Community psychology aims to solve global mental and physical health crises by focusing on prevention and underlying social, political, and economic forces. Career opportunities in applied psychology are increasingly available, and working as a community psychologist can make a lasting difference. No matter which career in community psychology you choose, this field of study will give you the tools necessary to make a positive impact on the world. The following are some of the most powerful ways becoming a community psychologist can enable you to create healthy and happy communities.
Empower Community Members
If you are looking to pursue a career in applied sciences that will positively affect the world around you, community psychology is the job for you. One of the most important roles of a community psychologist or educational psychologist is to find solutions to problems that are common among specific communities. By taking on jobs in shelters, substance abuse centers and other people-based organizations, community psychologists work to improve the lives of some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens. Rather than solely focusing on individual behaviors, a community psychologist and clinical psychologist works to understand the many socioeconomic factors that influence and create harmful epidemics in communities. As a result, community members are given access to the resources needed for improving their lives and making positive changes.
Promote Public Health
In recent years, public health professionals have become aware of the intersection between social behavior and community wellness. It is clear that issues of safety and disease prevention require partnership with social scientists on issues such as understanding the harmful effects of bullying, preventing obesity and promoting safe sex. One of the ways community psychologists promote public health is by addressing the social contexts and societal surrounding violent behavior. Community psychology has also made significant strides in HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) encourages graduate programs to train students on issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. As a result, community psychologists have led successful campaigns in their psychologist communities and psychologist schools to teach safe sex, spread awareness and improve the lives of those infected with HIV.
Prevent Substance Abuse
The analytical skills accompanying the field of psychology make behavioral sciences and substance abuse prevention a powerful and effective combination. Community psychology goes a step beyond by analyzing not only the pattern of substance abuse itself, but also examining the social constructs that create and perpetuate addiction. Community psychologists frequently pursue careers as social workers, drug and alcohol counselors, and treatment therapists. Community psychology combines the scientific understanding of human behavior with empathy, giving psychologists the framework to empower struggling addicts. According to Psychology Today, one of the most important psychological discoveries in the study of addiction is the importance of compassion. Through researching and understanding social influences surrounding addiction, community psychologists can approach substance abuse treatment with the appropriate level understanding and compassion. In turn, those suffering from addiction frequently learn to have compassion for themselves, creating an internal dialogue conducive to change.
Advance Social Justice
Those who follow a career in psychology are often motivated by strong ethical principles and a desire for creating social change. Because community psychology focuses specifically on the problems of disenfranchised and disadvantaged communities, those who pursue it often devote their professional lives to advancing social justice. By working to understand and challenge the existing power structures and societal norms, community psychologists address social injustice’s root causes. For example, Julia Perilla is a community psychologist who has used her expertise to work toward understanding and preventing the continued problem of domestic violence. Community psychology has given her a framework of cultural and societal awareness that is highly beneficial to addressing social problems such as domestic abuse.
Create Lasting Change
Through the focused study of community empowerment, public health, substance abuse prevention and social justice, community psychology creates positive changes that make a lasting impact on the world. The Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice published a study that revealed professionals with degrees in community psychology have a wide range of world-changing career opportunities available to them, including vocations in community advocacy, education and mental health. Whatever job community psychology leads you to, you can be confident the skills you acquire along the way will give you the tools to create lasting change.
About the Author:Sheila Anderson is a contributing writer who has worked as a community psychologist for 15 years.