Group is a collection of persons who gather with the common aim. There are different types of groups. The most known are educational groups, psychotherapy ones, self help groups, etc. Groups can be blocking with the aim to lead members to change their attitude with the help of other group members.
Some groups are formal and some informal. For example, you would usually find that a social group is informal because they have no leader, and no obvious timescale/aim. Different groups have different kinds of memberships. Some groups may be for young people, some are for adults and some are suitable for all ages. For example, a “reminiscence" group would be more suitable for older people, as they have had more life experience and they can enjoy talking to other members of the group about memorable events, i. e. the war.
Some groups are optional or compulsory about whether the members attend. For example, those who take part in a social group attend entirely out of their own choice, just for their own interest and enjoyment. On the other hand, offenders may be expected to attend a treatment group that deals with their behaviour. It may be part of their court sentence, the same as community service.
The membership of the group is very important in terms of the progress and success. Group members who share a common aim about why they are attending are more likely to succeed. Some members of a self-help group may be dominant, which could make the more submissive members withdrawn or unconfident. If members are of a similar age, background and have similar life experience there could be more opportunities for each member to “bond" with one another and make the group experience a more rewarding one. However, some arguments could be made that groups who have members too similar are not being challenged and encouraged to bond with people completely different to themselves. They could also say that putting opposite types of people into a group provides a more interesting experience.
As mentioned earlier about dominant and submissive members, this relates to power issues. If one or two members in the group have control and power over decisions, such as what is discussed, who is doing what, etc, then some of the quieter members could become resentful of the power that these members possess. They could feel envious that they have the power to take on the leadership, whereas they do not. It may also mean that some group members feel like “the black sheep" because they feel unable to express their views. The group may fall apart as a result.
The size of the group can also be another important factor in relation to the nature of groups. For example, a new member of a group may feel slightly intimidated by joining a group with a small number of members in fear of not blending with their “clique". They may prefer joining a larger group, where there would be more variety of people for them to mix with. However, some members may feel more comfortable in joining a small group because they think it has a friendlier feel as compared to a larger and wider group. Some arguments put forward in favour of larger groups are that members of the group are more likely to gain better progress because more people are contributing to its input. An argument against it could be that people in larger groups can become “invisible" because less time is given to each individual. The membership of a group has to have some common aims and ideas otherwise it is possible that the group will fail at the first hurdle. Groups usually work best when people attend voluntarily, either to socialise or to deal with their problems. There are other groups where members are expected t attend because they have no choice in the matter, e. g. an offenders group.
Types of groups
Social groups are defined by their content, for example the social or recreational activities. There is no concrete purpose for this type of group, they are usually provided just for enjoyment and for members to socialise with each other. They may provide a positive experience for some members, by helping them to overcome isolation. There is usually no leader of the group because of the informal setting. Generally all members are encouraged to participate and give their suggestions. Each member can be given a role of responsibility that can help the group develop when working together. An example of a social group could be a youth club, because young people can mix and socialise with other people of the same age and interests.
Psychotherapy groups aim to provide relief from emotional problems and basic personality change. This type of group is quite formal, mainly because members are not attending just to socialise and meet people, but to discuss and analyse their problems. The emphasis is on helping members achieve their personal therapeutic goals, such as overcoming low self esteem, lack of purpose or direction, and lack of a clear identity. Individuals may have symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and an inability to cope with difficult situations, i. e. stress. Members have to be motivated and want to make changes to their life. They should join the group because they want to, not because of other people’s opinions. These groups use lots of verbal communication, so members should be able to use verbal skills. Each member should also be able to accept “psychological-mindedness". This means that each individual has to have an ability to accept an appropriate psychological explanation about their issues within themselves and with others. Obviously the leader would be the psychotherapist, and they focus on the goals and future development of each individual. The leader will attempt to steer the group into a here and now focus and may direct their comments either to individuals, sub-groups or the whole group.
Counselling groups focuses on dealing with particular problems or modifying specific situations. Usually each member shares a common problem that the group can focus on, for example the focus may be on overcoming an affair. Attention is paid to the particular problem, whilst other problems have little focus. Some other examples of how counselling can be used could be depression, isolation, children who are beyond control, etc. The counsellor takes place of the leader by helping members to identify and keep to the focus of the group. Another is to enable members to build links between themselves. The group share both the problem and solutions adopted by individuals.
Educational groups offer information and to offer members the chance to learn skills through instruction. For example, a practical skills group could aim to assist members in easier ways of dealing with practical problems around the home when on a tight budget. An environment is provided where basic skills are learnt through practise. Another form of its purpose could be to prepare members for life stages, new experiences and challenges. The group could focus on the feelings produced from transitions, i. e. from junior to secondary school, from school to employment, and from work to unemployment/retirement. In leading such groups, it is useful to know how people learn. Effective learning is more likely to follow from a willingness to participate in a process of discovery and enquiries in which members can contribute their own experiences. A shared learning process and through discussion can be beneficial in each members learning process. Also, simulation exercises help members to approach a situation they may be facing.
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