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Why social work and sociology need psychosocial theory

Frost, Elizabeth

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Liz Frost
Associate Professor in Social Work


Sociology and social work as disciplines have, over the last decades, had an, at best, ambivalent relationship. Whereas branches of sociology, such as symbolic interactionism, have produce theory of immense use to social work, for example the concept of ‘stigma’ and work in the field of identity, others are harder to utilise and indeed can seem to be antithetical to building social work theory for practice. Both structuralist and post-structuralist paradigms have been criticised for this latter difficulty. This paper argues that the current cross-disciplinary developments integrating scholars concerned with theory, research and practices, from within sociology, psychoanalysis, psychology, social policy and social work, with the academic and practice discipline of psychosocial studies, offers a way forward. The theory, the paper suggests, from psychosocial studies, allows a re-analysis of some of the impasses in applying post-structural sociological theory to essentially modernist projects such as social work. It also bridges traditional academic/practice divides such as the role of the ‘knower’ in relation to the ‘known’ and elucidates an agenda for research practices and methodologies which harness sociological and social work ontologies.


Frost, E. (2015). Why social work and sociology need psychosocial theory. Nordic Social Work Research, 5(sup1), 85-97.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Oct 26, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jul 24, 2016
Journal Nordic Social Work Research
Print ISSN 2156-857X
Electronic ISSN 2156-8588
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Issue sup1
Pages 85-97
Keywords psychosocial, sociology, structure, theory, psychoanalysis
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Additional Information : This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Nordic Social Work Research on 24 July 2015, available online:


Fullpaper 7000edit_Why_soc_and_sw_need_the_psychosocial_ref_anon.pdf (780 Kb)

Fullpaper 7000edit_Why_soc_and_sw_need_the_psychosocial_ref_anon.docx (65 Kb)

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