Group work in the field of Social work


  1. Introduction
  2. Social group work
  3. Models
  4. Functions of Social Group Worker
  5. Group work in psychology


Group work is a voluntary association of members who benefit from cooperative learning and improves the overall output of the activity when compared to doing it alone. It aims to accommodate individual differences, develop skills (e.g., communication, collaboration, critical thinking), general knowledge, and socially acceptable attitudes, or create conforming standards of behaviour and judgement, a "group mind."

"Group work" refers to group therapy provided by a practitioner trained in psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, counselling, or another relevant discipline in psychotherapy and social work.

Social group work

Social group work is a type of social work that aims to help people improve their social functioning and cope more effectively with personal, group, and community issues through purposeful group experiences (Marjorie Murphy, 1959). It is defined as an educational process emphasising an individual's development and social adjustment through voluntary association and use of this association as a means of furthering socially desirable ends. Social group work is a primary modality of social work in bringing about positive change. It is a psychosocial process concerned with the development of leadership and cooperation while focusing on the group's interests for a social purpose. Individuals in groups are assisted by a worker who guides their interaction through group activities so that they can relate to others and experience growth opportunities in accordance with their needs and capacities to individual, group, and community development. Its goal is to help people grow as individuals through the interaction of personalities in groups, as well as to create groups that allow for integrated, cooperative group action to achieve common goals. It's also a method and a process by which a worker influences group life by consciously directing the interacting process toward the achievement of democratically defined goals. Its distinguishing features are that group work is used in conjunction with group experience as a means of individual growth and development, and that the group worker is concerned with the development of social responsibility and active citizenship for the betterment of democratic society. Group work is a method of serving individuals within and through small face-to-face groups in order to effect desired changes in client participants.


There are four models in social group work,
  1. Remedial model (Vinter, R. D., 1967) – Remedial model focuses on the individuals dysfunction and utilizes the group as a context and means for altering deviant behaviour.
  2. Reciprocal or Mediating model (W. Schwartz, 1961) - A model based on open systems theory, humanistic psychology and existential perspective. Relationship rooted in reciprocal transactions and intensive commitment is considered critical in this model.
  3. Developmental model (Berustein, S. & Lowy, 1965) - A model based on Erikson's ego psychology, group dynamics and conflict theory. In this model groups are seen as having "a degree of independence and autonomy, but the dynamics of to and fro flow between them and their members, between them and their social settings, are considered crucial to their existence, viability and achievements". The connectedness (intimacy and closeness) is considered critical in this model.
  4. Social goals model (Gisela Konopka & Weince, 1964) - A model based on 'programming' social consciousness, social responsibility, and social change. It suggests that democratic participation with others in a group situation can promote enhancement of personal function in individuals, which in-turn can affect social change. It results in heightened self-esteem and an increase in social power for the members of the group collectively and as individuals. 

Functions of Social Group Worker

The American Association of Group Workers (1949) describes as:
“The group worker enables various types of groups to function in such a way that both group interaction and programme activities contribute to the growth of the individual, and the achievement of the desirable social goal. The objectives of the group worker include provision for personal growth according to individual capacity and need; the adjustment of the individual to other persons, to groups and to society, the motivation of the individual toward the improvement of society and; the recognition by the individual of his own rights, abilities and differences of others. Through his participation the group worker aims to effect the group process so that decisions come about as a result of knowledge and a sharing and integration of ideas, experiences and knowledge, rather than as a result of domination from within or without the group. Social Work Intervention with Individuals and Groups through experience he/she aims to produce those relationship with other groups and the wider community which contributes to responsible citizenship, mutual understanding between cultural, religious, economic or special groupings in the community, and a participation in the constant improvement of our society towards democratic goals. The guiding purpose behind such leadership rests upon the common assumptions of a democratic society; namely, the opportunity for each individual to fulfill his capacities in freedom, to respect and appreciate others and to assume his social responsibility in maintaining and constantly improving our democratic societies. Underlying the practice of group work is the knowledge of individual and group behaviour and of social conditions and community relations which is based on the modern social sciences. On the basis of this knowledge the group worker contributes to the group with which he works with a skill in leadership which enables the members to use their capacities to the full and to create socially constructive group activities. He is aware of both programme activities and of the interplay of personalities, within the group and between the group and its surrounding community. According to the interests and needs of each, he assists them to get from the group experience, the satisfaction provided by the programme activities, the enjoyment and personal growth available through the social relations, and the opportunity to participate as a responsible citizen. The group worker makes conscious use of his relations to the group, his knowledge of programme as a tool and his understanding of the individual and of the group process and recognizes his responsibility both to individuals and groups with whom he works and the larger social values he represents”.

Group work in psychology

For controlled effectiveness, group work in psychology is done with a smaller number of participants. It is a moral practise that aims to promote a positive behavioural change in the group.
  • generating a large number of potential alternative viewpoints or solutions to a problem
  • allowing clients to work on a goal that may appear too large or complex for them to handle on their own
  • allowing clients from various backgrounds to contribute their unique knowledge, experience, or skills to a project, as well as explain their perspectives to others
  • allowing clients to teach and contribute to one another
  • providing clients with a structured experience that encourages their problem-solving ideas while also providing them with a set of new practise skills that are applicable to their unique environmental circumstances
Brainstorming is a technique for coming up with new ideas. Participants list their ideas in any order they want (without others commenting, disagreeing, or interrogating them too much). The benefit of brainstorming is that ideas do not become associated with the people who proposed them. If the process is not rushed and all ideas are written down, it promotes creative thinking (and therefore, for the time-being, accepted). A disadvantage is that it is more difficult for shy participants or those who do not speak their native language when ideas are suggested quickly. One strategy is to start with a brainstorming session and then go around the group in a more structured manner, asking each person to add to the list.

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