Ethical Challenges in Group Work: Potential Perils and Preventive Practices



  • Group work has long been recognized as one of the central modalities within social work. Group work increasingly is also being used within a global and international context. Currently, group work is the primary modality used in several areas of treatment. For example, substance abuse treatment and work with victims of oppression rely on groups in work with clients. Although group work is utilized regularly, training to effectively facilitate groups has diminished. Specific training on managing issues related to culture and the implications of globalization. This chapter initially will review the ethical and value issues that have been articulated in the literature to date. Some of the historical ethical challenges in group work include: dual relationships and informed consent; questions regarding client coercion into treatment; communication between members outside of the group; maintenance of confidentiality; competence of workers; conflicts between agency policy and needs of the group/individual members. More specific challenges are posed when considering an international context: potential imposition of values and beliefs of one culture onto another; insufficient recognition of the stresses and strains created by economic globalization; inadequate training of workers for work with traumatized clients; and limited research evaluating the effectiveness of international group work. The chapter will highlight parts of the International Federation of Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles and the International Association of Social Work with Groups Standards of practice relevant to potential challenges. Lastly, the chapter will end with suggestions for ethically sound practice in group work.
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