SOCW6121: Discussion -Involuntary Group Members- Response to 2 Students (WK8)

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Question Description

Respond to a colleague who presents a different point of view on these strategies than you. (Please be detailed in response, use 2 APA references and ask a question to the student)

Response to Ashley

Discussion: Involuntary Group Members

The dynamics of group therapy can be challenging due to the diversity of each individual member as well as the fact that they are mandated to attend. The social worker should take such diversity into consideration otherwise she’ll experience issues running her group smoothly and cohesively. She needs to find new ways and strategies to not only work with each group member but with the group as a whole to create a new sense of foundation. It becomes even more difficult for the social worker to lead the group with the negative baggage the members bring with them (Schimmel & Jacobs, 2011). This is where diversified skills in running groups are imperative for social workers.

To begin the task of putting a group together, the social worker must be strategic when identifying each group member’s readiness (Schimmel, 2011). She needs to assess if they are ready for change and where they fall in the stages of pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance (Toseland & Rivas, 2017). Group members can be in different stages however if their mind-set is holding them back from being a cohesive member of the group, it may not be a good fit. Therefore the social worker must assess and validate each group members’ entry into the group. Since most of the group members may be there involuntary, mandated due to probation, the social worker might not have any other option but to allow them in the group whether they are a good fit or not (Toseland, 2017). It is the social worker’s duty to question the negative members and acknowledge their resistance to the group even if they are involuntary (Schimmel, 2011 & Toseland, 2017). The social worker must address issues because avoiding or ignoring them for too long will create chaos for the group going forward. Each group member should have the opportunity to speak openly and share their feelings on the group’s progress. The social worker should create expectations for the group where eventually she will maximize the group’s choices and minimize their demands (Toseland, 2017). Thus she will empower the group to run on its own while she is merely guiding them from the background instead of continually setting expectations. Set expectations are vital for the group’s cohesiveness however the group should also have input as to what they want the group to accomplish and how the expectations are helping to do so.

These strategies are vital for social workers dealing with group dynamics because they must hold the group members accountable for their actions and behaviors. Even if they do not want to be there, they must still respect the rest of the group and the social worker. The social worker should choose to focus on the positive clients (Schimmel, 2011) because it will show the negative clients their behaviors will not be rewarded with increased attention. The social worker should also address negative behaviors outside of the group setting as a respect factor and reiterate the expectations to the group. If these negative members are unable to follow through with these expectations, then the social worker needs to contact their probation officer or the judge, notifying them that this group member is unable to follow through. An important learning experience for the social worker while running groups is to read the room and address the problems when they are visible. Group members may not always feel comfortable communicating their emotions but when they arise, the social worker must be able to address the “elephant” in the room. She must also set boundaries early and follow through with them. However, each group member will understand the boundaries differently and may get offended, thus, the social worker must be even more rigid to maintain the group dynamics and follow through.

It goes without saying that the social worker running groups will face a myriad of challenges. Immediately addressing the negativity and communicating in a positive manner does create a sense of empowerment for the group. It opens the door for group members to share how they are feeling and gives them the opportunity to discuss their expectations. With group members expressing their emotions, it becomes an unsteady situation with some members getting their feelings hurt because they are being held accountable for their actions. It is safer and more accommodating for them to communicate within the group then out in real life circumstances. Therefore, the social worker should show them the benefits of group interactions, create a balance, and set an example.

When dealing with difficult group members in a variety of situations, the social worker must always think outside the box (Schimmel, 2017) because confrontations are never by the book. She should first identify the problem and decipher various strategies that might work to address it. The social worker should continually assess the group’s effectiveness every group session and determine what is progressing and what is going awry. The assessment will help the social worker also see if the group members are working well together, which might cause her to make changes or improvements to get the group engaged. In order for the group to succeed, the social worker must find ways to get every group member’s buy-in (Schimmel, 2017).


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

Boston, MA: Pearson. Chapter 7, “The Group Begins” (pp. 197–230). Chapter 8, “Assessment” (pp. 230-263).

Schimmel, C. J., & Jacobs, E. (2011). When leaders are challenged: Dealing with involuntary

members in groups. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 36(2), 144–158.


Response to Rose

Groups that are mandated or involuntary tend to be more challenging because those individuals are being coerced into group ,and tend to lack the motivation that is needed for successful group dynamics (Schimmel & Jacobs, 2011). Fortunately, there are techniques that can be used to combat these difficulties.

Keeping an open mind about individual motivations in the group is important. One cannot simply assume that everyone in the mandated or involuntary group is unwilling to take away from the group experience. In addition, it takes a good group leader who encompasses charisma, flexibility, and self-awareness to creatively engage all group members. It is inevitable that involuntary group members will be negative or trying. A group leader should remind themselves to stay positive and remain non-defensive. Being direct and assertive when necessary will also help prevent the group from going off topic or becoming negative.

There are also strategies that group leaders can utilize for situations when one or more group members are open about not wanting to be in the group. As mentioned previously, a good group leader with confidence is needed to fully enforce control especially when a group is not progressing. Also, if a group leader notices that the entire group is closed off to being there, then the group leader should remember their purpose, which is to provide information about a topic and continue to engage members by making the experience valuable.

One strategy that Schimmel & Jacobs (2011) highlighted that I could see myself utilizing is using a writing exercise. The writing exercise allows members to make a list or finish a prompt. Members will pay attention to hear what others say out of curiosity. Also, those who are resistant to sharing are more likely to share because they feel more comfortable reading. Overall. It’s a good exercise and could be used an ice breaker to start group. A strategy that was mentioned by Schimmel & Jacobs (2011) that grabbed my attention was the rubber band strategy. This is when a group leader uses a giant rubber band to enforce the concept of trust within a group atmosphere. I think would refrain from using the technique just because it may give some people the wrong impression or misinterpreted.

Schimmel, C. J., & Jacobs, E. (2011). When leaders are challenged: Dealing with involuntary members in groups. Journal for Specialists in Group Work, 36(2), 144–158.

Tutor Answer

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Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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