Exploring the personal and professional connections for UK clinical psychologists with an interest in community psychology

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Dr Miles Thompson, lead of the Psychological Sciences Research Group (PSRG); at UWE Bristol has a new open access article published in the Journal of Community Psychology. It gathered data from UK clinical psychologists and explored their personal and professional connections with community psychology.

UK clinical psychologists generally carry out one to one or group-based psychological interventions, often within the NHS. While they do great work, many have worried that a focus on individually focused therapy can fail to tackle the wider causes of distress and even, accidentally, blame the individual suffering from distress. Since the 1960’s a smaller sub-discipline of psychology: community psychology has sought to go beyond this individual focus and impact wider levels including social, economic and political structures.

However, community psychology has developed differently, at different speeds in different parts of the world. In the UK, it remains relatively under-developed. So clinical psychology remains one of the few professional paths where psychologists interested in community psychology can put their passion into practice. This study used survey and interviews to gather data from qualified UK clinical psychologists who self-identified as having an interest in community psychology. The researchers were interested in how they:

  • describe community psychology
  • how they came to be interested in it
  • and how they apply ideas from it in their work

The paper and its full results are free for anybody to read but in summary, in terms of describing community psychology: both social justice and a questioning stance were important. In terms of how participants came to be interested in community psychology, participants talked about an interplay between lifespan events and personal responses. Finally in terms of applying community psychology, there seems to be a dynamic between different role-specific applications and various reality checks that either enable or constrain putting ideas into practice.

The discussion notes how some of the ways that participants suggest they are applying community psychology may actually just be examples of good clinical practice. It also highlights echoes of previous research published by Miles Thompson in 2007 where community psychology ideas included i. reflective practice and both ii. mainstream and iii. more radical socio-political ideas.

It seems that promoting community psychology ideas that seek to move towards transformative social justice may be limited within the current role of clinical psychologists. The authors hope the paper might act as a spur to further organisation and action.

Follow this link to download the full open access paper.

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