Advantages of group workThere are many sound reasons for using groups to deal with individual and social problems. Groups (including work/task, psychoeducational groups and support/ counselling groups) have the advantage of being:
- Effective – A community welfare/health professional may work more effectively through using groups than by working individually with clients. Some target groups, like adolescents and men, can resist the perspective of a counsellor, but they might consider and adopt the same viewpoint, if a peer in a group expressed this point of view
- Greater variety of resources and viewpoints – Group participants often value the perspective of other participants as the most helpful thing they gained from the group. Groups can quickly generate a variety of different ideas and responses to particular problems
- Experience of commonality - When participants share their own similar experiences in a group, the process of normalization occurs. This is where a person no longer views their problem in isolation and challenges the belief that they alone experience this problem. They start to see that other people have similar problems or concerns and this reduces their sense of isolation.
- Sense of belonging – A common problem can be the sense of aloneness that people experience in society or even within their family. Groups allow people to experience a sense of belonging with the other participants
- Skills practice – Participants can practice skills they wish to master or they can learn through watching others use these skills. The group experience can be a microcosm of life that provides a stage for a variety of issues to be explored and practiced
- Feedback – Groups provide participants an opportunity to receive initial and ongoing feedback from other people. Everyone makes assumptions about how other people perceive and react towards them. The group environment allows people to test out these assumptions and receive accurate feedback about how others respond towards them
- Continuous learning – Groups provide an opportunity for people to learn continuously. Some people prefer to learn by watching other people interact. Groups allow this to occur with everyone playing different roles that permit different ways of learning
- Real-life approximation – Groups often replicate real life experiences as they generate a full range of feelings and human reactions. Groups are microcosms, reflections of society or mini-societies. “While interacting with others, people experience fear, anger, doubt, worry and jealousy”. The group experience allows them to find new responses to old/familiar life experiences
- Contracts and commitments – A group is made up of a number of individuals who have their own goals and interests. They each develop by recognising what they want to gain from the group and by supporting others in pursuing their own achievements. Often incidental learning occurs where they gain something that they never initially recognised as important from the other participants.