In this account of the purpose, practice and outcomes of groupwork with women, the author draws on her own involvement in establishing and running community based womens' groups. The book provides accounts of the structured content of group sessions and the definitions and measurements of change developed by women participants themselves. By examining the impact of group process and dynamics on self and group identity, the book accentuates the changes which take place during and after the life of a group. The book offers a convincing rationale for adopting a feminist approach with women isolated in their own communities who bear the brunt of socio-political disadvantages, but a central tenet of the book is that feminist groupwork is applicable across a range of settings in the state and private sectors. The authors also address the conflicts which can arise from working from a feminist perspective within mainstream organizational settings. Throughout, the focus is on women's perceptions and explanations of themselves and their experiences, where women's groups promote alternative potentially liberating interpretations which have profound consequences on women's lives.
The book demonstrates the distortions and inadequacies of mainstream psychological interpretations of female behaviour and highlights the ways in which these oppress and constrain women.
Feminist Groupwork was awarded a 1992 Distinguished Publication Award by the Association for Women in Psychology, USA.
`A very important and profound book, not only for feminists or groupworkers or feminist groupworkers, but for a much wider readership both within and beyond the boundaries of social work... There are other important publications on feminist groupwork practice, but none I know of which combine in such depth exploration of the lives and social conditions of women `clients' of social services departments, theoretical concepts and practical illustration of the ways in which collective women-centred groupwork can empower, enrich and change people's lives... makes crystal clear why many organizations and agency managers resist feminist groupwork based on an ethos which challenges individualism and male hierarchy; by the same token it demonstrates the importance of creative, honest and empowering feminist groupwork and what it can achieve. As a male reviewer and groupwork specialist, I have little doubt that this book will be a source of inspiration to many female workers and that it should be compulsory reading for male practitioners and managers' - British Journal of Social Work
`The book explores the purposes, practice and effectiveness of group work with women and puts it within the context of feminist organising and women's collective action. It also successfully illustrates that creative, innovative work can be undertaken in agencies even at a time of economies and changing priorities...
The practice of feminist group work produced positive, measurable outcomes in organisational and personal terms. The group became self-supporting and were able to produce models of successful group work practice which could be transferable to other women's groups and individuals. It therefore has relevance not only for people who undertake group work but for those wishing to understand and challenge institutional attitudes of racism, and sexism and class attitudes... The book is full of the women's voices and in particular the poetry of a group member is memorable and never lets the reader forget the pain and suffering of the women's lives... the book shows how feminist group work can empower women even within an environment that oppresses and constrains them. I would recommend that it should be read not only by social workers and those directly involved in group and community work but also by administrative and back-up staff who have day-to-day dealings with users of a variety of services. It is particularly helpful for people working in community settings, whether in adult education or in community development' - International Social Work
`This book describes the authors' experience of working with three women's groups. The description of the work is very clear and at each stage the philosophy and its application to the work is beautifully described... Therapists working with women, particularly those who are isolated in their own community or bearing the brunt of socio-political disadvantage, will find the ideas in this book stimulating and challenging. What I liked best was the way the feminist ideas are presented in a simple clear way that is not incompatible with classical group work and opens up the possibility of integrating many of the premises' - Counselling, The Journal of the British Association for Counselling
`essential reading for all those planning to run an all-female group - and for anyone planning to work with women in any capacity. Its relevance is wider than direct practice. As teachers, trainers or team members, for example, we should all be asking ourselves whether single-sex space within meetings and training events would produce deeper levels of communication, allowing different questions to be asked and different answers to be produced... The detailed treatment of the role of groupwork in helping women to discover their strength should win this text a place in any list of reading on what empowerment actually means and how to achieve it.
It is the extension of the feminist analysis into direct indications for practice which makes this work both fresh and important... The encompassing of the complex interactions between the grossest forms of social oppression is, for me, the book's greatest area of strength, the more so since most of the classic groupwork texts were written before issues of anti-oppressive working really rose to the fore in social work... a book to immerse oneself in, looking out along the way for the pointers and tips gleaned from actual group sessions with actual women. Oh, and men should read it too!' - Social Work Today
`raises some interesting issues, particularly about the process of personal change within the context of women's groups... facilitates the process of reflection of working with women's groups' - Clinical Psychology Forum
`A challenging book, which opens by doing battle with the current popular myth that we live in a post-feminist era... If you believe this, or if you don't, read the book if you are involved with any kind of groupwork... This book argues the need constantly to reconceptualize and examine the basis for any kind of intervention in the lives of women. It is a timely book too, in the way it examines the female role as being seen as synonymous with the family, and there is a lot of evidence to point out where that path has led in terms of not challenging the dominance of family systems theory in the explanations of child sexual abuse. The style of the book is reflective, is feminist and tells you why, and is honest and direct. It is informative and gently and simply written' - British Psychological Society Counselling Psychology Review
`presents a powerful argument for feminist-inspired groupwork in a social and community work context and it provides a detailed examination of such initiatives which should be of considerable interest to all those working in similar contexts. The book also exemplifies the difficulties of operating as a feminist in a professional welfare and educational context, in which the dominant ideologies and practices have frequently developed in direct opposition to feminism' - British Journal of Educational Psychology
`a very thought-provoking book... rewards and merits more than casual reading. Certainly, the groups must have helped many women evaluate their lives, identify their strengths and enable them to escape from the class and social strata in which they have been cast... The section on anger is quite fascinating' - Nursing Standard
`the reader gains the advantage of seeing the dynamic richness of the groups and the individual women who compose them, while at the same time learning what it takes to do these groups... The book offers a model of how feminism can be lived out in the context of a patriarchal organization, how self-reflectiveness can interact with content to produce increased options for women to author their own lives and how the development of self-identity can only be understood within a sociopolitical context' - Contemporary Psychology
`the chapters form a helpfully detailed handbook on the logistics, language, techniques and ups and downs of doing feminist group work. Numerous quotations from group members reflect their social class and education, their being caught in their own stereotypes and truncated vision and their gradual liberation to new visions and hopes about themselves and the larger world. Transformation occurs through group interaction, conflict, solutions, sharings and breakthroughs, not from indoctrination. Definitely a fresh contribution to readers interested in women's studies, group dynamics, group `therapy', the politics of knowledge and social change' - Choice
`a stimulating book... escape[s] tiresome rhetoric with an honest attempt to integrate feminist ideals with traditional group work.... The book is well organized and includes a thorough grounding in feminist theory and sufficient background in group work. An especially thorough coverage of individual identity within the group is followed by a useful discussion of the integration of the individual into the group and community.... I was impressed with the clear picture the authors draw of the process of feminist group work' - Affilia
`ideology is tempered with pragmatism, as the authors take on difficult issues such as the strain between professional and feminist values. Seasoned workers struggling with these dilemmas will find validation in this book, while those beginning to work with women's groups will find much practical help with tasks such as group preparation and program planning. Readers will find that the chapter introduction and summaries make this book quite straightforward... the book will be of use to many workers practicing with women's groups. However, it will be especially helpful to feminists working with white women towards personal empowerment' - Social Work with Groups