What Community Psychology Is
In this specialization we study critical community psychology, an orientation to community psychology that embraces the values of social justice, emancipatory praxis, empowerment, and inclusion of people who have been marginalized by hegemonic structures in society. It challenges epistemologies, ideologies, and worldviews—including those of mainstream psychology–to reflect on how these perpetuate conditions of injustice and oppression. Critical community psychologists work with communities to legitimize popular knowledge, generate new, inclusive knowledge, develop innovative paradigms, and envision radical transformative praxis. In authentic collaboration with local people and the places they inhabit, critical community psychologists co-construct knowledge, imagine new possibilities, and work to implement and evaluate such possibilities to promote social change and individual and community well-being. Critical community psychology must address the global challenges of our time such as poverty caused by colonization and neo-colonization, war, racism, xenophobia, forced migration, unemployment, man-made environmental disasters, and corporate monoculturalism. To address these challenges, psychology must be of necessity transdisciplinary. Its practice must be based on critical reflection and action that transforms the structures and policies that reproduce inequity rather than purely ameliorative actions. Critical community psychology must address issues of environmental injustice, and help communities grapple with the effects of pollution, climate change, water and food shortage, while working together to transform actions and policies that maintain and aggravate these egregious situations.
Our communities need psychologists who can de-construct history to understand the manifest, hegemonic narratives and the more hidden and repressed narratives of the social, economic, and political context of psychological and community life. It is necessary to know how to identify ideologies, to see their psychic consequences, and to critique them. Their accompaniment is needed for individuals and communities who are burdened by experiences of collective trauma and oppression. Such depth psychologically minded eco-cultural workers can learn to facilitate dialogue, to be animators for groups seeking critical consciousness of the everyday situations they are encountering. They can map community assets, and facilitate appreciative inquiry and empowering evaluation of what is working in a group and what its gifts are. Critical community psychologists can help to co-create spaces where group or community members can listen to their dreams and aspirations, work through conflicts, and deeply inquire into their most pressing problems. By helping a community to identify and hold their vision, psychologists can help to build the kinds of inspired solidarity that are necessary to realize what we most deeply desire. Such psychologists are scholar-activists; some are gifted in liberatory arts, documentary filmmaking, community theater, or writing. They craft their roles and activity by identifying their and others’ visions, carefully working with others to understand the actions needed to move from present reality to desired dream.