Group work has been cited as playing an integral role in ensuring that people achieve more collaboratively than working as individuals. In addition, group work has been perceived as a robust mechanism of helping people attain some novel skills and specific goals, mostly when a group is founded upon a particular objective. Nonetheless, despite these benefits attributed to working in groups, it is imperative to be cognizant of the fact that in many cases, it requires extensive efforts to ensure that a group evolves into an effective team.
Against this backdrop, this paper will analyze the group work within the human service field with the focus group being ‘Open Doors’, whose operations are founded on the need to support young people who identify as being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It is fundamental to briefly explore this organization aimed at getting a comprehensive insight into its groups work operations, group work theory underpinning it among other tenets. Human Services: Although the words ‘human services’ can mean different things according to individual experiences, not everyone understands the industry or field as a whole.
The human service industry according to Woodside and McClam (2011:4-9) is extremely complex to define, although overall, it is the overarching industry of professionals that provide a diverse range of services to humans in need. The aim of the professionals within the industry is to work with people to support, assist and empower them to meet their own needs whether those needs are for food, shelter, physical or emotional to name a few. Therefore, the human service field is at the forefront of many of the youth services provided both locally and overseas.
Open Doors at a glance According to Open Doors website (2012:1), this group is located at the center of Brisbane and its core undertaking revolve around the provision of counseling and support services for the young people between the ages twelve to twenty four who identify as being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). The core goal of this organization is to foster resilience among this target group through the facilitation of opportunities aimed at receiving supports which is need specific networks, as well as enjoying lives characterised by positive relationships.
This is enabled through support provision, referral, advocacy and capacity development within the organization (Woodley, J 2012, pers. Comm. , 20th August). In regard to the type of group work, Open Doors can be categorized as a social action group. According to Preston-Shoot (1987:16) this form of a group aims at the utilization of the resources at group level for collective power in the efforts to campaign for social transformations, as well as the inherent rights of the members within these particular groups.
It is imperative to explore group theory in order to understand the undertakings of Open Doors. Group theory According to Galanes and Adams (2007:8), the group theory perceives a group as being comprised of two or more people who have a common sense of purpose and make extended efforts to achieve a specified goal. Against this backdrop, it is apparent that the activities of Open Doors are based on the need to solve a common impediment in society which is the discriminatory attitude hulled against the LGBTs.
Thus, individuals come together with the core goal of solving this challenge through diverse mechanisms like advocacy, referrals among others previously mentioned. Thus, the activities of Open Doors are founded on the ongoing needs in the society which call for redress. This is chiefly embedded in the vision statement of Open Doors which states that all young people from different genders and sexualities have the chance to enjoy full experience and have true knowledge of pride in life (Open Doors website, 2012:1).
In reference to Open Doors, it is worth noting that groups undergo several stages in the course of their development. These are forming, storming, norming, performing and lastly, adjourning (Tuckman, 1965:396). These stages are explored in the subsequent section. Forming In the forming stage, the group is just coming together and shyness and uncertainty tend to characterise this particular epoch. This fact is supported by Tuckman and Jensen (1977:423) who determined that anxiety, dependency and a combination of confusion and curiosity tend to characterise this stage.
In addition, the group members are primarily concerned with orientation whose accomplishment is arrived at through testing. This testing serves the sole purpose of the identification of both task-related as well as interpersonal boundaries in the group (Tuckman 1965:396). In the context of Open Doors, this stage entails the coming together of LGBTs who have diversity in terms of past discrimination in the society, age and gender. Most of the members are shy to disclose their challenges and most of the time is spent through the orientation processes aimed at demarcating the interpersonal boundaries.
Eventually, the more bold members of the group eventually assume some sought of leadership, a point which ushers in the next stage; storming. Storming Extensive skills in problem solving are required in this stage, and a determining factor in the success of the group. This is a stage which is characterised by extensive conflict revolving around the interpersonal issues as well as simultaneous response to tasks (Tuckman 1965:396). In this stage, the members are preoccupied with the conflict based on power divisions as they try to ascertain who possess power and authority in the group (Preston-Shoot, 1987:35).
In the case of Open Doors, this stage can be characterised by extensive conflicts between various members in the group, with each trying to assert authority over the others, for instance, based on gender divisions. Eventually, there is establishment of a power structure in the group which pilots the progress to the next stage of norming. Norming Tuckman and Jensen (1977:423) noted that this is the maturity stage where there is resolution of the norms and there is an apparent development of inter-dependency and trust among the members.
This entails the distinction of the contributions as well as behaviors which are acceptable in the group. In the case of Open Doors, this stage is characterised by members’ efforts to identify the norms governing their interpersonal as well as task relationships as they attempt to forge and shape the idea of the group’s identity. Nonetheless, it is imperative to be cognizant of the fact that lack of proper decision making mechanisms and limited consensus in this stage can result to the group slipping back into the storming stage. Performing
Some proponents usually identify this as the final stage of group development. There is flexibility and functionality of the individually or collectively mandated roles as all the energy in the group is directed towards achieving the goals at hand (Tuckman 1965:396). In the case of Open Doors, this stage entails the delegation of different responsibilities to individuals or sub-groups aimed at achieving the overall goal of the group. This can be perceived in terms of different individuals being mandated with the roles of advocacy, referrals and support provision among others.
Adjourning Despite the fact that the activities of Open Doors are ongoing, distinct groups within the organization attempting to attain certain goals within a specified timeframe reach the adjourning stage. In addition, this stage can be reached when some of the group members surpass the age limit of twenty four years as stipulated by the organization which oblige them to leave the groups. This stage is characterised by the completion of the task at hand and eventual disengagement from the group members and the task (Frances 2008:17).
In most cases, the LGBT members in particular sub-groups will be satisfied that they have achieved their respective goals. Challenges and benefits for participants and facilitators equally for Open Doors There are diverse challenges as well as benefits for the participants as well as the facilitators in Open Doors. In regard to challenges for the facilitators, there is bound to be confrontations with the LGBTs which can become a major impediment in the efforts to achieve the goals of the groups.
Nonetheless, Brandler and Roman (1999:218) noted that it is imperative to keep the confrontations simples and to the point. Another challenge can be when communicating principles and strategies to the groups where there can be resistance and non-compliance from the LGBTs. On the side of the participants, the challenges of mistrust as well as conflicts in the earlier stages of group development as mentioned can be a major challenge. This can halt the progress towards achieving the ultimate goal of the group, not forgetting the detrimental effects of these conflicts on the self-esteem of the participants.
In regard to benefits, the participants gain a sense of belonging from the group work, experience elevated self-esteem and pride as well as creating networks which can help them in confronting daily challenges in society. On the other hand, the facilitators have an opportunity to understand the dynamics among different participants, for instance, communication and interaction patterns which can assist them in helping future participants (Toseland & Rivas, 2005:90).
In conclusion, it is apparent from the above discourse that group work in the human service field plays a major role in the achievement of collective goals in society as expounded in group theory. Most of the groups go through five stages of forming, storming, norming, performance and adjourning. Nonetheless, it is imperative to be cognizant of the fact that apart from the benefits in groups, there are diverse challenges embedded therein for both the participants and facilitators as explored in the preceding section.