How do Self Detective groups work?

Being part of a group can be an amazing experience and many people find huge positives in doing groupwork. Yet before you get to the goods bits, you often need to go through a few awkward bits. These tend to happen at the beginning of the very first session. This is the moment when you don’t quite know what to expect, when your fears can get the better of you, and when you might start to doubt if you have made the right decision in coming.

For most people, these moments pass by once the group gets down to business, or it passes once you realise that everyone is likely to be going through what you are going through – including the facilitators.

It might be useful to know that there are certain common principles to working in groups, and Self Detective uses a recognised framework that was created in 1965 by Bruce Tuckman. This model is often referred to as:

Forming. Storming. Norming. Performing. Adjourning.

(1) Forming. When a group first starts, there are certain things that need to happen to allow the participants to move to the next stage. Everyone needs to know what the expectations (or tasks) of the group are and what they are supposed to do. Everyone needs to be able to check out everyone else in the group and to size up whether or not they think these people can be trusted to work alongside.

This is where ground rules can be important and where a good facilitator will be able to explain how everything works and allow participants to ask questions and feel equally valued in the room, before moving on to the next stage.

(2) Storming. At this point there is still some resistance to being part of a group, although participants are starting to become more confident and are using their voice to communicate: expressing their differences, their opinions and their feelings. Generally, there is less anxiety as the work gets underway and people are starting to suss out how to work together.

(3) Norming. At this point participants sense they are now part of a team. They can ignore differences and become more accepting of one another. Decisions get made by negotiation and consensus agreement, and any problems get solved.

(4). Performing. Everyone is now engaged in shared tasks. Everyone is working together collaboratively. Everyone is getting something out of the group. There is openness, support and trust. People now care about each other and want to help themselves and each other as much as they can.

(5) Adjourning. This is the point at which the participants recognise that the group is coming to an end. Good facilitation will allow the participants a chance to celebrate their achievements, reflect on their experiences of the group, say goodbye to the group and discuss where they go from here.

The role of the facilitator is primarily:

  • to meet the needs of the group
  • to make everyone feel welcome
  • to create a warm, relaxed environment
  • to make everyone aware that they are not alone with their issues
  • to give hope and encouragement to everyone
  • to join in and be part of the group
  • to provide useful information that participants can engage in
  • to share responsibility for the group with each and every participant
  • to encourage people to reap the benefits of giving their story/input/opinion to the wider group
  • to encourage people to respond to what others have said in a caring and nurturing way
  • to allow participants to experiment and explore their social skills away from familiar family and friend set-ups

Next: Breakdown of a Self Detective course