chapter  11
24 Pages

Making Curriculum Purposeful in Group Work with Persons with Severe Mental Illnesses

A growing trend toward curriculum-driven groups is cause for concern. The prevalence of such groups seems to be increasing. These are not groups that have a suggested curriculum. Rather, they are truly curriculum-driven with preset content that is to be applied without flexibility and according to a predetermined timetable. They are called groups, but they certainly are not social work groups. Perhaps they might be called classes, but actually they are not good classes either. (Kurland and Malekoff, 1998)

Papell and Rothman (1980) recognized the need for group workers to sensitively utilize what they referred to as the “mainstream model” of social work knowledge and skills to address the growing tendency to rely on rigidly structured curriculum. They wrote:

For the social group worker with a clear mainstream model identification, the mechanical use of such programmed resources, now available from clearinghouses and developers, is unlikely; but it is necessary for the social work practitioner to re-examine and reaffirm social work’s basic professional model so that such convenient resources will be used in the context of the profession’s purposes, knowledge, and skills. . . . The utility of the structured approach can best be realized when the social group worker places it within the flexible framework of the mainstream model. (p. 20)



Mainstream model mutual aid principles, skills, and processes can be utilized to minimize pressures that lead to curriculum-driven practice in these agencies, which are commonly referred to as psychosocial rehabilitation agencies or programs. Currently, there are close to 500 agencies or programs that are organizational members of the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (IAPSRS), which was incorporated in 1974. There are, additionally, 1,500-2,000 agencies that offer psychosocial rehabilitation services but are not organizational members of IAPSRS. Many of the 1,400 people who have joined IAPSRS as individual members work in these nonaffiliated agencies. Most psychosocial rehabilitation programs are in the United States; the second largest number is in Canada. Psychosocial rehabilitation programs today occur in a variety of community-based settings. Many of these include clubhouses, lodges, and other stand-alone rehabilitation facilities. Others are offered as components of comprehensive community mental health agencies. Psychosocial rehabilitation services are also offered as rehabilitation components of some state hospitals and other inpatient facilities. In all of these settings, work with groups makes up a significant portion of the services.