Experiencing The Various Stages Of Group

Groups move through various stages of development. Many theorists have described these stages (see Fehr [2003] Chapter 7 for an overview of some of the theories). In working effectively in a group, it is useful if the group members have some idea about what to expect while in the group. Shultz (1973) has a theory of group development that will help group members to understand some of the phenomena that they will experience in a group. He bases this work on three interpersonal needs of inclusion, control, and affection.

Inclusion refers to my feelings about being important, significant or worthwhile. Control refers to my feelings of competence, including intelligence, appearance, practicality, and ability to cope with the world. Affection revolves around my feelings of being lovable, of feeling that if my personal essence is revealed in its entirety, it will be seen as a lovely thing, (p. 38)

As members of groups learn to look for the manifestations of these needs within the group, it helps them to understand their own behavior in the group and the behavior of their fellow group members. The issue of inclusion generally arises at the first stage of the group and creates the feeling that you are in or out of the group. The second stage develops when the issue of control arises. Each group member tries to establish a position in the group. Are they near the top or the bottom in the group in competence, appearance, and influence? The third stage begins when the issue of affection arises. Do members of the group feel close or distant to others in the group (Schultz, 1973)? The development of these stages is not linear and the stages may continually cycle during group sessions. However, if group members are able to recognize the need behind the behaviors in the group, the process may be expedited.

A creative technique to help group members experience some of these issues and group stages involves the use of a long rope. Jacobs (1992) stated that the reasons for using such techniques are to make concepts more concrete, to heighten awareness, to dramatize a point, to speed up the counseling process, to enhance learning because people are visual learners, to enhance learning because people learn through experience and to focus the session.

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