Psychology and Group
What are some of the current topics regarding ethics within groups? A number of elements remain current concerning group work. Group worker preparation and credentials, group worker knowledge, understanding group purpose, multicultural/diversity awareness, confidentiality, and the benefits of group therapy versus individual therapy to name a few. Completing degree requirements does not qualify a group worker to lead a group. The group worker should have specialized training in-group work, particularly in the area specific to the group to be led. Group members should have a clear understanding of the purpose of the group before participating.
Multicultural training helps the group worker understand group members from different backgrounds better. Group workers are responsible for utilizing confidentiality at all times and should encourage group members to do the same outside of the group. Individuals can benefit from group work, however, it is also vital for the group worker to understand, not everyone should be a member of a group The Fundamentals of Individual and Group Ethics The need for mental health services is rapidly expanding. Counseling services can prove to be beneficial to certain individuals. There are also times when an individual may also benefit from group therapy.
Group counseling offers means to assist more clients economically who share similar problems and concerns (Jacobs et. al, 2012). More resources, sense of belonging, incorporating new behaviors, and learning through listening and observing others are the various ways the group process can be beneficial (Jacobs et. al, 2012). Working with individuals and groups can offer participants life-changing skills and knowledge. Because of this, it is necessary for group workers to operate within the ethical framework established for the group process. Leader Preparation and Qualifications
The Association for Specialists in Group Work (ASGW), a division of the American Counseling Association, is an area specifically for professionals whose interests are to specialize in group work (Thomas & Pender, 2007). This association outlines best practices or ethical guidelines for group workers. Group workers are defined as mental health professionals who utilize a group modality as an intervention when working with diverse populations (Thomas & Pender, 2007, p. 111). The group leader has a responsibility to ensure he or she has the proper credentials and preparation to facilitate a group (Jacobs et. al, 2012).
A lack of practice in this area can lead to an unethical and legal situation (Younggren et. al, 2011). Before the group process starts, it is important for the mental health professional to scrutinize their personal strengths and weaknesses and how this would have an effect on group members (Thomas & Pender, 2007). In addition to self-awareness, group workers should be alert to how their cultural values affect group work. The ASGW states, “Group workers have a basic knowledge of groups and the principles of group dynamics, and are able to perform the core group competencies” (Thomas & Pender, 2007, p. 115).
Conducting group work is serious business and following the guidelines set forth by the ASGW is imperative to a successful start. Studies have shown a decrease in unethical behavior, possibly due to the increased emphasis placed on ethics training in graduate programs and continuing education (Wierzbicki et. al, 2012). The last component outlined by the ASGW in relation to competency in-group work is to ensure the group worker is adequately trained and understands the specialty area chosen for group practice (Thomas & Pender, 2007). Preparing for group work weighs as heavily as having proper group work credentials.
Group workers are responsible for screening prospective group members, facilitate informed consent, obtain consent when dealing with minors and dependent group participants, and defining confidentiality and its limits (Thomas & Pender, 2007, p. 114). Preparation helps to start the group process in a professional and efficient way. Group Worker Knowledge It is important for the group worker to stay sentient of the changing trends of group practice. Technological changes and its affect on the profession and society are included amongst such changes (Thomas & Pender, 2007).
Technology in regards to social media should also be considered due to the rise of internet therapy and widespread availability of personal information about group workers to clients (Taylor et. al, 2010). Thomas and Pender explains the changes are not limited to legislative/insurance reforms, client needs, variable population demographics, mental health system, and advances in technology related to the Internet (Thomas & Pender, 2007). Although it is ultimately the group worker’s responsibility, organizations can cultivate ethical behavior in their employees.
Over the years, ethics has come to the forefront in business mainly because of the unethical choices of business industry leadership (Kacmar et. al, 2011). Having a degree does not automatically qualify one to lead a group. According to Jacobs, competency in-group development, group process/dynamics, having group leadership skills, and extensive knowledge of the topics being discussed in the group. Which are fundamental to group facilitation (Jacobs et. al, 2012). There have been instances where a lack of knowledge on the group practitioner’s behalf has led to continuing treatment when it needs to end.
In addition, the lack of establishing boundaries has led to inappropriate behavior (Younggren et al. , 2011). Professional boundaries protect the safety of the clients, failure to do so can cause emotional harm (Taylor et. al, 2010). Group workers are accountable for evaluating the process and outcomes of the group. This includes accessing the progress of group members and goals (Thomas & Pender, 2007). Progress of group members also includes monitoring their behavior and how the material presented during group affects the members’ behavior (Jacobs et al.
, 2012). The burden of the group process weighs heavily on the group worker. However, group supervision could alleviate some of the burden. Group supervision is characterized as a regular meeting of a group of supervisees monitored by designated supervisor/supervisors to provide feedback regarding work quality and to expand understanding of the clients they serve (Smith et. al, 2012). “Group Workers process the workings of the group with themselves, group members, supervisors or other colleagues, as appropriate” (Thomas & Pender, 2007, p.
117). There are two types of ways group supervision is categorized: task oriented and relationship oriented (Smith et al. , 2012). At some agencies, group supervisors implemented case presentations in a structured, heavily didactic environment with little attention to group dynamics (task oriented), (Smith et al. , 2012). In contrast, there are agencies that are less structured and focus more on professional self-care and countertransference reactions to clients (relationship oriented), (Smith et al. , 2012). Understanding Group Purpose
Knowing the functions of the group and why it is needed is an important component of group dynamics. “Prospective members have the right to know the purpose of the group and how it will be conducted” (Jacobs et al. , 2012, p. 30). Jacobs refers to purpose as the “why” and “what” of the group meeting. Why, referring to why the group meeting is needed and what are the goals and objectives of the group (Jacobs et al. , 2012)? The ASGW further explains group members should be informed of the possibility of encountering risks relating to objectionable past and present events during the group process (Thomas & Pender, 2007).
That is why screening potential group members is necessary; it gives participants the opportunity to decide if they are willing to join the group (Jacobs et al. , 2012). In exchange, the group worker has the opportunity to determine if an individual is a good fit for group membership (Jacobs et al. , 2012). Group workers are accountable for assessing community needs and client attitudes towards group work during the implementation of groups along with group practice decisions (Thomas & Pender, 2007). The ASGW guidelines suggest notifying group members of the group purpose and goals through informed consent.
Jacobs explains the clarifying the purpose of the group should take place during the first and second group sessions. Having a clear purpose of what the group is for can deter confusion and possible resentment from group members. Screening members does not replace the group leader’s responsibility for making sure all group members are clear about the group purpose (Jacobs et al. , 2012). Multicultural Development and Sensitivity A recurring theme throughout the Jacobs text, American Counseling Association, and the ASGW is multicultural awareness and sensitivity on behalf of the group worker.
The American Counseling Association terms multicultural/diversity competence as “a capacity whereby counselors possess cultural and diversity awareness and knowledge about self and others, and how this awareness and knowledge is applied effectively in practice with clients and client groups” (American Counseling Association [ACA], 2005, p. 19). Group members can range from a broad population. Their cultural values help shape belief systems and behaviors. That is why multicultural training is a key component in the group process. According ASGW, respect is to be given by group workers towards multiple views regarding disclosure information.
Moreover, information is communicated in a developmentally and culturally appropriate way (Thomas & Pender, 2007). Jacobs refers to diversity as a “double-edged sword” (p. 112). Diversity paves the way for potential differences in perceptions, communication, and values, which can lead to misinformation and a lack of understanding within the group (Jacobs et al. , 2012). There are cultures that place more value on collective values and norms as opposed to individual interests (Jacobs et al. , 2012). Group workers need to remain aware of how a group member’s background can have an effect on the group process.
Keeping cultural values at the forefront of planning and conducting the group process can prove to be beneficial to the group leader and members. Another area to consider in diversity training is religious views. A number of cultures incorporate religious beliefs into their way of life. Yet research shows spirituality and religious views are included as topics that are given the least amount of attention in diversity training (Vogel et. al, 2013). Even though there is a clear separation of church and state in most agencies, group workers do need to consider how religion can affect a group member’s views and behaviors.
Confidentiality Confidentiality factors into counseling whether in a group or individually. The ASGW charges group workers with being accountable of defining confidentiality to group members, limitations of confidentiality, informing group members of the need for confidentiality concerning each other, possible repercussions for breaching confidentiality, and group discussions are exempt from legal privilege (Thomas & Pender, 2007). The American Counseling Association states, “In group work, counselors clearly explain the importance and parameters of confidentially for the specific group being entered” (ACA, 2005, p. 8).
Maintaining confidentiality is important in all group settings, but particularly important in a rural area. Rural areas mostly consist of small towns and people living in a close-knit community. Regarding mental health care, rural areas compared to larger cities, have limited education opportunities, higher levels of unemployment, and limited medical and mental health services (Hastings & Cohn, 2013). Hastings and Cohn go on to explain that most mental health workers are trained to practice in an urban setting, which provides workers in urban areas with more referral resources and clear boundaries between the practitioner and the client.
Because of the limited amount of group workers available in rural areas, the possibility of people who know each other being in the same group is high. In addition to group members also knowing the group worker and potentially interacting with them outside of the group. Finally, in regards to confidentiality in rural areas, group workers are subjected to a lack of privacy and high visibility in rural communities (Schank et. al, 2010). Mental health workers in these areas should take extra precautions to ensure confidentiality of group members is maintained.
Furthermore, group members in rural areas and in general should develop an understanding of the importance of confidentiality to each other. However, it is important to point out; group workers cannot guarantee other group members will maintain confidentiality, since they do not have control on what a member says outside of the group (Jacobs et al. , 2012). Group Therapy vs. Individual Therapy There is no doubt that individuals can benefit from individual or group therapy.
When screening potential group members, group workers should keep in mind not everyone benefits from the group process (Jacobs et al. , 2012). There are instances where a combination of both individual and group therapy may be beneficial. Group therapy offers something individual counseling does not, immediate input from others instead of just the counselor (Jacobs et al. , 2012). Also, group members have the opportunity to learn from others by listening, experience a sense of belonging, and experiencing feelings of commonality (Jacobs et al.
, 2012). Group work can benefit others in so many ways. Effective group leaders strive to make sure they are well trained in the area of the group he/she would like to lead. Having a degree is not enough, group workers need to be aware that multicultural awareness, diversity training, and continuing education factor into the group experience. Finally, having a clear purpose, developing, and maintaining confidentiality throughout the group process paves the way for an effective group experience. References