What is Community Psychology?

Daniel Liden

Community psychology is a broad field of psychological study that examines the relationships of individuals within a community, the relationships of individuals to the whole community, and the relationship between a community and society as a whole. Research in the field of community psychology often turns to several related fields, such as sociology, social psychology, public policy, and political science. The general practical aim of community-focused psychology is the overall increase in the quality of life for those living in a community. In many cases, this involves identifying and fixing issues that could lead to mental health problems in a community.

Community psychology is looking at how people interact with each other in groups.
Community psychology is looking at how people interact with each other in groups.

Clinical psychology and community-oriented mental health services are both similar to community psychology in that all attempt to locate and treat mental health problems. Community psychology also resembles various public health interests because it seeks to discover problems that exist in the community as a whole rather than problems that exist in the individual. The field actually grew, to some degree, from the realization that many mental health issues could not be understood from the specific history of the individual. Community psychology differs from public health because it focuses specifically on mental health, and it differs from fields such as social psychology and sociology because it is strongly directed toward finding and fixing problems, not just research.

Community psychology may look at how people interact with each other within social groups.
Community psychology may look at how people interact with each other within social groups.

The synthesis of theoretical and practical psychology is an extremely important part of community psychology. Compared to many other fields, it is strongly focused on quickly drawing conclusions from observations and turning those conclusions into solutions for problems that exist in a specific community. It is not uncommon for community psychologists to focus on a specific community; once they identify problems and harmful trends, it simply makes sense to set about solving them. This isn't always true in other fields of psychology, as many of the problems studied are very personal and can not be applied to groups of people with any level of success.

Community psychology examines how different communities interact with society as a whole.
Community psychology examines how different communities interact with society as a whole.

Community psychologists tend to strive toward several different goals for the communities they study and help. Empowerment, for example, is extremely important; individuals need to feel empowered to be effective members of the community and communities that were marginalized in the past need to be empowered to take a stronger place in society. Social justice is also highly important as all members of the community, as well as the community as a whole, need to be respected as members of society, deserving of all rights that come with that role. Diversity naturally stems from these; no just and empowered society should have any prejudice against different kinds of people.

Community psychology can show the reasons why people participate in local service organizations.
Community psychology can show the reasons why people participate in local service organizations.
Community psychologists might look at factors which cause people to commit crimes.
Community psychologists might look at factors which cause people to commit crimes.
Social psychologists might examine how issues like racism are dealt with in a community.
Social psychologists might examine how issues like racism are dealt with in a community.

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Discussion Comments

Qohe1et

@BioNerd

This is a stunning instance of a social phenomenon wherein a minority group is brought to have a negative community psychology in order to do well in its society. It has been the case in many societies that certain members of an oppressed minority will side with their oppressor majority groups in order to do well. When society is forcing a community to conform to its rules, often the community has no choice but to comply for the sake of survival.

BioNerd

@Qohe1et

I was recently doing a study on the American medical experiments on African American males with Syphilis. These men were exploited and made to think that they were being treated, when in fact they were being fed small doses so that they could eventually die and be studied after their death. What made this instance even more upsetting to me was the fact that many of the doctors who knowingly helped conduct the study were also African American.

Qohe1et

Sociology of minority groups is an important aspect of community psychology. Recognizing the challenges and opportunities inherent in being a singled-out class in a larger nation or social group is important to such a class and enables various problems to be recognized and addressed. If a minority is oppressed or forced to turn against itself in order to succeed, the society is bending the minority to exploit it. A study on this is the sort of thing which makes an excellent Thesis and can also be helpful to further the study and empowerment of minority upward mobility and self-perception in community psychology.

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