Ten Common Worker-Based Obstacles to Mutual Aid, Their Impact, and Their Antidotes
Here are a number of worker-based obstacles to mutual-aid practice, along with a description of their impact on a group’s ability to become a member-strength system and one or more
antidotes through which the worker can either avoid or “undo” the obstacle. As “workerbased obstacles,” these impediments to mutual aid are beyond those noted by Shulman (2011), who identifies potential obstacles when attempting to engage people into group service (see Chapter 2). The obstacles identified here, labeled as “worker based,” reflect obstacles generally brought about by the practitioner rather than the other participants, either through ignorance about group work, fear of group work (often based on ignorance), or bad practice, which means practice that is uninformed or unguided by group-specific knowledge or skill. There is no doubt that practice begins with the mindset of the workerhis or her general philosophy about life and human nature, the theoretical foundation to his or her professional role, and other personal and professional characteristics that shape his or her approach to working with people in general and to work with groups, more specifically. The group worker sets the stage with an appreciation of needs that drive conceptualizations of purpose, sets the pace for work by valuing certain norms and devaluing others, and acts as a role model for new group members or a more mature group that experiences a new “first time.” If the worker understands the concept and has skill at catalyzing the dynamics, then any group has the potential to realize mutual aid in some way. If the worker either does not understand the concept or understands it in theory but is unskilled at helping a group system to actualize it, then members have little chance of participating in a peer-based, strength-centered group process. It is necessarily the case, therefore, that the biggest or primary potential obstacle to a group’s capacity to develop into a mutual-aid system is the worker him/herself!