There are many fine books on group counseling, a few of which are listed in the books for extra reading. One excellent text is 12 Steps to Wholeness: Study Guide by Stan DeKoven. In the chapter on running groups, a further description and some discussion of the steps in Dr. DeKoven's book will be presented. The concept of group counseling is not a new one. The earliest example can be found in the New Testament in the book of Acts (Acts 2) where the first Christians usually met in small groups at someone's home. It has only been during the past decade or two that some of the modern day churches are beginning to see the need for such small groups, usually called home fellowship groups or cell groups.
Simply stated, group dynamics is the study of group behavior with special reference to the types of interactions that happen between and among persons in small groups involved in business and social activities. The beginning of the study of group dynamics in the psychological setting was first introduced in the U.S. by the social psychologist Kurt Lewin.
The roots of group psychotherapy are undoubtedly in the science of sociology, or more correctly social psychology. Sociology concerns itself with the interaction of groups of people, such as tribal groups, political groups, even large segments of a population as was the case in Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II.
Social Psychology is that branch of psychology that is concerned with the scientific study of the behavior of individuals as influenced, directly or indirectly, by social stimuli. Social psychologists are interested in the thinking, emotions, desires, and judgment of individuals, as well as their overt behavior. The condition of an individual’s inner state is inferred from some form of observable behavior. The scripture says,
- "O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Matt. 12:34 (KJV).
Yet, another verse implies that as a man thinks in his heart, so will he behave (Proverbs 23:7)
Social psychology has its earliest beginnings in man's intellectual pursuits into understanding his own relations with the rest of society. The early roots were to be found in the earlier studies and reasonings of the social philosophers such as Aristotle, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and others throughout history. It is the application of scientific methods to the studies that brought about social psychology.
Primarily, social psychology is concerned with the way man interacts in groups and how that interaction is responsible for the formation of good social behavior or unacceptable social behavior. A social group can be anything from a small family to a large political party, or an entire nationality. Every group is made up of different kinds of people. The group is, however, more that just a group of people. There is a social-psychological dynamic that is in operation in even the smallest group that is, as the Gestaltist would say, "more than the sum total of each of the members of that group”.
Long before the appearance of these philosophers, the Bible produced many insights into the relationships of men to other men. Indeed, it is those relationships that make up the course of man's existence on earth. Although God created man to have a relationship with Himself, the journey that man must make toward that relationship with God is affected to a great extent by his relationships with other men also on that journey. Men that cannot live in harmony with their fellow men will never be able to find their way into relationship with God. The Word of God says,
- "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" 1 John 4:20 (KJV).