Community psychology: what it is and how it transforms societies

Psychology is such a diverse and ancient discipline that has helped us generate many ways of understanding both our individual behavior and our interpersonal relationships.

One of the branches of psychology which is particularly oriented towards the production of social changes and transformations from the point of view of the actors themselves is community psychology. In this article we will explain what it is, where it comes from, what are the main objectives and scope of this branch of psychology.

    What is community psychology?

    Community psychology, or community social psychology, is a theory and a methodology that arises in American countries, both north, central and south, and its main objective is to produce transformations in communities seeking the strengthening and participation of social actors in their own environment.

    Where does it come from?

    It is an interdisciplinary theory because it includes an organized body of ideas and knowledge that does not come only from psychology, but from other human and social sciences in particular, such as anthropology, sociology or science. philosophy.

    It also feeds on the political activity of transformative disciplinary movements, such as antipsychiatry or community mental health, which emerged in Italy and the United States in the mid-twentieth century and made a remark or denunciation on some. limits of shapes. to do psychology.

    In the same way he has important influences on Latin American revolutionary thoughtLike the militant sociology promoted by the Colombian O. Fals Borda, or the popular education model of the Brazilian Paulo Freire.

    As a theory, community social psychology is concerned with the study of psychosocial factors, that is, elements both psychic and social specifically involved in the control and power that people exercise over us. themselves and our environments.

    This is why community psychology is closely linked to the concepts of power, self-management and empowerment, and is part of a current of critical transformation that it assumes that society is a collective construction people who compose it, in turn influenced by this construction, susceptible to criticism and change (Montero, 2012).

      From theory to practice

      In other words, community psychology is also a methodology: from its theoretical approaches, we can develop intervention strategies that encourage people to be agents of change in our own environments and agents active in the detection of our needs and the resolution of our problems.

      This is where we can see a difference, even a distancing from traditional social and clinical psychology: it is not the inspector, the technician, state, religious, political or private institutions, but the agents. social aspects of the community itself, which they recognize as the protagonists, specialists and producers of change.

      For the above, community psychology is also conceived as a developmental psychology project; a development that goes beyond the individual dimension, because its objective is not only to modify the psychology of people, but also to impact the habitat and individual-group relations to achieve qualitative changes both in this habitat and in the relationships.

      Key concepts: empowerment, community …

      Community social psychology considers that the space where a transformative relationship is needed and can be established is the one in which people develop their daily lifeIn other words, the community.

      The community being the space where social transformations can take place, it is the actors who make up this community who must manage and produce these transformations: they are the ones who experience both conflicts and agreements on a daily basis.

      But this often does not happen, but the responsibility and the capacity to generate solutions is often delegated to people or groups outside the communities, usually institutions or agents who see themselves as experts.

      What community psychology offers is that the approach of those who see themselves as experts or social institutions, although necessary at the beginning, cannot remain in the community as the only agent of change, but it is about promoting community members who strengthen self-management and promote transformation. In other words, the auditor must promote his own withdrawal from the community, insofar as it is external.

      Thus, the aim is to develop, foster and maintain the control, power, active participation and decision-making of the people who make up a community (Montero, 1982). From this approach stems the concept of empowerment, a word that was later transformed into “empowerment” because the Anglo-Saxon concept of “empowerment” was moved.

      The problem with the latter is that it literally means “empowerment”, which leads us to mistakenly think that a community psychologist is one who “has the power” and is responsible for “distributing” that power to people. to see her.

      Empowerment or strengthening? Power and participation

      In fact, the proposition of community psychology is closer to the empowerment process, where power is not a gift or a gift, but a milestone that arises from the reflection, awareness and action of people. people according to their own interests, that is, power and empowerment are collective processes.

      That means community social psychology research is participatoryAnd the development and implementation of intervention projects take into account many (psychosocial) factors that go beyond the psychology or personality of individuals.

      Some examples of things to consider are geographic location, demographics, socio-cultural characteristics, History of the community, daily activities, education, characteristics of institutions, health and disease processes, resources, problems and needs, which are detected by participatory diagnostics.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Montenegro, M., Rodríguez, A. & Pujol, J. (2014). Community social psychology in the face of changes in contemporary society: from the reification of the common to the articulation of differences. Psychoperspectives, 13 (2): 32-43.
      • Montero, M. (2012). Theory and practice of community psychology. The tension between community and society. Paid: Buenos Aires.
      • Mori, MP (2008). A methodological proposal for community intervention. Liberabit, 14 (14): 81-90.
      • Montero, M. (1984). Community psychology: origins, principles and theoretical foundations. Latin American Journal of Psychology [En línea] Accessed April 6, 2018.Available at ISSN 0120-0534.

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