Different groups require different leader qualifications. Some professionals who are highly qualified to work with college students are not qualified to lead children’s groups. For example, professionals who are trained to lead psychoeducational groups may lack either the training or the experience necessary to administer group therapy to an outpatient population. The basic question is: Who is qualified to lead this type of group with this type of population?
Competence is one of the major ethical issues in group work. Lacking adequate training or experience, some leaders hastily gather a group together without taking the time to screen members or to prepare them for a group. Many interns and even some professionals may be placed in situations in which they are expected to lead groups despite having little or no training to do so. Professional group workers know their limitations. They familiarize themselves with referral resources and do not attempt to work with clients who need special help beyond their level of competence. An ASCA (2010) guideline states “professional school counselors develop professional competencies, and maintain appropriate education, training, and supervision in group facilitation and any topics specific to the group” (A.6.e). Furthermore, responsible group workers are keenly aware of the importance of continuing their education. Even licensed and experienced professionals attend conventions and workshops, take courses, seek consultation and supervision, and get involved in special training programs from time to time.
Professional competence is not arrived at once and for all. Rather, professional growth is an ongoing developmental process for the duration of your career. The “Best Practice Guidelines” (ASGW, 2008, A.8) provide these general suggestions for increasing one’s level of competence as a group worker:
· Remain current and increase knowledge and skill competencies through activities such as continuing education, professional supervision, and participation in personal and professional development activities.
· Seek consultation and supervision to ensure effective practice regarding ethical concerns that interfere with effective functioning as a group leader.
· Seek appropriate professional assistance for personal problems or conflicts that are likely to impair professional judgment or work performance.