SOCW 6121 Week 5

Week 5: Understanding Group Dynamics

It is important to understand group dynamics because of their impact on the function and success of the group process. The actual “dynamic” is what influences the behavior of each member of the group and the group as a whole. Every group develops their own dynamic, and it is the social worker’s role to ensure that the interactions within the group are helping the members reach the group’s goals. Sometimes it takes only one member to interrupt or destroy the group’s cohesion and social interaction. It is the role of the social worker to oversee the functioning of the group and to ensure that all members feel empowered to help change the dynamic to a supportive influence. It is also the role of the social worker to make sure that the group process is moving in a direction that is consistent with the group’s purpose.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Analyze group and family dynamics in a case
  • Compare group dynamics to family dynamics
  • Analyze the role of the social worker in empowering groups

Learning Resources

Note: To access this week’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.

Required Readings

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)

Drumm, K. (2006). The essential power of group work. Social Work With Groups29(2–3), 17–31.

Required Media (Producer). (2011a). Group therapy: A live demonstration. [Video file]. Mill Valley, CA: Author.

Watch segment from timestamp 30:00 to 39:48.

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

Watch segment from timestamp 0:43 to 09:38.

Discussion: Group Dynamics and Family Dynamics

When working with families and groups the priority is for the social worker to understand the process that is taking place.  In both situations there is the overt (clearly stated) dynamics and the covert (hidden) dynamics.  The content (what is being said) in both settings is what is open and stated.  The process (how it is being said) is the unspoken information; what is underneath the interaction is what the social worker needs to explore in both groups and family systems.

For this Discussion, watch the video segments of a group and a family session provided in required resources.

By Day 3

Post the following:

  • Describe the group dynamic (communication, cohesion, social integration, influence) of the group shown in the required media.
  • Explain how this group’s dynamics may influence treatment.
  • A description of the family dynamic (communication, cohesion, social integration, influence) of the family shown in the required media.
  • Explain how this family’s dynamics may influence treatment.
  • Explain any similarities or differences when assessing dynamics in a group versus a family and how those dynamics may affect treatment.
By Day 5

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.

Response 1

Sherene Campbell RE: Discussion – Week 5COLLAPSE

It is essential to understand the factors that influence group dynamics.  Group dynamics are series of actions that group members go through when they come together and interact (Toseland & Rivas, 2017).  This particular group dynamic presents as having levels of familiarity, directness and connectivity.  Julius facilitates the group with leadership, structure and veracity.  The dynamics of the group slightly deviated from the usual assembly, as Pam was obviously upset about Phillip’s presence in the group.  She expressed that the group was previously known as a place of safety and amenity for her; however, presented as irritated and distressed about the negative history she shared with Phillip (Yalom, 2011a).

Pam explained to the group that Phillip treated her poorly, by “deflowering” her and dropping her, as he allegedly did to her close friend.  Pam expressed that the group was her “haven, where she came to feel safe” (Yalom, 2011a).  The group members shared that they formed relationships with both Pam and Phillip, and although they wanted Pam to stay, they explained that the value of Phillip’s presence to the group was, while she was away.  Julius was calm and reasonable, and acknowledged Pam’s feelings without disrespect towards Phillip’s presence, and was able to bring the entire group together by encouraging both to stay and continue the session (Yalom, 2011a).

The group is clearly quite progressive, having spent a lot of time together, they had the ability to point out value and express their emotions freely (Toseland & Rivas, 2017).  Julius was effective in allowing Pam to express her feelings, but he was able to avoid any over-embellished outbursts or walkouts, and conclusively helped to include the entire group who was able to support both, pronounce positive attributes of both, and encouraged both members to stay and continue in the session (Yalom, 2011a).

Group dynamics and structure will strongly influence the therapeutic outcome.  In the group video Pam presents as an outspoken, dominant figure.  With this type of personality, she presents as having a substantial influence on the group, and could have influenced the group in a different direction.  The group could have demonstrated a blind defense to Pam’s claim, pushing Phillip off, or could have become infuriated at her initial outburst and rejected her from the session.  Julius demonstrated lenient control over the situation, allowing just enough to ensure Pam felt “heard”, acknowledged her feelings, valued her presence and described specific value Phillip had on the group, and also bringing everyone together while processing the feelings (Yalom, 2011a).

In the Roger’s family video, Michelle’s counselor made a referral for Michelle and her family to meet with a family therapist, in hopes of helping them learn how to communicate more effectively.  After completing and analyzing the family genogram, strengths were identified. Michelle’s parents have been displeased with her social contacts and interactions, and they fear that those individuals would have a negative influence on Michelle.  While demonstrating their discontentment, they have used derogatory terms and criticism towards Michelle which has significantly compromised the communication, which shaped a divide in the family.  Michelle’s father portrayed himself as very authoritative and disconnected; the step mother has created an alignment with her husband further, alienating Michelle (Yalom, 2011a).  For treatment to be effective, each family member will require respect, appreciation, and validation of their feelings in order to ensure positive change.

The difference between the family versus the group therapy, would be that the group established an alliance and member support within their therapeutic group session.  The dynamics within the family unit could have demonstrated much more vulnerability and connection with family members.  Despite the “hiccup” between Pam and Phillip, the group was able to express themselves and appeared to genuinely appreciate one another’s support.  The family clearly has some underlining issues, which affects their intercommunication (Yalom, 2011a).


Toseland, R.W., & Rivas, R. F. (