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Sociotherapy is a therapeutic approach informed by social science and social work, sociology and psychology that involves the use of social changes to bring about therapeutic improvements for individuals or groups. Changes in patterns of social interaction, alterations to the social environment etc can be very therapeutic sensitively introduced. While more wholesale control of social environment through the setting up of therapeutic community settings can also be a powerful form of intervention.

The Society for the Furtherance of Sociotherapy says, "Sociotherapy operates through a holistic vision of mankind. That is to say that the human being is seen as a somatic, psychic, social and spiritual unity, which is unique because of his own history of growth." [1]

A multidisciplinary study, a sociotherapist or life enrichment therapist, sometimes called a clinical sociologist, is usually concurrently a member of another relevant profession: medical doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse, social worker, sociologist, activity and recreational professionals, among others. Clinical sociotherapy usually targets groups of children, youths or elderly, employed in various settings such as treatment facilities or lifecare communities like nursing homes and are directly involved in case management and care planning.

Professional definition

Still in its infancy as a social science and profession, sociotherapy is ill-defined and thus takes many forms, according to the respective definitions created by the firms and institutions that employ sociotherapists and life enrichment therapists. [2] The Society for the Furtherance of Sociotherapy defines Sociotherapy in this manner, "Sociotherapy is the methodical management of the living environment of a group of clients, directed towards reaching the treatment targets of this group—and conceived as a means of achieving the treatment targets of the individual client—within a functional unit, usually in a clinical treatment setting." [3] This definition is most accepted especially in lifecare communities like nursing homes.

Definition of sociotherapy as a social science and profession is also based on regional dicta. For example, the public health insurance system of Germany offered a uniquely German definition in order to subsidize treatment by sociotherapeutic professionals. It said that sociotherapy "designates non-medical, social, and work-related components of the care process." [2] At other times, it is defined according to the specific population targeted. A criminal justice addiction services firm offered its definition, "Sociological counseling or sociotherapy is the practice of positive social change methods or modalities for treatment of ineffective human behavior." [4] And yet there are others that share that definition but would rather not focus on "ineffective human behavior" but rather all behavior.

Credentialing professionals

In the United States, sociotherapists or life enrichment therapists are required to have at least a bachelor's degree in the social sciences and have work experience studying individuals; most are credentialed beyond this minimum requirement. In other parts of the world, especially in Europe, sociotherapists are board certified by professional bodies and hold college and university professional degrees beyond the master's degree.

Developing methods and theories

Sociotherapists are constantly involved in creating and refining theories in group and socialization dynamics. For example, a sociotherapist in a nursing home may experiment on the various methods one might employ to lure an introverted resident to activities and thus reduce the resident's risk of social isolation, which may be linked to the continued progression of that resident's dementia. In this example, the sociotherapist would also use activities like games and exercises to monitor an individual's mental health and use interaction with other residents as a tool to improve that mental health.

See also


Further reading

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  • Alonso-Fernandez, F. (1989). More about father Jofre: The golden age of Spanish psychiatry: Psicopatologia Vol 9(3) Jul-Sep 1989, 149-155.
  • Alonso-Fernandez, F. (1990). Sociotherapy in psychiatric clinics of general hospitals: Revista de Psiquiatria de la Facultad de Medicina de Barcelona Vol 17(2) Mar-Apr 1990, 53-59.
  • Andringa, B. (1991). Observation at the ward. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers.
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