128 Helping Group Members with Maladaptive Communication 4. Use and Misuse of Manuals Agencies and institutions increasingly rely upon manuals or preexisting curric- ula to facilitate groups with an educational focus. A predetermined curriculum can provide social workers—particularly new and less experienced ones—with helpful ideas about topics to cover and how to cover them. But maladaptive patterns of communicating and relating arise when the group is driven by the curriculum rather than by members’ needs and concerns and their genuine and spontaneous interactions with one another. When the curriculum takes prece- dence, mutual aid is often stifled or nonexistent. 5. Maladaptive Processes Maladaptive interpersonal patterns in groups are often manifested in the behavior of individual members or subgroups of members and the reactions of others—including the worker—to those behaviors. These processes may be experienced as stressful by members, but they serve the function—which often goes unrecognized by the worker—of maintaining the group’s equilibrium. While all participants in groups are members, there will be variations in how each enacts that role. For silent members, their silence provides them with a powerful—often distracting—status in the group. Others may wonder what they are think- ing and if they are judging them. This ambiguity and uncertainty can lead to member—and worker—discomfort. In monopolism, one member dominates the group’s time and attention. Other group members may tolerate and even encourage such communication because monopolist behavior protects them from self-disclosure and personal involvement, even as they resent that indi- vidual’s domination. The role of scapegoat, like others, serves a function for the group. While focusing on the scapegoat’s vulnerabilities, other group members can avoid dealing with their own life stressors. At the group level, focusing negative attention on one member promotes solidarity, but at the expense of the scapegoat. At times, group members ally themselves with one another based upon per- ceived similarities or when faced with differences of opinion or perspectives. These alliances, which create a dynamic known as factionalism, can compro- mise mutual aid when they become a fixed pattern whereby some members are included and others excluded. Membership in a clique may provide individuals with a sense of identity and belonging, but it does so at the expense of those who are not part of the subgroup.
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