Contemporary Issue in Group Work

Group work is an important part of social life and social justice.  The group theory can be evaluated and explained in terms of gestalt theory and its practical usage.  The fundamental thrust of the Gestalt model concerns how human beings structure and organize their experience and behavior. Given this, the Gestalt model focuses on what experience is about and what behavior is directed toward, that is, the point of contact of consciousness with what is. Put differently, the Gestalt model concerns the intentionality of one's being in the world.

The social justice issues selected for analysis is gender and feminism. Radical feminists emphasize economic differences between men and women as sexual classes placing patriarchy rather than capitalism at the root of oppression. Much of feminist literature is devoted to a discussion of the role of patriarchy in the suppression of women's rights, focusing on such issues as the power differential between men and women and its effect on socialization, the dynamics of privation and privilege, women's health, interpersonal relationships within hierarchical power structures, strategies for women's empowerment, men's control of women's sexuality and procreativity was an important step toward the formation of private property and class society: the appropriation of female capabilities provided men with a status-enhancing commodity. Women attained their first gender-defined role when they were exchanged, as their fathers' property, in marriage transactions (Bird and Brush, 2002).

The theory of group work explains that four general processes in the development of community: (1) acceptance and membership, which determine who is "in" a community and to what extent each member feels trust and acceptance within the group, (2) decision making, which involves means for sharing information and distributing control over options facing the group, (3) productivity, which involves the ability of a group to mobilize its resources toward common goals, and (4) organization, which describes the functional structure of the group, its internal communication, routines, and emotional atmosphere. A healthy community gives each member a feeling of acceptance, a belief that he or she can influence personally relevant group decisions, and a trust that the group will utilize its resources to accomplish goals of relevance to the person and will establish conditions that allow the individual to pursue his or her own goals. When any community -- whether a workplace, a neighborhood, or a city -- breaks down and fails to realize members' needs along one or more of these dimensions, a number of negative results ensue: internal conflicts among groups or individuals, departure or noncooperation of members, deteriorating well-being and motivation among members, and/or the death of the community (Groenhout, 2002). The group self-esteem interventions often overemphasize writing and reciting verbal self-affirmations and forming positive mental images of oneself, divorced from accompanying changes in behavior. Such cognitive interventions can facilitate behavioral change and life changes, but they can also produce individuals who speak more positively about themselves but continue to engage in antisocial, selfdefeating, or impulsive behaviors. The long-term result of such empty changes is realistic self-doubts, realistic negative self-attributions, and realistic pessimism about the future. The development of autonomy, self-efficacy based on competence, and realistic life skills may provide a more solid long-term basis for self-esteem (Koriat 2000).

Simply put, group therapy is not a technique but is closer to an applied philosophy or an aesthetic point of view. Gestalt therapy is founded on an essential rediscovery made by Gestalt psychology that human beings organize their own reality, a phenomenon previously examined by Kant that is now experiencing a rebirth in the form of constructivism. Human beings perceive and experience in organized wholes called Gestalten (Lamers and  Roelofs, 2007). The concept of "contact" is the fundamental insight of Fritz and Laura Perls and Paul Goodman; this is what distinguishes Gestalt therapy from all other schools of psychotherapy. As Gestalt therapy is founded upon an appreciation of the form of human contact, which encompasses experience, behavior, and interpersonal relationships, it moves into the realm of aesthetic perception and values. But here we are getting ahead of ourselves, Applied to the feminism as social justice issues, it is possible to day that Once one group is regarded as inferior, other groups can be similarly stigmatized and enslaved. The dominant group assigns to subordinates jobs that it does not want to perform, simultaneously suggesting that the subordinates are incapable of performing the duties of the dominant group. Patriarchal systems clearly contain the blueprint for women's subordination, though many feminists regard the patriarchal analysis as inadequate. This was perhaps an oversimplification of the dynamically organized hierarchy of figures against the field of the ground, but, nonetheless, it served as the foundation for an entirely new approach to therapy and living. It also served as a new theory of the self, a self found in the boundary of contact between the organism and its environment, along with a concrete exposition of a core group of "resistances" to contact. The contact model is also the basis for insightful critique of theory of repression. the Gestalt Therapy text offered a new and novel view of human nature: a positive, radical reevaluation of desire, the self as artist, and the therapist focused on the process of the client's immediate experience. It proposed that therapeutic intervention was an "experiment" in the "safe emergency' created during the therapy session (Matisons and Renee, 2003).

This group argues that the very real differences between women and men may "result from a complex blend of nature, nurture, and free choice. Psychologists explored the biological, sexual, social, and cultural components of sex roles and their socialization; examined specific sex-role issues such as maternal employment and dual-career families; and critically examined methodology in the field. The group work  ideal of mental health and personal growth was a kind of hyperindividualism and independence, while for Goodman mental health and growth revolved around personal expression and satisfaction of the most pressing need and, through this, the creative adjustment of the individual within the context of community. This fundamental difference was to lead them both along different paths later in life and toward mutual antipathy (Bird and Brush, 2002).

In general, psychology contributed by positively valuing traditionally feminine qualities such as caring, genuineness, and empathy, offering an alternative to the misogynistic historical tradition that regarded women as histrionic and essentially evil and often labeled them as witchesToday, with the humanities in seeming retreat in the universities, with cognitive behaviorism in the driver's seat as the preferred means of psychotherapy, with managed care dictating the course of therapeutic service, and with an increasingly conservative political climate, that Gestalt therapy is a school whose time has come and gone. Even though the existential-humanistic approach may be in a period of retrenchment, Gestalt therapy possesses a rich theory that in the right hands leads to creative new approaches and a continued exploration of new veins of thought and application. This section will identify seven areas in which Gestalt therapy continues its development. Due to space limitations the following section is offered as a representative sampling of recent activity and is by no means a comprehensive literature review (Bird and Brush, 2002).

Group work, because it is founded in Gestalt psychology with a view to the organism-environment as a field of activity, is in some ways a precursor of modern systems theory. When combined, Group work and systems theory seem to dovetail naturally. Related to the field concept is the notion of boundary. Boundary is one fundamental principle of Gestalt therapy, as seen in the contact boundary, and is central in terms of study, theory, and practice. The original Gestalt psychologists, while being rigorously empirical, were themselves aesthetically oriented because they were concerned with how human beings perceive, experience, and organize perception and experience. Group work has long been criticized as lacking a fully articulated model of personality and development. This is partly attributable to the heirs of Gestalt therapy not following Goodman's exposition of the "self as contact" given in the original Gestalt Therapy; many of the critics appear unaware of this model (Bird and Brush, 2002).

The interest in women's lives and experiences has included questions about the ways that ethnicity interacts with gender. Group theory underlines that feminist psychologists have been concerned about multiple aspects of women's physical and psychological health. Special feminist concerns itemized by these reviewers include reproductive choice, AIDS, and health policy and planning. Feminist psychology has contributed to health psychology an interest in prevention, locus of control and compliance, social support, and coping. Feminists and humanists alike challenge the victim blaming and self-blaming that is implicit in much of the recent psychoneuroimmunology movement and the illusion that there are no forces greater than the human will

In group theory, oral aggression, an inherent "hunger" for growth, in which developmental stages are marked by the child's perception of the environment and growing organizational abilities. Constructivism, or the idea that human beings tend to create reality, is a very old notion, dating back probably to ancient Greece. More recently we can trace the development of constructivist ideas from Immanuel Kant to the experimental studies of the Gestalt psychologists, Exner, Ehrenfels, Wertheimer, Koffka, and Köhler, and ultimately to Gestalt therapy and the modern schools of constructivist psychology. It can be argued that Gestalt therapy in many ways anticipated modern constructivist theory. Group theory discovered that humans perceive phenomena in an organized whole, a Gestalt against a background that, by virtue of its presence and properties, lends form to the perceived whole (“Muted Group Theory Excerpts”, 2005).

In group theory, the feminism is grounded in constructivist thought and offers practitioners of any theoretical persuasion a "lens" through which to see phenomena within the psychotherapeutic context. The Gestalt model, with its emphasis on field unity, its insistence that the "self' is not prior to the "other," but that both arise phenomenologically in the same experiential act of feeling and constructing the "self boundary," holds out the promise that we may yet unify psychology and psychotherapy in a different direction: the direction of holism, humanism in the communitarian sense, and true ecology of the mind and spirit. Often he merely acted out his own personal style within the situation of the moment. Gestalt therapy has had both to share in the success of popularization and to live down those of his idiosyncrasies that became associated with the Gestalt name. In spite of this, Gestalt therapy has endured and, in the last two decades or so, has sought to reexamine, redefine, and extend itself into new venues. It will continue to renew itself, for, as I have tried to make dear, the simplicity and richness of its model lends itself to many paths that are only now beginning to be explored. Herein lies the future of Gestalt therapy from which it will draw its strength for renewal (Roberts et al 2000).

Group theory has been especially concerned about child sexual abuse. In addition, feminist efforts have led to the passage of sexual-predator laws and more nuanced definitions of dual-role relationships. However, power dynamics continue to manifest themselves in various forms of sexual exploitation of which women are the primary victims. Child sexual abuse is clearly connected with the development of dissociative identity and borderline personality disorders, with reduced marriage rates, and with a variety of posttraumatic syndromes. Many psychologists still blame mothers (or victims) for the sexual abuse perpetrated by fathers. This diffusion of perpetrator responsibility is viewed as a consequence of women's status as "other" in society and men's need to construct a reality that aligns with their view of sexual violence. Thus women are not only victimized, but also subtly mystified, so that they question their own reality testing. Despite the prevailing political and social winds, I believe that Gestalt therapy will survive and prosper in the years to come. Group therapy is in the early stages of this renewal, and, as we continue the task of deconstructing and dismissing the follies and foibles as well as cherishing his pioneering genius and creative verve, it will continue to grow and develop. Although Gestalt therapy suffers from a colorful and often contradictory history, its theoretical richness and therapeutic efficacy cannot be denied, but this is not what will carry it through. Group therapy is a part of the humanistic-existential-transpersonal tradition, and this is the realm in which miracles occur in the meeting of human hearts. It is this simple truth that will preserve both Gestalt therapy and the humanistic tradition (Roberts et al 2000). Nonetheless, in order to go beyond being merely a protest movement, humanistic psychology will need to squarely confront the twofold challenge that presently demands its attention. At one level, this challenge exists internally and is evidenced by the absence of an explicit theoretical foundation that is distinctly humanistic. In addition, there are marked inconsistencies that exist in the methodology proposed to study and genuinely understand human experience. Although humanistic psychologists want to study the whole person, typically they have used traditional research methods to do so. At an external level, humanistic psychology must address the trends toward mandated short-term/managed care and positivistic assumptions still evident in much of contemporary psychology and in the medical model. To surmount these obstacles, proponents of humanistic tenets could benefit by developing and embracing foundations that are uniquely expressive of the full spectrum of human experience and fully cognizant of the intersubjective realm that transcends the positivistic limitations of subject-object the biological perspective on physical problems proceeds as if the disease were unrelated to the individual. This view, then, cannot account for differences in disability among people with equivalent physical pathologies, nor does it provide insight into issues around "treatment compliance." In contrast, Peters documents how phenomenological methods bring to light how a particular problem (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis) disrupts a person's sense of self and world and show how the consequent level of disability is a function of patients' social context and manner of interpreting and coping with their illness (Stevenson, 2007).

In terms of group theory, in our society, women often experience guilt about embodiment itself that is revealed in a wide variety of symptoms and attitudes. In psychology these phenomena were treated as exaggerated developments of normal processes, such as fantasy, or as by-products of pathological processes, such as migraine phenomena, organic brain disorders, or psychosis. In group theory, transpersonal experiences as natural and healthy, rather than pathological. James had said the same of conversion and mystical experiences, that they were not pathological per se, though an individual could have mental disturbances with or without a religious experience (Schwartzman, 2007).

Most provide models that are consistent with their particular belief system, usually of a divine or spiritual reality, a deity, or of a metaphysical system, mingled with cultural and social attitudes of the time. However, each religious tradition appears to have an implicit psychology of these transpersonal states and experiences. For example, St. Teresa described her inner experiences in the Christian tradition in great detail, with several elements that will be familiar to transpersonal psychologists. Charles Tart has edited a volume of essays on the implicit psychology in various spiritual teachings. The assumption in transpersonal psychology is that these experiences are not just normal, but also desirable. Their worth may be expressed as a part of the holistic growth of the individual, as a developmental level beyond the personal, or as an inspiring contact with a higher reality that transcends the personality and the ego identity, which then guides the self.. In contrast to some religions in which immersion in profound, ecstatic experiences is the goal, many transpersonal psychology professionals hold that the qualities of the experiences should be brought into everyday life, transforming the self in the world. This parallels the Zen Buddhism principle that there are two paths to enlightenment, one involving intense spiritual experiences and the other a gradual growth of spiritual qualities. At a simple personality level, there is ample evidence that it relaxes, reduces stress, facilitates creative processes, and often improves personal and work relationships. However, most studies have been conducted on short-term meditation practice and rarely touch on the possible transpersonal effects of the practice (Schwartzman, 2007).

In sum, the group theory helps to explain feminist approach and gender issues in social justice. Deception jeopardizes community support for research as suspicious subjects suspect psychologists "of being tricksters" and respond by playing the role they think. Feminist contributions to research methodology and ethics were examined in detail, with a focus on the work, the psychologist chosen for the accompanying case study. Feminists and humanists have added a new perspective to the understanding of research participants and of research ethics. Several assumptions are common to all transpersonal therapies. One basic belief is in the experiential reality of the transcendent levels of experience and the value of them for human development. Whatever the framework, transpersonal therapists assume that one goal of therapy is to facilitate growth of the self toward these higher levels of experience. In other words, the purpose of therapy is to increase conscious awareness and move toward enlightenment. Long-term mediators tend to see the inkblots as energy patterns rather than representational figures. In terms of emotional impulses, long-term meditators still retain such elements as sexual and aggressive feelings, but do not attribute much significance to them.

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