Preparation 81 4. Beginnings with Families In work with families, decisions regarding the composition of a family meet- ing reflect the worker’s assessment of who should be included (or excluded) to address the difficulties that required the family—and/or an individual member—to seek assistance. The worker must consider each family member’s perspective, as well as the verbal and nonverbal behavior that can be observed. A further distinction is that we must attend to family members’ behavior toward us, as well as toward one another. Social workers consider intrafamilial dynam- ics that reflect roles, norms and expectations, and communication patterns and family members’ unique way of interacting with one another, as well as how each member might experience them. In other words, the worker must think about the family as a whole, as well as each individual member. 5. Beginnings with Groups In practicing with groups, consistent with how they prepare for work with a family, social workers will need to attend to the verbal and nonverbal behavior of each member of the group, as well as the group as a whole. There are, however, tasks and skills of forming a group that are distinctive to this modality. To understand the benefits of group work and its associated tasks and skills, we must understand the concept of mutual aid. Members’ interactions—which are fostered and encouraged by the social worker—provide them with support, validation, understanding, learning, and encouragement. Social work with groups emphasizes and promotes empowerment through members helping one another. The social worker always has two foci: the group as a whole and each individual member. In preparing to form a group, the worker utilizes certain specialized skills, such as developing clarity about the group’s purpose. A group evolves from a common need around which prospective members come together. Mutual aid can develop only in a group where members need each other to deal with common stressors, concerns, and/or interests. The three interrelated stress- ors of the Life Model of Social Work Practice (life transitions and traumatic events, environmental pressures, and maladaptive interpersonal processes) can be used to conceptualize the rationale for and purpose of the group service. After identifying the group’s purpose, the social worker considers the type of group that will benefit potential members. Groups can be designed to do any or all of the following: (1) be educational, (2) deal with common stressors, (3) encourage behavioral change, (4) encourage social development, (5) engage in task accomplishment, and (6) promote social change.
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