Sociological Practice: Applied & Clinical Research Paper Starter

Sociological Practice: Applied & Clinical

Sociology can be defined as the scientific study of systematic relationships between human beings and the patterns of social life (Straus, 2002). Sociologists are concerned with patterns of behavior and experiences related to social arrangements. Those arrangements may be considered normal (or normative), or they may be considered outside the norm, or aberrant. Social arrangements, however, are not set in stone. They are created or shaped by social actions, social interactions, and structures (like social institutions) at different levels, such as families, communities, work groups, states, and nations. This view allows the applied or clinical sociologist to make sense out of otherwise seemingly random or senseless behaviors and to link private troubles to public issues (Mills, 1959). According to the American Sociological Association, "The applied sociologist is a research specialist who produces information that is useful in resolving problems in government, industry, and other practice settings. In contrast, clinical sociology is the application of the sociological perspective to facilitate change" (2003, p. 2). Clinical sociology is an interventionist approach and allows the sociologist to become more involved with clients. While the two types of practice are distinctly different and unique, they are also considered to be complementary.

Keywords Applied Sociology; Clinical Sociology; Interventionist Approach; Macrosociology; Mediation; Qualitative Research; Quantitative Research; Sociotherapist

Sociology

Overview

Sociology can be defined as the scientific study of systematic relationships between human beings and the patterns of social life (Straus, 2002). Sociologists are concerned with patterns of behavior and experiences related to social arrangements. Those arrangements may be considered normal (or normative), or they may be considered outside the norm, or aberrant. Social arrangements, however, are not set in stone. They are created or shaped by social actions, social interactions, and structures (like social institutions) at different levels, such as families, communities, work groups, states, and nations. This macro view allows the applied or clinical sociologist to make sense out of otherwise seemingly random or senseless behaviors and to link private troubles to public issues (Mills, 1959). According to the American Sociological Association, "The applied sociologist is a research specialist who produces information that is useful in resolving problems in government, industry, and other practice settings. In contrast, clinical sociology is the application of the sociological perspective to facilitate change" (2003, p. 2). Clinical sociology is an interventionist approach that allows the sociologist to become more involved with clients. While the two types of practice are distinctly different and unique, they are also considered to be complementary.

The Roots of Applied

The development of sociology in the United States was quite distinct from its European trajectory. While nineteenth and early twentieth century European sociology was largely, though not exclusively, built on theory and focused on understanding and generating knowledge about society and social change, sociology in the United States was more focused on using theory in conjunction with practical intervention. At the beginning of the twentieth century American sociologists engendered new and exciting ways of studying society with a view to creating social change and personal transformation. This approach to sociology has been termed both applied and clinical.

The interventionist model that underpins both clinical and applied sociology was formed largely at the University of Chicago during the late 1800s through the 1930s, as researchers sought to develop a social scientific approach to the problems of a rapidly urbanizing society (Straus, 2002). This approach was typified in the work of W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), who began very much in the practical sociological tradition and became increasingly committed to social action to combat the effects of racial discrimination of African Americans(Straus, 2002).

Williams and MacLean (2005) suggest that sociology in the United States always had a dual identity from its inception as an academic discipline. This duality created an interest in both the theoretical and the practical:

From the beginning, sociology had a dual constituency. The meliorists and those interested in more scholarly pursuits were stakeholders in discipline-building and both defined themselves as scientists. By scientifically studying social conditions they proclaimed their ability to make a difference in the world. (p. 112)

Dual identity aside, many American sociologists of the early twentieth century, particularly those associated with the University of Chicago, saw themselves as contributing directly to public life, and they strove to integrate a social scientific approach with practical applications. This is the legacy on which applied and clinical sociology are based.

While both applied and clinical sociology are interventionist, there are some differences in how they approach intervention.

Applied

While for some sociologists, participation in social action is a violation of the value neutral stance of the discipline (Rebach & Bruhn, 2001). For others, neutrality and objectivity are impossible goals that reflect a refusal to acknowledge the intersection of personal experience and public issues. Applied and clinical sociology operate at this intersection.

Steele and Price (2004) observe that applied and clinical sociology entails "Any use (often client-centered) of the sociological perspective and/or its tools in the understanding of, intervention in, and/or enhancement of human social life" (p. 154). In this definition, applied and clinical sociology take a distinct knowledge or discipline-based approaches to diagnosing and solving problems that exist in everyday social life. For sociologists in the early twentieth century, this meant understanding the impact of rapid urbanization and acting on its specific problems. Examples include:

  • Migration and settlement in Chicago, where Jane Addams founded Hull House in 1889 as a resource for immigrants;
  • Poverty in London, where Beatrice and Sidney Webb launched the Fabian Society in 1884 — a socialist society committed to gradual social reform.

Applied and clinical sociology have much in common, but they differ in their approach to research, intervention, and social change. For example, applied sociology uses a set of methodological and analytical tools to address specific social problems, such as measuring the impact of after-school programs on children's academic performance. Accordingly, contemporary applied sociology might focus on collecting data about the impact of after-school programs on disadvantaged youth's academic achievement and behaviors and use these data to improve program implementation.

Clinical sociology uses the same tools to diagnose social problems and create interventions at the individual or family level to improve human interactions (Fritz, 1993). So for instance, it might focus on the quality of relationships between program...

(The entire section is 3241 words.)