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Group Description _______________________________________________
The current group of analysis is a mock stress management group. Each member acted out specific roles of individual situations that possibly exist within the local communities of Flint, Michigan. Each of these individuals had been asked to recall for one week between sessions, of a stressful event that impacted their life in a significant manner. The group had initially met one week prior for introductions and construction of group rules. The current video segment represented the second meeting with a time of approximately (30) minutes.
During the video segment the group’s indicated stage of development could be characterized as the Forming Stage (Tuckman, 1963). This stage as Tuckman (1963) stated is characterized by the initial or early stages of the group, with introductions, orientations, and the testing of members through interaction. Klein (1972) also characterizes an accurate portrayal of our stress management groups stage of development, when he stated that early in the development of a group, “The underlying theme of the orientation phase is anxiety and the actions are a means of coping with it. Some people respond to anxiety by remaining passive, watching and waiting” (p 82). Corey & Corey (2002), indicate that some members may be suspicious, anxious, and represent a curiosity of who these new group members are. These theoretical perceptions can be clearly identified when one of the members within the stress management group would laugh at times; expressing anxious reactions to group involvement as well as the indication by their members that we all can feel anxious initially. The priority issues within the group consisted of four areas of focus. They are as follows;
1.The need to express a past stressful event in the member’s life.
2.The need to identify and express the emotions connected to the event.
3.The need to understand and express the affects of the event on their relationships.
4.The need to express the ways in which the member coped with the event
The members were asked to contemplate over a period of one week, a past event that was stressful. They were asked to prepare to discuss the topic during the second group session. The members were asked to identify and express the subjective emotions they experienced during the stressful event. According to Therapeutic Resources (2006), it is important to express and share feelings and emotions within such a support group in order to promote emotional healing. The members were also asked to identify and express the affects this event subjectively had upon the member’s relationships. Finally, the members were asked to express their perceptions and actions taken to cope with the past event. According to Toseland & Rivas (1995), assisting members in identifying past actions that assisted in accomplishing a positive outcome serves to empower individuals.
According to Reid (1997), group composition pertains to identifying who will be in the group and who will not be in the group. The gender, age, ethnic, social and racial characteristics are identified and analyzed according to group purpose and needs (Reid, 1997). Our stress management group consisted of four members, constructed as an open system. The members were all between the ages of thirty and forty. There were two males and two females of mid to low social stratification. This group represented both homogeneous and heterogeneous aspects (Reid, 1997). Unfortunately for the purpose of the group project the only members the leader could utilize were of European Caucasian decent. The leader realizes that it may have been valuable for other ethnicities and racial compositions to be present in the group for further learning opportunities for all members. According to Reid (1997), those of other cultures can give a group a diverse amount of perspectives in solving problems. It would have clearly been of great interest and more educational for members to gain insight on how others from different ethnic groups experienced their stressful event. Regarding gender, the leader did make efforts to obtain an equal participation of both genders.
The leader’s purpose and hope was to allow individuals to re-experience their thoughts, feelings, and relational identities regarding their past circumstance. This visual representation sought to shed light to new understandings of members past circumstances. This re-evaluation sought to clarify understandings and give new perspectives from other group members by those who would participate.
According to Toseland, Jones & Gellis (2004), principles that convey good leadership and promote member to member interaction included;
1.To encourage member to member interaction; rather than member to leader.
2.Insure that members have input into the agenda for group meetings; in the present and in the future.
3.Supporting indigenous group leaders as their leadership emerges
4.Encouraging mutual sharing and mutual aid between members
These ideas were proposed and attempted during leadership processes. In regards to (# 1), early within the group session the leader encouraged members to share patterns and ideas in which they identified (Toseland, et. al., 2004). In regards to (#2), the leader asked within the first session for members to think about what they would speak about in the second session (Toseland, et. al., 2004). In regards to (#3), it was clearly difficult to identify indigenous leaders due to the stage of development. In regards to (#4), the leader encouraged members to share ideas, compare or relate regarding similar stories (Toseland, et. al., 2004). The leader displayed elements within group session, known to Toseland, et. al., (2004), as expert power, “possessing knowledge to help the group achieve goals (p.21).” This was clear throughout the session with examples of
recommendations to members on how to cope with stressful circumstances. According to Toseland, et. al., (2004), informational power is when, “a leader possesses information that is needed by the group (p.21).” These ideas were expressed by the leader in regards to presenting material in a systematic and visually affective manner.
The leader’s first intervention was to construct four areas of focus. These areas focused upon cognitive, emotional, relational and positive strategies in coping. According to Toseland and Rivas (1995), some important components of support group interventions include;
1.Ventilation of a stressful experience within a supportive environment
2.A validation and confirmation of similar experiences
3.Support and understanding during difficult situations
4.Identify ways of coping during stressful circumstances
The leaders second intervention was to assist in lowering client defenses; allowing individuals in the second session to cognitively think through a stressful event prior to attendance, and then prepare to express it verbally and visually. According to Hartman (1978), the use of an eco-map tool with clients can help clients feel as if the social worker is making an effort to assist them and also decrease client defensiveness. This eco-map was carefully constructed with purpose, and represented areas in which the four areas of focus could be expressed through visual representation.
The leaders third intervention included, asking members “who would like to go first” regarding responses. The leader sought to let individuals retain choice and flexibility. If no one would respond, the leader would choose to direct a counter clock wise rotation.
The fourth intervention included a response to on camera or group interactive anxiety. One of the members admitted that he was a little anxious and was laughing in order to cope. The leader immediately addressed the behavior; reassured the member and made attempts to universalize his behavior with other members by stating that “we all at one time or another feel nervous in groups.” The leader also expressed to all group members that “if anyone felt uncomfortable, please understand that you can step out to relax.”
The leader’s next intervention included the taking of five minutes off camera for all members to fill out their eco-maps. The leader clearly explained before the break the visual need to represent their circumstance for greater clarity. This gave members a time to relax off camera and learn more about their circumstances. This gives way to what Reid (1997) calls therapeutic factors of internal action, that influence other’s processes within the mind of members; such as , imagining, rehearsing, remembering and planning.
The next intervention clarified to group members their opportunity to identify and express to other members “any patterns or ideas that are similar or different in which may ignite interaction.” The leader encouraged them to realize the similarities and commonalities of their membership; in hopes they would learn from their differences (Toseland, et. al., 2004).
Within the next intervention the leader sought to apply, and establish the identity of a pattern regarding the feelings group members were expressing; feelings of depression, low self esteem, loss, anger, as well as feelings that others within their families judge them. According to Reid (1997), this universalizing through the identification of consistent patterns is an important part of “mutual sharing groups.” The leader believed that allowing members to express and share their commonalities would bring forth greater learning and a sense of support (Reid, 1997).
The next intervention included linking or identifying two individuals within the group “Jenni” and “Roy”, with similar stories of divorce. The expressed self disclosure of feelings of loss and indicated transitional changes during the divorce process were very clear (Reid, 1997). After “Jenni” explained her story, the leader purposely called upon “Roy” to share or compare his similar circumstance. The leader hoped that he could link a commonality through the realization of current and past feelings. The leader realizing as “Jenni” went on to explain her feelings of isolation from her “church family” during the divorce, another comparison and assistance in realization between her and the other group member “Amy” became an apparent opportunity to bridge understandings. The leader called upon “Amy” in hopes that “Amy” with the isolation by family members due to the loss of her job, could give insight and understanding to “Jenni’s” feelings (Reid, 1997).
Next, the leader took the opportunity to intervene regarding the interaction by members in explaining their feelings of depression and behaviors relating to their circumstances. The leader emphasized their positive responses to self analysis as well as emphasizing the needs to cope positively within stressful circumstances. “Amy” stated that she enjoyed being part of a group and it made her feel like maybe she was not such a “freak” after all when listening to others in the group. The leader took advantage of influencing “internal member processes” with this comment, by reiterating the positive aspects of expressing individual feelings and emphasizing the safety that exists within the group system (Reid, 1997).
The leader, took the opportunity to address a common emotional theme of anger. The leader believed that through his active listening that this would be important regarding the need to express the emotional frustration of member’s circumstances (Reid, 1997). The leader purposed that this emotion in particular could clearly be related, effectively based upon the types of past events the members had expressed. The leader took an early advantage to initiate a perspective thought by members regarding “how they coped with their anger.” The leader purposely emphasized the need to construct positive coping skills; after “Roy” had indicated how he had changed from drinking at the bar, to working out at the gym. The leader believed that these early comments would prepare group members in thinking about the fourth area topic of focus.
The next intervention emphasized a need to identify areas in which individual members had difficulties trusting others. Commonalities were identified and interactions were clear between members. The leader re-emphasized a need to identify the expression of trust, economic, anger, and isolation issues common among members. The leader took the initiative to ask “Jeremy” if his comment’s about attending church was a way to cope with, or create greater support structures within his circumstance. This question prompted “Jenni” to initiate her coping processes regarding her belief in God. The leader further emphasized the need to utilize our beliefs and values in coping with our circumstances as “Jenni” had indicated.
After the member named “Roy” emphasized that his “work system” was affected by his stress reactions. The leader took advantage of utilizing the “work topic” to gain insight on how these events affected individual’s ability to make a living. Interestingly enough the only member who did not comment regarding this topic/system of interest was “Amy” and this was clearly due to the nature of her event; revolving around “work” and the loss of her job.
Another intervention by the leader included linking how our current circumstances can restrict our choices; however, through this change and transition, we develop new choices that if identified, can lead to very positive outcomes. This became evident when “Amy” spoke out about her job loss and then her opportunity to go to school. With this conversation a commonality between “Amy”, “Jenni” and “Roy”, develops in regards to stigma, exploitation and the oppression many experience when transitioning through these circumstances. One member “Jenni” goes on to emphasize her feelings regarding her frustration with feelings after her divorce. She stated she felt as “used goods.” The member “Jeremy” seemed to laugh loudly; possible due to ever present anxiety or maybe perceptions of humor. Never the less, the group leader took direct action to confront the reasoning in “Jeremy’s” response in an effort to clarify and protect the feelings of the other member’s emotional expression to emphasize respect and safety (Reid, 1997). The leader took the initiative to get “Jeremy” more involved in expressing his abilities to cope with his circumstance.
Within the final intervention the leader re-emphasizes the need to utilize coping mechanisms; identifies commonalities; clarifies the emotional sharing; social implications of member’s circumstances; and the thanking of group participation.
I believe that the leader’s strengths were clearly represented through the construction,
structure, and use of curriculum. As indicated; the use of the eco-map and topic areas were researched based and relevant to the goal and purpose of the group session. The leader exhibited positive strategies in order to assist group members in expressing feelings, identifying connective patterns, reinforcing commonality, and gave ideas for positive coping skills.
Areas to enhance
Areas of continual analysis and improvement are also clear. The group may have been too structured. Due to a lack of experience the leader may have attempted to control the group too extensively due to the leader’s insecurities (Toseland & Rivas, 1995). I believe that the leader could have used more active listening skills in regards to paraphrasing, and reemphasizing each group members responses. Greater ignition of interaction and a connection between conversations could have been beneficial; especially with the member named “Jeremy.” His behaviors may have influenced the leader’s ability to direct interaction more equitably. The leader could have created and retained greater eye contact and used less sophisticated words at times, such as “socioeconomic environment.” The leader must continually through group practice monitor verbal and non-verbal responses with greater efficiency, and closely monitor basic group dynamics.
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write by Robyn Todd