Mutual-Aid Practice with Very Large Groups
Managed care, increasing caseloads, waiting lists, and so-called efficiency-based approaches to the use of time are creating very large groups today in a number of settings. What exactly constitutes a very large group? There is of course no absolute definition. The social group work literature generally conceptualizes small-group practice as working with a membership
of three to ten, with an ideal for a core group that is large enough to prevent ongoing dyad work by default if a member or two are not present (as in a core of five or six members) and yet small enough for every member’s voice to be heard on a regular basis. Although there are no set parameters, then, the very large group is loosely conceptualized for this discussion as large enough to divide into at least three or four (or even more) small working groups-so a total membership of about fifteen or more (as is often the case in residential floor meetings or multifamily groups or social-action groups). Depending on setting, group purpose, characteristics of members, and other variables, such as overall group lifeline and how well members already know one another, one group of fifteen may share many of the time-and-place issues of the very large group as described in the following discussion, of course, and another less so.