Group Work: A Humanistic and Skills Building Approach

Books

Urania Glassman

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  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part I: Dimensions of the Humanistic Approach

    Part II: Dual Objectives and Techniques of Humanistic Group Work

    Part III: Differential Application of the Humanistic Approach

    Part IV: Practice Variations and Contingencies

  • SAGE Sourcebooks for the Human Services Series

    Series Editors
    ArmandLauffer and CharlesGarvin

    Recent Volumes in This Series

    Group Work: A Humanistic and Skills Building Approach (2nd Edition)

    UraniaGlassman

    Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research (2nd Edition)

    DeborahK.Padgett

    Designing and Managing Programs: An Effectiveness-Based Approach (3rd Edition)

    PeterKettner

    Improving Substance Abuse Treatment: An Introduction to the Evidence-Based Practice Movement

    MicheleMickeyEliason

    Effectively Managing Human Service Organizations (3rd Edition)

    RalphBrody

    Social Work Supervision: Contexts and Concepts

    Ming-sumTsui

    Family Diversity: Continuity and Change in the Contemporary Family

    PaulineErera

    Organizational Change in the Human Services

    RebeccaProehl

    Stopping Child Maltreatment Before It Starts: Emerging Horizons in Early Home Visitation Services

    NeilGuterman

    Strategic Alliances Among Health and Human Services Organizations: From Affiliations to Consolidations

    DarlyneBailey

    Promoting Successful Adoptions: Practice With Troubled Families

    SusanLivingstonSmith

    Social Work Practice With African American Men: The Invisible Presence

    JaniceRasheed

    Group Work With Children and Adolescents: Prevention and Intervention in School and Community Systems

    StevenRose

    Legal Issues in Social Work, Counseling, and Mental Health: Guidelines for Clinical Practice in Psychotherapy

    RobertMadden

    Qualitative Methods in Social Work Research: Challenges and Rewards

    DeborahPadgett

    Understanding Disability: A Lifespan Approach

    PeggyQuinn

    Self-Help and Support Groups: A Handbook for Practitioners

    LindaKurtz

    Social Work in Health Care in the 21st Century

    SurjitDhooper

    New Approaches to Family Practice: Confronting Economic Stress

    NancyVosler

    What About America's Homeless Children? Hide and Seek

    PaulShane

    Task Groups in the Social Services

    MarianFatout

    Copyright

    View Copyright Page

    List of Practice Illustrations

    Preface

    The humanistic method of social work with groups embodies the values and practices of social group work's heritage and the social work profession. As a group approach, the humanistic method may be used to assist clients with their preventive, rehabilitative, treatment, and social action goals. The humanistic group work method may be employed by human service professionals—psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health workers, child welfare staff, activities and rehabilitation therapists, nurses, and special educators—who assist people in attaining effectiveness and change in their interpersonal relationships and circumstances.

    This book has been written about values, norms, and practice techniques in humanistic group work to share those experiences and approaches with group practitioners who appreciate the potency of the professionally guided small group. These practitioners recognize the supportive effects that social responsibility, caring, mutual aid, and respect for individual uniqueness have on the member. This book supports the human spirit and the humanistic visions of the teachers, students, clients, and colleagues who champion personal and social change through the social work group.

    This volume presents the special features and processes of humanistic group work method, which are used to develop a unique social form for assisting people in their change efforts (Lang, 1981). My experiences in a variety of types of groups strengthen my conviction about the value of the small, face-to-face group built on humanistic method. In this special productive milieu, members can feel belonging, acceptance, friendship, challenge, and support for developing abilities to achieve social goals and actions that enhance quality of life.

    Forms of racism, classism, ethnocentrism, sexism, and stigmatizations, as well as the repression of humanistic mores, highlight the urgency to spotlight the role of social work in developing humanistic groups. The mass suicides in Jonestown were brought about by totalitarian group processes. It is clear that prior to committing a murderous act, the terrorist has been deeply involved in a secretive small group whose values were antithetical to those of social group work. Even to this day, in the face of the lessons of the Nazi debacle, people are damaged and repressed by political and professional demagogues who use power to distort people's humanity and connection to one another.

    The leaders of authoritarian groups attempt to intimidate people into meeting narrowly and selfishly derived ideological or pseudoprofessional objectives by controlling interactional environments and debate. This volume continues the spirit of the first edition by Len Kates and me, and our wish to bear symbolic witness to the plights of victims of authoritarianism whose social interactions were defiled by intimidation and terror, and to the memory of those who have lost their lives as a consequence.

    It is gratifying to picture the groups currently being run for victims of trauma or frail elderly persons, for persons with Alzheimer's disease and groups for their caretakers, school children's groups, substance abuse treatment groups, groups in mental health treatment and developmental disabilities, groups in oncology and HIV/AIDS. These groups thrive in hospitals, residential treatment settings, continuing day treatment programs, schools, settlement houses, and senior centers.

    As in the first edition with Len, this book continues to describe an art and its technology of expression through techniques of group work practice that emanate from humanistic values and unique experiences of clinical and community groups. The book remains centered on the role of the social group work practitioner, or other like-minded facilitator, using the group work method to contribute to the personal growth and empowerment of members in their community and institutional contexts. It is my hope that practitioners will find it worthwhile.

    UraniaGlassman

    Acknowledgments

    I first learned about membership from the huge New York Greek community I grew up in, my friends in the surrounding Jewish community I grew up with, and the high school and college student activities programs I was involved in—all of these abounding in belonging opportunities.

    It was my privilege to have been mentored by Dr. Jerome Gold of New York's City College. As a young professional staff member and director of House Plan Association, a multiservice group work student activities program, I learned every facet of group work and T-groups from Jerry Gold, including the values and norms guiding group life. I cherished our relationship and my time there with students, some of whom became my colleagues and continue to be in my world.

    My gratitude is infinite to Social Work With Groups and to the Association for the Advancement of Social Work with Groups founders—Catherine Papell, the late Beulah Rothman, and the late Ruth Middleman—to its members and everyone who ensured its survival. These institutions, now completing 30 years, provided the venue for Len Kates and myself to present this book's first edition.

    This new volume builds on our earlier edition, developing humanistic group work and unique practice techniques, and draws on my role in field education and clinical practice. I am profoundly grateful to Lenny for that joint endeavor we took so much pride in.

    Charles Garvin shepherded the first edition and has labored over the present volume, providing invaluable feedback. I owe him a huge debt of thanks for his three decades of generosity and belief in the importance of this work.

    Marvin Parnes and Jane Hassinger have throughout our friendship encouraged this enterprise. Marvin's roots in House Plan, as well as mine, continue to define how we work now. I hope this volume validates everything that we experienced.

    I am so thankful to Kassie Graves at SAGE for her encouragement from day one, patience, and aplomb in this process.

    I am indebted to my dear friend and coauthor Ellen Sue Mesbur, who has been committed to the first edition and unrelenting in encouraging me to produce this volume.

    Sincere thanks to my devoted friend Pat Strasberg, with whom I had the best group life in the playground, and without whose reflection and support my clinical work would not have flourished.

    I am eternally grateful to Erika Kraemer Sanchez for over half a century of unfaltering friendship and camaraderie.

    As dean, Dr. Joseph Vigilante cultivated Adelphi's creativity and group work productivity. Louise Skolnik, my loyal colleague there, and Richie Skolnik from the City College faculty have been wonderful friends throughout. The late Joanne Gumpert, a respected friend, was a patron of our book wherever she went. I continue to pay tribute to the memory of Helene Fishbein; she championed Len's and my vision for this book.

    The enduring validation of my friends in field education, Bart Grossman—with me since City College—Dean Schneck, Ginger Robbins, and the New York Area Field Directors, continues to be a morale booster.

    I'd also like to thank the following reviewers for offering comments and suggestions, which helped to improve the manuscript:

    Rachel C. Freeman

    University of Tennessee

    Ken Norem

    University of Northern Colorado

    My gratitude goes to Carla Freeman, Veronica Novak, and Trey Thoelcke from SAGE, for their scrupulous review of the manuscript and immeasurable assistance in meeting the difficult schedule. Hats off to Candice Harman for the cover design.

    I am proud to be a part of Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University (YU). The school remains committed to practice and the joy of joys is that it nurtures a group work concentration! I could not have asked more from colleagues. I thank Jay Sweifach for his insight in critiquing the first edition. Shantih Clemans, you will have a new volume for group work students. Many thanks for bugging me every day about it. Kudos to Susan Ciardiello for your vision and your group work dissertation.

    To Nancy Beckerman, Michele Sarracco, Joan Beder, Susan Mason, Cathy Cassidy, Charlie Auerbach, and Heidi Heft LaPorte my heartfelt thanks for your friendship, incisiveness, and appreciation of group work.

    I am particularly grateful to my trusted field department team, Raesa Kaiteris, Dolly Sacristan, and Gloria Marin, for being such an inspired, wonderful, and supportive staff. I could not have had better or smarter or more skillful people to be proud of every day.

    To Dr. Sheldon Gelman, Wurzweiler's dean, I have my deepest appreciation and gratitude for bringing me to YU and profound respect for building a school sustained by scholarship and group work values. His generosity and largesse have fostered my focus on scholarly endeavors. This book recognizes that his commitment to group work reaches far back into his education at Pitt.

    My husband, Ronny, is my utmost fan. We have had a great ride, and without his backing I could not have done this book, or any other for that matter. I do suspect that while he appears to have been sacrificing, he was happy to have me home working rather than out shoe shopping! My connection to “group woik” has been the brunt of many jokes by our children. Alex, now a master in social work who I carted around in the womb while in social work school, challenged me not to dumb down the book for the generation that prefers bullets to complex sentences. Danny, my other booster, who was introduced to City College groups in his first year, demonstrated his absolute belief in me with frequent reminders of how much more money I would be making working in finance. All of this is to say that central to what made “group woik” work for me is humor. I try to live that every day. I learned that through belonging to groups.

    Introduction: Humanism and Democracy

    The humanistic group developed through the humanistic group work method is similar to other small group forms that have been developed and studied. It exhibits the universal characteristics of small groups. It has norms, a culture, face-to-face interaction, affective bonds, and cohesion. It also reflects the various themes of group life that revolve around closeness (Garland, Jones, & Kolodny, 1973) and the dynamics of power and love (Bennis & Shepard, 1962).

    The humanistic group aims to develop and sustain a particular kind of small, face-to-face group that is built on selected values that link its members to each other through a distinct set of affective bonds; these affects include trust, care, respect, acceptance, and anger. These values and feelings are used to develop and intensify members' individual interpersonal potentials and foster growth in the context of their needs and interests. Not all small group experiences have as an outcome people's growth, nor connect them with ways of developing their capabilities within their individual and collective capacities. Some group experiences, while providing affective bonds, inhibit members' growth. This occurs because the group's standards for behavior violate or do not support individuation or difference.

    The humanistic group method is rooted in the history and traditions of humanism and democracy. Humanism is built on particular values that cast people in society as responsible for and to one another; democracy is defined by particular standards of interaction that yield equality in relation to power, position, and resources. The aim of the humanistic method is the development of effective behavior for the group and the members within the group's milieu and its external social environment. The method's objectives are designed to assist the members with their interactional and problem-solving processes. The unique process of this method is denoted by a culture of humanistic values and democratic norms that shape the interactions of the members and the practitioner.

    Humanistic values shape people's stances and attitudes about themselves and others in the group. Humanistic values for social group work were stated by Gisela Konopka (1978, 1983). They have stood the test of time as fundamental means for the development of group experiences. This set of values takes the following positions: (1) Individuals are of inherent worth; (2) people are mutually responsible for each other; and (3) people have the fundamental right to experience mental health brought about by social and political conditions that support their fulfillment (Konopka, 1983).

    Democratic norms are the specific standards that develop the patterns and qualities of the members' behaviors. Democratic norms chart pathways for cooperative interaction and fluid distribution of position, power, and resources; they motivate the change efforts of the members in the humanistic group (White & Lippitt, 1968).

    These values and norms, through the leadership behaviors they sanction, celebrate each member and the practitioner as participants who actively create and sustain this experiment for social living characterized by trial and error, give and take, and considerable efforts to bring about change in their collective and individual experiences.

    Members seek enhanced social interactions in the group, as well as in their formal and informal relationships outside of it. The latter include family, couple, peer, and work relationships; they also include the situations that come about through members' voluntary and involuntary participation in health, education, and social welfare programs. The group members have related needs for effectiveness and change in their social environments that provide the arena for achieving the group's purpose. The group members may or may not know one another. They may be single parents, prisoners, children in a child guidance clinic, clients in an outpatient mental health clinic, elderly people living alone, persons receiving economic and social welfare entitlements, adolescents in residential care, victims of domestic violence, homeless persons, persons dealing with chronic illness, relatives of dying loved ones, or participants in groups typically run at community centers or settlement houses.

    Another important principle that defines the humanistic group is the principle of “externality” (Papell & Rothman, 1980a). In this frame of reference, the members develop experiences in relating that reach beyond the boundaries of the meeting time itself into their actual community. Members are encouraged to build social networks with each other by using the time between sessions to support and enhance one another's interpersonal and environmental goals. Members also are encouraged to include significant others from their external networks into the group's experiences to the extent that this involvement enhances the group as a viable organism. The group develops programs, experiential situations, and activities for all concerned to provide alternative avenues for socialization, experimentation, and exposure to circumstances that have the power to affect the well-being of the members (Ciardiello, 2003).

    The humanistic group work method takes into account that people have different capacities to take care of themselves. Some can care for themselves because they have had family, cultural, socioeconomic, and life experiences that provide the means to live effectively and with satisfaction. Others might have difficulty because the necessary conditions of society and economics have prevented and continue to prevent their caring for themselves and others. Still others may have severe physical or emotional inabilities that prevent them from being fully able to care for themselves and others. The thesis of humanistic group work is antithetical to blaming the victim. While some physically or mentally disabled people have been born into circumstances that provide emotional and social sustenance for them to contribute to their peers, others have not been involved in these necessary conditions. Consequently, the latter are less skilled in expressing their abilities and contributing to others; they have been in conditions that barely meet their needs or respect their rights.

    The practitioner in the humanistic group joins with or forms a small, face-to-face group in which members are assisted to participate and interact genuinely and undefensively. The practitioner consciously uses humanistic values and democratic norms, as well as derivative practice techniques, in a human and connected way. He or she has developed understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of the humanistic values and democratic standards of interaction. The practitioner can signify attitudes and actions that represent a democratic humanistic process. This process propels the group and provides perspective for members' evaluations of the values, norms, and processes that exist in the situations that have brought them together. The core worker's activities are ethically employed to assist the members in forming and using the group experience for effectiveness and change in their external situations.

    Driven by its values, norms, and practitioner stances, the humanistic group work method is experiential, experimental, existential, and interactional.

    It is experiential primarily because it creates a social organism that has the capacity for externality (Papell & Rothman, 1980a), which lives in and affects the social, political, and economic environments of the members. Members experience themselves and their caring abilities in situations with one another and significant others. They enact their desires, they reflect upon these actions, and they act again with one another as well as in important situations.

    The method is experimental because the members are encouraged to try out different ways of interacting within the group's meeting environment and in the social milieu. Driven by its ethos, members are not encouraged to try out all behaviors, but rather those that are in keeping with values that respect human dignity and the worth of self and others. Emotionally and socially unethical behaviors, as well as those that are harmful, are not encouraged.

    Humanistic group work is existential because in the process members develop their own values and assume personal responsibility for their own behavior and future actions as they integrate the values and norms provided by the practitioner in their intersubjective relationships with the members. It is existential because the group process is in a perpetual state of engagement and growth, providing opportunities for change and self-actualization for each member.

    Because it is an interactional method, humanistic group work focuses on and supports efforts toward developing satisfying interpersonal situations. Self-expression is examined within the group's interpersonal relations and in other significant settings. The viewpoint of the humanistic method includes the intrapsychic as a unit of attention in the helping or belonging process. Through the group's experiences within its environment and in social situations, persons express themselves both as members and as individuals, simultaneously changing their interpersonal and inner selves. (In the group psychotherapy experience, persons express themselves as individuals changing their inner selves. Interpersonal change in group therapy is assumed to be a byproduct of the treatment of psychological and emotional difficulties within the self.) In sum, there are several essentials that comprise this book's thesis.

    First, humanistic group work makes a philosophical, political, and experiential statement about the conditions that most helpfully govern human intersubjectivity. It affirms the dignity and worth of individuals; it affirms those values that foster striving for mutual fulfillment of people, while at the same time negating values based on elitism, dominance, and disrespect for human relations. It seeks to establish a milieu of caring and belonging that symbolizes an enlightened form of human interaction and social order. The values and norms it espouses have broad implications for the well-being not only of the group members themselves, but of society at large as well.

    It places a positive value on the development of the goodness of people rather than their destructiveness; it affirms that the individual strives for positive growth, quality of life, and interpersonal connection, rather than destructiveness and isolation.

    In this affirmation of values, humanistic group method may go against prevailing social values, and even certain prevailing practices in the helping professions. Nonetheless, humanistic group work espouses these values because it is built on a vision and conviction growing out of experiences; it is not built on a position of neutrality about the stance and attitude of the practitioner within the group.

    Second, the humanistic method of group work is built on a set of behaviors the practitioner uses to operationalize its values and norms. Not all practitioner strategies in groups build humane social milieus. Within the context of humanistic values and democratic norms, the group work practitioner sees domination, submission, exclusion, isolation, scapegoating, and destructiveness as attitudes and acts carried out when people are fearful and anxious, often about their own survival. These interactions breed variations of disregard and repression that do harm.

    Through these beliefs the group practitioner uses empathic relationships, group work techniques, and a range of derivative knowledge to help members deal with and overcome interpersonal obstacles. The group work techniques help members develop abilities, while at the same time affecting significant others as well. In fact, group work techniques may represent not only what the practitioner does in humanistic group work practice, but effective ways in which members can interact with one another toward self-development and role enhancement in and out of the group experience.

    Third, humanist group work strives to empower persons who might have been victimized by dint of disability or lower status in the society at large. From this perspective the group practitioner engages the members in a process that focuses and assists them all in their entitlement to a range of social, economic, and political conditions that ensure survival and satisfaction.

    The effort of this book is to make a statement about a particular value base on which social group work has been established in its history and traditions, as well as to delineate practice approaches and techniques for the group worker that are in direct consonance with these values. In addition, the effort of this treatise is to recognize and affirm that group life can be a powerful corrective experience for the member when the practitioner operates within a framework of humanistic values. It is also an effort that attests to the importance of democratic actions in the practitioner's use of self as a safeguard for the member against demagoguery in group life that will sow the seeds of destructiveness and do violence to the human spirit. And finally, it is the hope that not only the practitioner, but the member, too, of a humanistic group will use many of the behaviors that emanate from its values.

    Dedication

    With love, to Ronny, Danny, and Alex

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    About the Author

    Urania Glassman, MA, MSW, DSW, LCSW, has been Director of Field Instruction at Wurzweiler School of Social Work of Yeshiva University since 1993. She has authored many articles on group work and field education, and she has been presenting on these topics at national and international conferences for three decades. She has been involved with the Association for the Advancement of Social Work With Groups (AASWG) since it convened its first Group Work Symposium in Cleveland in 1979, and was cofounder of the NY Red Apple Chapter of AASWG. She consults to agencies on group work, field education, and staff supervision. She cochaired the School's 3-day 50th Anniversary Conference in 2007. Dr. Glassman's entry on group work's humanistic values and democratic norms is included in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Group Work.

    Her role in field education includes developing and cochairing the Field Symposium at the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and the North American Network of Field Educators and Directors (NAN-FED). She sits on the CSWE Commission on Curriculum and Educational Innovation (COCEI). Her most recent paper is “Field Education as the Signature Pedagogy of Social Work.”

    Dr. Glassman was on the Adelphi University School of Social Work faculty as Director of Field Instruction. She chaired the group work and foundation practice sequences and taught group work, foundation practice, casework, and the seminar in field instruction.

    Her 13-year staff role at the House Plan Association of the City College of New York included its directorship. This unique multifaceted group work student activities program revolved around small friendship groups developed by student leaders and supervised by professionals. A group dynamics design included human relations training programs to enhance student development.

    Dr. Glassman has her MA from Columbia University Teachers College and her MSW and DSW from Adelphi University SSW. Her private practice is with individuals, groups, and families.


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