RE: SOCW6121 – Group Dynamics and Family Dynamics -Response to 2 Students (WK5)

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  • Respond to two colleagues. Explain whether you agree or disagree with their comparison of group and family dynamics.
  • Provide a suggestion of how to assess dynamics in a group or family and explain why it may be important to understand the dynamic for treatment.·
  • Use subheadings in response, be detaied and include at least one APA reference

Response to Liam

In the Group Therapy: A Live Demonstration video (Leszcz, n.d.), the group shown in the video has an interesting group dynamic. The communication pattern is very free-floating (Toseland, 2017), with group members speaking, responding, and sharing with one another and the leader interjecting mostly to encourage the group to explore something that was said. The group is cohesive in that members express feeling safe within it (Leszcz, n.d.), and their actions are in-line with this sentiment given that members often share their feelings and insights throughout the session, even when those feelings are not well-received by all members. The fact that group members feel safe enough within the space to disagree and even argue with one another is a sign of cohesiveness, and these varied opinions and some of the subgroups that have formed within the group as a result show a pretty healthy level of social integration (Toseland, 2017). There appear to be two main events threatening the cohesiveness of the group though. The first, is Philip’s introduction to the group, which resulted in the group’s dynamic shifting. This can be seen in Pam feeling that her safe haven has been threatened by his presence, Rebecca potentially seeking attention from him, and Philip seeking to establish himself within the group dynamic (Leszcz, n.d.). The ripple effects of this change can be seen in the defensiveness several members of the group respond with when Philip or their relationships with him are brought up and in the shifting roles of group members to one another as new group norms are established.

The second disruptive event for the group is the group leader becoming ill and the group potentially ending at some point (Leszcz, n.d.). There are clear indications throughout the video that the group members are influential to one another, be it one group member leaving his wife, if only briefly, in response to a previous group session, or how every member of the group states that they want Pam to stay and continue to be a part of the group. Group members seem satisfied with their experience within the group and find a lot of value in it, so making that experience suddenly definite, especially in a way that has clearly negative implications for one member of the group, appears to be causing negative effects as the group tries to process it. Group members are struggling to really listen to one another and are getting defensive faster because the space feels less safe than it did before; a support structure that they may have relied upon became less reliable, even if only in the distant future, and that was likely a very scary realization.

The group, as it is in the portion of the video we viewed, is divided in a lot of ways. They decided to table the discussion on Pam and Philip’s former relationship, but then didn’t, they wanted to discuss Julius’s health condition, but only sort of did, and while they all have individual things going on that they want to discuss there did not seem to be a uniform desire to discuss the same things or give one another a voice (Leszcz, n.d.). This would make treatment difficult, because there is dissonance between the focus and desires of the group, and non-productive friction between group members, effectively stalling any sort of progress for the group as a whole. The group dynamics previously discussed lend themselves to a strong foundation for this difficulty to be resolved though. If the group members continue to be emotionally honest with one another and process the changes they are experiencing, they should be able to successfully reunify in their purpose.

There is not a lot of evident cohesion in the family dynamic shown in McGoldrick’s (n.d.) video. The family members don’t appear to communicate well with one another, evidenced by Michelle not giving her parents any indication as to why she is acting out and her parents being unaware that she is feeling neglected in favor of their two-year-old child. Similarly, while the referral from the school counselor indicates that there are deeper underlying issues, the problems communicated by the family are not congruent with this, indicating some sort of missing emotional insight or cohesion that would allow for an indication of the underlying problems. The family does a level of influence on one another, i.e. Michelle reacting to her parents’ actions and them coming to counseling because they don’t understand her actions, but the introductory nature of the session in the video does not provide enough context to show the full scope of the family’s dynamic. Based on what is shown, the stilted communication and lack of connectivity could be a large barrier to treatment. Lack of insight or foundational communication skills could slow progress, and miscommunication may happen a lot at the start of therapy. There may be deeper issues rather than just more attention being paid to the baby and Michelle being a teenager, but uncovering those underlying issues may be difficult when members of the family are likely unaware themselves. That means sifting through the family’s histories and ruling out irrelevant information until the underlying issues are found and then working with the family to find ways to address those issues, if they even are.

The same general principles apply to the dynamics of families and groups, but the differences in relationship types and history impact treatment in a major way. For the most part, group relationships start fresh; group members come from varying circumstances, have some similar and differing viewpoints, and do not have a history with one another, allowing the group to be a place where group roles, cohesion, and influence can be built from the ground up (Toseland, 2017). Therefore, group dynamics must be assessed throughout the group process, as they are likely to shift as the group develops, requiring different levels and types of treatment intervention based on the unique composition of the group itself. Family dynamics, on the other hand, have often been built over years of contact, the perpetuation of different roles and communication patterns, which may or may not be positive in nature, and differing levels of influence over one another. When family is entering treatment, these dynamics must be assessed and then addressed as necessary throughout the treatment process to develop a more cohesive family unit. As a result of this, groups may be more stilted initially and more unpredictable in terms of what needs the group as a whole may have, but are also likely to run fairly smoothly once a group dynamic has been established and a healthy process has been formed, while families likely have an inherent trust due to the nature of the relationship, but the treatment process may be heavily burdened by years of reinforced dynamics, troubled histories, and engrained communication patterns.

References:

Leszcz, M., & Yalom, I. (n.d.). Group therapy: A live demonstration [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapy.net.ezp.waldenulibrary.or…

McGoldrick, M. (n.d.). The legacy of unresolved loss: A family systems approach [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapy.net.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/stream/waldenu/video?vid=013&clip=cs42710ce587410

Toseland, R. W., & Rivas, R. F. (2017). An introduction to group work practice (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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Response to Ashlee

Discussion: Group Dynamics and Family Dynamics

Social work has seen a decrease in non-familial and familial groups. It might not seem that important however groups are crucial in the social worker/client relationship (Drumm, 2006). Group settings have a special dynamic because both the client and the social worker bring a variety of skills and understanding to enhance each other’s experience (Drumm, 2006). Diversity enters the group in both family and random settings which makes it more challenging for the social worker as she navigates through what she is trying to accomplish with those particular clients. Every encounter produces its own strengths and allows the social worker to decipher the family or random group goals.

In the group therapy demonstration, Pam returned to her former group to discover her college ex-boyfriend, Philip, was now part of the group. This caused her great distress and she was very upset during the meeting (Leszca & Yalom, n.d.). As the group discussion commenced, the social worker listened to and observed the member’s language, body language, and the feelings they were expressing (Toseland & Rivas, 2017). As Pam became more agitated, she raised her voice and Philip responded respectfully, however it was obvious to the social worker that the rest of the group was feeling a lot of tension. Some members were visibly uncomfortable as they shared how helpful Philip had been to them while Pam was absent from the group. They were empathetic with whatever negative relationship Pam had with Philip but they still felt he helped them tremendously (Leszcz, n.d.). This information made Pam seem disconcerted and muddled because the group was not agreeing with her and sympathizing with her feelings. Other group members expressed their discomfort by asking her if she could move past this so the group could continue. Cohesion is key within a group because it creates a sense of security (Toseland, 2017). Pam is seeing her security within the group slowly dwindling and does not feel secure with Philip there. This insecurity is causing her disruptive outbursts and they, in turn, are causing uncertainty within the group since they had created a cohesive group while she was gone. With this bond threatened, the group discussion is stifled until one group member speaks up against Pam. The social worker keenly observes the social interaction and group influence since how the group comes together and member acceptance is paramount to the dynamics (Toseland, 2017). Pam fit into the group in the past but since her absence the group has bonded with Philip. Because he was so easily accepted by the group, Pam is having a difficult time. She considers the group members like family and Philip should not be allowed to be part of this.

The group discussion kept shifting toward the group leader’s issues and their priority over the Pam and Philip debacle. The social worker can see that the change in topic means that even though the group dynamic has changed, they may not want to work things out because it is too difficult and focusing on something else is safer. Though there are many current issues within this group, the conflict can be used to create a treatment method. Conflict helps the group become attuned to the issue as they work through it and explore resolutions even if it makes them uncomfortable (Drumm, 2006). This exploration will empower the group to be able to learn how to communicate through conflict and create a new type of cohesion. As the social worker runs the group, she can help create unity and respect so members feel validated (Drumm, 2006). This validation will empower them to communicate their emotions. This was expressed when a group member spoke out to Pam and another silenced her. The social worker thanked her for speaking up again (Leszcz, n.d.). The group needs to adapt and change to create a brand new group consisting of both Pam and Philip however if Pam is unable to move forward, the group members may ask her to leave in order to maintain their cohesiveness. Group treatment for the social worker is a difficult and delicate balance.

In the second scenario, the social worker deals with David, his teenage daughter, Michelle, and David’s wife, Kathleen. Michelle is experiencing problems at school and erratic behaviors at home which are concerning her father and step-mother (McGoldrick, n.d.). The social worker observes the same things as she does in the group setting such as communication, cohesion, and social integration and influence. The communication amongst this family group is primarily done by the adults. They are worried over Michelle’s current behaviors. She is isolating herself, and does not speak or respond until the social worker encourages her to do so (McGoldrick, n.d.). There is an obvious lack of cohesion because the family does not communicate or appear to be a family unit. David and Kathleen sit close together during group sessions while Michelle is by herself, facing away from them. This type of body language alone should send out red flares to the social worker. David and Kathleen are completely focused on Michelle’s problems and dismiss her when she attempts to answer the social worker’s questions (McGoldrick, n.d.). David, Kathleen and their new daughter have a cohesive family unit however Michelle feels left out. She expresses how family life revolves around the baby and she is ignored. Michelle’s mother passed away therefore she does not have a motherly or female support. Social integration and influence greatly exist in this family dynamic. In session, Michelle divulges that she does not feel accepted by her “new” family (McGoldrick, n.d.). When this type of statements are verbalized, the parents try to change the subject. The social worker steers them back on course and asks for more family history to understand their dynamics. This information will allow her to see the attachments and bonds that exist or are non-existent. Kathleen’s influence and the baby’s importance to her and David is obvious to the social worker. Also, David was named after his older brother who died before he was born (McGoldrick, n.d.). Taking on his dead brother’s name can be a consideration as to why he may be detaching from Michelle and attaching to his “new family”. The treatment is influenced because the lack of cohesion in the family unit does not allow for an emotional bond to be created so Michelle can feel as if she belongs. The social worker needs to establish an open atmosphere where there can be proper communication and a safe place. Also, she needs to work on family problem-solving and eventually coming to a resolution (Drumm, 2006). Obviously, problems such as these will not be solved overnight. It will take several sessions to create the ideal atmosphere and trust level. To treat issues, there has to be trust between family members because human emotions are involved.

In both cases, assessing the group is imperative for the social worker. A level of trust is needed in both group dynamics determined by assessment. Trust will create a more cohesive group and allow more open communication. However, random and family groups are different because of the existing emotional bonds between family members that have not been established with random group members. Even though the familiarity might make it more open, it does not make it easier. Group work provides a safe place for members to create a family dynamic and communicate with each other. This allows for not only the members but also the social worker to learn from each other (Drumm, 2006). The social worker deals with family and group members to create new levels of communication and acceptance. Such experiences enhance the social worker’s ability to deal with tougher issues and continue to grow and develop.

References

Drumm, K. (2006). The essential power of group work. Social Work With Groups, 29(2–3), 17–31.

Leszcz, M., & Yalom, I. (n.d.). Group Therapy: A live demonstration [Video file]. Retrieved

from http://www.psychotherapy.net.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/stream/waldenu/video?vid=170&clip=cs1770610ce2387740

McGoldrick, M. (n.d.). The legacy of unresolved loss: A family systems approach [Video file].

Retrieved from http://www.psychotherapy.net.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/stream/waldenu/video?vid=013&clip=cs42710ce587410

Toseland, R. W., & Rivas, R. F. (2017). An introduction to group work practice (8th ed.).

Boston, MA: Pearson. Chapter 3, “Understanding Group Dynamics” (pp. 67–97).

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