Community Psychology

About Community Psychology

The area of psychology which has become known as community psychology developed primarily in the United States during the 1960’s and 1970’s, although the work of certain European social scientists (e.g. Marie Jahoda) during the 1930’s and 1940’s is evidence of an older tradition of community interventions. Similarly, in Aotearoa, the antecedents of community psychology can be found in the work of certain psychologists in the first half of the twentieth century, particularly Ernest Beaglehole (1906 – 1965). Beaglehole, a friend of Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck), was a proponent of ethnopsychology (now more often referred to as cross-cultural psychology) and a strong advocate for the application of psychology to improve material and social conditions so as to prevent the development of psychological and other problems.

Broadly speaking, community psychology developed in response to the concern of many psychologists that preventing social problems and improving the quality of people’s lives requires more than simply changing the behaviour of individuals. It requires the analysis of, and intervention in, the broader social, political and physical systems affecting human behaviour. It requires confronting oppression, including colonisation, racism, sexism and classism – and addressing the disparities which result.

There have been important contributions to the conceptual development and research base of community psychology from many areas of psychology, particularly applied social psychology, environmental psychology, organisational psychology, and, more recently, critical psychology.

In addition, most community psychologists have a strong interdisciplinary emphasis and recognise the contributions from areas such as applied anthropology, applied sociology, community health, geography, and the policy sciences. A major emphasis in training and research in community psychology is clarification of values, objectives and roles appropriate for practising community psychologists, and the maintenance of an interdisciplinary perspective towards social problems and community development.

Why Study Community psychology?

Community psychology as an applied social science encourages inter-disciplinary approaches to learning, including sociology, community development, education and the policy sciences. Training involves awareness of the social and cultural positioning of the practitioner, critical perspectives on knowledge creation and the development of analytical skills in research and practice.  Experiential knowledge is valued, along with knowledge derived from empirical studies.

Informed by an understanding of the Social Determinants of Health , community psychologists develop, support and evaluate interventions that will enhance health outcomes for individuals, whānau and communities in Aotearoa.  With a focus on social justice, te Tiriti o Waitangi, and sustainability we are skilled in analysing how the complex array of policies, systems and structures in society are developed and organised and the impact they have on individuals and communities especially those who are oppressed, stigmatised or marginalised.

Community psychology is a specialty paper taught in several universities across Aotearoa. At the University of Waikato, we offer an accredited programme that leads to registration with the New Zealand Psychologists Board  in the psychologist scope of practice. The Post Graduate Diploma in the Practice of Psychology (Community) offered at Waikato is a programme of study that can be entered at the level of honours, masters or above. Students that complete a Community psychology programme will have a minimum of six years university education, be able to articulate and demonstrate a high standard of ethical practice . As part of their practice, Community Psychologists will participate in regular supervision and yearly audits of their practice as part of their registration requirements.

Community Psychologists focus on the health and wellbeing of communities

Community psychologists contribute their expertise in a number of health and social services to encourage healthy people and communities.  For example, they may be employed in the areas of research, policy, strategic planning, whānau ora, mental health, community development, and in public and population health. They value working with people across a range of sectors to initiate, develop and promote prevention and intervention strategies that improve the health outcomes for people and communities.

Community Psychologists work across sectors

Community psychologists work with health, education, justice, disability, iwi, environmental and social services providers, policy makers and funders. We offer knowledge and skills in a range of policy and evaluation research methods and approaches. We will set up and carry out policy analyses and the evaluation of programmes and initiatives across a wide range of organisations, including central and local Government, non-government and community based organisations and groups. Community psychologists employ a wide range of methodologies, the choice of method being determined by the particular context and issue being addressed. There is a focus on group, community and societal interventions which address the structural factors maintaining oppression and sub-optimal health. Community psychologists pay particular attention to process, valuing bottom-up, inclusive and collaborative ways of working.

This content is a modified version of that developed by practitioners and academic staff in cooperation with the New Zealand Psychological Society and the Institute of Community Psychology Aotearoa, August 2016.

Contact Information

Programme Administrator
Tel: +64 7 838 4032
Email: [email protected]