chapter  12
16 Pages

Reflecting Extremes of Human Experience in the Group: Work with Chemically Addicted Chronic Paranoid Schizophrenic Clients

The inscription on the lintel of the Hell-Gate of Dante’s Inferno reads, “Whose threshold is denied to none,” and in the ninth canto the poet writes: “Through the great ward we entered unopposed/ And I being all agog to learn what state/ Of things these huge defensive works enclosed/ Gazed round, the moment I had passed the gate,/ And saw a plain, stretched spacious on both sides,/ Filled with ill woes and torments desolate” (Alighieri, 1949, p. 126). Many might describe chronic paranoid chemically addicted schizophrenic clients as having lives “filled with ill woes and torments desolate.” As I crossed the agency threshold to begin my social work internship, I saw a whole range of people whose lives had been changed forever by schizophrenia, and I wondered how a neophyte social work group worker might be useful in such a setting. Using course work as a “blueprint,” I found that social work with groups took on a powerful vitality and excitement. Archetypes of group dynamics unfolded, and the unique resources, powers, and initiatives of group members were discovered or rediscovered. As clients risked sharing their thoughts in the group setting, I came to see beyond the client and marveled at the psychic alchemy with which they made meaning out of chaos (Wood and Middleman, 1991).