In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Group Work across Populations, Challenges, and Settings

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

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Social Work Group Work across Populations, Challenges, and Settings
Mark J. Macgowan
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2009
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0032


Group work may be defined as “goal-directed activity with small treatment and task groups aimed at meeting socioemotional needs and accomplishing tasks” (Toseland and Rivas 2009, p. 12, see General Overviews). This entry is restricted to materials related to treatment groups whose primary purpose is to meet the socioemotional needs of its members, usually involving small groups consisting of up to fifteen members. To keep the material current with developments in group work research that have occurred in the last decade, the emphasis is on publications since 2000.

General Overviews

A good first source for brief overviews to many of the topics in this entry is the Encyclopedia of Social Work with Groups (Gitterman and Salmon 2009). Toseland and Rivas 2009 also offers reliable information on a range of areas for foundational knowledge of group work. There are fewer but more detailed entries about specialized groups in Greif and Ephross 2005, DeLucia-Waack, et al. 2004, Garvin, et al. 2004, and Cohen, et al. 2008. Gitterman and Schulman 2005 offers a unique perspective on working with different populations and problems. It incorporates the life cycle framework to demonstrate how group workers can foster the healing and empowering process of mutual aid for a variety of populations and settings.

  • Cohen, Carol S., Michael H. Phillips, and Meredith Hanson, eds. 2008. Strength and diversity in social work with groups: Think group. New York: Routledge.

    Includes a collection of papers related to group work across a number of populations and challenge areas, including task groups in child welfare; group work with New York City firefighters; support groups for welfare mothers; traumatic grief groups with children, adolescents and their caregivers; and group work with adolescent sexual offenders.

  • DeLucia-Waack, Janice L., Deborah A. Gerrity, Cynthia R. Kalodner, and Maria T. Riva, eds. 2004. Handbook of group counseling and psychotherapy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

    An excellent edited book covering multicultural groups, groups across settings, groups across the life span, and special topic groups. Chapters include group work with Native Americans, Asians, disabled persons, children and adolescents, and elderly persons; group work in university counseling settings and in the Veterans Administration system; and specialized groups for a range of problems, including grief, depression, and substance abuse.

  • Garvin, Charles D., Lorraine M. Gutiérrez, and Maeda J. Galinsky, eds. 2004. Handbook of social work with groups. New York: Guilford.

    An excellent compendium of materials covering a range of topics written by social workers. Group work approaches related to populations, problems, and settings are covered, such as child welfare, substance abuse, children and adolescents, and groups for older adults.

  • Gitterman, Alex, and Robert Salmon, eds. 2009. Encyclopedia of social work with groups. New York: Routledge.

    A good first source for information about an extensive range of group-related topics in social work from international contributors.

  • Gitterman, Alex, and Lawrence Schulman. 2005. Mutual aid groups, vulnerable and resilient populations, and the life cycle. 3d ed. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    Examines how mutual aid groups (a foundational model of social work with groups) help members of oppressed, vulnerable, and resilient groups regain control over their lives. The authors use the life cycle framework to help foster mutual aid. Case material illustrates the principles for a variety of populations and settings.

  • Greif, Geoffrey L., and Paul H. Ephross, eds. 2005. Group work with populations at risk. 2d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A popular book for social workers who would like to adapt existing group work practices for work with at-risk populations. The book includes twenty-six types of groups organized in relation to the following areas: (1) health; (2) adjustment to change (for example, widows and widowers, children of divorce); (3) violence, both victims and perpetrators; (4) gays and lesbians; (5) schools, the workplace, and the community; and (6) evaluating practice.

  • Toseland, Ronald W., and Robert F. Rivas. 2009. An introduction to group work practice. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson, Allyn, and Bacon.

    A widely used text in schools of social work. One of the few that includes information about both treatment and task (that is, committees, task forces) groups. Good attention to group dynamics and evaluation.

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