Models of Social Group Work

Models of Social Group Work

In the initial days, the conventional view for the purpose of group work was prevention, but afterwards group workers were gradually involved in treatment as a primary goal. As group workers embarked on practice in a range of settings, they attempted to describe repeated patterns of phenomena and to define practice in the language of science. This led to the development of a wide variety of theoretical models for practicing group work. A model enables the group worker to focus on problems in a holistic manner. What kind of model to be employed in a group today depends on the group goals or objectives or purposes. There are several classical as well as a few contemporary models and we shall discuss here the major models seemingly found in practice.

Social Goals Model:

The settlement house movement, the social movement, the labour union movement, and
the women’s movements of the 1930s in USA are the roots of the social goalsmodel (Sullivan et al., 2003). The central focus of this model is on ‘social consciousness’ and ‘social responsibility’. It helpsmembers of the community to work on solving social issues and bringing about social change for oppressed populations. The model has a strong avowed social values stance. Cohen and Mullender (1999) assert that the social goalsmodel is referred to in recent literature as social action group work. The principles of democratic group process are fundamental to this model. Principles guiding practice involving the social goals model include:

clarification of agency policy, positive use of limitations, identification with agency goals, determination of appropriate issues for collective action, and the weighing of alternatives for action and their consequences.

Remedial Model:

The function of the remedial model is the treatment of individuals. It tends to be clinically
oriented. The model focuses on those who have problems of adjustment in personal and social relations (Fatout, 1992). A worker undergoes this model while dealing with a group of persons with emotional problem or teaching skills of daily living to a group of mentally handicapped children. The group worker, in this model, is viewed as a change agent who facilitates interaction among members of the group to achieve change. He is in a some-what superior position than the group members whose social skills are impaired or not fully developed. The worker using this model exercises considerable authority, instructs
model behaviour for group members, and creates an atmosphere whichmotivates individual growth. The group participants here are regarded as clients rather than  embers (Brandler and Roman, 1999). The remedialmodel is widely used in mental health centers, correctional institutions, family service organizations, counseling services, schools, health care facilities, and in many other agencies.

Reciprocal Model:

The reciprocalmodel has been derived from the systems theory, field theory, social psychological theories of behaviour, and the practice principles that are a part of generic methodology for social work (Skidmore et al., 1988). There is a duality of attention in this model i.e. it serves both the individual and society. In other words, reciprocal model focuses on the major concerns of both social goals model and remedial model at the same time (Fatout, 1992). According to Papell and Rothman (1966), the thrust of thismodel is to establish amutual aid system and worker ormembers do not keep here any preconceived goals. The image of the worker is a mediator or an enabler who is viewed as a part of the worker-client system.

Researchers have studied to understand how small groups develop. Thus, we find several models of Small Group Development such as Kurt Lewin’s Model, Tubb’s Model, Fisher’s Model, Tuckman’sModel, Poole’s Model, Gersick’s Punctuated EqulibriumModel,Wheelan’sModel, and Team Model.

These have been discussed here briefly:

Kurt Lewin’s Model:

Kurt Lewin is remembered for coining the term‘group dynamics’. His model of individual change is a stepping stone formany pioneers who have contributed theoretically. Kurt Lewin’s model has three stages such as unfreezing, change, and freezing in a change process or small group. The first stage makes effort to remove lethargy or sluggishness and dismantles the existing ‘mind set’. The second stage is the transition phase that brings
change. In the last phase, the new mindset is crystallized and individual becomes stable.

Tubb’s Model:

Stewart Tubb studied small group interaction and developed systemsmodel with four phases such as orientation, conflict, consensus and closure. In the first phase, groupmembers introduce each other, start talking on the problems and examine the strengths as well as weaknesses. Ideas are evaluated through conflict in the second phase. Conflict ends in the third phase and the last stage announces result.

Fisher’s Model:


Fisher’s model of decision emergence outlines four phases i.e. orientation, conflict, emergence, and reinforcement. In the first phase,members get to know each other and experience primary tension. Second phase is meant for conflict and marked by secondary tension.

Members there disagree with each other and debate ideas. Group’s tasks as well as members’ viewpoints become apparent in the emergence phase and group members bolster their final decision in the last phase

Tuckman’s Model:

Bruce Tuckman having reviewed almost fifty studies in the mid nineteen sixties proposed a
new model of group development. The model initially (in 1965) had four stages, but later on (in 1977) added one more stage and thus today it includes forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning stages. Forming is the first stage when individuals are collected and each member is preoccupied with issues of joining or inclusion.

Confusion, lowmorale, hidden feelings, poor listening, and un-involvement are visible more in this phase. Storming stage is the point at which members are beginning to seek individual roles or space and conflict arises as they search for compatible tasks or struggle for status in the group. In the third phase, there are establishment of norms or accepted ways of doing things. Group culture emerges.

Members start using the term‘our group’. Group develops trust, cohesion and a degree of intimacy (Brown, 1986). Performing is the fourth stage where group becomes selfsufficient
and use all the skills as well as potential of the members to achieve its aims and solve problems. In the last phase group disbands

Poole’s Model:

Marshall Scott Poole’s multiple-sequences model addresses decision making. The model has several tracks such as task track, topic track, relation track, and breakpoints. The tasks track refer to the process by which the group accomplishes its goals. The topic track concerns the specific item the group is discussing at the time. The relation track deals with the interpersonal relationships between the group members and breakpoints occur when
a group switches from one track to another (Poole, 1981).

Gersick’s Model Gersick’s punctuated equilibriummodel suggests, that groups develop through the sudden formation, maintenance, and sudden revision of a ‘framework for performance’. The model works in the following way:

Phase I – The first half of the groups calendar time is an inertial movement whose direction is set by the end of the group’s first meeting. In this meeting, members behaviours may be influenced by prior expectations, contexts relating to the sponsoring organization, and preferred behaviours.

Midpoint Transition – at themidpoint of the allotted calendar time, groups undergo a transition during which the direction of the group is revised for phase  2. Gersick calls this a ‘problematic search and pacing’ which stems from the group’s awareness of problems.

Phase 2 – the second period of inertia focuses on carrying out the plan formulated during the transition. Progress may spurt ahead in order to reach a markedly accelerated conclusion (Cole, 2005).

Wheelan’s Model Susan Wheelan’s ‘integrated model’ of  roup development has five phases i.e. dependency and inclusion, counter dependency and fight, trust/structure, work/productivity, and final. The first stage is characterized by significant member dependency on the designated leader, concerns about safety, and inclusion issues. In the second phase, members disagree among themselves about group goals and procedures. The next phase shows, member trust, commitment to the group, and willingness to cooperate increase. The fourth stage of group development is a time of intense team productivity and effectiveness. Separation and members appreciation of each other are addressed in the final phase

Team Model :

Team Evaluation and Maturation (TEAM) model identified byMorgan, Salas and Glickman has seven main stages such as first meeting (forming), unstable situation (storming), accommodation (norming), inefficient patterns of performance (performing-I), re-evaluation and transition (reforming), effective performance (performing- II), and completion of assignments (conforming). The TEAM model postulates the existence of two distinguishable activity tracks present throughout all the stages i.e activities that are tied to the specific tasks being performed and activities devoted to enhance the quality of the
interactions, interdependence, co-operation, etc. We have discussed so far a number of models for group work practice, nevertheless there existmanymore models. Allan Brown (1986) has classified those, even though arbitrary, based on the major differences in aims. These clusters of models are as follows:

Intake Models:

Brown, Seymour Hankinson, Stephens, Todd and Barcome, are popular for these models where focus is given on contact initiation or individual assessment or orientation about agency function. These models are primarily concerned with the intake process when an
individual first engages with an agency, and not with specific interventions such as the provision of support, achievement of change or the amelioration of a specific situation.

Guided Group Interaction Models:

The guided group interaction approach was originally developed by Lloyd McCorkle in the late 1940s in the treatment of military offenders (Harstad, 1976). The basis or central focus of this model is positive peer culture. Individuals normally learn deviant behaviour, attitudes and values fromthe peer groups. Therefore, the present model is used in reverse sense i.e. it carefully constitutes peer group as a vehicle for changing behaviour from the anti-social to the lawabiding.

The key principle is to mix offenders with exoffenders and others in the residential or day care setting with programmes that have positive peer culture.

Problem-Solving, Task-Centred and Social Skills Model:

This group of models is concerned with solving specific behavioural problems, achieving specific tasks or developing specific behavioural skills. Every model belongs to this category does not have exclusively a group approach as it uses a blend of individual, pairs and group methods.

The major emphasis is on co-operation rather than competition, safe and structured environment, building self-esteem and using positive reinforcement practice.

Psychotherapeutic, Person-Focused Models:

These models are concerned with the person, his feelings,  motions and relationships. The aim is to strengthen an individual’smental health and self-concept. Psychoanalytic group therapy, gestalt therapy, psychodrama, transactional analysis and so on come under this category of models. In psychoanalytic group therapy, the therapist interprets the behaviour of the clients, the content of discussion, looking for patterns that will reveal intrapsychic conflicts or maladaptive defenses. Gestalt therapy is an existential and experiential psychotherapy that focuses on here-and-now approach. It enables an individual to get in touch with immediate problematic experience and emotion, and work
through the conflict. Psychodrama is used to express problems, issues, concerns, dreams and highest aspirations of person through spontaneous and dramatice role-play. Experience in action, rather than words, is the touchstone of this model. Transactional analysis is an integrative approach because it has elements of psychoanalytic, humanist and cognitive approaches. It emphasizes a pragmatic path in treating patients or develops models to assist understanding of why certain treatments work.

Mutual Aid or Self-Help Models:

The concept of mutual aid was first elaborated by Kropotkin (1903), one of the most important evolutionary theorists and socio-biologists of his time. The Mutual Aid Model of group work practice proposed by Schwartz (1961) was introduced in the article “The Social Worker in the Group”. Schwartyz envisioned the group as an “enterprise in mutual aid, an alliance of individuals who need each other in varying degrees, to work on certain common problems”. This type of group is largely self-governing and provides its members with a source of mutual help and support. In India, at present, self-help model is used very widely in micro credit programmes in order to alleviate poverty. Alcoholic anonymous group is also example of this type.

 There are also a fewmodels based on psychotherapist care such as NEEDS-ABC Model, Neurolinguistic Model etc. A brief description about these is as follows:


Tom Caplan has developed this model based on decades of actual practice in group and family setting. The model emphasizes the theme-based relational needs behind maladaptive behaviours, rather than the behaviours themselves. ABC means ‘acquisition and behaviour change’ whichmay be applicable to a wide public within the field of psychotherapeutic care of clients engaging in group, couple and marriage therapy. The present model is an integrated therapeutic approach that combines observation, elucidation of client and group process, using concepts also described in cognitivebehavioural, motivational, narrative and emotion-focused model.

Neuro–Linguistic Model:

This model is a systemic imaginative method of psychotherapy with an integrative cognitive approach. It aims at goal-oriented work with a person paying particular regard to his/her representation systems,metaphors and relation matrices. The model helps to position the selectively good intentions underlying the symptoms of illness and/or dysfunction so that old fixations about inner and outer unproductive behaviour.

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