Community psychology is a specialized area within psychology. In this focus area of psychology, a student learns how people relate to overall community members and society as a whole. The psychology student spends time learning how individuals within a community learn how to relate to one another, and become active members of the community.
Another area of concentration is discovering how to solve community issues, and how community problems and circumstances can affect the health and wellness of individuals living within the community. Community psychology incorporates many different elements of general psychology, including portions of sociology, political science and healthcare sciences. Community psychologists may carry out research on many different subjects, including researching theoretical issues, but also using research to identify community problems and solving them to help communities work better and function in more efficient ways.
Areas of Concentration
A community psychologist may focus on many different problems within a community. Here are just a few areas a community psychologist may focus on within a community.
- Discovering how to address social issues and cultural issues within minority groups.
- Implementing programs that help integrate and socialize members of the community.
- Addressing programs or work programs that have had a disparate impact on the community.
- Evaluating communities to discover ways to improve diversity.
- Addressing socioeconomic issues in the community, to help improve equality and help reduce the social impact of poverty within a community.
- Finding ways to help disconnected members of the community feel more integrated, and welcomed into the community.
- Conducting research to determine what factors contribute to inequality or segregation within communities.
- Discovering what factors may lead to behavioral problems and health problems within a community that may lead to the breakdown of a community.
Community psychology is a new and growing field. This is a very promising avenue that is expected to offer many new and exciting avenues for growth. The future is expected to offer many interdisciplinary avenues for growth. Policies are expected to grow and focus on areas including global partnerships, research, and focusing on promoting concepts that include social justice on many levels. The American Psychological Association encourages individuals that are interested in this field to pursue community psychology as it advances into the global marketplace.
Requirements to Become a Community Psychologist
Most community psychologists will first acquire a bachelor degree in psychology or a related field. The next step is gaining a master or doctorate degree in psychology. Many students will earn a degree in a related field with a specialized focus in community psychology, as not all colleges offer a specialization in community psychology. Similar programs include degrees in social psychology, developmental psychology, public health and community development.
Training often requires work experience in the field, including postdoctoral research, a residency or internship in the field. Many will include an internship or work experience working in a community of choice, or volunteer experience working in the field of community development.
Psychologists require licensure through the American Board of Professional Psychology. The Association of State and Provisional Licensing Boards offers more information about state licensing and certification.
Community psychologists have a primary focus in encouraging the well-being of people in their community. They use many different skills which include promoting theory and research to increase individual’s understanding of behavior in the community context.
Some of the important skills and qualities that a community psychologist must have include:
- Commitment to action and research. Community psychologists must constantly engage in research and opportunity for discovering new ways to promote the well-being of communities throughout the local, regional, national, and international structure.
- Diversity. Community psychologists often work in a very diverse environment. It is important to understand diversity and have a commitment to multiculturalism.
- Advocacy. Community psychologists are constantly working to help promote social policy that will enable greater knowledge sharing and help promote community principles that engender greater social justice for the people that psychologists work with in the communities they serve.
- Empathy. Community psychologists work with people from very diverse backgrounds that experience many emotions, pains, injustices, and other experiences. Having a compassionate and empathic nature will help a community psychologist succeed in this field.
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