowledge?
An Example of Psychoeducational Group Work: Life-Skills Development Groups
A special form of the psychoeducational group is the life-skills development group. The concept
of the life-skills group began to emerge in the 1970s when theorists such as Ivey (1973) and
Hopson and Hough (1976) started using terms such as psychoeducation and personal and social
education. In the 1980s, the momentum for this approach gained further impetus through the
social skills and life-skills training methods advocated by Gazda (1989). The emphasis on lifeskills training and its importance in society continues.
Life-skills training focuses on helping people identify and correct deficits in their lifecoping responses and learn new, appropriate behaviors. Sometimes these corrective measures are
achieved in individual counseling, but often they are carried out in a group setting. One example
is helping parents relate effectively to their children with disabilities (Seligman, 1993). The focus
of life-skills training is on immediate remediation and future prevention. The training itself is
Part 1 • Group Development
primarily developmental, with the group emphasis being on “how to.” Activities within the group
may include the use of films, plays, demonstrations, role-plays, and guest speakers.
A life-skills emphasis is appropriate for individuals in schools, colleges, families, work
settings, clubs, and other natural group environments. Because many troubling situations arise in
groups, the group setting provides an excellent place in which to work on resolutions. Because of
the focus on life skills, such as increasing appropriate interpersonal communications or assertiveness abilities, “the growth process proceeds more comfortably, more observably, and with more
precise attention given to the specific ingredients that induce change” (Zimpfer, 1984, p. 204).
Through life-skills training, people can be taught on an intrapersonal level how to prevent
potential problems, such as depression, from occurring (Sommers-Flanagan, Barrett-Hakanson,
Clarke, & Sommers-Flanagan, 2000). They can also be reinforced for taking corrective measures
on behavioral and cognitive levels if difficulties arise. For example, Waldo and Harman (1999)
found that the communication and interpersonal relationships between state hospital patients and
staff improved and became more enjoyable when Bernard Guerney’s (1977) Relationship
Enhancement (RE) therapy approach was used in a group with both.
A number of steps are involved in learning life skills, many of which are the same as those
that Johnson and Johnson (2013) describe in learning group skills:
   1. Understand why the skill is important and how it will be of value to you.
   2. Understand what the skill is, what the component behaviors are that you have to engage in
to perform the skill, and when it should be used.
   3. Find situations in which you can practice the skill over and over again while a “coach”
watches and evaluates how you are performing the skill.
   4. Assess how well the . . . skill is being implemented.
   5. Keep practicing until the skill feels real and it becomes an automatic habit pattern.
   6. Load your practice toward success [set up practice units that can easily be mastered].
   7. Get friends to encourage you to use the skill.
   8. Help others learn the . . . skill. (pp. 53–54)
Through implementing these procedures, group members enable both themselves and others. The result is a kind of snowball effect wherein skills continue to build on skills in an effective
and complementary way.
Life-skills development groups ideally offer both the opportunity to learn new ways of
behaving and the support necessary to continue to exercise them. Leaders and members can learn
through each other’s feedback and evaluations whether the strategies they employed have been
useful and thereby improve their mastery or delivery of skills for future situations. Participants
who profit most from these types of groups are those who have enough time and practice to fully
integrate what they have learned in the group into their real-life situations.
Case Example
Patrick Practices His Psychoeducational
Group Skills
As a group leader, Patrick wanted to experiment in
finding out what methods worked best in leading a
psychoeducational group for preteens. Therefore,
when he made his lesson plans for his four fifthgrade classes, he used different ways of presenting
the material: role-play, lecture, PowerPoint, and a
combination of these methods. He gave each class a
pre- and posttest to see what they knew and what
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
they learned. He also measured how much they
enjoyed the class.
Patrick was not surprised to find that the more
active role-play format received the highest rating.
He was also not shocked to find that the lecture
method was least well received. Interestingly, the
classes learned about the same amount of information regardless of the method used, and in a followup test a few weeks later, Patrick found that the
class that used a combination of methods had the
highest knowledge retention.
Patrick’s results might be different from others
because of his circumstances. Therefore, think of
your own life experience and how you have learned
best and with the most enjoyment when in a psy­
choeducational group. Were there methods used,
other than those just mentioned, that helped you
grasp or retain the material that was presented?
What were they?
Counseling Groups
Counseling groups are preventive, growth oriented, and remedial. These groups are “generally
considered to be a treatment mode that is equal in effectiveness to individual counseling”
(Stockton, Morran, & Chang, 2014, p. 133). The focus of counseling groups, which are also
referred to as counseling/interpersonal problem-solving groups, is on the improvement of
interpersonal relationships and the intrapersonal growth of members through the help of the
group. Members are not in need of psychotherapy or remediation (Ward, 2010). Although goals
are personal, the group as a whole may share them. For instance, some counseling groups may
concentrate on ways for each individual in the group to deal with disabling emotions, such as
anger, whereas others may focus on disagreeable and crippling feelings, such as anxiety. Regardless, the interaction among people is highlighted, especially in problem solving. These groups
emphasize group dynamics and interpersonal relationships and tend to promote cohesion (Waldo
et al., 2007). Although psychoeducational groups are recommended for everyone on a continuous
basis, counseling groups are more selective. They “are generally for people who may be experiencing transitory maladjustment, who are at risk for the development of personal or interpersonal
problems, or who seek enhancement of personal qualities and abilities” (Merchant & Yozamp,
2014, p. 20). In other words, these groups are ideal for individuals experiencing usual, but often
difficult, problems of living that information alone will not solve.
The size of counseling groups varies with the ages of the individuals involved, ranging
from 3 or 4 in a children’s group to 8 to 12 in an adult group. The number of group meetings also
fluctuates but will generally be anywhere from 6 to 16 sessions. The leader is in charge of facilitating the group interaction but becomes less directly involved as the group develops.
Usually, the topics covered in counseling groups are developmental or situational, such as
educational, social, career, and personal. They also tend to be of short-term duration. Counseling
groups are a more direct approach to dealing with troublesome behaviors than are psychoeducational groups because they target specific behaviors and are focused on problem solving, instead
of being aimed at general difficulties that may or may not be pertinent to every member’s life. For
instance, Finn (2003) described a nine-session counseling group to help students cope with loss
in which members used artistic means, such as drawing, music, and drama, to access the underlying feelings and thoughts common to grief and process what they were going through. The focus
in this counseling group was on a common experience, loss, that had taken many forms but that
was disruptive in these adolescents’ lives until dealt with openly.
Part 1 • Group Development
A major advantage of counseling groups is the interpersonal interaction, feedback, and
contributions group members experience from one another over time. Certainly that was true in
the grief group just described.
One form a counseling group may take is adventure groups. This type of group was
originated by educator Kurt Hahn to enhance emotional and physical abilities in clients by having them deal with safe but risk-taking events in the wilderness (Gillen & Balkin, 2006). Like
other groups, these groups go through a number of stages. They focus on the promotion of longterm change and the opportunity to learn new coping skills. They may be used as adjuncts in
hospital and clinical settings. Fletcher and Hinkle (2002) found that integrating an adventure
component into an institutional setting produced positive results in participants, such as
enhanced self-confidence, self-concept, and well-being. Other findings support enhanced benefits, such as more immediate insight and quicker movement through developmental stages
within the group.
If you started a counseling group, do you think you would incorporate physical activities, such
as the arts or movement, into it, or do you think you would concentrate mainly on having members talk about their concerns? Why would you do what you do, and how would it help the
group develop?
An Example of a Counseling Group: A Counseling Group for Counselors
Often counseling groups are conducted in schools or agencies with clients who want or need to
focus on a developmental or situational problematic aspect of their lives, such as making a career
decision or resolving negative feelings toward specific people or experiences. The purpose of the
group and its members is clear.
The counseling group chosen as an example here, a counseling group for counselors, can
be enhancing for several reasons. For example, it promotes a dialogue among members of a
profession who may otherwise not meet together at any other regular time. One of the most
important dimensions of this type of group, however, is to help counselors deal with what Kottler (2010) describes as the “toxic effect” that comes from working with people in pain. The
toxic effect includes physical and psychic isolation, repeated feelings of loss in regard to client
termination, and interpersonal distancing from family and friends who may perceive counselors
as interpreting their words and actions. Thus, as Guy (1987) recommends, counselors need
periodic, regular counseling to keep themselves well and functioning in an adequate and effective manner.
A counseling group for counselors can be conducted in a number of ways, but Emerson
(1995) has set up an open-ended group model that appears to be most appropriate for practitioners in local communities. Her model is premised on Coche’s (1984) suggestion that experienced
group counselors reexperience participation in a counseling group. Specifically, Coche states that
this reexperience can help group workers go beyond blasé and stereotypical responses, make
them more aware of group participants’ feelings, and resensitize them professionally to their
power as group leaders.
In a counseling group for counselors, just as in other group counseling, self-disclosure and
exploration of one’s strengths and weaknesses are important for the development of the group
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
members and the group as a whole. Yearbook feedback—that is, saying nice but insignificant
things about a person, as high school students do when they write in annuals—is a tempting but
nonproductive strategy. Instead, group members must deal with anxieties about their concerns as
the group develops in an atmosphere of mutual trust where calculated risks are taken. When this
type of behavior occurs, people who risk making themselves known and attempt to engage in new
or different behaviors gain the most from the group experience.
Like other participants in counseling groups, counselors in counseling groups may experience some negative as well as positive outcomes. For instance, Gene may have suppressed anger
and may erupt over what seems like an innocent remark directed at him. In such a case, the group
needs to help Gene recognize both from where his anger is coming and toward whom or what it
is really directed. Likewise, secrets may keep Bogusia from sharing significantly with the group
and may inhibit the group’s development if they are not acknowledged and shared. On the positive side, the awareness of personal growth that comes in problem solving and sharing may lead
to members developing greater confidence in themselves as counselors, friends, family members,
or parents. For example, Cassandra may discover from feedback in the group that she is perceived
in a positive way congruent with her own self-concept. Thus, she may become even more open
and available to those around her.
Case Example
Cassie Tries a Counseling Group
Cassie was in a natural disaster and was having
trouble coping afterwards. A friend suggested that
she sign up for a counseling group offered by the
local mental health authority. Cassie was reluctant
at first, but after a few more sleepless nights, she
relented and joined a group.
The group leader, Martin, made it clear that
members were free to work on issues that were of
most concern to them. Cassie chose her experience in the natural disaster. She was not the only
person struggling with reliving such a bad mem-
ory. In the group Cassie was able to verbalize her
anger, angst, and anguish. She was able to come to
terms with what she did and did not do to help others and herself. As the group ended, Cassie, who
kept a journal, told the other group members: “I
was wrung out when I came to the group, now I’m
right on.”
When have you felt it would be helpful to be in a
counseling group to deal with a life issue? Is that
still an issue you could use some help with?
Psychotherapy Groups
A psychotherapy group is sometimes simply called group psychotherapy or group therapy. It is
a group that addresses “personal and interpersonal problems of living . . . among people who may
be experiencing severe and/or chronic maladjustment” (ASGW, 2000, p. 331). Such a group is
remedial in nature and emphasizes helping people with serious psychological problems of long
duration by confronting them with “their unconscious conflicts so that they may be resolved”
(Lev-Wiesel, 2003, p. 240). As such, this type of group is found most often in mental health
facilities, such as clinics and hospitals. The emphasis in psychotherapy groups is on therapy by
the group rather than therapy in the group (Grossmark, 2007). As an entity, a psychotherapy
group may be either open-ended (admitting new members at any time) or closed-ended (not
admitting new members after the first session).
Part 1 • Group Development
One of the primary aims of the group psychotherapy process is to reconstruct, sometimes
through depth analysis, or to rectify through various treatment modalities the personalities or
intrapersonal functioning of those involved in the group (Brammer, Abrego, & Shostrom, 1993;
Gazda, Ginter, & Horne, 2001). The literature rather clearly documents group psychotherapy as
an effective intervention for a wide variety of disorders, with client improvement supported in
a vast number of studies (Hoffmann, Gleave, Burlingame, & Jackson, 2009). For instance,
Semmelhack, Hazell, and Hoffman (2008) used a group-as-a-whole method with 11 severely
mentally ill adult clients residing in a long-term care facility over 30 weeks. The group-as-awhole approach is one where the therapist makes comments directed to the whole group that
“reflect processes operating in the group in the here and now that seem to be out of the group’s
current awareness” (p. 44). Through this approach they were able to bring about “a significant
decrease in anxiety and a reduction in depression” when this population was compared to a
control group (p. 58).
The size of psychotherapy groups vary from 2 or 3 to 12 members. The duration of the
group is measured in months, or even years. The leader of the group is always an expert in one of
the mental health disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, counseling, social work, or psychiatric
nursing) and has training and expertise in dealing with people who have major emotional problems. The leader’s responsibility is to confront as well as to facilitate.
It should be noted that, although group psychotherapy is focused on severe problems, it is
not wise or effective to include only individuals with personality disorders or diagnosable mental
disorders, according to the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Yalom & Leszcz, 2005). Instead, a variety of individuals (a heterogeneous group) works best. To select such a group, leaders must prescreen carefully, preferably using prescreening instruments, such as the Group Therapy Questionnaire
(GTQ) (MacNair-Semands, 1997). Leaders of psychotherapy groups most often operate from a
theoretical position (e.g., psychoanalysis, Gestalt, existential). Three primary forces are operating at all times in a psychotherapy group: individual dynamics, interpersonal dynamics, and
group-as-a-whole dynamics (Bernard et al., 2008).
How do you think group counseling and group psychotherapy differ? How are they the same?
What concerns, besides those already mentioned in the text, do you think would be appropriate for a psychotherapy group?
An Example of Group Psychotherapy: Group Work with Abusers
and the Abused
Working with abusers or the abused requires a different approach from that used in other
forms of group work. Individuals who are abusers, or who have been abused by others, have
great difficulty in establishing healthy intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships (Vinson,
1992). They suffer from a variety of symptoms ranging from poor impulse control in the case
of abusers to poor self-concept in the case of the abused. Many people in either category have
trouble working through their problems on an individual level. Abusers “usually have long
histories of abuse, extremely strong defenses against change, and relatively little ability to
follow through on commitments” (Fuhrmann & Washington, 1984, p. 63). The abused, especially those who have been sexually molested as children, tend to shut down, suppress, or
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
distract themselves to the point of not dealing with what happened to them (Emerson, 1988;
McBride & Emerson, 1989). In both types of cases, denial is a major means of dealing with
present and past situations.
Group psychotherapy is often effective with such individuals for at least two reasons.
First, many perpetrators of abuse and their victims are socially isolated and, therefore, welcome
a structured experience in which they can “tell their story” and become more connected with
others. Second, groups composed of members with similar backgrounds, such as abusers, are
more resistant to manipulation by their members.
Almost all psychotherapy groups for abusers and the abused make use of basic group techniques, such as role playing, modeling, feedback, and confrontation (Fuhrmann & Washington,
1984; Vinson, 1992). The degree and type of change that occurs in group therapy is related to
both the emphasis in the group and the group’s developmental stage (Wheeler, O’Malley, Waldo,
Murphey, & Blank, 1992). Psychotherapy groups that work best are composed of volunteers who
are prescreened before being selected. However, because of the seriousness of abusive disorders,
some groups are mandated as a part of court-ordered treatment and are filled with openly resistant clients. In such situations, group leaders must know how to work with resistance, such as not
opposing it, but talking it through. Because of the volatility present in abuse groups, co-leaders
are often recommended.
Probably the abusive disorder in which group psychotherapy strategies are most prevalent
is with addiction, ranging from “foodaholism” (Stoltz, 1984) to chemical dependency (Clark,
Blanchard, & Hawes, 1992; Kominars & Dornheim, 2004). In such groups, it is helpful but not
always necessary to have leaders with experience in working through the abuse involved. A group
leader does not have to have been abused or have been an abuser to be effective with group participants in this personality reconstruction process, but a thorough understanding of the individual, group, family, and community dynamics that contribute to abusive disorders is essential. For
example, if Zelda undertakes conducting such a group, not only does she need to have established
expertise in dealing with the dynamics underlying the abused or abusers, but she also must have
established a network of community resources she can utilize in helping her group members
reconstruct their lives. See Figure 1.2 for a summary of the four main types of groups.
Case Example
Garrett and the Psychotherapy Group
Garrett has been in and out of the state mental hospital three times. Having read the book A Mind That
Found Itself, he realizes that he is much like the
author, Clifford Beers, who had moments of clear
thinking amid times of despair. In one of his clearest
moments, Garrett decides to enroll in a psychotherapy group to help himself.
The group is open-ended, with new members
coming in all the time and old members leaving.
Yet, Garrett finds that the constant leadership of the
group worker keeps him focused on not getting too
upset when his day is interrupted or when he makes
mistakes. He takes his medicine every day and talks
about the time when he may no longer need medication. Overall, he is better adjusted than before
because he is becoming more aware of himself and
what he can do to help himself.
What people do you know, either from a distance or
up close, who you think could benefit from a psychotherapy group? Do you think most people who
need psychotherapy groups are or should be on
medications? Why or why not?
Part 1 • Group Development
Type of Group
Duration Number of Sessions
Promote efficiency
and effective
accomplishment of
group goals
Almost any
school, religious
settings, community
organizations, civic
Work best with 12
or fewer members
subgroups may
Time depends on task, but most
task/work groups last from a half
hour to 2 hours. Meetings may be
regular or spontaneous depending
on objective and whether setting
is formal or informal
Acquire information
and develop related
meaning and skills
Hospitals, mental
health and social
service agencies,
educational and
religious settings,
work environments
20 to 40 is
50 minutes to 2 hours. Regular
meetings usually weekly—
average number of sessions 8 to
10, although many may be just
for one session
Prevention, growth,
interpersonal and
group dynamics
Schools, universities,
mental health
agencies, employee
programs, etc.
8 to 12 adults,
smaller size for
children, may
vary depending
on whether open
or closed ended
20 to 90 minutes on average with
longer lengths for adults. Regular
meetings usually weekly
Personal and
interpersonal problems
of living—some
severe; remedial,
Hospitals, clinics,
mental health and
social services
Depends on
whether open or
closed ended
60 to 120 minutes. Regular
meetings often last over a
number of months or years
FIGURE 1.2  Comparison of four basic types of groups.
Mixed Groups and a Proposed Regrouping
of Categories
Some groups simply do not fit into any of the four major categories of groups just described; that
is, it is hard to classify them as mainly task/work, psychoeducational, counseling, or psychotherapy groups. “Overlapping and blending of group types in the same group experience often
best represents the reality of the evolving practice of group work” (Ward, 2006, p. 95). Furthermore, as Waldo and Bauman (1998) assert, the four main categories of groups are problematic “in
that the goal and process dimensions of group work are combined within each category” (p. 164).
Groups that defy classification are sometimes described as mixed groups because they encompass multiple ways of working with their members and may change their emphasis at different
times in the development of the group. For instance, the Doctor Interactive Group Medical
Appointment (DIGMA) is a “group intervention that combines the services of behavioral
health and primary care” while combining elements of psychoeducational and support groups
(Westheimer, Capello, McCarthy, & Denny, 2009, p. 151). It has been found effective in helping hypertensive male veterans reduce their blood pressure and promote healthy behaviors. Yet,
it is a mixture of different types of groups.
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
Waldo and Bauman (1998) have proposed using multiple dimensions to describe
groups. They point out that, although there are at least five dimensions that could be used in
categorizing groups—goals, process, members, setting, and leader—“it is possible to arrive
at a meaningful and practical categorization of groups through the use of the first two dimensions, goals and process” (p. 169). Their nomenclature for goal category includes the terms
• development, that is, forward motion and expansion;
• remediation, that is, overcoming or correcting manifest problems; and
• adjustment, that is, assisting members in coping with problems or circumstances that cannot be remediated.
The process dimension of their proposal retains three of the titles and process descriptions currently employed by the ASGW: psychoeducational, counseling, and psychotherapy. Therefore,
when goals and process are placed as two dimensions of a matrix, they form nine categories of
group work.
Waldo and Bauman (1998) have validated their goals and process, or GAP matrix for
groups, by having independent raters categorize randomly selected articles on group work under
this system as well as the ASGW’s four types of groups. They found much more agreement
(100% vs. 33%) for raters using the GAP model and point to the utility, specificity, and research
implications of their system as opposed to the four-group specialty system.
In response to the GAP matrix for groups, Conyne and Wilson (1998) point out that,
although the system has many merits, if it were to be adopted as proposed it could undermine the
ASGW training standards, which are a firm foundation for training, research, and practice and
“whose positive effects are only now just beginning to emerge” (p. 183). Another drawback to the
GAP model is that it does not consider task/work groups (Keel, 1998). Furthermore, the model is
not as applicable as it would seem to such areas as psychoeducational groups for college students
and, in fact, may complicate training for professionals entering student development and related
fields (Taub, 1998b). Another drawback is that the model itself may need further refinement. For
instance, the GAP model might be more useful if three dimensions (members, settings, and leaders) initially discussed by Waldo and Bauman were included as well as the dimensions of goals
and process (Gerrity, 1998).
In response to the criticisms of their GAP model, Bauman and Waldo (1998) have
revised their system to incorporate the four ASGW group classifications. Regardless, there
are many examples of how groups may overlap in purpose, process, and content. For
instance, a group might begin with multiple purposes (psychoeducational, psychotherapeutic, and task oriented). Such groups can be found among a number of self-help or mutual
help groups.
Self-help groups and mutual help groups (i.e., support groups) are synonymous
(Klaw & Humphreys, 2004, p. 630). They take two forms: those that are organized by an
established, professional helping organization or individual and those that originate spontaneously and stress their autonomy and internal group resources—self-help groups in the
truest sense (Riordan & Beggs, 1988). Although distinctions in support groups and selfhelp organizations can be made regarding leadership and control (Silverman, 1986), these
groups share numerous common denominators, including the fact that they are composed
of individuals who have a common, or single-life, focus and purpose. They are psychoeducational, psychotherapeutic, and usually task driven. In addition, members of these groups
Part 1 • Group Development
frequently employ basic counseling techniques, such as reflection, active listening, and
The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s laid the foundation for the self-help
and mutual help/support group movement. Minorities, especially African Americans, realized
during this time that they would have to band together and rely on their own resources if they
were to make substantial gains and obtain major changes in American society. Other factors,
such as the success of earlier self-help and support groups (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Weight
Watchers) and the failure of federal programs to take care of needs they were intended to
address, also contributed to the momentum behind this movement.
Many support and self-help groups seem to be successful in assisting their members
to take more control over their lives and function well. The narrow focus of these groups is
an asset in achieving specific goals. For instance, support groups for survivors of natural
disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, typhoons in the Philippines, or
tsunamis, had an immediate positive impact on problem solving. Furthermore, they may
have had a preventive effect in decreasing posttraumatic stress disorders by normalizing
stress reactions and stress symptoms, providing a means for members helping others physically and psychologically, and being a source of understanding where individuals really felt
listened to ­(Fernando, 2009).
There are hundreds of self-help organizations in the United States alone and “more than a
1,000 national, international, model, and online self-help support groups for a variety of stressful
life situations—including mental health, addiction, bereavement, parenting, abuse, and more”
(Merchant & Yozant, 2014, pp. 34–35). “Indeed, mutual help organizations exist for almost every
major chronic condition and leading cause of mortality” (Klaw & Humphreys, 2004, p. 631).
Furthermore, these groups are used: “approximately 7% of American adults (about 11 million
people)” participate in them every year, and approximately 18% have done so in their lifetimes
(p. 632).
A national survey revealed important facts about the characteristics of self-help group
participants. First, with the exception of groups for eating problems (whose membership is
composed almost entirely of White women), African Americans and Whites are equally likely
to attend all types of self-help groups. Furthermore, individuals with low incomes (from $0 to
$20,000 per year) are more likely to participate than are middle-class and affluent individuals.
Finally, individuals who are divorced or separated and have less social support are more likely
to attend groups than are married individuals and individuals with extensive social support.
Given these data, we may conclude that self-help groups have significant potential to benefit
diverse racial groups and individuals with low financial and social resources (Klaw & Humphreys, 2004).
In addition to the foregoing, within a self-help group context, a group member is empowered because he or she provides as well as receives services, and the positive self-identity of
these individuals grows. Furthermore, “self-help groups can be successfully incorporated into
professional programs in a fashion that enhances outcomes with little additional cost” (Klaw &
Humphreys, 2004, p. 635). Thus, mental and physical health can be improved through the use
of self-care groups. They can lower health care costs if used by health care and health promotion programs.
Some of the most common self-help groups are those for chronic conditions such as arthritis (Young at Heart) and psychiatric disabilities (Recovery, Inc.), as well as those established to
combat leading causes of mortality such as tobacco (Nicotine Anonymous) and illicit drugs
Chapter 1 • Types of Groups and Group Work
(Narcotics Anonymous). A list of names and addresses of some of the most prominent self-help
group can be found in Appendix C of this text.
What surprises you about self-help groups? What facts about these groups did you already
know or assume?
An Example of a Mixed Group: A Consumer-Oriented Group
A support group that encompasses self-help and functions from a psychoeducational and task/
work perspective is a consumer-oriented group. Consumer-oriented groups, which are often
groups that advocate for change and social justice, are formed on the basis of need and may be
either short term or long term, depending on the problem or concern. For instance, consumeroriented groups may revolve around long-term themes, such as protection and promotion of the
environment around low-income neighborhoods. In such cases, these groups tend to be ongoing, with individuals joining or dropping out of the group depending on the sociopolitical climate and the impact of specific events on their lives. Short-term consumer groups focus on
immediate issues, such as safety in particular locales, taxation, property values, or zoning permits in a community. These groups are usually spontaneously organized and less hierarchical
than long-term consumer groups. After their issue is settled (e.g., new stop li…

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