Of all the professions in the field of psychology, the work of a community psychologist is the most outwardly projected: they mainly study and work in the context of relations between individuals and society, taken as all those relations, situations and social organisations that people have to deal with at work, school and in public life in general.
According to community psychology, our inner well-being is closely tied to the quality of our social relations. In other words: the more the community around an individual is organised in a positive and engaging manner, the more solid and “healthy” that person’s inner life will be. This sociological approach to psychology means a community psychologist reasons and works in a progressive manner. The creation of a fair and constructive community is seen as a means of promoting psychological well-being. From an educational viewpoint, community psychologists are expected to have expertise in sociology, anthropology and the organisational sciences. They mainly follow careers in education, institutions and organisations.
The first step to becoming a community psychologist is also to get a Master’s Degree in Psychology, pass the board examination and then be licenced in section A of the Association of Psychologists in order to work freelance. Training includes conventional subjects in the field of psychology, such as clinical-dynamic psychology and child psychology, but it also extends to sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and the organisational sciences. Another important aspect is learning methods and techniques for studying communities, their relations and internal organisation. Here again, students are expected to focus their university studies in this field and take training courses and internships in places involved in community psychology, like for instance organisations providing recovery support and aid to fragile members of society, as well as health care institutes, organisations and specialist companies.
Since they deal with relations, groups and social organisations, community psychologists mainly work in all those places where people live or work together. Like for instance: schools, communities for fragile people, prisons or correctional facilities, local bodies and institutes, as well as well organised companies. Less frequently, they work for private studios, where they receive patients and can also work freelance. As in every psychology specialisation, another career path is research and, in this case, studies are typically focused around both theory and practice.
A community psychologist works in specific social settings and with people belonging to these communities, promoting the development of harmonious relations and internal resources. This double focus on groups and individuals means their work may be focused on both communities and the individual people belonging to them.
Work is initially based on listening and counselling, for example to help people handle stress. In addition to conventional psychology tools like questionnaires, tests and interviews, community psychologists have methods and techniques for “profiling a community” so they can then take action to promote positive dynamics. Another special tool at their disposal is “action research”, which gets people belonging to a community involved in putting forward ideas and opinions to improve the cohesiveness and smooth-running of that community. Another important role is to provide consultancy to administrators and policymakers to help them with public planning.