Community Psychology, Social Issues and Psychology


Community psychology entails the daily events which occur to people in their daily lives. It encompasses the social relationships of people and how these relationships can be exploited to ensure the wellbeing of the society. It is important to consider that mental health and social justice have shaped the definition and the practice of community psychology. Developments like Sigmund Freud’s approach of examining a person’s past rather than their present circumstances is one of the instances that has shaped psychiatry techniques employed in healing people in the society. In the treatment of mental illnesses, the discovery of the use of medications to suppress the active symptoms of patients led to the prevalence of deinstitutionalization as it was viewed that hospital costs were high. In establishing social policy and addressing social problems, it is essential that community psychology integrates ethnic and cultural factors, acknowledge contexts, and embrace empowerment. Historically, community psychology has advocated for social change and has over time focused on the weaknesses and problems of people. Efficiently using community psychology, establishing social justice and solving social problems needs to seek an understanding and improvement of the quality of life of societies, individuals, and communities.

To establish effective policies for addressing problems such as mental health problems, gender issues among other social issues in the society it is essential to understand how people in the society interact as well as their environment. One of the ways of understanding how individuals communicate in a community is by viewing their utilization of resources within the society (Kloos et al., 2012).  Social resources are found in relationships of members having shared values, beliefs, informal norms or group events. Understanding human interaction through cycling of resources establishes how individuals can react to stressful situations. Another way how interactions happen in communities is an adaptation in the sense that individuals have to adapt in different contexts as needed and also social settings adapt to wider environments. Since social systems and configurations are dynamic cyclings of resources as well as adaptation can cause individuals who were initially together to drift apart. Additionally, community psychology and addressing of social problems encounter environmental difficulties which indicate that there is a need to understand the impact of the environment in the society. In societal contexts there exist environmental stressors such as hazardous waste, air or pollution that can have psychological effects on community members. According to Kloos et al., (2012) the Three Mile Island accident involving a nuclear plant caused physiological stress to the neighboring communities. The community surrounding the nuclear plant experienced elevated levels of blood pressure had posttraumatic stress symptoms and a depressed immune system. Another factor environmental factor to consider is an environmental design which comprises of aspects such as closed workspaces, housing designs, or windows. In some of the instances, for example in schools, it has been observed that students tried to rearrange their classroom environment to fit their preference. Additionally, fewer problems of pregnancy were found in neighborhoods that had community participation and additional community services.

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Ecological structures can find use in bolstering the conditions of the environment that affect functioning.  Doing so is not easy as one needs to take account of the contextual variables expected in the process of implementation. Due to the risks involved community psychologists have devised ways whereby instead of attempting to alter the strategies that have come up with ideas of trying a different approach of alternative setting whereby they create an entirely new and separate environment (Kloos et al., 2012). The method is designed to develop resources and conditions that augment people functioning for settings where the existing options are not sufficient. Such a method can be used to explain how a particular factor affects community functioning for example in understanding gender norms such as jobs regarded as unsuitable for a particular gender, or lower pay rates. In that context, community psychologists have established awareness on the people’s experiences for people identifying themselves as transgender (Paxton, Guentzel, & Trombacco, 2006). Hence, such a framework is useful in addressing the social problem of gender using community psychology.

A separate approach to generating social change and interventions is empowerment that targets health, adaptation, natural helping systems and competence. The method is established from the perspective that majority of social problems emanate from unequal, distribution of resources as well as the access to those resources. A plan to empowerment in creating social change is attributed by establishing risks rather than categorizing factors of risks, improving wellness, and identifying environmental influences (Rappaport & Seidman, 2000). There is a distinction between the outcomes and processes of empowerment whereby the methods try to acquire control, get required resources and analytically understand a person’s social environment.  The empowerment process is useful if it assists people to enhance their skills to make them become independent decision makers and problem solvers. The empowering processes involve organization or community involvement whereby at the organizational level it entails shared decision making and leadership while at the community level it involves community resources, government, and the media. A community which is empowered initiates the efforts of bolstering the community’s response to the quality of life threats and gives opportunities for citizens to participate.  According to Rappaport and Seidman (2000), a network analysis conducted on communities and organizations indicates the support networks that are least well defined as the social service agencies and hospitals.  Consequently, there is a need for community based and organization based services to collaborate in providing services that help solve social problems such as mental health, stress or emotional difficulties.

The prevention programs used to alleviate social problems like mental difficulties, stress or gender issues have distinctions amongst their different levels and their aim should be to avert a problem before it happens. According to Moritsugu, et al., (2015) the preventive program has to be group-oriented, happen before maladjustment and be intentional such that it mainly focuses on augmenting adjustment. Literature review done on the implementation primary intervention programs of disorders of mental health for the case of adolescents and children found empirical backing for the effectiveness of primary intervention programs. The literature review done on 177 programs created to avert social and behavioral problems like the depressive response to the divorce of parents indicate a performance beyond the average of children in controls, which varies according to study (Moritsugu et al.,2015). Prevention programs can lay basis on ecological frameworks for example when addressing the issue of gender in the society which is a crucial aspect of a person’s identity and has an influence in defining and solving social problems. Another factor that should be considered when establishing and implementing prevention programs and interventions for mental health is social class.  Social class finds use in influencing interpersonal relationships, living environment, well-being or even socialization (Kloos, Hill &Thomas, 2012). Since the social class definition is based on material assets or certain income people can be implicitly or excluded in the society. 

A sense of wellness can be created in the society if the people and their environment are well matched which is possible through the use of social support systems. According to Moritsugu, et al., (2015), as social psychologists utilize the attribution theory to infer the cause of someone’s behavior. Many people cite things such as mental illness, substance use or domestic violence as the causes of people becoming homeless (Kloos et al., 2012). Cases of homelessness depict that other people blaming others for being homeless is a form of self-defense. According to research conducted by Shin who is an established community psychologist, the practical reasoning for homelessness is twofold-it is environmental and personal. From one perspective, a person could have been homelessness due to their low income and consequently poverty can be used to explain their homelessness (Moritsugu et al., 2015). On the other hand, homelessness could be a result of lacking social support from the family and friends of those who are homeless. Consequently, social support like community leaders and psychologists ought to know that temporary solutions like soup kitchens do not adequately address the problem of the homeless.  Besides, the families and children of those who are homeless experience stress and low self-esteem among the children can result in lower grades at school.

Community psychology has been an excellent tool for addressing societal problems however there is a need that it is combined with other disciplines to solve problems such as threats to a community. It is evident that studying the interactions and environments of individuals within a population is essential for community psychologists to understand the best approach to use in addressing societal issues like mental health or gender issues. Additionally, there is a need for support groups to establish long-term solutions that will address the problems of societies. Community psychology has grown, but there are still some aspects inherent in it that need further scrutiny.

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  1. Kloos, B., Hill, J., Thomas, E., Wandersman, A., & Elias, M. J. (2012). Community psychology: Linking individuals and communities. Cengage Learning.
  2. Moritsugu, J., Vera, E., Wong, F. Y., & Duffy, K. G. (2015). Community psychology. Psychology Press.
  3. Paxton, K. C., Guentzel, H., & Trombacco, K. (2006). Lessons learned in developing a research partnership with the transgender community. American journal of community psychology, 37(3-4), 237-246.
  4. Rappaport, J., & Seidman, E. (Eds.). (2000). Handbook of community psychology. Springer Science & Business Media. 
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