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Overview

Community psychology is a field of psychology which developed in the 1960’s to promote well-being, increase empowerment and sense of community, and prevent the development of problems in communities, groups and individuals. It studies the individuals’ contexts within communities and the wider society, and the relationships of the individual to communities and society. Community psychologists seek to understand the quality of life of individuals, communities, and society. Their aim is to enhance quality of life through collaborative research and action.

Community psychology grew out of the community mental health movement, but evolved dramatically as early practitioners incorporated their understandings of political structures and other community contexts. Community psychology emphasizes principles and strategies of preventing social, emotional and behavioral problems and wellness and health promotion at the individual and community levels, borrowed from Public Health and preventive medicine, rather than a passive, “waiting-mode,” treatment-based medical model. Community psychology’s contributions to prevention-science have been substantial, including development and evaluation of the Head Start Program. The latter is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families.

Education

An example of an undergraduate curriculum in Community Psychology (CP) is taken from the University of Washington in Bothell, Washington. This list of courses offered is extensive, hence the partial list as follows:

  • History of Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Comparative Family Systems
  • Mapping Communities
  • Personality Psychology
  • Gender, Work and Family
  • The Family in U.S. Society
  • Institutions and Social Change

For the student opting to continue his/her formal education to the master’s level, his/her knowledge and skill development will be provided in areas, such as:

  • Counseling, Psychotherapy, group and family treatment
  • Personality Assessment
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Community development and social change
  • Program planning and development
  • Psychology Science and Public Policy
  • Human Diversity
  • Community Intervention and Social Change

There are graduate certificate programs offered; one such school is UMASS, Lowell, Massachusetts. UMASS has four certificates within their Master of Arts in Community Social Psychology program:

  • Behavioral Intervention in Autism (BIA)- offered fully online
  • Diversity in the Workplace (DW)
  • Family Studies (FS)
  • Domestic Violence Prevention (DVP)

Each of the above certificate programs consist of four graduate-level courses (12 credits), offered through the Psychology Department or other UMASS Lowell departments. The four courses must be completed within a five year period with a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average, and with no more than six credits below a “B” grade.

Employment

Graduates, particularly those with a master’s or doctorate in CP, are qualified for these type of professional careers:

  • Executives in the non-profit sector
  • Policy planners and program developers for local and state governments
  • Specialists in criminal justice, health care and/or mental health field
  • Educators
  • Researchers working at university or medical research centers
  • Human resource administrators

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t have a specific category for community psychologists. There is one broad occupation for psychologists whose median salary was reported as $69,280 in 2012 with a 12% growth rate expected through 2022. This computes to a growth/change of 18,700 jobs nationally.

Psychologists who work directly with patients or clients are also required to pass state licensing exams, according to the BLS. Specific requirements vary by state, but some community psychologists who fall into this category are mandated to continue education in order to renew their licenses. Even though not all states require continued education, community psychologists may find it helpful to remain current in the field of psychology in order to remain competitive in the field.