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Psychology Jobs > Community Psychologist


A Community Psychologist works on understanding the 'quality of life' experienced by members of society, both as individuals and as communities, with the goal of improving that quality of life.

A key part of this is prevention of issues, rather than treating problems after they arise.

But before we go into more detail about the Community Psychologist job, let's look at the field of Community Psychology.

Community Psychology is a branch of applied psychology that deals with mental health and social welfare issues within the community setting.

In addition, community psychologists try to involve the community members in proposed solutions to those problems.


What is Community Psychology

Since it's inception in the late 19th century, Community Psychology experienced tremendous growth. By the second half of the 20th century Community Psychology eventually split away from the study of the individual psychology to the study of human society as a whole; how people and their society relate to each other, and ultimately how society can be changed to maximize the health, safety and potential of its citizens.

Community Psychologists focused their study on how human society concerns itself with public health, education, social changes, prevention of social problems, the existence of prejudice, poverty, and many other social issues. A key factor here is prevention, rather than treatments after problems arise.

This perspective was illustrated a study in the in The Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, "Community Feeling and Social Interest: Adlerian Parallels, Synergy, and Differences with the Field of Community Psychology". The authors stated that an important goal of community psychology is to prevent problems that cause later mental health issues.

In addition, this has led to broad changes in mental health care; serving mental health clients in the community rather than confining patients to institutions and recognizing the need for broader, and more easily accessible, mental health care services for war veterans.

A Brief History of Community Psychology

The concept of Community Psychology was born out of the community mental health movement of the early 1960s. This movement was aimed at treating people with mental health issues in the community, rather than confining these people to institutions. This movement grew to include the study of human interaction with society.


What is Community Psychology

Since it's inception in the late 19th century, Community Psychology experienced tremendous growth. By the second half of the 20th century Community Psychology eventually split away from the study of the individual psychology to the study of human society as a whole; how people and their society relate to each other, and ultimately how society can be changed to maximize the health, safety and potential of its citizens.

Community Psychologists focused their study on how human society concerns itself with public health, education, social changes, prevention of social problems, the existence of prejudice, poverty, and many other social issues. A key factor here is prevention, rather than treatments after problems arise.

This perspective was illustrated a study in the in The Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, "Community Feeling and Social Interest: Adlerian Parallels, Synergy, and Differences with the Field of Community Psychology". The authors stated that an important goal of community psychology is to prevent problems that cause later mental health issues.

In addition, this has led to broad changes in mental health care; serving mental health clients in the community rather than confining patients to institutions and recognizing the need for broader, and more easily accessible, mental health care services for war veterans.

A Brief History of Community Psychology

The concept of Community Psychology was born out of the community mental health movement of the early 1960s. This movement was aimed at treating people with mental health issues in the community, rather than confining these people to institutions. This movement grew to include the study of human interaction with society.


Neuropsychologist job

In 1965 a meeting between several psychologists, later called the Scampscott Conference, was held to discuss the growing divide between traditional psychology and the new field of Community Psychology. Members of this conference were later reported to have been urged to become "political activists" and "agents of social change."

In the following decades Community Psychology grew to be a guiding force behind many of many of the social and community empowerment programs that have sprouted, from the educational Head Start program the '60s to the many social justice programs that now exist.

How Do You Become a Community Psychologist?

If you're considering a career as a Community Psychologist, you'll need to plan on attaining at least a master's degree, but preferably a doctorate degree (Ph.D or Psy.D) in psychology. In addition to learning about the field of community psychology, accredited Community Psychology programs will give you a foundation in psychology as a whole, including the brain and its relationship to human function and personality, the scientific method, and methods of mental health treatment.

Like all graduate psychology degrees, community psychology degrees take 2 - 5+ years to complete. These degree programs can be supplemented with practical experience working as part of community programs, either as interns or as volunteers to gain practical experience of working with communities.

The would-be community psychologist also needs to cultivate a firm background in other academic and human service areas; social science, public health, political science and community development, just to mention a few. These closely related and mutually dependent areas of study permit the community psychologist to visualize ways to integrate psychology with social and community needs.

In short, community psychology combines theory and practice as a means of improving both individual lives and communities as a whole.

What Does a Community Psychologist Do?

Community psychologists primarily work in agency settings, whether working in community health clinics doing counseling and mental health work, or working in government or large social service agencies doing research on existing social problems, or planning and implementing grass roots social service programs. They work primarily with the marginalized and less-advantaged areas of society; those that struggle with poverty and discrimination, amongst many other social ills.

The primary purpose of a community psychologist is to strive for the well being of societies and the individuals that make up society, and (as has been mentioned), to prevent issues from arising, rather than treating them after they exit. This can mean the pursuit of empowerment, social justice, and wellness and prevention programs. These are all very broad areas of work that educate citizens to help themselves, their families and their communities to improve both their present lives and their futures.

The Future of Community Psychology

Despite the progress that has been made in Community Psychology since the mid-60s there is still much more progress to be made. American society is becoming increasingly diverse, and with the continuing economic fluctuations many groups are becoming more and more marginalized.

Community psychologists, working hand-in-hand with community members to identify and rectify problems as they arise will continue to increase our knowledge of society and improve the prosperity, health, well-being and lifestyles of society as a whole.