188.8.131.52 In-depth interviews as a basis for empathetic interpretation Similar to the identification of subjects' meanings (Section 184.108.40.206), in-depth interviews are used to get a closer, more empathetic view of how a group understands or perceives itself in the world.
Ursula Sharma and Paula Black (2001) conducted a very small-scale exploratory project on beauty therapists, a group that had been little studied by sociologists. They aimed to investigate the way in which beauty therapists themselves saw their role. The approach was very much about developing an empathetic understanding of the beauty therapeutic occupation in the context of professionalisation of alternative therapies. Sharma and Black undertook the research in conjunction with the beauty therapy department of a local college and conducted 15 interviews eight with members of staff and seven with other experienced therapists and salon owners (mainly members of the college advisory board). In addition they volunteered to be guinea pigs for student therapists and also visited some salons as clients.
This study sought perceptions of therapists who, although bemoaning the poor pay and lack of recognition of their occupation, indicated enjoyment of their work and emphasised the emotional labour involved, not least the considerable interpersonal skills. Sharma and Black (2001, p. 915) argued, however, that 'the explicit claim to emotional work is as likely to compromise as to strengthen their claims to a 'serious professional status'.