Being asked to join the editorial team of Groupwork is indeed both an honour and also a privilege. My work as a social worker has brought me at different times into a range of agencies and roles but a continuous thread throughout all of my years in social work practice, and more recently working as a social work educator, has been to witness the power of groupwork and its potential to provide people with a unique form of support as they contemplate life transitions or deal with personally painful life events. It is the strength in groups that perhaps attracts me most, that sense of shared understanding and experience which can develop between group members and the transformative power of being heard and understood by others.
In my early years as a social worker I did not always find it easy to locate others who shared an interest in groupwork. Having access to journals such as Groupwork was essential for me at different times in order to connect in with the wider world of groupwork practice. This no doubt led me to perceive groupwork as a niche interest among practitioners in the field of social work and social care – those who had encountered its usefulness became committed fans but the majority seemed to prefer other approaches in their work. In that belief, I have tried in different ways to encourage students to take an interest in gaining groupwork experience – in the hope that like me they would be converted to incorporating groupwork approaches into their future work. However, a study which I am currently involved in has changed my views entirely. I am currently involved in compiling a national census on groupwork practice by social workers in Ireland. The response has been high and the results are very encouraging. The practice of groupwork, it seems, is alive and well and actively used across different fields of practice – in mental health services, disability services and many others. A big surprise for me, and I wonder if I am alone in being surprised, is that when asked by the survey if respondents were practising groupwork currently, the field of practice with the highest affirmative response was child and family welfare services, including child protection workers. I wonder if I am alone in being surprised by that particular result? The survey data is still being crunched but I look forward to sharing more of that with you in the near future. I also look forward to hearing from practitioners and researchers regarding their work and to supporting those interested in disseminating their work to a wider audience. I am convinced that sharing our ideas and research findings is a very important way to ensure the further growth and development of groupwork as a method going forward.
I would like to thank the Editorial Committee for a very warm welcome and for the support from Whiting & Birch in making my appointment to this journal. I am finding my way with the patient support of Jennie Fleming and I would particularly like to thank her for all her help, generosity and wise advice.
Gloria Kirwan KIRWANGM@tcd.ie