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Planning Support Social Group
Establishing social groups is a fundamental way of conducting social work that stands at the origins of the social support. Schwartz (2006) stated that it would be mistake to believe that the group form of work appeared later than casework movement, while both of them had appeared approximately at the same time (p. 72). The group social work demonstrates an impressive level of support and efficiency. However, an enormous amount of factors influences the work of support groups. Moreover, many types of them suit a specific situation and they have particular objectives. This paper examines the planning of the support social group on the example of creating a group for the women suffering from domestic violence. It considers all core elements, such as establishing group purpose, assessing potential membership sponsorship, preparing a physical environment, recruiting the members, and composition of the group. In addition, it formulates the rules of preparing a written proposal of the group.
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I chose to create a support group for the women who suffer from domestic violence. First, it is necessary to define the meaning of the term group. Thus, Gitterman and Shulman (2005) define a group as a collection of people, who need each other in order to work on certain common tasks in an agency that is hospitable to those tasks (p. 75). Group work, like other types of the social work, appeared experimentally (Papell, & Rothman, 1966, p. 66). Furthermore, support groups are considered a powerful tool in organizing social work. Kris Drumm (2006) claims that the social group work methodology demonstrates extraordinary effectiveness in the recovery of the social functioning, contradicting feelings of powerlessness, and internalized self-hatred (p. 19). At the 2005 Annual Symposium of the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups (AASWG), Dominique Moyse Steinberg mentioned the magic of such a type of social work (Drumm, 2006, p. 19). She meant the power produced by the skillful practitioners who follow the basic precepts of social work with groups (Drumm, 2006, p.19).
Due to the facility of the support group, the planner of it should keep in mind a wide range of details to implement it in the most productive way. However, the planning of the group is a great way for the exhaustive understanding of its facilities and reasons that make it so popular and effective.
Establishing the Groups Purpose
Despite the significant importance of those basic principles, some factors should be taken into account and influence the progress of group social work greatly. The first of them is establishing the groups purpose. The lack of clarity of the groups purpose is a general problem (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 75), which is why it is essential to work on this point. The groups, which members have too different personal purposes, are able to provoke conflicts, withdrawals, and make the situation worse. The commonality is essential for the establishing of a mutual aid system (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p.75). Having a common purpose, the members will use the mutual aid system to support each other in their needs, concerns, and interests.
However, it is important to keep a balance between the group purpose and the purposes of each participant. The group aim should support women in achieving their own purposes. The goal for the social group of this type is to make participants sure that they have rights and ability to maintain homeostasis in their homes, and empower them to reach independence. That is the common purpose, uniting all women in the group and providing a mutual aid to them. Personal purposes vary from one woman to another due to the abuse they have experienced, their cultural background, age, and life circumstances. Thus, they have a strength and opportunity to encourage each other to manage their life themselves.
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Assessing Potential Sponsorship and Membership of the Group
The second important detail in organizing the social work is assessing the potential sponsorship and membership of the group. Many groups sound great in theory. However, due to the lack of assessing the potential sponsorship, they cannot become great in reality. Moreover, it is important to make sure that the interests, policies, and the image of the potential sponsor fit the features and purpose of the group. The resources, which are needed, vary from one group to another due to their specifics. The support group for the women, who suffer from domestic violence, will potentially need resources for furnishing, snacks, and art materials that can be used for implementing various treatment techniques.
The next factor with the significant meaning for the planning of the group is potential membership. This factor is considered as the one that determines the potential viability of the group. Its assessment in the early stages of planning of the group is pivotal. It is important to determine whether a sufficient amount of the members of the group is suitable to satisfy the specific needs of the group. Furthermore, there are some essential rules not only about the number of members but also about the potential characteristics of the group participants. Members should be informed in detail about the purpose of the group selected due to the level of interest in the group purpose and their expertise. Their position and power can help the group greatly in achieving its goal; that is why these factors should be taken into the account. In addition, it is essential to seek for the diversity in the membership, including the participants age, ethnicity, and sociocultural factors.
After finishing the organizational planning, the social worker should consider the ways of recruiting potential members. There are some ways for that, and they differ in the number of people involved, their relationship, and efficiency. The first way is using the already existing organizations. The worker may use his/her own organization, a local community, or a broader community (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 95). Using one organization, the worker may develop a group from his/her caseload. In such a situation, the client and the organizer may know each other, which might lead to a quick service involvement (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 95). However, the existence of relationship with the worker does not always provide the communality among the group and the shared purpose.
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The second way for recruiting, which is widely used, is a referral. The worker must have an organizational presence to obtain referrals within one organization (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 95). The ways to establish a goodwill reservoir for the worker lie in cultivating interpersonal relationships and demonstrating professional competence. Furthermore, to find the appropriate members of the group, the worker should clearly identify the purpose of the group and the members criteria. In addition, after the worker receives referrals and reviews the available data, he/she can invite individuals or even small groups to explain the service, answer questions, and assess interests and needs.
The next way for recruiting is using the census data. By studying it, the worker can find appropriate members for his/her support group. The last way for recruiting is a random invitation, consisting of the community publicity, putting advertisements in newspapers, and inserting notices in a newsletter. The great development of the information technologies and the Internet has given new ways for recruiting new members. It can be advertisements on the relevant websites, the websites of the sponsor organizations, or specially created websites. Thus, in all of these possible ways, the wording of the advertisement should be clear and it should capture the attention and the interest of the reader (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 96).
Composing the Group
Whichever way of the recruiting the worker has chosen, he/she still has responsibility of composing the group. This factor is crucial in the planning of the group because the composition of the group determines its development, leads it towards the mutual aid, or parasitism and disintegration (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 80). Members with similar backgrounds compose homogeneity groups. A similarity of interests, concerns, and life experiences give the members the feeling of communality and a collective stability (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 80). Generally, such groups are characterized by the higher level of stability and support; they tend to have a faster development of a group identity. However, when the members are too similar, it can produce a dysfunctional situation in the group. Redundantly homogeneous groups limit the tension for the change, providing the models for the alternative behaviors and attitudes (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 81).
Another type of the composition of the group is a heterogeneous one. It contains members with the great diversity in ages, background, ethnicity, and social classes. This type of group is not stable and considered as unpredictable. The members of such a group may have difficulties in the shaping of the group identity and cohesion. It is possible that the differences of its members can become a central issue rather than groups purpose and tasks. The racial heterogeneity leads to conflicts, scapegoating, and factionalism (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 81). In such a way, the development of the group is limited due to its internal barriers. However, the diversity provides a powerful tool for the members to draw upon.
Thus, the balance between heterogeneity and homogeneity is a necessary condition for the ideal planed group. The members of the group should at least have common interests and concerns that will develop into the purpose of the group. When this condition is followed, it is necessary to specify key background and personal factors. While developing a support group for the women who suffer from domestic violence, the worker should consider common concerns about such factors as relationships with relatives, relationships with husbands and view on their future, existence of the children, geographical location, and so on. Similarities in these factors are able to bind the members together and provide stability (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 81). Despite the fact that the participants should have common concerns in those areas, they are still able to have various backgrounds and life experiences. After that, the worker should think about the advantages of the similarities and differences of these factors, how to apply them to develop the group in the most effective way.
In addition, composing the group includes considering its size. This component depends on the objectives and purposes of the group and its specifics. The larger groups are characterized by the limited opportunity for the individual attention and spontaneous participation. However, such groups fit the most anxious or shy members who want to belong to it without a loss of autonomy and keep the desired level of interpersonal anonymity.
I have chosen to create a support group that would have six members with various backgrounds. This size is appropriate to provide a safe and soothing atmosphere to pay enough attention to each woman. A diversity of backgrounds, ages, and ethnicities will give the members tension to the change and demonstrate the alternative ways of behavior. In addition, the membership should be closed. The groups of such a structure show a great efficacy because of the participants understanding that they are together during group duration from the start to its end.
Ethical Issues that might Arise in the Group
Even in the imaginary situation, in which the planner manages to find an ideal balance between homogeneity and heterogeneity, he/she still risks to face the ethical issues that might arise in the group. One of the important potential issues is out-of-group contacts. After the group ends its work, some participants may want to keep the relationships they have developed through the sessions. This desire may not be common for the rest of clients. That is why the organizer of the group should emphasize that out-of-group contacts are purely personal decisions (Mendelsohn et al., 2011, p. 111).
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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) provides standards for continuing professional education that include maintaining and enhancing the quality of service that the worker provides (Brisett-Chapman, Apgar, Bailey, Hansen, Shearer, & Smith, 2003, p. 10). That helps to avoid such ethical ussies as professional incompetence of the worker. NASWs Standards in Cultural Competence in Social Practice ensures the workers ability to work with the clients with various cultural backgrounds and his/her ability to understand the values of the clients community (Starks, Fong, Montero, Deer & Jaipaul, 2001, p. 5). This standard is necessary to avoid the conflicts between group norms and the norms of the society, to which a participant belongs originally. Other possible ethical issues are the conflict between group interests and personal interests or the conflict between member independence and independence among group members. All of those issues can be handled by the implementation of the basic concepts of the social work and by following of the rules and standards.
Orienting Members on the Group
Orienting members of the group occurs in the early stages of the planning of the group. The intake interview and pre-group training are the ways for orienting the new members. A potential group member is informed about purpose of the group and familiarized with the procedures before the group starts working. The screening of members for the appropriateness takes place when the worker looks for the potential members. He/she checks the accordance between member interests and the purpose of the group, the suitability of personal member criteria or incongruent needs. Furthermore, it is important to know what the clients expectations and goals are. In addition, the screening for appropriateness includes the problems with observing schedule or the inability to reach the meeting place.
After completing the composition of the group and orienting its members, it is necessary to consider the frequency and the duration of the meetings, the attendance requirements, and the rules governing behavior in the group. All those features are agreed in the contracts, which are mutual agreements that specify expectations, obligations, and duties (Toseland & Rivas, 2012).
There are several types of groups based on their overall duration. Various types of groups fit the particular objective of the group. The short-term groups are known as the most productive ones because time limits help the members to focus quickly and maintain purpose (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 83). The schedule of the meetings is created in the way to ensure the presence of all participants. It may be on Tuesday at seven oclock in the evening. Each session lasts for one hour.
At the time of the development of the mutual aid in the group, various roles appear there too. Shaping of the roles starts in the pre-afflation stage of the group development. However, the differences of the roles increase during the differentiation stage (Berman-Rossi, 1993, p. 77). According to Toseland and Rivas (2012), Roles are important for groups because they allow for division of labor and appropriate use of power (p. 84). There are some common roles for the groups. They are information seeker, opinion seeker, and leader of the group. The presence of the scapegoat in the group is a sign of the poor organization or member selection. This role can hardly affect well-being of the individual and the group; that is why it is important to minimalize the possibility of its existence (Parry, 1997, p. 99).
Preparing the Group Environment
An incorrectly selected physical environment can ruin an appropriate atmosphere and bother the group on its way to achieving its goals. The worker must consider the usefulness of structuring space and define the expectations and boundaries within the limits imposed by the space and design (Gittermen & Shulman, 2005, p. 85). The furniture I choose is a round table and bunch of chairs around it. Such a shape of the table creates a trusting and calm atmosphere. Thus, there is enough place for the participants, so they can move freely if it is needed. The light is bright enough that the members see each other. The walls are painted in the soft shades of a warm color. Ventilation provides the room with the fresh air and maintains the comfort temperature of the meeting space. Each participant should feel comfortable and safe in such conditions.
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Furthermore, the worker should consider the following. The meeting place should be accessible for the participants. In addition, she/he should provide the members with additional services such as childcare, interpreters, and transportation. Financial arrangements include the workers salary, advertising, the cost of renting the meeting room, and the cost of group materials for the group activities. A sponsoring agency, member fees, and fund raising are the ways to cover those expenses.
Planning for Virtual Groups
However, there are situations, when for some several reasons, the participants of the group are not able to attend the session place. Virtual groups are a great solution for this problem. The existing technologies allow holding conferences through the Internet with the appropriate level of anonymity and security. Besides solving the problem of reaching the meeting space, virtual groups can resolve the costs problem. It is not necessary to think about a physical environment. The only necessary things are the Internet connection and a computer or even just a mobile phone. The participant stays at home at the time of the session, so she can babysit her children, and a special childcare service is not needed. Even a disable member can become a part of the group without worrying about problems connected with reaching the group physical place.
However, there are some significant disadvantages of virtual groups. Nor all potential members may have access to the computer or they may not be used to work with it. The participant of the support group, who suffers from domestic violence, does not always have an opportunity to discuss her problems at home. Firstly, her abuser can hear her and that will make a situation worse and produce a conflict situation. Secondly, she will not be able to focus on the session because of her relatives or background noises. Furthermore, the virtual groups do not allow the social worker to observe the members of his/her organization in great details that make his/her work harder and can decrease the efficiency of the group. The real life communication is a valuable thing for the social work that cannot be changed even with the newest technologies. That is why the virtual groups should be applied only in the critical cases, when the physical attendance of the participant is impossible.
Preparing a Written Group Proposal
A written group proposal is the last step in the planning of the social group. It sums up the main concepts and includes the exhaustive information about the group. It can be sent to the sponsors to enlist their support. First, a written group proposal includes a clear statement about the identified unmet need. Secondly, it contains a brief description of the proposed group, including the type of the group, the anticipated resources needed, the projected costs, the potential income, and the method of the recruiting. Furthermore, it is important to consider from whom in agency the worker would need to get a sanction, and which other organizations he/she might need to coordinate with closely (Toseland & Rivas, 2012). Finally, a written proposal should have the information about necessary skills, professional staff, and knowledge base.
It has been considered to create the support group for the women who suffer from domestic violence. The size of the group is six members with various life experiences. The session will take place every Tuesday at seven oclock in the evening and it will last for one hour each session. The purpose of the group is to empower the participants to enrich their independence, assure them that they have the rights and ability to maintain homeostasis in their homes. Therefore, due to the popularity and the efficiency of the support social groups, it is important to understand the main techniques and factors of their development.
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