Sunday, February 6, 2011

Research Proposal on Group Therapy

Research Proposal on Group Therapy

The purpose of this research proposal is to show how implementing the Hawthorne effect can have a profound impact on adolescents in group therapy. Working with adolescents in any field can be excruciatingly difficult. Working with adolescents in drug recovery programs can prove mind numbing. For the remainder of this paper I will share my experience with such a group of individuals and how implementing The Human Relations Model (Hawthorne Effect) proved beneficial in early recovery from drugs. Adolescents, as stated above, can be difficult to work with. This is true in the world of addiction therapy also. For this reason I choose to conduct an experiment with nine individuals with the intent of helping them enter into a productive, long-term recovery program. Success would be dependent on several factors. Regular attendance in group therapy, regular attendance in AA/NA and positive feedback during group. This topic is of particular interest to me, as I am also in recovery.

As a former employee of Substance Prevention Group of Battle Creek, I was given the task of running the adolescent group which meets on Monday evenings for 3hrs of group therapy. The group consists of 9 boys ranging in age from 14-16 years of age. They all are recovering from either drugs or alcohol and have been sent by the courts or probation to attend outpatient treatment for no less then 16 weeks.


My first encounter with this group was poor at best. The first thing that became apparent was their lack of concern towards their problems. The second thing that was clearly evident was their inability to relate to someone much older then them. I found myself faced with the difficult task of gaining their respect and creating an atmosphere where they felt comfortable enough to share their struggles openly. For the next several weeks I failed miserably and was about to consider myself more of a harm then a help. Returning to my office one evening after group, I realized that what these kids lacked was motivation. How could I motivate them to take their recovery seriously? It occurred to me that by empowering them they may perform better and possibly begin to take their treatment seriously. After much consideration, I decided we would run our group much like a business and hold elections for officers. The central idea behind this process was to create an atmosphere where individuals were held accountable for their progress and to create and environment where they new they were being observed. The task presented to each new officer was defining a way to run our group like a business and produce results for all its employees. Our new officers were to report to group next week with an outline of their expectations for group members over the coming weeks and their own ideas of how best to achieve our goals, regular attendance in group, regular attendance in either AA/NA and group participation. The final caveat for the group was informing them that the program would be closely observed by the owner of the counseling firm and he would join us from time-to-time during our groups. The final decision would come from him upon his assessment as to if we were successful in our attempts.

Goals of the Research
The central idea behind this experiment was to produce the Hawthorn Effect in a group recovery setting. The hope was by doing so. The individuals in the group would become aware of their own recovery and that of others and begin to see how helping others with their problems will in effect help them.

Characteristics of the Hawthorn Effect:
In 1927 the Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Company in Chicago began a series of experiments designed to discover ways to increase worker satisfaction and worker productivity (Roethlisberger & Dickson, 1939). What they discovered in the experiment was by informing workers that they would be observed by an outsider, their productivity increased even when conditions became less favorable. “In sociological and psychological research, the results of this study have become known as the “Hawthorn Effect.” In essence, when subjects know they are participants in a study, their awareness may lead them to behave differently and substantially influence the results (Zastrow, Charles 1999).

Causes of the phenomenon
In the case of the Western Electric Company. The causes of the phenomenon were shown to be the fact that bringing people together allowed them to form into a cohesive group. It was the creation of this group dynamic that had the effect on the mindset and output of each individual group member. Prior to their introduction in the experiment, they felt as if they were merely bodies in an assembly plant and had little interaction with others in the plant. By isolating several individuals and lavishing them with attention they began to feel a sense of worth which was transferred to others in the group. The result was a profound change in cognition and behavioral patterns.

Consequences of the phenomenon
Much the same way a client leaves a clinician’s office and must now step into a world where people are not focused on his/her well being, this is the case of the individuals in this experiment. It can be said that there is only one real consequence caused by the Hawthorne Effect in this particular situation. It is possible the respondents will experience some form of return to past behavior upon completion of the experiment. For the purpose of this study the test-retest method was used prior to the start of the experiment and again upon completion in order to determine stability and reliability.

Groups or event to be studied
As stated earlier in this paper. The group consisted of nine individuals who were attending outpatient group therapy for chemical dependency. I was assigned the role of primary therapist for this group and had interaction with the group prior to the experiment and upon its completion. The experiment was conducted at Substance Prevention Group in Battle Creek and all participants were made aware that they would be involved in a study that focused on designing and implementing a business oriented program that would be directly observed by others in the group as well as the President of the company. The only piece of information the group was not informed about, was the Hawthorne Effect and the fact that this was the sole reason for the study.

Gaining Entry and Developing Rapport
The fact that the clients were already accustom to my participation in group, there was little resistance in their acceptance level of me. However, because I also am in recovery from alcohol, the level of acceptance was much higher then if I were not in recovery. What difficulties did present themselves were in the form of age and life experience. This was addressed on a daily weekly basis with the members of the group, and after several weeks of sharing my experiences with them, they considered me to be one of them. The profession of social work is committed to the enhancement of human well-being and to the alleviation of poverty and oppression. For this reason I believe they felt my genuine compassion for them and my respect for their ongoing efforts.

There was considerable effort placed in creating an atmosphere of professionalism in the group. This was accomplished by holding mock elections for officers. All members were instructed to develop strategic plans that would help every member of the group accomplish the best possible recovery program. Upon re-convening for group the following week I was surprised to find that all but one member of the group had made a list of things that would be productive to the members in their recovery programs. When they became aware that not all members were actively participating in the program, they gave him the option of joining them, or leaving the group. This came as a surprise to me for the final authority to eliminate a group member surly was not in there possession. It became clear to me rather quickly that the model I had implemented in the group was already a success.

The following week seven of the nine members had 100% attendance in our group and reported attending 1or more AA/NA meetings. This was considerably higher then any efforts made prior to the experiment. The group members reported feeling good about their recovery efforts and found it easier to do the right thing when held accountable by others. There were several situations over the next few weeks that proved beyond any doubt that the performance of the group had increased dramatically. The single greatest achievement noted during the entire experiment was the fact that 8 of 9 members remained free from all mood altering chemicals over the remainder of the program. This was a great feeling of accomplishment for the group and myself. I found myself very proud of their efforts and congratulated them at every step of the way.

When the President of the company joined us for group, the dynamics of the group changed little. They seemed to be aware of his presence even when not in group. This was reflected in their behavior and mannerism. Of particular interest was several members of the group began to change there personal hygiene and clothing appearance. There was a dramatic change reported in one individual, who shaved his beard and received a hair cut.

Group therapy is aimed at facilitating the social, behavioral, and emotional adjustment of individuals through the group process. As evidenced by the actions of the group, is obvious this experiment was a complete success.

I left Substance Prevention Group later that summer and have had no contact with the members of the group since that time. I have had several conversations with the staff members and they have indicated that 2 of the group members infect returned for additional treatment. The others are assumed to have entered into stable recovery and it is the hope of this therapist that they remain drug and alcohol free.

In closing I must comment on another aspect of the experiment that largely went un-noticed by all but me. This would be my own recovery program. During the experiment and for several weeks afterward I found my own program to be much easier and in fact seemed to have a new source of invigoration and enthusiasm that was lacking before. I determined later on that in fact I was the direct recipient of the Hawthorn Effect myself. I was acutely aware that the staff and others were looking over my shoulder to see how my group experiment worked. This seemed to have a huge impact on my own program and provided me with a new since of direction. This lasted for several weeks after the termination of the group and would serve as a good gauge as to the average length of time the group members experience a state of heightened awareness.

As for keeping records of this experiment, I kept a personal journal and spoke at length about the group activities, behavior, and treatment goal completion. The President of the company was given this information at the termination of the program and remains with him today.

To date, only one member of the group has had a direct encounter with me since the group. This individual was seen at a local shopping mall and we exchanged greetings and parted. Due to the strict confidentially laws of social workers and there clients, I was forced to largely ignore any client in public with the exception of saying hello.

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