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Community Psychology lies at the intersection of social psychology, political science, and community development. It is an approach to mental health that uses an analysis of social processes and interactions to design social interventions amongst groups andcommunities to improve psychological wellbeing. There is substantial evidence for the social causes of illness and many of these can be remediated by improved community cohesion.

The basic tenets of community psychology are:

  1. Any non-biological mental illness, and many biologically caused illnesses, can either be caused by or aggravated by a mismatch between a person's personality, attitudes and valuesetc and the community environment in which he or she exists.
  2. It is often cheaper and more effective to change the environment than to treat multiple patients within it.
  3. Primary interventions (those aimed at preventing problems before they start) are much more effective than secondary or tertiary interventions (those that treat patients or incipient patients).


Community Psychology is division 27 of the American Psychological Association, represented by the Society for Community Research & Action (SCRA). Their official description is as follows:

The Division of Community Psychology encourages the development of theory, research, and practice relevant to the reciprocal relationships between individuals and the social system which constitute the community context. The Division supports 23 regional groups promoting communication among community psychologists in six U.S. regions, Canada, Western Europe, and the South Pacific. The Division hosts a three day biennial conference and has formed interest groups in the areas of international community psychology, rural psychology, aging, applied settings, and children and youth (prevention issues). Members receive the bimonthly American Journal of Community Psychology and The Community Psychologist, published five times per year.


Community Psychology found a proposed "conceptual center" in the idea of Psychological Sense of Community (or simply Sense of Community), introduced in 1974 by Seymour Sarason. In 1986 a major step was taken by theoretician David McMillan and operationalizer David Chavis with the publication of their Theory of Sense of Community and Sense of Community Index. Originally designed primarily in reference to neighborhoods, the Sense of Community Index (SCI) can be adapted to study other communities as well, including the workplace, schools, religious communities, communities of interest, etc.

Peer-reviewed journalsEdit

See alsoEdit

Additional ReadingEdit

Books and ChaptersEdit

  • Bender, M. (1976). Community Psychology. London : Methuen.
  • Bennett, C. C. (1966). Community psychology: A report of the Boston Conference on the Education of Psychologists for Community Mental Health.
  • Bond, M. (2007). Workplace chemistry: Promoting diversity through organizational change. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.
  • Bond, M. A., Serrano-Garcia, I. & Keys, C. (Eds.). (2017).  Handbook of community psychology Volume 1: Theoretical foundations, core concepts, and emerging challenges. Washington, D.C.: APA Press.
  • Bond, M. A., Serrano-Garcia, I. & Keys, C. (Eds.) with B. Shinn (Associate Ed. for Research Methods). (2017). Handbook of community psychology Volume 2: Methods of community psychology in research and applications. Washington, D.C.: APA Press.
  • Brown, L. D. (2012). Consumer-run mental health: Framework for recovery. N.Y.: Springer.
  • Brown, L. D. & Wituk, S.A. (Eds.). (2010). Mental health self-help: Consumer and family initiatives. N.Y.: Springer.
  • Burton, M., Boyle, S., Harris, C., & Kagan, C. (2007). Community psychology in Britain. In S. M. Reich, M. Riemer, I. Prilleltensky, & Montero, M. International Community Psychology: History and Theories (pp. 219-237). New York: Springer.
  • Campbell, C. (1999). Social capital and health. London: Health Education Authority.
  • Casey, E. & Watkins, M. (2014). Up against the wall: Re-imagining the U.S.-Mexico border. Austin, TX.: University of Texas Press.
  • Corlew, L. K. (2012). The cultural impacts of climate change: Sense of place and sense of community in Tuvalu, a country threatened by sea level rise. North Charleston, S.C.: CreateSpace.
  • Corlew, L. K. & Waugh, C. G. (2014).  Psychology: A literary introduction. South China, ME: Sam Teddy Publishing.
  • Duffy, K. G., & Wong, F. Y. (1996). Community psychology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Fairweather, G. W. (1972). Social change: The challenge to survival. New Jersey: General Learning Press.
  • Fetterman, D. M., Kaftarian, S. J. & Wandersman, A.(Eds.). (2014). Empowerment Evaluation 2. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Fryer, D. & Ullah, P. (1987) (Eds.) Unemployed People: Social and Psychological Perspectives. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
  • Harkins, D. A. with Ray, S., Sharicz, C., Doppler-Bourassa, E., Austin, M., Ronayne, M., Mehta, C., Nguyen, J. & Pimental-Eye, J. (2013). Beyond the campus: Building a sustainable university-community partnership.  Charlotte, N.C.: Information Age Publishing.
  • Heller, K., Price, R., Reinharz, S., Riger, S., & Wandersman, A. (1984). Psychology and community change (2nd ed.). Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.
  • Holland, S., (1992). From social abuse to social action: A neighbourhood psychotherapy and social action project for women. In J. Usher and P. Nicholson (eds), Gender Issues in Clinical Psychology (pp. 66-77). London: Routledge.
  • Jahoda, M., Lazarsfeld, P.F. & Zeisel, H. (1972). Marienthal: The Sociography of an Unemployed Community. London: Tavistock.
  • Jason, L. A. (2013). Principles of social change. Oxford University Press.
  • Kagan C., & Burton, M. (2005). Marginalization. In G. Nelson & I. Prilleltensky (eds), Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being, (pp. 293-308). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lazarsfeld-Jahoda, M. & Zeisel, H. (1933). Die Arbeitslosen von Marienthal. Leipzig : Hirzel.
  • Levine, M. & Perkins, D. V. (1997). Principles of community psychology: Perspectives and applications (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Maton, K. I. (2016). Influencing Social Policy: Applied Psychology Serving the Public Interest. Oxford University Press.
  • Meritt, D.N., Greene, G.J., Jopp, D.A.,& Kelly, J.G. (1999). A history of Division 27. In D.A. Dewsbury (Ed.). Unification through Division: Histories of the divisions of the American Psychological Association (Vol. 3, pp. 73-99). Washington , D.C. American Psychological Association.
  • Moritsugu, J., Vera, E., Wong, F. & Duffy, K. (2013). Community Psychology, 5th Ed. N.Y.: Routledge/Psychology Press.
  • Neal, Z. (2013). The connected city: How networks are shaping the modern metropolis. N.Y.: Routledge.
  • Neal, Z. (Ed.) (2015). The handbook of applied systems science. N.Y.: Routledge.
  • Nelson, G., Kloos, B., & Ornelas, J. (Eds.). (2014). Community psychology and community mental health: Towards transformative change. Oxford University Press, USA.
  • Orford, J. (1992). Community psychology: Theory and practice. New York: Wiley.
  • Orford, J. (2008). Community psychology: Challenges, controversies and emerging consensus. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Rappaport, J. (1977). Community psychology: Values, research, and action. New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.
  • Rappaport, J & Seidman, E. (Eds.) (2002). Handbook of Community Psychology. Dordrecht : Kluwer.
  • Reich, S.M., Riemer, M., Prilleltensky, I., & Montero, M. (2007). International Community Psychology: History and Theories. New York: Springer.
  • Sarason, S.B. (1974). The psychological sense of community: Prospects for a community psychology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Sarason, S. (2000). Barometers of social change. In J. Rappaport and E. Seidman (Eds.). Handbook of Community Psychology (pp919-929). Dordrecht : Kluwer.
  • Sylvestre, J. (2017). Housing, Citizenship, and Communities for People with Serious Mental Illness: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy Perspectives. Oxford University Press, USA.
  • The Immigration Rights Committee, PUEBLO (2008). In the shadow of paradise: The experiences of the undocumented community in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara: CA.: PUEBLO Education Fund.
  • Viola, J. J., & Glantsman, O. (Eds.). (2017). Diverse Careers in Community Psychology. Oxford University Press.
  • Viola, J. & McMahon, S. D. (2010). Consulting and evaluation with community based organizations: Tools and strategies to start & build a practice. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  • Wolff, T. (2010). The power of collaborative solutions: Six principles and effective tools for building healthy communities.  San Francisco, CA.: Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

PapersEdit

  • Bond, M. A., & Keys, C. B. (1993). Empowerment, diversity, and collaboration: Promoting synergy on community boards. American Journal of Community Psychology21, 37-57.
  • Chavis, D.M., & Wandersman, A. (1990). Sense of community in the urban environment: A catalyst for participation and community development. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 55-81.
  • Dowrick, P. W., & Keys, C. B. (2001). Community psychology and disability studies. Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community21, 1-14.
  • Bostock, J., & Freeman, J. (2003). ‘No limits’: Doing participatory action research with young people in Northumberland. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 464-474.
  • Burton, M., & Kagan, C. (2003). Community psychology:why this gap in Britain? History and Philosophy of Psychology, 4(2), 10-23.
  • Colic-Peisker, V., & Walker I. (2003). Human capital, acculturation and social identity. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 13, 337-360.
  • Fryer, D. (1990). The mental health costs of unemployment: Towards a social psychological concept of poverty? British Journal of Clinical and Social Psychiatry, 7, 164-175.
  • Fryer, D. (2008). Some questions about ‘the history of community psychology’. Journal of Community Psychology, 36, 572-586.
  • Fryer, D., & Fagan, R. (2003). Toward a critical community psychological perspective on unemployment and mental health research. American Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 89-96.
  • Harper, G. W., & Schneider, M. (2003). Oppression and discrimination among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people and communities: A challenge for community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 243-252.
  • Hays, R. B., Rebchook, G. M., & Kegeles, S. M. (2003). The Mpowerment project: Community-building with young gay and bisexual men to prevent HIV. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 301-312.
  • Kagan, C., Castile, S., & Stewart, A. (2005). Participation: Are some more equal than others? Clinical Psychology Forum, 153, 30-34.
  • Keys, C. B., & Frank, S. (1987). Community psychology and the study of organizations: A reciprocal relationship. American Journal of Community Psychology15, 239-251.
  • Jahoda, M. (1983). The emergence of social psychology in Vienna: An exercise in long-term memory. British Journal of Social Psychology, 22, 342-349.
  • Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1932). An unemployed village. Character and Personality, 1, 147-151.
  • McAuliff, K., Viola, J. J., Keys, C. B., Back, L. T., Williams, A. E., & Steltenpohl, C. N. (2014). Empowered and disempowered voices of low-income people with disabilities on the initiation of government-funded, managed health care. Psychosocial Intervention, 23,115-123.
  • McMillan, D.W., & Chavis, D.M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. American Journal of Community Psychology, 14, 6-23.
  • Pearce, J., Witten, K., & Bartie, P. (2006). Neighbourhoods and health: A GIS approach to measuring community resource accessibility. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 60, 389-395.
  • Prezza M., & Constantini, S. (1998). Sense of community and life satisfaction: Investigation in three different territorial contexts. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 8, 181-194.
  • Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value‐based praxis in community psychology: Moving toward social justice and social action. American Journal of Community Psychology29, 747-778.
  • Rappaport, J. (1987). Terms of empowerment/exemplars of prevention: Toward a theory for community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology15, 121-148.
  • Sarason, S. B. (1976). Community psychology, networks, and Mr. Everyman. American Psychologist31, 317.
  • Speer, P. W., & Hughey, J. (1995). Community organizing: and ecological route to empowerment and power. American Journal of Community Psychology, 23, 729-748.
  • Trickett, E. J. (1996). A future for community psychology: The contexts of diversity and the diversity of contexts. American Journal of Community Psychology24, 209-234.
  • Tsemberis, S. J., Moran, L., Shinn, M., Asmussen, S. M., & Shern, D. L. (2003). Consumer preference programs for individuals who are homeless and have psychiatric disabilities. American Journal of Community Psychology, 32, 305-317.

External linksEdit

  • http://www.compsy.org.uk[1] is a British based site that takes the following orientation to Community Psychology:- Community Psychology is orientated to the community rather than the individual as the basic unit of analysis and intervention4.(It is not just the practice of individual applied psychology in community contexts.For this reason we sometimes call our orientation Community Social Psychology, the term used widely in Latin America).Our orientation is broadly radical, underpinned by values of social justice, liberation, empowerment and inclusion of people marginalised by the existing order.However we also emphasise conceptual and methodological rigour, in the practice and the theory of community psychology - as research and as collaboration with diverse communities.
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