Group work – expansion and professionalism 1937 – 1955

Picture: inner cover of Social Work Practice by Gertrude Wilson and Gladys Ryland
infed archives

In this important (1981) piece Kenneth E. Reid explores how group work was increasingly presented as part of social work (as against informal education and recreation) and the fascinating process of delineating its boundaries.

Contents introduction · developments in social work · beginning of a professional organization · search for a definition · separation of group work and recreation · group work as part of social work · industrialization and human relations · the influence of the war on group work · group dynamics and social group work · a change of focus · groups in therapeutic settings · articulation of skills and theory · formation of the national association of social workers · notes · how to cite this piece.

[page 137] By 1937, the United States was slowly emerging from the depths of the depression. Forces leading to another European war were gathering almost unnoticed while Americans were preoccupied with their own economic problems. They placed trust in the protection of their nation’s geographic location and were psychologically committed to staying out of future European involvements. There was a growing sense of security. As the foreign situation worsened, America’s domestic economy began to improve, stimulated in part by the war and the defense demands on the nation’s industrial capacity. The isolationist philosophy came to an abrupt end with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 by the Japanese.

Unemployment, the key problem of the 1930s, faded into the background, and labor scarcity now became the problem. Industrial and agricultural production demanded all the manpower that could be spared from the armed services, and war prosperity replaced the earlier depressed economy. The additional manpower came from the normal growth of the population, and from the employment of older men, women who were previously housewives, and young people of school age who were not formerly seeking employment. Increased shifts of the population to industrial centers resulted in crowded housing conditions and disruption of previous living patterns. Together, these accumulated tensions contributed to individual, family, and community changes as well as broader societal changes.

The war also brought the importance of mental health into focus, for many men were rejected or discharged from the armed forces because of emotional problems. If more than [page 138] 1.5 million men were rejected because of neuropsychiatric difficulty, many asked, what similar problems existed in civilian life? It was evident that more services would have to be developed that allowed for working with larger numbers of people than was possible through individual psychotherapy.

When the war came to an end in 1945, the nation was faced with making the change from a war-based to a peace-based economy. The country now had to deal with the return of millions of servicemen, the need for more domestic goods, and America’s new dominant position in foreign affairs. In addition, it had to handle the guilt and fear engendered by the use of atomic weapons, and soon it would have to live with the tensions of a cold war. That changes in the social and economic patterns were taking place could be seen in the increased mobility of the population and the growing number of women in the labor force. The impact of these changes was apparent in the lack of adequate housing, the high divorce rate, and increased rates of juvenile and adult crimes.

Another significant change occurred in the 1950s when primarily middle-class groups began moving from large metropolitan areas to the suburbs. They were often replaced in the metropolitan areas by lower economic groups, most of them blacks, who were compelled to live in blighted slum areas and were left with a need for increased social services. One result was an increase in racial tensions, with a greater demand for better schools and services by the non-white population.

Developments in social work

The development of the public assistance provisions of the 1935 Social Security Act, created a great demand for personnel to administer the programs. Professionally prepared social workers were usually placed in supervisory or training positions; however, there were not enough workers to fill the thousands of vacant positions. Social workers who functioned in clinical settings as psychiatric social workers found their jobs in jeopardy because funds were reallocated to positions in public assistance [page 139] agencies. The private agencies with their meager budgets had little to offer in the way of environmental help and found it necessary to become skilled in the art of listening.

The demands for social workers for war services followed this move to public welfare agencies, and again professionally trained caseworkers tended to be placed in leadership positions to guide untrained workers in the administration of services. These workers and those they had supervised provided services in several areas: services centering around the soldier and his family, such as counseling and determining facts about dependency; services involving the broad field of postwar construction; and the continuation of day-to-day services which had become an integral part of most communities. In the last-named, the disruption of family life, increase in divorces, and increase in the number of unwed mothers provided for a more than average load for casework services.

Two major trends in the content of social casework became visible during the 1937-1955 period. The first derived its philosophy and method from the theory of personality, which was developed by Sigmund Freud and his followers, and applied the principles of “dynamic psychiatry” to the casework approach. Conscious as well as unconscious influences were regarded as determining human values and self-control. Diagnostic casework accepted personality organization as a composite of differentiated and interacting elements that reacted on each other but that were also influenced by the people in one’s environment and by the social and economic conditions in which one lived.

The second major trend was toward the “functional” approach, based on the writings of Otto Rank and centered around the assumption of an organizing force, the “will,” in human personality. Functional casework referred to its function as the “helping process” and did not use the diagnostic term treatment. In this process, the client directed himself toward a change of attitude, while the functional caseworker helped him release and redirect his energies toward self-responsibility and self-acceptance.

[page 140] In 1947, a committee of the Family Service Association, the chief standard-setting body for the field of family social work, was formed to clarify the similarities and differences between these two schools of thought. In 1950, the committee reported that “because of the nature and profundity of the differences in philosophy, purpose and method, the committee is in agreement that the two orientations could not be reconciled.” The members of the committee expressed the opinion that the experience in working together had been productive because of the greater knowledge gained about each approach. (1)

Beginning of a professional organization

The Ligonier Conference held in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in 1934 and organized by the New York Conference on Group Work drew together people of diverse backgrounds whose common interest in work with small groups provided the basis for continued association. Participants expressed the desire to form an organization made up of individuals interested in groups and committed to the enhancement of group work skills and knowledge. The Ligonier Conference appointed a committee to begin the process of planning an organization that would meet these goals. Prior to the meeting in Atlantic City one hundred letters signed by Arthur L. Swift and Joshua Lieberman and Abel J. Gregg, were sent out for the purpose of convening a meeting during the National Conference of Social Work, to plan in more detail a national organization. According to Charles Hendry, one of the early leaders, fifty persons turned up for the meeting. One point of disagreement was whether the organization should be a professional association or an association for the study of group work. Finally it was unanimously voted to create a National Association for the Study of Group Work. Later, in recognition of Canadian members, the term “American” was substituted for “National.” (2)

As the association took shape, a deliberate effort was made to enlist and involve national agency personnel in the NASGW. This was done because these individuals traveled widely and [page 141] had potential influence among the professionals in their own organizations. There was also a studied cultivation of group workers at local, state, and national conferences of social work. Members of the Central Committee of the Association accepted heavy responsibilities in speaking, leading group work institutes, and participating in or directing numerous community surveys.

The NASGW, in keeping with its purpose, published reports of local study groups and the proceedings of annual meetings. In 1938, a collection of papers written by educators and practitioners for professional meetings was drawn together into a single volume entitled New Trends in Group Work. (3) A year later, a bimonthly pamphlet called The Group in Education-Recreation Social Work began to be published. These publications reflected the wide diversity of individuals interested in group work: articles were written by educators, theologians, and recreation workers, as well as social workers.

This wide diversity brought continued confusion as to exactly what profession group work belonged. In its various aspects, group work was a therapeutic tool, a reform movement, an educational method, a small part of the recreation movement, and closely akin to the methods and values of social welfare agencies. To some people, however, it was none of these, but instead something quite new with an identity of its own. These people viewed it as a unique and highly refined skill limited to the worker functioning in small groups of people in intimate psychological interaction, with the goal of helping the group members solve common problems. Many of the early theory-builders in group work felt that it had an identity all its own and that a distinct profession could be established. Others felt it would be more advantageous to wait before making a premature or exclusive identification with one or another field of service. In 1938, Charles Hedley wrote:

It seems quite clear that we are not yet in the position to decide definitely on this question of the professional classification of informal ingroup educational recreation work. Whether we have an independent profession or a substantial segment of an existing profession remains to be determined. Just as a scientist would not want to restrict his participation to [page 142] a single scientific society, so group work educators presumably would not want to identify themselves solely with one professional organization or to isolate themselves from any professional organization which operates within the area of their social knowledge. (4)

One year later, Hugh Hartshorne, reporting as chairman of the Commission on the Objectives of Group Work of the American Association for the Study of Group Work, said, “It is probably fortunate that the notion of group work has not settled back into a new educational stereotype.” He maintained that group work had no objectives of its own but represented the increasing sensitivity of agencies to the conditions under which social skills and attitudes needed in a democracy might be expected to develop. (5)

In 1940, William Kilpatrick, in his book Group Education for a Democracy, stressed the generic aspects of group work for education:

The author takes responsibility here for stating his personal opinion assisted at points by publications of the Association, that group work is a highly new interest, whether this goes on in school classes or in recreation and other informal education. This group work is, however, not to be thought of as a separate field of work but rather as a method to be used in all kinds of educational endeavor. “Group work” in this sense is just now more or less of a movement, and as such deserves support and success. But its success will be achieved when and to the degree that effective working in groups has established itself as an essential part of any education of youth, however and wherever conducted. (6)

Kilpatrick believed that group work should be identified with the profession of education. He felt, that although it had many linkages with social work, a formalization of the relationship would stunt the growth and usage of group work.

Search for a definition

During the war years, the controversy over the nature and definition of group work continued. While some agreed with Hedley that it was too early to decide definitely where group [page 143] work belonged, others saw group work as a social movement that would strengthen democracy through citizen participation in community affairs. Still others were of the opinion that the AASGW was still “too immature as an organization and too underdeveloped in its body of knowledge to have much to offer to society.” (7)

Sidney Lindenberg, in the book Supervision in Social Group Work (1939) stated, “The concept upon which . . . group workers are now trying to build themselves to a professional status in the eyes of the public . . . is. . . to help people use a group experience positively in terms of their own development, rather than to just help them use their leisure time.” He went on to say that the main purpose is to help an individual, through a group to which he voluntarily allies himself, to strengthen worthwhile personality characteristics, to eliminate faulty ones, and broaden his horizon through new interests, better thinking and sounder action. (8)

In 1940, in a pamphlet entitled Group Work: Roots and Branches, Charles Hendry defined group work as a method and process in informal education and recreation, which made use of voluntary association in small groups; individualization related to identification with the group; interaction among members and the leader; expression and stimulation of interests, and leadership sensitive to personal and social values. (9) In the same pamphlet, Clara Kaiser referred to the immediate need to clarify the professional content of the job in order to provide a means of transfer of professional experience from one type of organization to another. (10) In another article in the same pamphlet, Coyle stressed the importance of making social action an integral part of the function of group work.

At the National Conference of Social Work in 1942, Gertrude Wilson emphasized the use of group work in effecting changes in the values of individuals and society as a whole. She believed that group work was a process through which group life was influenced by a worker who directed the process toward the accomplishment of a social goal conceived in a democratic philosophy. She defined group work as [1] developmental, as it provided for normal social growth; [2] protective or corrective,  [page 143] in that it could be offered to people without groups; and [3] instrumental in achieving of socially desirable ends. By understanding the personality of each member, the worker influenced the process within the group, and participation in the process helped members use the group for their own growth and development. (11)

Separation of group work and recreation

As group work in the mid-1940s moved closer to social work, many began to raise questions as to the relationship of group work to recreation. In the group work section meeting of the 1946 National Conference of Social Work, G. Ott Romney delivered a paper called “The Field of Recreation,” which was followed by a companion paper by Grace Coyle, “Group Work in Recreation.” Romney spoke of recreation as an end in its own right, and

as a definable, distinguishable, identifiable something [that] suffers from inaccurate and fragmentary interpretation. It is frequently confused with its dividends (as in health, education therapy, democracy, character building and physical conditioning) and with its methods (as in social group work).. . . Recreation includes everything the individual chooses to do in his own time for the gratification of the doing.. (12)

Coyle took this distinction a step further with the following statement on social group work as a method:

Group work arose out of an increasing awareness that in the recreation education activities which went on in groups there were obviously two dimensions—the stream of activity—game discussion or artistic enterprise on one hand; and, on the other, the interplay of personalities that creates the group process. To concentrate on one without recognizing and dealing with the other is like playing the piano with one hand only. Program and relationships are inextricably intertwined. The group method developed as we began to see that the understanding and the use of the human relations involved were as important as the understanding and use of various types of program. (13)

[page 143] A year later, Coyle wrote that group work could make a significant contribution to recreation’s function of providing enjoyable experiences. It could contribute by assisting individuals to develop more enjoyable human relations; it could help individuals who were unable to help themselves because of some kind of personal difficulties; and it could contribute to the significant by-products of recreation by assisting individuals to vitalize interest and improve skills. (14)

Group work as part of social work

In 1946, the alignment with social work was becoming more pronounced when the American Association for the Study of Group Work changed its name to American Association of Group Workers (AAGW). The reconstructed association, described as “an organization of professional workers,” joined with the group work section of the National Conference of Social Work to develop professional standards in group work. (15)  During the 1946 meeting of the AAGW, social workers presented a significant number of papers. Three papers stated unequivocally that group work was a social work method. Nathan Cohen asserted that he had to discuss his topic “Body of Knowledge and Skills Basic to Group Work” from the premise that group work was “an integral part of the social work family.”6

Grace Coyle, drawing attention to the question of professional “belonging,” said that group workers

must. . . it seems, be either educators or social workers. When a problem persists for so long among intelligent people, as of course we are, it is usually a proof that we are trying to solve it by a wrong set of assumptions. It is not an either-or proposition, and we shall never solve it by organizing teams and instituting a tug of war. Like all persistent problems, it has its accretions of the irrational—old loyalties and prejudices, an occasional vested interest and a considerable admixture of misinformation or once good information now out of date. (17)

According to Coyle, although the group work methodology was developed by the recreation and informal education agencies, [page 146] it was increasingly being used in social work-oriented agencies with other functions such as children’s institutions, hospitals, and churches. Arguing that group work did come within the scope of the social work profession, Coyle expressed the hope that

the emerging definition of social work may define it as involving the conscious use of social relations in performing certain community functions, such as child welfare, family welfare, or health services, recreation and informal education. Case work, group, and community organization have this common factor, that they are all based on understanding human relations. While the specific relations used in each are different, the underlying philosophy and approach are the same; a respect for personality and a belief in democracy. This we share with case workers and expert community organization people. It is for this reason that I believe group work as a method falls within the larger scope of social work as a method [sic] and as defined above. (18)

Gertrude Wilson viewed group work as a basic method of the profession of social work and not as a field, movement, or agency. Calling attention to the difficulty in delineating content for professional education when the professional identification was so uncertain, she felt a great deal had been accomplished in the past decade. She expressed hope that

by the end of another decade, group workers will have settled these basic problems, and that they will be absorbed in advanced research in knowledge and skill in practice that will make the group-work method more effective in helping individuals and groups to create a better world for all mankind. (19)

In 1949, after several years of study, an AAGW committee under the chairmanship of Grace Coyle produced a report entitled “Definition of the Function of the Group Worker.” The AAGW adopted this statement, which became the official description of the function of the professional group worker:

The group worker enables various types of groups to function in such a way that both group interaction and program activities contribute to the growth of the individual and the achievement of desirable social goals. [page 147] 

The objectives of the group worker include provision for personal growth according to individual capacity and need, the adjustment of the individual to other persons, to groups and to society, and the motivation of the individual toward the improvement of society; the recognition by the individual of his own rights, limitations and abilities, as well as his acceptance of the rights, abilities and differences of others.

Through his participation the group worker aims to effect the group process so that decisions come about as a result of knowledge and a sharing and integration of ideas, experiences and knowledge, rather than as a result of domination from within or without the group.

Through experience he aims to produce those relations with other groups and the wider community which contribute to responsible citizenship, mutual understanding between cultural, religious, economic or social groupings in the community, and a participation in the constant improvement of our society toward democratic goals.

The guiding purpose behind such leadership rests upon the common assumptions of a democratic society; namely, the opportunity for each individual to fulfill his capacities in freedom, to respect and appreciate others and to assume his social responsibility in maintaining and constantly improving our democratic society.

Underlying the practice of group work is a knowledge of individual and group behavior and of social conditions and community relations which is based on modern social sciences.

On the basis of this knowledge the group worker contributes to the group in which he works a skilled leadership which enables the members to use their capacities to the full and to create socially constructive group activities.

He is aware of both program activities and of the interplay of personalities within the group and between the group and its surrounding community.

According to the interests and needs of each, he assists them to get from the group experience the satisfactions provided by the program activities, the enjoyment and personal growth available through the social relations and the opportunity to participate as a responsible citizen.

The group worker makes conscious use of his relation to the group, his knowledge of program as a tool and his understanding of the individual and of the group process and recognizes his responsibility both to individuals and groups with whom he works and the larger social values he represents. (20) [page 148]

Although the statement was more specific about goals and purposes desired than about systematic ways by which they could be accomplished, it identified three components of method more clearly than had previous statements, specifically, [1] the interaction between group members and between workers and members; [2] the use of program as a tool; and [3] the interrelatedness of individuals and the community or larger social body in which humans and the group operate.

Caseworkers were slow to accept group work. Group workers were identified with recreation, and it was hard for many caseworkers to think of activities such as “play,” “arts arid crafts,” and “dances” as serious means of assisting people develop their personality or work on their problems. An early attempt to articulate the interrelatedness of these two methods of helping was Gertrude Wilson’s book Group Work and Case Work: Their Relationship and Practice. (21) Read by hundreds of caseworkers, it underscored the generic skills common to group work and casework. It led caseworkers to experiment with groups, and it resulted in the introduction of group services into agencies that had formerly provided help on a one-to-one basis. It also served as a reminder to group workers that a significant amount of time was spent working with individuals and that similarities far outweighed differences. (22)

Industrialization and human relations

As in previous periods, many people were concerned with the problems created by an industrial society. One of these concerned individuals, Elton Mayo (1880-1949), a Harvard professor, had an important effect on social work and group work practitioners. Influenced by Robert Parker, Clifford Shaw, and the writings of Emile Durkheim, Mayo viewed the large industrial community as the major factor in the increased rate of suicides, the high number of divorces, and the growing problem of juvenile delinquency. As countries became industrialized, he stated, the people became susceptible to unhappy and “obsessive personal preoccupation” because they lacked social function and had lost their desire to cooperate with other groups. [page 149]

Mayo’s writings on small work groups were based on his research on the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company. In this study, he concluded that work output was a function of the degree of work satisfaction, which in turn depended on the informal social pattern of the work group. By belonging to small groups and influencing the outcome of the group’s behavior, individuals functioned at a higher level. Restoration was to be the task of the industrial managers who until that time had done little more than create a sense of futility. Mayo’s confidence in the ability of this group was based on the Hawthorne studies and the positive effects of a human relations approach to workers. He assumed that managers could organize production with minimum exercise of authority and maximum attention to the individual’s work satisfaction.

Mayo maintained that the social dislocations of the time were producing a lack of opportunities for many individuals to acquire the social skills in the ordinary course of the maturing process or to find satisfactory personal relations. Unless this lack of “social skills” could be compensated for, the very survival of industrial civilization was threatened. (23)

The influence of the war on group work

The war years had a strong impact on the development of group work in the United States. The Nazis’ assumption of power in Germany highlighted the importance of citizen participation in a democratic society. Eduard C. Lindeman, in 1939, wrote:

the roots of a democratic culture do not lie in theories and conceptions, but rather in conduct, in experience and its satisfactions. If these roots do not strike deep into the “soil” of human personality, they will be easily destroyed by their external enemies, or they will wither away and die for want of nutrients and exercise. Whenever in history the people have thought and felt and lived democracy, there has been cast upon human experience a sharp luminosity. Fears were dispelled and hopes renewed and whenever, in history, tyranny and despotism have succeeded to power, human experience has been shadowed by suspicion, anger, and bitterness. (24)

[page 150] The lessons of Nazi Germany underscored the need for increased participation in community life, for strength that grows in the individual and in the group from working together, and for intelligent leadership in all population sectors and all groups. At the same time, it was recognized that group association could be extremely powerful and dangerous and should be used with caution. The Nazi experience taught group workers, who at times had thought of group activities as having a value in themselves, that these activities could be used to enslave youth as well as to help them freely participate in society. It forced them to look deeper into human movements to learn about the unique forces within each individual and not to rely solely on programs and group process. (25)

Group work was also influenced by refugees from Central European countries, such as Fritz Redl, Bruno Bettelehim, and Gisela Konopka, who brought over a tradition of psychoanalytic thinking combined with group experience. Having grown up in an authoritarian family culture, they realized the significance of voluntary group participation to individual development. Psychoanalysis had neither the dramatic nor the exclusive impact on them that it frequently had on those reared in a highly individualistic and puritan culture such as America during the 1940s. Unlike their American counterparts, who viewed analytic therapy as a panacea for solving an individual’s problems, most of the middle Europeans saw it as only one of many treatments available. In addition, their painful experiences in Nazi Germany and Austria increased their interest in human relations. (26)

In October 1940, the Committee on an Emergency Program of the AASGW prepared a report entitled Group Workers in the Present Emergency. The report grew out of a concern that democracy was under attack and was endangered by the onrushing conquest by the major totalitarian powers. It was also felt that if England were defeated, the danger of aggression against the United States would become imminent. If group workers were to have a significant function in the emergency and in building up a defense against an aggresive war, it would probably be in the area of morale, particularly civilian morale. (27) [page 151]

To many, the war forced group work to look at its methods, assumptions, and practices. Ray Johns, in a paper entitled “Practices and Applications During Wartime,” wrote that the major changes in group work were: the reemphasis on the importance of group relationships; the broadening of constituencies; the influence of group practices; the greater fusion of individual services and large-scale activity in group work; the importance of social settings; the lessened emphasis on current issues in program content; and adaptations in leadership practices.

According to Johns, the traditional group work agencies had to learn how to deal with transitory groups, a type of group unfamiliar to most group workers.

Soldiers and sailors who joined a dramatic or music group might after a few rehearsals, be transferred to another camp, or shipped overseas. Replacements oftimes replaced replacements. The proportion of club groups declined sharply. Short-time special interest groups and individual activities which could be completed in a brief time or finished elsewhere predominated in many programs. (28)

As the war progressed, large scale activities seemed to predominate in group serving agencies. Congeniality, which had long been considered essential to sound grouping, took a back seat to diversity, and short acquaintances and constant shifts of people gave many groups a diversity of membership unknown in prewar years. The war required a more extensive use of volunteers, and creative means of training needed to be developed to assist these individuals lead groups. (29)

Special services of a recreational and counseling nature for men in the armed forces were carried out through the Red Cross, through its military and naval posts, stations, camps, and hospitals. Another major project was the work in the hospitals, where recreation programs had to be adapted to the physical and emotional conditions of the patients. While this adaptation was not difficult, it underscored to Red Cross leaders that their teachers and recreation and physical education personnel did not have the essential knowledge to assist returning injured servicemen in dealing with social problems that interfered with their rehabilitation. These injured servicemen were [page 152] initially considered “normal” people who were rendered helpless, and sometimes hopeless, because of the war. The adaptation also brought into focus the use of groups as a means of helping. Many of those working with servicemen came to realize that it was helpful for the men to be able to discuss their difficulties with the social worker on the ward, where they were receiving treatment and could turn to their “buddies” for support and mutual interchange in surroundings familiar to them.

The American Red Cross employed 800 persons in 1939 and by June 1942 had increased its total staff to nearly 6,000. Of these, half were in the armed forces and 1,400 were in social work and recreation. By 1945, the number of social work positions had increased to 2,500 distributed among hospital services (medical and psychiatric social work and education), army and navy posts in the United States, and overseas club programs.

Group dynamics and social group work

Group workers were significantly influenced by Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) and his research into group dynamics and human relations. Lewin, a German psychologist known for his work in field theory, visited America on a lecture tour shortly before World War II. Once out of Germany, he accepted a visiting professorship at Harvard for a short time and, while there, met Lawrence Hall, who was teaching group work at Springfield College and who provided Lewin with his first introduction to the small group field.

Lewin’s interest in group dynamics grew, in part, from his observations in Nazi Germany, which stimulated in him a deep interest in such problems as the eventual reeducation of the Hitler Youth and the changing of anti-Semitic attitudes. His interest in the effects of the social climate on individual attitudes (29) led him to research into various forms of leadership. Lewin also studied patterns of aggressive behavior and the resolution of social conflict. During the war, he studied changing attitudes toward foods, and through trained leaders using group methods, he attempted to persuade people to increase their intake of such available but, to some, unappealing foods as brains [page 153] and kidney. While the results of these studies influenced the leadership styles and the group structure utilized in club leadership, many social work leaders objected that human emotions should not be the subject of experimentation. The very valuable results of these and later studies had less effect on the use of groups in social work than they might have had if at the time there had been more receptivity to experimental methods of inquiry. (30)

Along with several associates, Lewin established the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1944. In the summer of 1947, the year of Lewin’s death, the first National Training Laboratory in Group Development was held at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine. A central feature of the laboratory was “basic skills training,” in which an observer reported on group processes at set intervals. The skills to be achieved were intended to help an individual function in the role of “change agent.” A change agent was thought to be instrumental in facilitating communication and useful feedback among participants. He was also to be a paragon who was aware of the need for change, could diagnose the problems involved, and could plan for change, implement the plans, and evaluate the results. To become an effective change agent, an understanding of the dynamics of groups was believed necessary. (31)

While Lewin was not directly involved in the National Training Laboratory, his philosophy and the results of his research were a part of the organization. For example, the laboratory adopted the attitude that behavior and long-term beliefs could be changed when individuals could examine them closely and conclude they were unsatisfactory. Methods of changing attitudes or retaining them, based on Lewin’s theories, proved effective. The participants were provided with opportunities for discovering the negative effects of these behaviors on themselves and others. Only when the person could see himself as others perceived him would his attitudes and subsequent behavior change.

Lewin and his associates made a great contribution to the development of group theory, as it relates both to experimental groups and to real life groups pursuing long-term tasks. At the [page 154] same time, there was resistance to their contributions, partly because of the Gestalt base. (32) Another objection was that human relations training was a fad, poorly conceived and lacking in any real substance. Grace Coyle, who had spent time at Bethel, felt that in many instances training groups handled group situations very badly. She also criticized the laboratory on the basis that the leaders were beginning to believe they had discovered everything there was to know about group relations and were unaware of the inquiry and work of others. (33)

A change of focus

By World War II, group work was beginning to change its emphasis from social action and preparation of group members for social responsibility to problems of individual adjustment. In 1940, Ray Johns made the following observations:

Relating young people to social change is apparently difficult to accomplish. The close identification of agency financing with conservative community interests, combined with the problems of discovering specific enterprises in which young people can participate and which contribute toward needed social change, makes participation far less effective than Grace Coyle’s challenging Pugsley Award paper suggests may someday be possible. (34)

In one Eastern city, 538 persons, many of them active in group work programs have already been identified as revealing personality difficulties. Two functions for agencies doing group work are suggested: (1) early recognition by staff and volunteer workers of incipient personality problems and quick referral for proper social treatment through well-established social work channels; and (2) treatment as an important part of the social work program of service for some problem cases. (35)

In schools of social work, group work students were being prepared for professional practice rather than for professional responsibilities. Like casework students, they were becoming skillful in the diagnosis that the workers met in day-to-day practice, but they were not being prepared to speak with knowledge and understanding of the wider social issues involved or with authority on possible courses of action and development [page 155] for society as a whole. (36)  By the 1950s, many questioned whether the “social” was being lost in social group work. At the 1952 Conference of Social Work, two speakers urged workers not to limit the practice of group work to the narrow confines of individual adjustment and interaction within the group. William Brueckner said not enough work was being done in the social change aspect of social group work. (37) Clara Kaiser stated that social purposes needed further emphasis, and she urged workers to work within the limits of the 1949 definition. (38) This same note was sounded in 1955, when Nathan Cohen said that group work practice might become too technical and lose its historical roots and its ethical commitment. He maintained that “Group work as a method or process cannot operate in a vacuum, but must be within the present social scene.” (39)  Cohen stated that group work must develop ethics and keep its democratic goals.

Groups in therapeutic settings

The military provided psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers opportunities to communicate with each other and to work together. It also forced the various professionals to devise new ways of cutting down on traditional detailed case histories, paperwork, and waiting lists. One of these ways was through group psychotherapy, which had been used before the war to treat emotionally disturbed children. William Menninger, reflecting on the social workers’ use of group psychotherapy in the armed services, said that it had good potential for the civilian scene, and he saw a role for the social worker in using it. He asserted that social workers in the army had the opportunity to participate in a program of prevention and in active treatment programs (in both, they were concerned with groups of individuals) and that the practice of group psychotherapy was far more extensive than individual psychotherapy. In many instances, the social worker had the major responsibility for conducting the group.(40)

Although many social workers expressed interest in this use, group workers in the more traditional fields of informal education and recreation felt it would only detract from group work’s [page 156] tasks of citizen action and service to normal youth. Also brought into focus was the question of whether group work with emotionally ill individuals was group therapy. Fritz Redl, calling attention to the problem of terminology between groups for educational and clinical purposes, wrote:

I find many people calling “educational value” what others would claim as group therapy,” and the other way around… . By “educational,” I mean all those cases where an existing growth trend is helped to develop without anything being “wrong” to begin with. The term “clinical” refers to all attempts at doing some sort of a “repair job.” Among these are cases where rather far-gone disturbances are attacked and elaborate processes are installed to bring about the repair. These more elaborate and noticeably complex forms of clinical work, I refer to as therapy.” (41)

By 1949, a committee of the American Association of Group Work had begun working on the relationship of group work to treatment. The committee defined therapeutic group work as “the use of the group work method in working with groups of patients in a psychiatric setting.” Like general group work, therapeutic group work focused on helping the individual move toward health and emotional adjustment. The role of the worker and the type of group, however, were different. According to the committee, the general group worker, moved from the central role as soon as possible, enabling the group to determine its own goals and leadership. The psychiatric group worker was the central figure in the group, often assuming the role of mother or father figure. The group worker in the general setting worked with formed or natural groups, while the psychiatric group worker worked with specifically formed groups.

In general group work the agency determines groupings in relation to social goals and the individual preferences. In psychiatric group work, grouping is an important factor in helping the individual. The agency [hospital or child guidance clinic] determines and controls groupings on the basis of individual therapy needs only. (42)

Both types of group work had “knowledge needed” in common. In each, it was considered important to have understanding and skill in working with individuals in groups. In addition, both [page 157] were concerned with the recognition of sickness and strength in the individual. S. R. Slavson, a group therapist in 1934 with the Jewish Board of Guardians of New York, also contributed to group work’s move toward the treatment of emotionally ill individuals. Slavson classified his work as “activity group therapy,” which he differentiated from “interview group therapy” because of its almost total absence of discussion and its emphasis on the group members’ physical and manual activity and interplay. Activity group therapy also differed from social group work in its stress on the involvement of the individual as opposed to concern with the totality of the group process. The therapist’s role was that of a neutral person who stayed in the background, allowing the acting out of hostilities in a permissive environment. (43)

Child Guidance. In 1942, when Fritz Redl was a faculty member at the School of Social Work at Wayne University in Detroit, he initiated a project in various community agencies for small groups of emotionally disturbed children who needed more specialized services than the more traditional agencies could provide. (44)  Called the Detroit Project, it provided diagnostic services through the use of groups led by trained group workers. The purpose of the project was based in part on the limitations that had been revealed in gathering diagnostic data through the use of interviews. Diagnostic study in the group avoided the artificiality and treatment consciousness usually associated with therapy. It also provided first-hand knowledge as to symptoms and the child’s behavior under stress. It was also felt that using the group for treatment and diagnostic purposes had certain limitations. According to Redl, little was actually known as to what groups were best for what children, and this lack of knowledge often resulted in negative results for both the child and the group. Some children opened up and expressed themselves more freely, while others “snapped shut like clams.” (45)

In 1938, the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh together with the Pittsburgh Child Guidance Center, began to explore the possibility of setting up a demonstration project using the group work method. After two years of discussion, a plan for [page 158] using the center for graduate field placement was finalized. By the mid-1940s, group work services were an integral part of the Child Guidance Center’s program. Gisela Konopka, using the terms group therapy and psychiatric group work interchangeably, wrote that the use of group work in a child guidance setting such as at the center would provide an opportunity for a child to test out reality in a safe environment. Hostility, for example, usually played out through symbolism in individual interviews either by talking or with play materials, was acted out in the group by real fights. In addition, children with strong sibling rivalry, having to share the worker with other members of the group, were able to work out some of their feelings in the group. (46)

With increased acceptance of the group work method as a means of working with disturbed children, other facilities and settings began to seriously consider the use of groups as a means of treatment. In 1947, the Toronto Big Brother Movement conducted a three-week camp for children whom the agency’s psychiatrist and other staff considered to be too disturbed to cope with regular camp programs. Once it was recognized that the camp experience could have therapeutic benefits, less emphasis was placed on activities and greater emphasis was placed on individual needs and attitudes. It was the thinking of the staff, in their assessment of the camp program, that a relatively permissive setting such as a camp allowed for certain behaviors to come to the surface that might be concealed in a more controlled setting. (47)

Psychiatric and General Hospitals. In 1945, the state hospital for the mentally ill in Cleveland began using a part-time group worker who was employed at a nearby settlement house. Initially, there were many questions as to why he was there and what he was to do. Typical of many group workers in the 1940s, he knew little about mental illness and hospital settings. Time had to be spent becoming acclimated to the setting and learning about hospital procedures and methods of working as a member of a team that included other  [page 159] professional disciplines. Raymond Fisher, reflecting on his experience, notes:

We had to have enough experience with patients so that we ourselves could be comfortable in our relationships with them before we could proceed further. We counted on the fact that our basic concepts in working with people would be sound and applicable in this setting too, and indeed before too long, found they were. We, of course, recognized that there would have to be adaptations in how to apply these concepts to these specialized settings to meet the particular needs of the emotionally disturbed individuals, but we were encouraged by the psychiatrists in our work and we learned as we went along. (48)

The Menninger Clinic at Topeka, Kansas, a private psychiatric hospital, began operating an outpatient club in 1948 after a group of patients requested that a club of this nature be formed. At first, a caseworker served as staff person with the group; however, in 1949, a trained social group worker was employed to assume responsibility for the outpatient club. The club was successful and in a short time became accepted by the clinic staff as an important vehicle in assisting patients to return to the community. Three years later, another social group worker was hired to develop groups inside the hospital so as to enhance the patient’s functioning in the treatment program. Eventually, a patient government was formed along with small interest groups. (49)

Field placements for graduate students interested in mental health began to be developed. One of the first was the Aspinwall Veterans Administration Hospital which served as a placement for University of Pittsburgh students in 1948. By 1949, the program had expanded, and students were working with both physically and mentally ill patients in the hospital. Groups were formed around specific problems such as epilepsy, sclerosis, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition, groups were established for geriatric patients and for those who planned to leave the hospital. The groups were engaged in a variety of activities ranging from discussions and outside speakers to games, music, crafts, and recreational trips. A concerted effort was made to integrate the program with total hospital treatment. For instance, [page 160] physicians made all the referrals, groups were organized along diagnostic lines to correspond with the administrative line structure of the hospital, and there was a high ration of concurrent casework services. (50)

The growing interest in the use of the group and group workers for treatment is evident in the articles published in professional journals and the papers presented at national and regional conferences in the 1950s. It is also indicated by the statistics of several studies on group work graduates during this period. “The figures serve to confirm the fact,” wrote Grace Coyle, “that there is a trend for group work to spread especially into group living situations where treatment is recognized as a social work function.” (51)  The study by W. L. Kindeisperger and others of the employment characteristics of the group work graduates for the years 1950, 1951, and 1952 shows that 14.9 percent of the graduates were employed in what are termed “nontraditional settings.” (52)

Charles Levy’s study of the graduates of group work programs during the years 1953 and 1954 reveals that out of a sample of seventy-nine graduates employed in group work settings, sixty two were employed in the so-called traditional settings and seventeen in “specialized settings”—that is, psychiatric hospitals and clinics, residential treatment institutions, and other agencies not primarily identified with the use of the group work method, or only recently established to render group work service to special groups such as street gangs, physically or emotionally handicapped children, and similar agencies. (53)

Another study, conducted for the Council on Social Work Education, also dealt with the characteristics and employment responsibility of graduates for the 1953-1954 period. The study discloses that thirty-one out of ninety group work graduates, or 25.6 percent, accepted positions in special settings. A further analysis of the titles and responsibilities of these thirty-one graduates divided them into two groups. One group of twentyone was deemed as practicing social group work, and the other ten had responsibilities or titles indicating functions other than social group work. (54) [page 161]

Articulation of skill and theory

The mid-1940s were marked by a relative proliferation of written work on the use of groups as a way of enhancing growth and socialization and strengthening the democratic process. Until then, the professional literature had consisted of a few books, articles in The Group, small pamphlets, agency magazines, and house organs. Unfortunately, this material was unevenly spread about and not always easily obtainable. Another problem that haunted both the writer and the reader was that of having to deal with the variety of meanings given to group work. Some writers used the term to designate a field, others a movement, and still others a method.

In 1947, Grace L. Coyle published a collection of papers that dealt with the importance of groups in a democracy. (55)  The following year she published a second book, Group Work with American Youth: A Guide to the Practice of Leadership, in which she presented practical information for youth leaders, recreation workers, social workers, and others working with groups. (56)  The worker, she reported, was a problem-solver who, through his understanding of psychology, sociology, and social psychology, was able to assist the members deal with their personal and group problems. Coyle also applied the findings of small group research to processes within the group such as structure, leadership, roles, and decision-making.

One of the earliest books on the “how” of working with groups was Social Group Work: Principles and Practices, written in 1948 by Harleigh B. Trecker who was a faculty member in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of California. (57) Trecker clearly identified group work as a method of social work along with social casework and community organization. He gave attention to such issues as the agency and community, the group, the individual and the group, the role of the worker, individual guidance, recording, and evaluation.

In the same year, Charles E. Hendry edited a collection of papers to mark a decade since the formation of the American [page 162] Association for the Study of Group Workers. (58) The papers covered a wide range of issues, including the philosophical and scientific frontiers of group work, major trends, formulation of priorities, and directions for the future. A common thread that ran through most of the articles was the sense of excitement and mission felt by the contributing writers. While they varied on how they worked with groups and even on how they defined group work, they shared the belief that group work was a special tool with which to make the world a better place to live. Only four of the twenty-five authors of the chapters had graduate degrees in social work, and their affiliations included posts with such federal departments as the Veterans Administration, the Social Security Administration, and the Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Adult Education Service, and some youth service agencies. (59)

Perhaps the book that had the greatest influence on the use of groups in social work was Social Group Work Practice by Gertrude Wilson and Gladys Ryland.(60) Known affectionately as the “green Bible,” it provided practitioners and group work faculty alike with a practical guide to working with groups. Wilson and Ryland, who had been on the faculty of the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, drew liberally from the records of students and workers carrying groups. The authors brought together knowledge from the social sciences, social work, and psychiatry. They also presented an in-depth examination of program media and their purposeful use by group workers in the service of objectives related to individual and group development and problem-solving.

In 1949, Gisela Konopka, who had been a student of Wilson and Ryland at the University of Pittsburgh, was instrumental in drawing attention to the use of the group work method in working with disturbed children. In her book Therapeutic Group Work with Children, which consisted mainly of records of group meetings, she showed how the group work method could be useful.6’ In 1954, she published a second book on the role of the group worker in institutions.62 In this book she dealt with such settings as institutions for disturbed children, unmarried mothers, handicapped children, delinquents, [page 163] the aged, and criminals. Referring to it as a sober and practical book, she noted that people in institutions had some of the greatest unmet needs and that social group workers could make a unique contribution to their treatment and to the therapeutic process of the total institution. (63)

The connection between group work and democracy was underscored in 1953 with the publication of Alan Klein’s book Society, Democracy, and the Group. (64) Klein explored in depth the importance of building the democratic process into groups, agencies, neighborhoods, and communities, and of developing citizens who know how to live and function in a democracy. Group work, Klein said, was a vehicle for teaching democratic concepts inasmuch as it provided a laboratory for individuals to learn constructive values and become educated to their roles as citizens.

Helen U. Phillips developed a functional approach to the use of groups in 1957 based on her doctoral dissertation. (65) She emphasized the need for cooperation, mutuality, and interdependency within a society. Phillips viewed social group work as a means of preparing individuals for cooperative living within a democracy. An especially valuable contribution at the time and in ensuing years was her discussion of the worker’s awareness as to his own feelings both within the group and in interaction with members outside the group. She noted that the worker had to be aware of his feelings and previous experiences so that they did not prevent him from being genuine within the group. The worker, Phillips said, had to find in himself a balance between spontaneity and discipline, and freedom and control.

Formation of the National Association of Social Workers

The first regular association of individuals in a national organization concerned with welfare institutions and social problems was the National Conference on Social Welfare (NCSW) founded in 1874. The primary purpose of the conference was communication among people committed to a more humanitarian and [page 164] effective administration of social programs concerned with poverty, social degradation, and crime. After World War I, as paid professionals began to outnumber volunteers in agencies, a number of special interest groups formed. The first was the National Social Workers Exchange founded in 1917, which served as the nucleus around which the American Association of Social Workers was formed in 1921. In 1918 the American Association of Hospital Social Workers (later to become the American Association of Medical Social Workers in 1934) came into existence. The American Association of Visiting Teachers, which formed in 1919, became the National Association of School Social Workers in 1945. These groups were followed by the American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers in 1926, the American Association for the Study of Group Work in 1936 (in 1946 called the American Association of Group Workers), the Association for the Study of Community Organization in 1946, and the Social Work Research Group in 1949.

After World War II there was a growing effort to shift attention from the specializations that had divided the social work field to the identification of a common core that would bring unity. To this end, a committee on inter-association structure called the Temporary Inter-Association Council of Social Work (TIAC), was organized in 1949 to develop a plan for promoting closer cooperative relationships among the social work professional membership associations. The council studied the various objectives, programs, and procedures of the different associations in addition to areas of cooperation. Their deliberations caused them to realize that they had a great deal in common and that there was a base for a single professional association.

In spite of the apparent advantages of being directly related to the profession of social work, not all group workers favored the merger. To some, it meant selling out on group work’s original task of working with normal individuals so as to help them develop to the fullest extent possible. To others, it meant joining a profession that had little interest in social reform or in helping communities take responsibility for their own development through community action. (66) In 1952, however, the American Association of Group Workers voted overwhelmingly [page 165] to participate in the program to combine the social work professional organizations into one social work organization. The move was a final step in social work identification, which resulted in the formation of the National Association of Social Workers in 1955.


1. A Comparison of Diagnosis and Functional Casework Concepts (New York: Family Service Association of America, 1950), p. 3.

2. Charles E. Hendry, “All Past Is Prologue,” Toward Professional Standards, American Association of Group Workers. 1945-46 (New York: Association Press, 1947), p. 160.

3. Joshua Lieberman (ed.), New Trends in Group Work (New York: Association Press, 1938).

4. Charles Hedley et al, A Professional Outlook on Group Education (New York: Association Press, 1938), p. 47.

5. Hugh Hartshorne, “Objectives of Group Work,” in Group Work, 1939 (New York: Association Press, 1939), p. 39.

6. W. H. Kilpatrick, Group Education for a Democracy (New York: Association Press, 1940).

7. Grace Coyle, Group Experience and Democratic Values (New York: Woman’s Press, 1947), p. 95.

8. Sidney Lindenberg, Supervision in Social Group Work, (New York: Association Press, 1939).

9. Group Work: Roots and Branches (1940), “Social Work Today.”

10. Ibid.

11. Gertrude Wilson, “Human Needs Pertinent to Group Work Services,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1942 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1942).

12. G. Ott Romney, “The Field of Recreation,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947), pp. 195-96.

13. Grace Coyle, “Group Work in Recreation,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1947).

14. Grace Coyle, “Group Work: A Method in Recreation,” The Group 9 (April 1947): 8-11.

15. Helen Rowe, “Report of the Central Committee,” in AAGW (comp.), Toward Professional Standards, (New York: Association Press, 1947), p. 169.

16. Nathan E. Cohen, “Body of Knowledge and Skills Basic to Group Work,” in AAGW (comp.), Toward Professional Standards (New York: Association Press, 1947), p. 8. [page 166]

17. Grace Coyle, “On Becoming Professional,” in AAGW (comp.), Toward Professional Standards (New York: Association Press, 1947), p. 18.

18. Ibid., p. 19.

19. Gertrude Wilson, “Trends in Professional Education in Group Work,” in AAGW (comp.), Toward Professional Standards (New York: Association Press, 1947), p. 33.

20. American Association of Group Workers, “Definition of the Function of the Group Worker,” Mimeographed.

21. Gertrude Wilson, Group Work and Case Work: Their Relationship and Practice (New York: Family Welfare Association, 1941).

22. Gertrude Wilson, “From Practice to Theory,” in Robert Roberts and Helen Northen (eds.), Theories of Social Work with Groups (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), p. 27.

23. Elton Mayo, The Social Problems of an Industrial Civilization (Andover, Mass.: Andover Press, 1945).

24. Eduard C. Lindeman, “The Roots of Democratic Culture,” The Group (New York: NASGW, 1939).

25. Gisela Konopka, Social Group Work: A Helping Process (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963), p. 8.

26. Gisela Konopka, an outstanding leader in the field of group work, notes: For myself, if I represent at all—at least in some ways—this group of immigrants, I must say that my first encounter with social group work in 1941 was a revelation. Having just come from a society that seemed to present an inescapable gulf between the individual and the group—which insisted that the individual be sacrificed to the interests of the group—I found the concept of individualization in and through the group exhilarating. (Ibid., p. 9.)

27. “Group Work in the Present Emergency,” Committee on an Emergency Program, AASGW, October 1940.

28. Ray Johns, “Practices and Applications During Wartime,” in Charles E. Hendry (ed.) A Decade of Group Work (New York: Association Press, 1948), p. 116.

29. Ibid., p. 119.

30. Margaret Hartford, Groups in Social Work (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), p. 15.

31. Miriam R. Ephraim, “Introduction,” The Group 10, No. 2 (January 1948): 3. See also Leland P. Bradford, “Human Relations Training at the First National Training Laboratory in Group Development,” The Group 10, No. 2 (January 1948): 4.

32. Hartford, Groups in Social Work, p. 14.

33. Based on correspondence between Grace L. Coyle and Alfred Sheffield, September 11, 1952. [page 167]

34. Ray Johns, “An Examination of Group Work’s Practices,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1940 (New York: Columbia University Press), p. 560.

35. Ibid., p. 557.

36. Nathan E. Cohen, Social Work in the American Tradition (New York: Dryden Press, 1958), p. 192.

37. William Brueckner, “Group Work Commitment to Social Responsibility,” paper presented at the National Conference of Social Work, 1952 in Chicago, Illinois.

38. Clara Kaiser, “Social Group Work Practice and Social Responsibility,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1952 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952), p. 161.

39. Nathan E. Cohen, “Implications of the Present Scene for Social Group Work Practice,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1955 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), p. 103.

40. William C. Menninger, “Psychiatric Social Work in the Army and Its Implications for Civilian Social Work,” Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work, 1945 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1945), p. 13.

41. Fritz Red!, “Diagnostic Group Work,” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 14 (January 1944): 53-67.

42. Gisela Konopka, “Similarities and Differences Between Group Work and Group Therapy,” Report of the Group Therapy Committee, AAGW (Mimeographed) ST-451-8.

43. S. R. Slavson, Introduction to Group Therapy (New York: Commonwealth Fund, 1943).

44. The Detroit Project was a joint enterprise of the Wayne University School of Social Work, the Consultation Bureau, and the Jewish Social Service Bureau. See Fritz Redl and David Wineman, The Aggressive Child, (Glencoe, Ill.: Free Press, 1957), p. 29.

45. Ibid., p. 66.

46. Gisela Konopka, “Therapy Through Group Work,” in AAGW (comp.), Toward Professional Standards (New York: Association Press, 1947), p. 140.

47. Gordon J. Aldridge, “Program in a Camp for Emotionally Disturbed Boys,” The Group 16, No. 2 (December 1953): 13.

48. Raymond Fisher, “Contributions of Group Work in Psychiatric Hospitals,” The Group 12, No. 1 (November 1949): 3.

49. Based on personal correspondence between Minnie M. Harlow (Chief Group Worker, the Menninger Foundation, Topeka, Kansas) and the author, January 30, 1974. According to Harlow, Drs. Karl and William Menninger became interested in the use of groups in psychiatric settings through their acquaintance with Gertrude Wilson and Gladys Ryland, who had a group of students at the Winter VA Hospital in Topeka during the summers of 1947 and 1948. [page 168]

50. Claire R. Lustman, “Group Work Within a Medical Setting.” Paper presented at the National Conference of Social Work, Atlantic City, N.J., May 1950.

51. Grace Coyle, “Social Group Work,” Social Work Yearbook, 1954, (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1954), Vol. 12, p. 483.

52. Ibid., p. 484.

53. Charles S. Levy, “From Education to Practice in Social Group Work,” Journal of Jewish Communal Service (Winter 1958): 175.

54. Gladys Ryland, Employment Responsibilities of Social Group Work Graduates (New York: Council on Social Work Education, 1958), p. 4.

55. Grace L. Coyle, Group Experience and Democratic Values (New York: Woman’s Press, 1947).

56. Grace L. Coyle, Group Work with American Youth: A Guide to the Practice of Leadership (New York: Harper Brothers, 1948).

57. Harleigh B. Trecker, Social Group Work: Principles and Practices (New York: Woman’s Press, 1948).

58. Charles E. Hendry (ed.), A Decade of Group Work (New York: Association Press, 1948).

59. Gertrude Wilson, “From Practice to Theory: A Personalized History,” Theories of Social Work with Groups, Robert W. Roberts and Helen Northen (eds.), (New York: Columbia University Press, 1975), p. 36.

60. Gertrude Wilson and Gladys Ryland, Social Group Work Practice (New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1949).

61. Gisela Konopka, Therapeutic Group Work with Children (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1949).

62. Gisela Konopka, Group Work in the Institution: A Modern Challenge (New York: Association Press, 1954).

63. Ibid., p. 286.

64. Alan Klein, Society, Democracy and the Group (New York: Woman’s Press, 1953).

65. Helen U. Phillips, Essentials of Social Group Work Skill (New York: Association Press, 1957).

66. For a summary of the struggle of social group work to find a definition, see Margaret Hartford, “Social Group Work 1930 to 1960: The Search for a Definition,” in Margaret E. Hartford (ed.), Working Papers Toward a Frame of Reference for Social Group Work—1959-1963 (New York: NASW, 1964).

How to cite this piece:  Reid, K. E. (1981) ‘Expansion and professionalism, 1937-1955’ in From Character Building to Social Treatment.  The history of the use of groups in social work, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. Available in the informal education archives:

This piece has been reproduced here with the kind permission of the writer

© Kenneth E. Reid 1981

First placed in the archives: January 2004