Describe the Stages of Social Work Group Gormation.

The different stages are used in social work group formation. According to Ken Heap in 1985, two- basic stages were formed as group formation and planning, the first meetings, the working phase, use of activities and action and the termination of the Group. Douglas (1979), described five stages as conceptualization, creation, operation, termination and evaluation. He mainly focused on role of leaders in performing these functions whereas, Toseland and Rivas (1984) discussed the stages under planning phase, beginning phase, middle phase and ending phase.

Accordingly, we can make different stages for purpose of social work groups as follows:

  • Pgroup (group formation) stage.
  • Initial (first meetings) stage.
  • Middle (Active working) stage.
  • Evaluation of group organizations.
  • Terminating/ending the group phase.

Pgroup stage basically identifies the need for group formation and its purpose for such formation.

Initial (first meetings) phase or stage defines a specified place where the worker and the group member meet, it can be called as agency or other place where sessions and other information and orientation is carried out or to be shared. In the middle (active working) phase, major functions and activities are done by groups in order to accomplish its specific goal or objective to be achieved. In evaluation phase, performance of group is examined vis-a-vis the group purpose and member’s goals. In the last phase i.e. termination or ending phase, the group is dissolved (comes to an end) and the worker enables the members to part each other on a goodwill note. Let’s discuss each stage briefly:

Stage I Planning and formation of the group

In social group, person or a worker who represents an agency providing services such as residential care, day-care and community work may come across situations where the services of the agency are effectively utilized by the client system through a group experience.

When the worker identifies the need for social group formation, he/she starts planning for group formation. Firstly, worker has to answer some questions on it professional capacity or background in a very systematic and effective manner. Some of the questions aWhy there is a need for group? Who are the persons for whom group is being formed? How many groups are needed to form? For how much time group is to be formed? Keeping the entire above mentioned questions in mind, they are divided into broad steps at various stages, such as:

  • Formulating group’s purpose
  • Composition of the group
  • Size of the group
  • Enrolling the members, etc.

Formulating Group’s Purpose: In this step, the purpose for formation of group must be clear in worker’s mind and it should be defined, specific and explained in clear and concise statements. Members and agencies should know the extent and confined areas of group for its operations and activities. It should also make agencies and other related sponsors clear about their expectations from the group.

Composition of the Group: After group formation, prior step is to establish the composition of group, whether it should be homogeneous or heterogeneous? In general terms, homogeneity specifies to have and share common features among group such as same age group, educational background, interests, etc., which helps to build the group bond more faster in a decisive manner but on the other hand, it may fail to provide diverse information, experiences and other alternative ways of doing.

Heterogeneity gives details about the need for diversity of certain characteristics of members such as length of time suffering with or coping with the problem etc. but it also poses problems of acceptance and involvement. So, it is very important for group workers to properly decide the composition, nature of group and to have it either closed or opened group.

Open groups are those groups where there are no restrictions of time to join the group i.e. a person can join the group anytime during his/her life. Whereas, in close group, members are invited only for a defined time period after expiry of such time, ‘enrollment for it stops.

Size of the Group: It defines the ideal size of a group and perfect number of members to present for it. The size of a group basically depends on the purpose and manageability from point of time, space, funds and other features of controls that play a vital role in group.

Generally, group of eight to fifteen members are considered as ideal and perfect. The professional ability and expertise of group members is used at its best level to determine the size of group.

Enrolling the Members: After deciding purpose of formation group, its composition and size, next step is to enroll members. Various arrangements are to be made by workers to inform potential members about formulation of group. It can be given directly to members or through notice, circulars or by advertising to media and other agencies by newspapers or radio.

The voluntary members may approach directly or make an application. On receiving applications, worker should examine and inspect them on different basis such as eligibility criteria, demographic attributes, experience, skills etc. After such inspection, worker can also conduct interviews accordingly to sustain their suitability and enrollment can be done.

Contracting: Proper agreement should be made between members and workers to follow conditions and share responsibilities during the life of group. Such as assurance to attend group sessions regularly and to complete work on time. Proper confidentiality must be maintained as it is a major feature of being professional.

Contact should also describe fees or charges as for any activity or procuring any material. It may be in written or verbal and binds the workers and members to planned schedules of the group which facilitates an environment to conduct group process in an effective and efficient manner. Finally, proper stage will be prepared by worker to begin group proceedings. Place to conduct group sessions will be chosen by worker and monetary funds will be arranged.

Stage II: Initial Meetings

Here we will look into the responsibilities of the worker and members of the group. If considered then this is the most crucial stage for the group because success or failure of the group depends on the initial meetings.

The members become a part of the meeting with a baggage of expectations.They think that this is the end of their tough times and they will overcome with their problems. They are also eager to meet and interact with others who are also having same problems. They are also having a number of fears. They do not know what type of persons are the worker and other members.

Is the worker and other members are of friendly disposition, understanding and sensitive and would not misuse the confidential self-disclosures the member/s likely to make in the group? Whether can participate meaningfully in the group deliberations? Will my situation get more worsened? These are some of the fears of the member.

Steps involved in this stage are:

  • Self-presentation of the workers and members.
  • Orientation about the group.
  • Goal formation.
  • Structuring the group.
  • Reviewing the contract.

Self-presentations: When the group is met for the first time, worker makes the group members feel comfortable. When the members are settled comfortably then he introduces himself/herself.

The worker shall give adequate information about himself/herself as possible so that it not only makes members confident about the worker but it also act as guide as to the details of information they have to disclose when their self-presentations turn comes.

After that the members are asked to introduce themselves. This exercise of introductions shall be planned in such a way that it will help the members to feel at ease, and come out with more details about their situation. One way is to sit in a circle and introductions start in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.

Orientation about the Group: Worker must orient members about the purpose of the group. Worker must tells about the circumstances due to which the group so formed. Members are explained about the functions and the roles of both the worker and members. Worker must share his previous experiences so that members develop confidence in the worker. Members are encouraged to seek clarifications as to the relevance of the group’s purpose to their needs or problem.

Goal Formation: In this step, the goals of the group are formed. Goals are the desired levels of change in behaviour, social situation or physical conditions. The purpose of the group, agency’s purpose, the needs of the individual members all are put together and then the goals are set. Tosel and and Rivas (1984) specified three areas of goal formation.

First area covers group centered goals that revolve around the conduct and maintenance of the group. Second area consists of common group goals that address to all concerned people, worker, members, agency, sponsor, and finally the third area is concerning individual member centered specific goals. Konapka suggested that at the time of forming goals, care shall be taken to see that goals are complementing each other or not?

Examples of the goals are:

  • Parents of disabled children join hands to learn better ways of coping with the problems and challenges related with the children.
  • Purpose of the groups is giving platform to the parents and share their experiences of upbringing their children.
  • Agency wants that parents take the responsibility of their disabled children in bringing them up.
  • Parents main area of concern is to control the aggressive behaviour of the child and let the family members accept the child.

All the above mentioned are related with each other and they all complementing each other. For example, while forming the group all the members would meet and formulate the goals in this way only.

Structuring Group Session: It has two implications first is structuring the time and the second addresses to the pattern of interactions. The group has to think in advance for how much time meetings will go. Group then has to stick to the time schedules.

Alternatives must also be planned in advance which in case not followed would lead to failure of time schedules. For example, it has to spend 30 minutes for a video show but because of the electricity failure, the video could not be played. So instead of wasting time group members can have a discussion on the main topic of the video tape.

The interactions in between the members and between members and worker have to be structured. Structuring the interactions includes how to address each other, how to and when to intervene and interrupt, how to encourage docile and shy members to participate and control the domination of some members. Group norms must be strictly followed by the group members.

Reviewing the Contract: While making the contract agreement is formed that all members will work together. Till this time members get to know each other and they all have developed a good understanding with each other. After orientation and some initial meetings with the members of the group, members might want to change the contract or some of the conditions of the contract for example, frequency of meetings, time and duration of meetings, fees etc.

The contract is reviewed and new clauses are introduced or some clauses are deleted from the original contract with mutual consent. Creating an environment that is conducive for the healthy conduct of the group session is a continuous process.

Stage  III: Middle(Active Working) Stage

This phase occupies the major part of the working life of the group. Members attend the sessions regularly and actively working towards accomplishing the goals.

Making Arrangements for Group Sessions: The worker and members plan for the group meetings. The worker spend extensive time in the development of activities and procedures for the group meetings. A lot of decisions are taken with regard to the selection of task, sequencing of tasks, assigning responsibilities etc. Materials and equipment for group activities have to be procured. Resource agencies and persons have to be contacted.

Structuring the Time: The worker continues to set time limits for group sessions. The members and the worker have tube relatively mindful about the time and how to get maximum benefits from these group meeting, Usually, it is seen that for late corners meeting is withheld.

This should not be done as it encourages them to be late and it annoys the ones who come on time. It also happens that the meetings are either closed early or late. This is also not healthy as it causes inconvenience to members who have other works to attend and discourage them to attending or they may not pay proper attention to the group activity.

It is possible to get engrossed in a particular group task but it is also bad to lose track of time. This may stumble over the other activity and giving the consequent activity less time. Therefore, the benefits of the following activity are badly affected. So it is important that members must carefully structure their time and follow it.

Facilitating the Group Sessions: The foremost reason to form the group is enabling the members to come on and work towards solving their problems. This means that group needs guidance and support to carry out this work. The worker has to facilitate the group to perform.

In this stage, the members pursue goals set for both individual and group. Worker inspires members to work actively and discuss and solve the problem. The worker, by now get to know about the strengths and weaknesses of group members. It is also noticed that some members are working hard and others are sitting just idly and due to this fact group’s progress gets, affected. The worker tries to encourage the non-performing members to perform.

Interpersonal limitations revolve around feelings, thoughts, beliefs and behaviour patterns of the member. The worker facilitates interpersonal interactions whenever he/she finds them deteriorating.

Deteriorating interpersonal relations are discerned when members fail to communicate with each other, participate in the group activities, avoids some members, differ and pick up quarrels with each other, and form subgroups and work against each other.

The worker helps to improve the interpersonal interactions by introducing a number of ice breaking, role-playing, modelling, and simulation exercises. At the environmental level worker connects the members with resources, creates congenial physical and social environment.

The worker facilitates the member to perform in desired direction by making them to understand these mental states. The worker then make suggestions for framing and restructuring of the thoughts and expressions, as well as for stopping of the recurrence of unhealthy thoughts to enable the member to deal with these cognitive processes.

Assessment of Group’s Performance: The group performance is assessed to ensure group’s attainment of its goals. It gives proper direction and guidance to the group. It even includes assessment of participation and involvement in group activities, the changes that are taking place in the members’ perceptions, attitudes and behaviors, acquisition of new skills, and strengthening of existing skills that would help members to deal with their problem areas and grow. The assessment is done by the worker and members. The tools used in assessment are:

Structured Observations: Worker and other members observe themselves. For example, to assess communication between the members then worker may not inform the members but he silently observes the verbal and non-verbal modes of communication of the group members. Members are assessed on the basis of gestures, language used for each other, verbal and non verbal modes of communication.

Recording of Group Meetings: Written reports, audio and videotapes, measurement scales of behaviour, and socio gram etc. are used as a tool for assessment of group performance. Leadership styles, sub-group formation, conflicts, are some of the areas that can be assessed by the above mentioned tools.

Stage IV Evaluation

Evaluation means examining the value of anything. Evaluation provides feed back on the performance of the group. It is carried out at the end of group work activity and before the group is terminated. It points out that whether the worker competently dealt with the group work process or not.

It enables him/her to gain confidence and make efforts to improve his/hey professional knowledge and skills, gives him/ her the satisfaction that he/she is contributing for good of the profession and the society. Evaluation gives information to the agency about the quality of service and additional efforts to improve its quality of services. The support it has extended to the worker and group is at the desired level or not.

Evaluation is a form of research process. It involves data collection and analysis of data which can be explained in the following steps:

  • Formulation of aims and Objectives.
  • Type of data collected and the sources from which data collected. It includes both verbal and non verbal data.
  • Collection of data: Evaluator responds to the issues related to the problems through questionnaires, interviews and studies.
  • The next step is the analysis of data. This is processed and analyzed with the conclusions are drawn. This tells the members whether goals are attained or not.
  • It elaborates implications for the future. It is based on the outcome of evaluation necessary for the future implications which may do improvements for the future group work for better results.

Stage 5 Termination of the group

Members mind could be wavering between feelings of happiness or unhappiness. Heap (1985) termed these as feelings of ambivalence. One state of mind looks at the ending as a good relief as there exists no need to face a number of pressures of coping with the group norms, need not interact with those they do not get along well, perhaps, even the group worker, no longer have to share the private and confidential information particularly in groups where the self disclosure is a precondition and emphasized.

Worker can suggest referral agencies to the members who need guidance and support for other shortcomings in future. Further, the worker give assurance to the members that whatever self-disclosures made by them are kept confidential and will never be used against their interests.

Members themselves share same type of assurances. In addition to these the worker has to do other routine tasks such as preparing a report on the performance of the group, acknowledge the services and support given by resource agencies persons, and pay the pending dues. Therefore, the termination of the group may be scheduled or unscheduled.

The unscheduled termination takes place when the members fail to attend the group sessions to various reasons. It could be due to a faulty enrollment, or failure of the members to develop relationships, or unresolved conflicts among the members and sub-groups,or style of functioning of the worker and so on.

The worker has to be aware of these type of likely reactions and responses of the members to the idea of parting with the group and work towards termination.The preparations for termination are very much included in the middle phase it self. It is important to prepare the members to the fact that what ever desirable behavior patterns the member/s experience and exhibit have to be carried forward even after the group comes to an end.

The worker has to create situations within the group environment and even identify the real life situations where the member/s can act out the changed behaviors independently. This takes care of many of the members worry about missing the group support once the group ends.

Some follow-up sessions can be promised to reassure the member/s that they are not totally abandoned. Some support and guidance is still available either from worker or other members. The worker shall arrange activities wherein both worker and other members express their assessment of the progress already made and improvements to be made by each and every one of them. This exercise makes room for the group to deliberate upon what efforts the member/s have to make after the termination.

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