Social Work Practice With Groups

As the world is expanding and advancing towards globalization and the interactions of all parts of the globe with each other, working with an open mind is very important. Globalization, which was once considered a far-sighted notion, is now a reality as businesses are expanding internationally and all professions are now spreading over national boundaries. Social work is a vital part of every community. Social work aims at better understanding the issues concerning the people with respect to their environment and works on improving the living standards and the general human conditions. It is the science of exploring the dilemmas present in societies and communities and make positive changes to social justice and economic status. This paper would address social work practice with groups and what are the values and ethics specific to social work with groups. Moreover, the dynamics and interventions to the beginnings, middles and endings of groups would be discussed.


A group can be described as the collaboration of two or more individuals who interact with each other in order to meet certain needs or achieve certain objectives. Working in groups is essential in social work due to the nature of the work. Social work is related to the well-being of societies and this is not a task that can be accomplished individually. Social work mainly involved groups and teams that concentrate on specific areas and issues. Groups, if properly executed, have a number of advantages. However, there are factors that need to be considered with scrutiny in order to avoid the wastage of resources and the proper execution of group work. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

Synergy is the main advantage that can be gained from group work. This means that people working in groups are more productive and efficient than they would be had they been working individually and their efforts were combined. This has a greater implication in social work where there is a evidently greater output through working in groups. Social work groups often follow the team organization to be cross-cultural, involving people from different backgrounds, cultures or countries. This factor often creates conflicts and differences in opinion and care needs to be taken in order to defend the ethnic values of each member. However, if there is cohesion and respect of cultures within members then multi-ethnic workgroups tend to be the most productive especially in the field of social work where all kinds of people are addressed to. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

The effectiveness and efficiency of groups depend mainly on their dynamics or characteristics. The size of the workgroup is important. The motivation, commitment and group performance hinge on the size of the group. Very large groups often cause alienation and less participation from certain group members. Smaller groups gain the benefit of more interaction and coordination, more personal contribution from members and hence more motivation, satisfaction and commitment. The size of the group however, ultimately depends upon the nature of the task and the type of social work practice being carried out. Larger workgroups serve the advantage of more resources in form of knowledge, skills, experience and expertise. This helps them better achieve the goals than smaller groups that have limited skills and knowledge. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

One of the key elements that are necessary for all aspects of group formation and practices is the presence of leadership. All groups and teams need leadership. One of the most dominating elements that an effective group possesses is good leadership. Leadership is considered as the guide that leads the group towards the attainment of its goals. Leaders define a clear purpose for the group which in turn creates unity and harmony amongst the group members. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

The individual characteristics of group members contribute greatly to the success of the team. Each team members abilities, values, role perceptions, experience and personality differ them from one another and these factors answer some major questions such as, would they cooperate with the group, how much they are willing to contribute, how well motivated they would prove to be and to what extent would they comply to the norms of the group. Thus, individual characteristics tend to be an important factor. (Munro, 2007)

Effective and accurate communication is a very important aspect of teamwork in social practices. Communication is defined as being able to share a message that is heard, received and understood. Communication helps the flow of discussion and makes the members comfortable in expressing their feelings and ideas. It leads to the fulfillment of many other characteristics that add to the effectiveness of a team. Communication tends to increase the flow of messages and thus decreases the chance of misunderstandings within team members as well as with other teams. Also, through effective communication team members are in touch with each other as well as with other groups within the institute and proper negotiations can be initiated when needed. Communication being the foundation of good teamwork tends to hold a number of barriers that when absent cause misunderstandings and conflicts amongst group members and groups themselves. No matter how good the communication system of an organization is, unfortunately, barriers can and do transpire. (Munro, 2007)

There is a series of steps that follow in the development of groups. These are commonly known as, forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning. Although the development of every group is unique, many groups pass through these five phases. These steps define the formation of teams, where members get to know each other and form an understanding. The second stage, storming, includes the conflicts and disagreements that take place among members. In the norming stage group members arrive at consensus and form close ties and cooperate with each other in taking decisions. The fourth stage, performing, is when the group members work together in achieving the objective and the goal is accomplished. After the tasks have been achieved the final stage is reached. This may not always apply as some groups work together for multiple tasks. However, the adjourning stage is when the group is eventually disbanded. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

The beginning stage of group forming comprises the selection and preparation of members to be able to adjust and regulate the group and become better aware of how they need to perform with other involved members. This beginning stage involves getting to know the group and giving out a positive impression. The group members look up to the leader to get directions and guidance. For social work practitioners workers are selected on the basis of their abilities to adjust in various environments and confront challenging situations. Hence, they follow through various assessments, pre-group interviews and adherence to predetermined work agreements that they must comply to. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

The middle stages are considered the most crucial as they take up most of the time span and involve a number of different aspects that the group members experience. Due to the variance in the personalities, values, and cultures of the group members conflicts may arise. Although, the dissimilar personalities help in a pool of ideas it may also becoming conflicting if not appropriately managed. The ego functions of individuals play a large role in the middle stages as all members may have a different outlook towards things and may suggest diverse courses of actions towards a situation that leads to conflicts. Conflicts are often considered good for the group provided they are handled appropriately. By discussing on the basis of their differences group member can produce quality decisions that would benefit the society from many aspects. Cohesion is however, an important aspect that needs to be considered by social work practitioners. Cohesion is basically the desire for the members of a group to achieve common goals and a group identity. In a social group that is high on interactivity, cohesion is an important factor. Some of the basic group dynamics have effects on cohesion. Social work practitioners need to work on group cohesion and develop a group with a sense of shared purpose and collective identity. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)

The ending stage takes place once the task of the social group has been achieved. The group may be working together for one task or may be formed for a number of activities. This stage involves the disengagements from relationships. In social work, a conclusion usually involves the recognition of the participants and their achievements. Working in social groups helps the workers develop sociologically and psychologically. (Northen and Kurland, 2001)


In the end it is important to understand that group work is highly essential and productive in social practices and there are a number of factors that need to be adhered to in order to achieve the most out of the groups. Working in groups provides the individuals with the sense of empathy, cooperation and helps in creating an open mind towards the ideas and concepts of others. Groups provide an experience that upholds the values and morals of the group members and helps them become more helpful and accommodating. Moreover, group work allows a new area of learning experiences and the sharing of knowledge and skills provide the expansion of skills of the group members.


Levy, C.S (1993). Social work ethics on the line. Haworth press.

Munro, J.H (2007). Organizational leadership. Mcgraw-hill.

Northen, H, & Kurland, R (2001). Social work with groups.Columbia University press.