Issue 08 – November 2008 Author: Bob Diamond (Robert.email@example.com)
- Community psychology primarily emphasises social influences on well-being and distress
- It advocates values such as respect, equality and justice
- It promotes preventative work that addresses racism, sexism and all forms of discrimination
Implications for practice
- Explanations for distress should primarily focus on social, historical and material contexts
- Community Psychology encourages community and peer groups in addition to individual practice
- Community Psychology acknowledges and strives towards addressing issues of power within our work
Introduction1Community psychology is essentially concerned with the prevention of psychological distress. This requires the recognition of entrenched social injustices, the adverse impact of those on people’s well-being and health, and the need for organisational and social change. Community psychology considers the social context as the significant influence on both the distress and well-being experienced by each of us. Rather than understanding difficulties as problems residing within individuals, community psychology considers that distress arises from the wider historical, environmental, social and material contexts. It follows that Community Psychology looks to the broader social influences as ways of providing support and helping people. In addition to working with individuals, community psychology emphasises working collaboratively with groups and communities. Traditionally, much of our work in mental health services centres upon receiving referrals and reacting to sets of individual circumstances, whereas Community Psychology is interested whenever possible in working proactively and preventatively.
The values of Community Psychology1Unlike a specific therapeutic model, community psychology embraces a number of values. Practice derives from such values. The values of community psychology include:
- A recognition that peer support can be mutually benefiting and an effective means to change. Therefore it aims to work with communities that share common interests, in particular building alliances with marginalised groups.
- Any evaluation of our work should be based on collaborative and participative involvement of both individuals and communities, and contribute towards practical changes as well as new knowledge.
- An approach that seeks to develop people’s strengths rather than focus on concepts such as diagnoses or categorising symptoms.
- Acknowledging the importance of primary influences such as housing, income, social circumstances as well as personal histories on well-being and distress.
- Emphasising prevention rather than reaction or treatment. This may take the form of education, facilitating social support or influencing public policy.
- A commitment to devolve professional power and to work in the interests of sharing control and decision-making with individuals and communities.
- Recognition of social injustices and therefore engagement in action to address and overcome pathology within service systems and society.
SummaryCommunity psychology is based upon values of respect, dignity and equality. The values as described above ensure that the social, material and historical contexts are the primary consideration when working with people experiencing mental health difficulties.
- Orford, J. (2008). Community Psychology: Challenges, controversies and emerging consensus. Chichester: John Wiley
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- Bostock, J. (2004). Addressing poverty and exploitation: Challenges for psychology. Clinical Psychology, 38, 23-27
- Diamond, B. Parkin, G. Morris K, Betinis J, & Bettesworth, C. (2003) User Involvement: Substance or spin? Journal of Mental Health 12 (6), 613-626
- Holland, S. (1992). From social abuse to social action: A neighbourhood psychotherapy and social action project for women. In J. Ussher and P. Nicholson (eds), Gender issues in Clinical Psychology. London: Routledge
- Bostock, J. & Diamond, R.E. (2005). The value of Community Psychology: Critical Reflections from the NHS. Clinical Psychology Forum, 153, 22-25
RESOURCESOrford, J. (2008). Community Psychology: Challenges, controversies and emerging consensus. Chichester. John Wiley For further information see www.compsy.org.uk
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