On the basis of varied assumptions about the role of the worker, the group members, and the content of the group, social workers proposed four distinct group work models. These are:

  1. Remedial
  2. Mediating
  3. Developmental and
  4. Social goal model

Remedial Model

The remedial model focuses on the individuals’ dysfunction and utilizes the group as a context and means for altering deviant behavior. This approach to group work practice emphasizes its utility in removing the adverse conditions of individuals whose behavior is disapproved by society. Clients of such social group work practice are physically and mentally handicapped, legal offenders, emotionally disturbed, isolated, and alienated persons.

The Michigan School contributed to this model. Credit goes to Vinter and his colleagues for developing the remedial model. In this model, attempts are being made by social workers to bring change in the individual. He/she is the target point.

According to the Remedial Model, the group can be used to treat problems of adjustments in personal and social relations.  According to Vinter “attention to such problems reaffirms the profession’s historic mission of service to those most in need”. The remedial model is considered more as a clinical model that seeks to help the socially maladapted to improve social functioning through guided group experience.

The social worker plays a key role as he/she gives expertise and knowledge through the following activities.

  • The social worker is the central person. The worker is the object of identification and drive.
  • He/she is a symbol and a spokesman. He/she tries to maintain the norms and values of the society.
  • He/she is a motivator and stimulator. He/she helps the individual and group to understand their goal as a group member.
  • He/she is an executive. He/she facilitates the activities of the group in order to gain the said objectives.

In this model whatever changes are brought; they are explicitly limited to organizational and institutional elements that are responsible for an individual’s dysfunction. Though this model focuses mainly on the individual client who is experiencing difficulty, the model is helpful for those likely to be affected. This means this model focuses on preventive aspects also.

Reciprocal Model or Mediating Model

Schwartz introduced this model in 1961. This model is based on open systems theory, humanistic psychology, and an existential perspective. The following are the chief characteristics of this model.

  • People and society are interdependent because they have mutual needs. When there is interference with these mutual strivings, it results into conflict.
  • The resolution of this conflict is possible only when interested parties try to understand their dilemmas with all of these inner resources and they utilize that at that moment.
  • In this model attention is directed towards the relationship of members in the group with each other, with the worker and the group as a whole.
  • It is the relationship among the members that shows the characteristics of the group.
  • In this model emphasis is placed on the continuing and reciprocal transactions of sets of members with each other, the worker, and the group.
  • It gives importance to the emergent goal and actions, which are based on the feelings of the group. It believes that intensive involvement by the parties in the current realities will generate their own purposes and goals.
  • Client and worker together as well as separately challenge the current problems with their total capacity.
  • Basic educative processes are utilized which incorporate particularizing, synthesizing, and generalizing the feeling and action components of the problem.
  • In this model distinctions are not made with respect to types and various groups since it is presumed that this model is widely applicable.

In this model, the individual and the group are significant components. The workers’ role appears to be facilitative, relying on the power and potency of the mutual aid system to take care of itself.

Developmental Model

This model was developed by the faculty members of Boston University under the leadership of Bernstein in 1965. Lowy is the main architect of the developmental model. In this approach, groups are seen as having “a degree of independence and autonomy, but the to and from flow between them and their members, between them and their social settings, is crucial to their existence, viability, and achievements. The chief characteristics of this model are:

  • It is primarily based on the dynamics of intimacy and closeness between the members over a span of time.
  • The degree of intimacy is taken into account for appropriate worker interventions.
  • Conceptualization of study, diagnosis, and treatment is made at all three levels of individuals, groups, and the setting.
  • This model derives knowledge from Erikson’s ego psychology, group dynamics, and conflict theory.
  • The group worker is engaged in study, diagnosis, and treatment.
  • The worker is connected with community, agency, group, and individual members.
  • The group is envisioned as a microcosm of society.
  • Thoughts, feelings, sentiments, and behavior are continuously assessed and attempts are made to improve them.
  • The social group worker tries to improve the situations among individual members, group agency and the social environment.
  • In short, it can be said that the developmental model is a compromise between the reciprocal, remedial and traditional approaches.

The Social Goals Model

The basic concepts of this model are social consciousness, social responsibility, and social change.  It is suggested that by participating with others in a group situation, individuals can affect social change.  Social action is the desired outcome, and the group worker is regarded as an influence person and enabler, who personifies the values of social responsibility and acts as a stimulator and role model without purveying any political viewpoint.  Implicit in this model is the emerging leader within the group.  The model is concerned with democracy and the enhancement of personal functioning within the social context, heightened self-esteem, and an increase in social power for the members of the group collectively and as individuals.  The skill of the leader lies mainly in ‘programming’ (Weince 1964) (Konopka 1958).

There are other three interventions, that are considered suitable models for effective practice in social group work.

a.       Gestalt Therapy

In gestalt therapy, the worker aids the clients in learning how they prevent themselves from maturing. It is the aim of the worker to help the client become aware of and accept responsibility for how they make themselves feel better.

b.      Transactional Analysis

It is a process of analyzing and explaining intra-personal and interpersonal processes. This therapeutic model was developed by Berne. He proposes that personal change can be maximized through group psychotherapy where the social processes are much more varied than just one-to-one relationships. According to Berne, individuals are products of social processes and they use social processes. Within the group settings, individuals can be made aware of their self-defeating behavior. Once they are aware of their behavior, they can do something to change it. The group provides a safe environment for practicing new behaviors.

c.       The Behavioral Model

According to this model, specific group programs are implemented to alter dysfunctional patterns and learn new styles. The expertise of a Behavioral group therapist is essential in assessing and devising a treatment plan for each individual member within the context of the group. The group worker calculates the specific elements of the disturbing behavior to be decreased or the desired behavior to be developed. Other group members provide assistance and feedback concerning progress throughout the stages of the treatment process.

Additional Notes:

Social group work is a method of social work that involves working with groups of individuals to address various social and personal issues. There are several models and approaches used in social group work, each with its own principles and techniques. Here are some of the prominent models of social group work:

Reciprocal Model

  • In this model, the focus is on mutual aid and reciprocity among group members.
  • Group members are encouraged to provide support and help to one another.
  • The group leader’s role is to facilitate and encourage these reciprocal relationships.

Task-Centered Model

  • This model emphasizes the accomplishment of specific tasks or goals within the group.
  • The group is formed with a clear purpose or objective, and members work together to achieve it.
  • The group leader plays a directive role in guiding the group toward task completion.

Developmental Model

  • The developmental model focuses on the personal growth and development of group members.
  • It often includes the use of group activities and exercises to facilitate self-awareness and personal growth.
  • The group leader acts as a facilitator and guide for individual development.

Psychoeducational Model

  • This model combines elements of education and group therapy.
  • It aims to provide information, support, and skill-building to group members, often around specific issues or conditions.
  • The group leader typically has a didactic role in imparting knowledge and facilitating discussions.

Crisis Intervention Model

  • This model is used in situations of crisis or acute stress.
  • Groups are formed to provide immediate support and coping strategies to individuals facing a crisis.
  • The group leader must have crisis intervention skills and be able to provide a safe space for group members to express their feelings.

Self-Help or Mutual Aid Groups

  • These are groups in which individuals with shared experiences or challenges come together to provide support and assistance to one another.
  • They often operate without professional leaders, and members take on leadership roles.
  • Examples include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and various support groups.

Social Action Model

  • This model focuses on empowering groups to engage in collective action to address social and political issues.
  • Group work is used to mobilize individuals and communities for advocacy and social change.
  • The group leader helps guide the group’s efforts toward social activism.

Narrative Therapy Model

  • This model incorporates narrative and storytelling techniques to help group members reframe and reconstruct their personal narratives.
  • Group members are encouraged to share their stories and challenge dominant narratives that may be disempowering.

Strengths-Based Model

  • This model emphasizes identifying and building upon the strengths and assets of group members.
  • The focus is on enhancing resilience and self-efficacy.
  • The group leader helps individuals recognize and harness their strengths.

These are just a few examples of models of social group work, and in practice, social workers may draw from multiple models depending on the needs of the group and the goals of the intervention. The choice of model should be based on the specific context and the needs of the individuals involved in the group.

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