14 Applications and Careers in Psychology within Public Health and Community Settings to Build Wellbeing and Promote Social Justice

Amy B. Mullens; Govind Krishnamoorthy; Éidín Ni She; and Lorelle J. Burton

Introduction

Psychology in public health and community settings (hereafter referred to as PHCP) bases its action on the recognition that individuals’ development, psychological functioning, and mental health are profoundly affected by their physical, social, cultural, political, and economic contexts (Hakim, 2010; Jason & O’Brien, 2018; McMahon et al., 2015; Wolff, 2014) in a dynamic and interactional manner. This chapter presents PHCP applications and careers in two sections. The first provides an overview of important areas of intervention and practice in PHCP in Australia, starting with a brief history of this field, an introduction to its guiding philosophies and typical research methods, and highlights of significant scholarly findings, including an illustrative case study regarding youth engagement in education. The second presents models of PHCP practice and describes career and training opportunities in PHCP, including a second case study regarding a program to enhance parenting among foster parents.

Introduction to Psychology within Public Health and Community Settings

PHCP is concerned with individuals and their immediate interpersonal contexts and links their wellbeing to broader social structures and dynamics (Arcidiacono 2017; Moane, 2003). Founded in a scientific and empirical approach to understanding the world, PHCP uses the research process as well as scientific knowledge and intervention strategies to create social change and improve wellbeing at the individual, organisational, and community levels (Neigher et al., 2011), including from an ‘academic advocacy’ perspective (Smith  & Stewart, 2017). PHCP draws attention to the importance of diversity, inclusion, and economic and social equity and highlights the power of preventing problems as well as treating them (Julian, 2006; Wolff et al., 2017). These ideas associated with the promotion of wellbeing and connectedness to foster resiliency are based in the World Health Organisation (WHO) principals of the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO, 1986; WHO, 2005), as wellbeing is deemed essential for active engagement in life. Health promotion is defined as ‘the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health’ (pp. 1–2) (WHO, 1986). This is particularly relevant for groups who have been marginalised and stigmatised (e.g, people from sexually and gender diverse communities – see  Ceatha et al., 2019). From a social justice perspective within the Australian context, holistic wellbeing and the protection of individual rights have been further supported by the passing of the Human Rights Act 2019 (which came into effect January 1, 2020) by the Queensland Parliament which indicated every person has the right to access health services without discrimination and cannot be refused necessary emergency medical treatments (see Brolan, 2020 ). PHCP is strongly aligned with the philosophies of the Australian Psychological Society College of Community Psychologists regarding the importance of understanding and supporting the needs of people in their communities, from a strength-based approach based on the tenets of flexibility, equity, and respect for cultural diversity. PHCP contributes to psychology by proposing a critical analysis of the social context that affects human wellbeing and highlights the importance of working in partnership with members of the affected communities – utilising ‘co-creation’ from a strength-based perspective with members of the priority groups, where there are recognised mental or physical health disparities. Further, psychologists working in public health and community settings analyse and intervene at the nexus of individual and social factors (from a biopsychosocial lens), focusing on complexity and systems, and holding prevention, advocacy, social justice, and systems change as core concerns and targets for interventions (Arcidiacono, 2017; Dzidic, Breen & Bishop, 2013; Evans, Duckett, Lawthorn, & Kivell, 2017; Prilletensky, 1997; Rappaport, 1981). An example from an Australian context utilises a participatory ‘community action research’ approach regarding Hepatitis C and manifests these approaches. This project assessed the impact of reducing stigma among the general population and enhancing empowerment among people living with Hepatitis C utilising an educational co-design model with members of the affected community (Cama et al., 2015). Findings demonstrated that mobilisation of support from within their own communities had meaningful impacts on reducing stigma. Further, the spirit of community action research emphasises the use of theoretically-driven empirical evidence and advocacy that can be used to promote meaningful and sustainable policy, strategy, and systems changes to enhance the wellbeing of communities (See McIntyre, 2007).  The following studies depict examples of community-based action research in Australia for HIV point of care testing among ‘harder to reach groups’ in Australia (Mullens, Daken, et al., 2020; Mullens, Duyker et al., 2019).

Although the emphasis on social and community contexts is not uniquely aligned with the psychology discipline, PHCP is ultimately concerned about the effects of social contexts on human wellbeing, development and functionin, rather than on describing social and cultural systems for their own sake. PHCP is also distinguished by specific theoretical frameworks that emphasise aspects often neglected in more individualised approaches to human problems (Jason et al., 2016; Stein, 2007), such as ecological analysis (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Hawe, 2017; Kelly, 1986; Neal, 2016), historical-material analysis (Montero et al. 2017), and social determinants of health (Montero, 2012). These frames of analysis also tend to characterise the field and nourish its practice (Evans et al., 2017; Montero et al., 2017; Rappaport, 1981; Wolff et al., 2017). Diverse as they are, these theoretical and value-based frames of analysis provide conceptual tools for understanding social actors, their activities and positionality, and the patterns and determinants of constraints and opportunities that surround them and shape their possibilities and impediments, including a focus on enablers and barriers.

Thus, the distinctive nature of PHCP is probably best characterised in terms of its unique constellation of principles, goals and values, frames of analysis, and methods for change, which are aligned with social justice principles –  human rights, access, participation, and equity. While the particular constellations and composition of these frameworks varies across countries and cultures (Francescato & Zani, 2013; Lykes, Terreblanche, & Hamber, 2013; Wolfe, Scott & Jimenez, 2013), psychologists working within public health and community settings are unified globally by the goal of promoting wellbeing by working at the interface between people and their sociocultural contexts.

Further, working from a holistic approach is particularly important when working in partnership with members of priority groups who experience intersectionality (affiliation with more than one priority group) in health issues (see Ortiz et al., 2020). An example of intersectionality would be the experience of migrants seeking work within the Australian context where language barriers as well as previous experience of trauma may contribute to their difficulty in gaining work (see Ressia et al., 2017). From these frameworks, structural stigma and structural inequity serve as additional challenges which require further support for individuals and much needed advocacy (Hatzenbuehler, 2016; White Hughto, Reisner & Pachankis, 2015). Within the Australian context, with the recent passing of legislation to legalise gay marriage, research has found critical links between structural stigma and social support within sexually diverse communities and the need for policy and practice improvements to enhance these important health disparities (Perales & Todd, 2018 ), further illustrating how community action research  can create ‘ripple effects’ in terms of future policy and practice.

A Brief History of Public Health and Community Psychology

Community psychology  (CP)[1] as its called  by the Australian Psychological Society emerged as a discipline across the globe throughout the mid1900s – largely in response to political turmoil, scepticism regarding the dominant views of psychology, movements for social change, and a transformation of the mental health care system in many countries (Nelson, Lavoie et al., 2007). Although in some countries CP is still relatively emergent, other regions have seen immense growth and development in the field since the 1970s (Reich et al., 2007). The birth of the field of CP is often linked to the 1965 Swampscott Conference in the United States.  Events that led to the emergence of CP in Australia include the community health movement, alternatives to institutionalisation, and a shifting focus from treatment to prevention (Gridley & Breen, 2007; Nelson, Lavoie et al., 2007). Currently in Australia, community psychology remains one of the nine areas of endorsed practice (AoEP) by the Psychology Board of Australia, along with clinical, clinical neuropsychology, counselling, forensic, health, educational and developmental, sport and  exercise, and organisational psychology. There are synergies between the AoEPs in terms of areas of focus and competencies – for example, synergies between community psychology and health psychology include an emphasis on use of the biopsychosocial model, health promotion, and enhancing the wellbeing of groups of people. AOPEs operate as part of a regulatory mechanism, which acknowledges to the general public that those who are using these protected titles (e.g., ‘Community Psychologist’) have completed an approved postgraduate qualification and supervised training in an area of practice. Those who are endorsed in the area of community psychology have a particular emphasis on working with people from diverse communities (e.g., rural/remote, culturally diverse), and in partnership with key community influencers to work with vulnerable groups to enhance resilience and work towards sustainable social change.

Community Mental Health

Until the mid1900s, many individuals with mental illnesses were confined to psychiatric hospitals that were typically ineffective, dehumanising, and unsanitary (Nelson et al., 2014). The deinstitutionalisation movement in the 1960s resulted from limited funding for psychiatric hospitals as well as growing pressure for human rights and effective treatment within the community (Nelson, 2006). This movement led to many previously institutionalised individuals being released into the community even though few services were available to support individuals through this transition (Nelson et al., 2014). Many of these individuals faced additional stressors upon release from psychiatric institutions – including unemployment, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, social isolation, and a lack of psychosocial support –  thus illustrating how mental illness often occurred in combination with other social issues not necessarily addressed by typical psychiatric treatment (Nelson et al., 2014). Deinstitutionalisation forced a shift in focus from the institutional-medical model to a community treatment approach. This shift resulted in the emergence of alternatives to psychiatric hospitalisation (e.g., assertive community treatment, supportive housing, healing lodges, case management) and alternative types and views of support, such as consumer/survivor initiatives, and self-help groups (Nelson, Lord, & Ochoka, 2001). This drastic change in mental health reform created a movement towards community  mental health. Community mental health aligns with core PHCP values in examining the social, economic, and cultural factors influencing and maintaining mental illness (Fortin-Pellerin et al. 2007). PHCP continues to work in community settings to improve wellbeing and mental health among populations, which can also include private, government and non-government organisation contexts.

Within the Australian context  there was a significant movement towards deinstitutionalisation in the 1970s and 80s, with large psychiatric facilities increasingly being replaced by psychiatric care in community settings and in smaller psychiatric units in general hospitals. This era represented a critical shift from a predominantly medicalised model to care in the community, which also served to reduce stigma and discrimination among those living with persistent and complex mental health issues (e.g., schizophrenia).  These community-based models have continued to evolve over time with a greater focus first on rehabilitation and later recovery-oriented care, utilising interdisciplinary allied health teams (in conjunction with psychiatry) and cultural workers – with an emphasis on building resiliency, the value of learning from lived experience, and integration of peer support (see Arblaster et al., 2018).

Over time, additional psychological capacity has been introduced via Medicare for psychologists initially through the Divisions of General Practice, which later became known as Medicare Locals and now Primary Health Networks (PHNs). PHNs comprise large geographic regions throughout Australia which receive federal health and mental health funding, with inbuilt agency and autonomy for that region to determine how funds are spent and allocated based on bespoke mental health needs of that region. Better Access for Mental Health Care plans through Medicare were introduced in Australia in the early 2000s, which helped to fill a critical gap for those who were not severe enough to access government-funded mental health services, and who were not able to cover the costs of private psychology sessions themselves (nor have private health insurance to cover this). This program allows for psychologists to provide individual and group-based psychological interventions via General Practitioner referral – generally for up to 10 sessions per calendar year (however this has been increased to 20 during the current COVID-19 pandemic). The majority of service providers require a gap payment (in addition to the subsidy provided under Better Access), however some psychologists will offer bulk-billing services.  More recent opportunities for service provision and funding have developed in Australia with the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to supplement other existing schemes (e.g., mental health) in order to better meet the needs of Australians who experience permanent and significant physical and/or mental disability through supports and services and early intervention to enhance functioning and quality of life.

In addition to PHCP working within interdisciplinary teams, integrated cross-sectoral (e.g., health, education, housing) approaches are needed to further enhance uptake and coordination of care for optimising engagement and outcomes – particularly among more complex issues and presentations (e.g., domestic and family violence, substance use). Overall, the trends in health service priorities and delivery models in Australia over the past couple of decades have continued to evolve with increased focus on privatisation or tendering for previously government-only funded services (e.g., alcohol and drug, mental health), more focus on early intervention (e.g., headspace for adolescent mental health, including those ‘at risk’ of developing mental health issues), use of e-health and telehealth supports/services (to overcome challenges with reaching rural/remote communities and during the COVID-19 pandemic), greater health service optimisation (e.g., ‘stepped care’ – see March et al., 2019), and integration of services for engaging with ‘harder to reach’ groups (e.g., co-location of services under a ‘spoke and hub’ model, mobile health promotion initiatives) (see Elrod & Fortenberry, 2017).  There remains a need for continuous innovation and adaptation for program delivery in PHCP to optimise efficiencies, effectiveness, and reach.

Prevention and Health Promotion

PHCP has contributed significantly to highlighting the importance of prevention and health promotion as a complement to treatment. Caplan (1961) highlighted three types of prevention: primary (universal) prevention targets entire populations to lower the rates of new cases of disorders, secondary (selective) prevention targets populations at risk of developing a disease or disorder, and tertiary (indicated) prevention targets populations who already have a disorder and focuses on lowering the intensity or duration of the disorder. Dramatic increases in prevention awareness and efforts have taken place since the 1960s (Dalton et al., 2007). Although prevention infuses and informs a number of disciplines, many authors highlight the contributions of early community psychologists in applying public health approaches to physical health to promote the importance of a prevention focus in mental health.

Philosophy and Methods in Public Health and Community Psychology

Research methods in PHCP are both similar to and distinct from other psychology areas such as social, clinical, and developmental psychology. Research is often conducted using mixed methods, quasi-experimental, correlational, qualitative and longitudinal approaches with interviews, self- or other surveys, reports, focus groups, and observations, among others. PHCP also uses case study, ethnographic, and phenomenological methods typical of disciplines such as sociology, economics, political science, and public health. Given that psychology students are typically introduced to the analysis of quantitative data early in their studies, many academics in the areas aligned with PHCP emphasise qualitative and mixed methods research approaches in order to prepare students for the varied research approaches that are used to accomplish the twin goals of action and research. To conduct action-oriented research, additional methods include program evaluation, assets and needs assessment, and community-based participatory action research (CBPAR). CBPAR, for example, is a collaborative approach for research that involves community members directly affected by the problem being studied in all phases of a research project, from the definition of the initial research questions to the analysis of data, development of recommendations and diffusion of results. CBPAR begins from the concerns expressed by a particular community  and uses research to support changes desired by the community (Burns et al., 2011). These change-oriented research strategies realise the call by Martín-Baró for psychology research to reveal what ‘needs to be done’ (1994, p. 6) by researching the process of change. Although there are many ways to examine change, the key to community research is to investigate how a community-driven effort impacts what that community has decided needs to be changed.

The choice of appropriate methods to be used in PHCP depends on the research questions and the researcher’s knowledge of many methods as well as personal values. As Campbell (2010) pointed out, when methods drive the research process, the questions must fit within the boundaries of what the method can address. However, when the research questions drive the research process, methods can be selected, modified or combined based on their ability to provide answers. Community psychologists need to be well-informed about various methodological options in order to avoid letting the method drive the question. Campbell concludes by reminding us, ‘By letting our research questions develop without the constraints of methods, and by allowing our values to have a voice in the research process, we can figure out what is right – for a given context’ (Campbell, 2010, pp. 308–310). Further, a critical part of research in public health and community psychology settings is developing the ability to communicate in multiple ways to different audiences to stimulate change. Methods for sharing research findings include oral presentations to research participants and professionals at conferences, publications in academic journals, reporting in policy briefs, workshops, interactive websites, and other interactive methods of knowledge exchange. Researchers have also developed and tested a method for evaluating the impact of knowledge mobilisation efforts (e.g., Hayward et al., 2011; Worton et al., 2017). PHCP has contributed a number of significant findings to psychology and social science knowledge and practice – a comprehensive overview is available in Bond et al. (2017a, 2017b). Here we highlight PHCP’s contributions to two significant research and practice movements: the community mental health movement, and the current focus on prevention and health promotion.

Case Study: Youth Engagement in Education 

Increasing school retention levels is identified as a key catalyst to addressing the social inclusion agenda and improving the economy (Ball, 2012; McGregor et al., 2014; OECD, 2012). In Australia, positive life outcomes for individuals and societies are linked with sustained engagement in education (Te Riele, 2014). Early school leavers are likely to experience financial and personal hardship (Deloitte Access Economics, 2012), including for example, debt and poverty, homelessness and housing stress, family tensions and breakdown, shame and stigma, substance abuse, alienation, increased social isolation, crime, erosion of confidence and self-esteem and poor health (Bills & Armstrong, 2020; Kim & Kim, 2016; Deloitte Access Economics, 2012). Youth disengagement has been investigated to explain school dropout, with most Australian research focusing on young people aged 15 years and older (Fredricks et al., 2019; McDonald & Burton, 2014; McGregor et al., 2014; Te Riele, 2014).

Internationally, youth mentoring programs are of interest to policymakers and relevant community service providers to prevent school dropout. For boys, in particular, regular contact with peers and mates can have a significant impact on their psychological development, especially in terms of ‘masculinity, self-identification and establishment of place within society’ (Irwin, 2013, p. 142). Sport/physical activity programs can effectively engage young people in education and society more broadly (Chamberlain, 2013). Youth programs involving sports now form part of improvements in school retention, attitudes towards learning, and crime reduction of many advanced capitalist societies, including Australia (Morris et al., 2003), Canada (Reid et al., 1994), the United States (Witt & Crompton, 1996), the Netherlands (Spaaij, 2009) and the United Kingdom (Kelly, 2013). Such sports and recreation programs can have powerful and transformative effects, however, these effects are typically indirect. Indeed, linking sports and recreation programs with other learning opportunities is seen as key (Burton & McDonald, 2014). Further, creating ‘enabling spaces’ for learning to occur is of paramount importance – they must be based upon ‘respectful relationships’ where young people can ‘derive a sense of meaning, connection and control over their lives’ (Wyn et al., 2014, p. 7). Yorkston and Postle (2014) suggest that sharing stories enables participants to understand what they need to do to be part of the solution. These understandings can occur through any type of open conversation, but often occur through personal storytelling. An Australian case study follows, representing a combined intervention of exercise and mentoring targeting young boys at risk of disengagement in one ‘mainstream’ high school as part of their School Wide Positive Behaviour Support (SWPBS).

The Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a universal, school-wide prevention strategy that is currently implemented in a number of countries, including Australia (Poed & Whitfield, 2020; Cumming et al., 2014). The strategy focuses on reducing disruptive behaviour problems through the application of behavioural, social learning, and organisational behavioural principles (Bradshaw et al., 2010). It’s estimated that 3,000 schools (31%) across all levels have been trained in the PBIS strategy (Poed & Whitfield, 2020). Our case study is focused on a high school located in the northern suburbs of the Gold Coast in Queensland. The school is a co-educational independent high school, and in 2020, comprised 2,600 students from Years 7 to 12. The school collaboratively developed a school-wide behaviour plan based on their vision and values. It was identified that learning and behaviour are inextricably related, and SWPBS was introduced to enable a focus on supporting different learning styles and abilities within the relevant curriculum, and focusing on appropriate behaviours that need to be taught, modelled, encouraged, and developed.

A core element of the case study school’s SWPBS plan was an 8-week The Men of Business (MOB) program (see Burton et al., 2018). This is a combined sports leadership program utilising mentoring with teenage boys in the Gold Coast region. The MOB program was conceived by a group of 20 influential Gold Coast businessmen in 2009 who wanted to ‘pay it forward’ to the next generation, recognising that there are more than 500 teenage boys who fall through the cracks of the system each year on the Gold Coast alone. The MOB program represented a local response to programs delivered during inflexible hours and was located in settings outside of schools. Initially, the MOB program was focused on fitness, but the need to combine mentoring with male role models in the community was later realised to support networking development, mentoring and inspiration for the participants. The goals of the refined program included mentors working with young males to help them achieve a positive attitude to life and to adopt behaviours that lead to a healthy lifestyle. Each program day included an hour of high energetic activity facilitated by a qualified trainer to enhance the boys’ physical fitness and strength, followed by a one hour mentoring session where the mentor ‘shares his story’. The boys were enrolled from Years 8 to 12, ranging in age from 12 to 16 years. Potential participants in the MOB program were identified by the school chaplain, in consultation with the MOB Director and the school principal.

A 30-item Learning Values survey was developed to measure four key variables relevant to the MOB program: Optimism (Life Orientation Test-Revised – Scheier et al., 1994), Resilience (Sinclair & Wallston, 2004), Self-efficacy (Schwarzer & Jerusalem, 1995), and Trust (International Personality Item Pool – Goldberg, 1999). Each student completed the short 30-item survey in class about how they approach life, which took no longer than 20 minutes, on average, to complete. The paper and pencil survey was randomly administered to 425 students enrolled at the case study high school, with 232 students in Years 8 to 11 completing the survey. The survey was also administered and completed by 14 MOB boys at the start of the 8-week MOB program, and by 10 of the original boys following completion of the program.

Promising findings emerged from quantitative analyses, with the MOB boys showing comparable moderate to high levels similar (i.e. moderate to high levels) of optimism and resilience as compared with their mainstream counterparts. Additionally, mainstream students showed comparable self-efficacy mean scores with the MOB boys. In contrast, however, the MOB boys showed significantly lower trust, on average, compared with their mainstream counterparts (p < .05).

This data supports the notion that it’s important for adolescents to have a close connection with someone they trust to enable them to cope with life’s challenges and to be optimistic about their futures (McGraw et al., 2008). If young people don’t trust, they’re more likely to focus on their personal failures or threats, which in turn leads to reduced capacity to focus on current tasks or challenges being faced (Frydenberg et al., 2016). Thus, the physical training at the start of each session provides an opportunity for the boys to build relationships underpinned by trust and respect with each other and with their mentors. However, it takes time to establish trust in these mentoring relationships, and longitudinal research is needed to explore how trust can be strengthened over time.

The qualitative data indicated key social impacts for the MOB boys, including raised aspirations for education and/or employment, enhanced respect for themselves and others, and improved management of emotions (see Burton et al., 2018 for a full analysis). Overall, key impacts identified from the qualitative data from the case study high school included the intervention occurring within the school and students experiencing a sense of community, students re-engaging in learning, and nurturing of future leaders.

The current data therefore indicates that the school became an ‘enabling space’ where participants of the MOB program were respected and rewarded for their achievements (Wyn et al., 2014). Kahane (2008) suggests that sharing stories enables participants to understand their individual and group roles as part of the solution. These understandings can occur through any kind of open conversation, but they often occur through personal storytelling. Other examples of intergenerational mentoring in regional Queensland involving older men and disenfranchised youth based on sharing stories has had mutual benefits for those involved and for the wider community (see Burton et al., 2017 ). This case study captured how storytelling is a powerful way for individuals to share life experiences and connect with people and inspire them to achieve their life goals. For example, the mentors’ stories gave the MOB boys insight into how they might overcome life’s struggles, helping them to place trust in others and strengthen their character as they progress throughout life.

In summary, flexible learning programs are integral to supporting students who are disengaged or at risk of disengagement from education in Australia. The findings from this case study have implications for schools, including the need to recognise the individual needs of each student and tailoring sessions to enable each boy to actively engage in the program and meaningfully connect with their mentors and with each other. This program emphasises the MOB boys’ experiences in building relationships, including making friends. It also enables them to grow in confidence and provides a safe space for them to consider their future pathways. Together, the collaborative mentoring model represents an engaged partnership with community to build social capital in disenfranchised youth in schools (Burton et al., 2015).

Careers in Community Psychology: Activities, Job Titles, and Training  

A Model of PHCP Practice: Core Work Activities and Common PHCP Change Strategies

Recent years have seen a lively discussion about the particular expertise and professional identity of psychologists working in public health and community settings. PHCP practice has been described in many ways, such as:

  1. the goals that community psychologists seek to achieve
  2. the values, principles and frames of analysis that typify the field
  3. the settings where community psychologists can find work
  4. the skills, competencies, and techniques that typify PHCP practice
  5. the personal characteristics, beliefs, and attitudes that individuals bring to their practice (Arcidiacono, 2017; Julian, 2006; Kelly, 1971; Society for Community Research and Action [SCRA], 2012).

The peak body for psychologists in Australia, the Australian Psychological Society (APS), describes areas of practice for community psychologists. These include including mapping social capital and resources within communities, evaluating the needs of at-risk populations – including those in rural and remote communities – and assessments of psychosocial environments with respect to sense of community, and quality of life (APS, 2021). The completion of such tasks may require a variety of skills, including the capacity to conduct community consultations, enhancing engagement and collaboration with diverse and hard-to-reach populations, and disseminating health promotion and education programs.

Inspired by a framework developed by Foucher and Leduc (2008), this chapter includes a model of community psychology practice centered around six core work activities that psychologists working in public health and community contexts might participate in across diverse settings, as well as diverse change strategies that they might use as they conduct these activities. An activity-based approach seems consistent with PHCP’s emphasis on settings and roles (Hawe, 2017; Seidman, 1988) and complements other descriptions of practice in PHCP and other fields (Leach, 2008; Reeves et al., 2009). It’s emphasised that these activities are not exclusive to PHCP, and that the contribution of other professions – as well as individuals and groups involved in change initiatives – should be recognised (Akhurst et al., 2016; Dzidic et al., 2013; Lavoie & Brunson, 2010). However, PHCP psychologists offer novel contributions to this work with their unique set of training and skills, frames of analysis, and focus on ecological and systems factors. We present this model of PHCP practice by first discussing the six proposed core PHCP work activities, and provide a brief overview of several typical PHCP change strategies (Table 14.1).

Core PHCP Work Activities

Evaluate the Impact of Intervention Programs and Services

A primary work activity for many PHCP’s is to evaluate intervention programs, services, and systems change efforts. The goal of these activities is to collect information about the intervention’s intended and unintended effects, the processes by which those effects are achieved, and possible avenues for improving the intervention. Evaluation makes programs more accountable to stakeholders and funders and assists decision-makers as they consider whether to maintain, expand, or eliminate a program (Cook, 2014; Wolfe, et al., 2017). It can also be considered a strategy for effecting social change and promoting social justice (Cook, 2014), with the goal of creating a more equitable, fair, and just distribution of resources, opportunities, and privileges within society.

Evaluation objectives can be varied and are often broadly categorised in terms of outcome evaluations and process evaluations. The notion of outcome evaluation is probably most familiar. This involves documenting the impact of an intervention in relation to its stated objectives. Established, evidence-based programs may not always be successful in new contexts or populations, so outcome evaluations help to determine local impact. Process evaluation determines whether program components are actually being implemented as planned, and if not, what barriers – such as time or resource constraints – might be getting in the way. Process evaluation can also address a program’s fit with its local context – for example, examining whether the program is actually diverting resources from other important activities, whether it duplicates existing efforts, and whether it can be sustainable over time (Wolfe, et al., 2017).

PHCPs can play an important role in evaluation by conducting assessments in consultation with relevant stakeholders, providing training that enables actors to appropriate techniques and the evaluation culture, and by developing the tools that facilitate evaluation work. An integrated and sustained PHCP approach to program evaluation over time might include conceptualising the program’s theory of change, planning activities and program components that have the best chance to produce desired changes, developing and executing a systematic plan to implement and support the program at multiple levels, ensuring the program fits local culture and context, evaluating whether the activities achieve their desired effects, and finding ways to ensure the sustainability of the program over time (Wolfe, et al., 2017). A PHCP approach to evaluation will also often include an analysis of benefits at a systems or community level, above and beyond the effects of individual change.

Case Study: Evaluating the Impact of the ‘Circle of Security’ Parenting Program for Foster Carers

Foster carers are responsible for providing daily care to children who are under the care of the government due to concerns about care provided to them being neglectful, abusive, or significantly inadequate. Exposure to maltreatment often leaves these children experiencing complex medical and mental health problems. A substantial number of children in foster care have been found to have behavioural and emotional difficulties, including attachment difficulties (a core feature of many in child welfare care), anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, conduct problems (including defiance, anger, and aggression), sexual reactive problems, inattention/hyperactivity, and suicidal behaviour (Briere et al., 2001; Osborn et al., 2008; Oswald et al., 2010, Sawyer et al., 2007; Tilbury et al., 2007). Considering the elevated caregiving burden represented by these conditions and the attendant parenting stress, it’s not surprising some foster caregivers find it difficult to provide an adequate caregiving environment. As a result, foster carers have been identified as a group with an unmet need for training in specialised parenting skills (Murray et al., 2011).

In efforts to meet the complex needs of children in child welfare care, and provide support to foster carers, governments around the world have looked to establish specialist community services through public health services. In Queensland, Australia, the Evolve Therapeutic Service (ETS) is a specialist, community-based child and youth mental health service established to plan and coordinate therapeutic and behaviour supports for children and young people in child welfare and out-of-home care, with the goal of improving their emotional wellbeing and the development of skills to enhance participation in school and the community. Eligibility criteria for ETS include: the child is under 18 years of age, presents with severe and/or complex psychological and/or behavioural problems (i.e. a chronic trauma history, extreme behavioural problems across multiple settings, at risk of harming self/others, and multiple placement breakdowns), and is under child welfare and on interim or finalised child protection orders.

Recognising the unique needs of foster carers, the ETS aimed to implement programs targeted at supporting the needs of this population. A review of the research literature, however, revealed that programs to support foster carers and their children has returned mixed results. For example, a recent randomised controlled trial on the Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care for Preschoolers (MTFC-P) program found no evidence of the relative efficacy of the program over treatment as usual among foster carers in the Netherlands (Jonkman et al., 2017). While some studies have found the MTFC-P program to reduce levels of caregiver stress and improve permanency outcomes in the US (Fisher et al., 2009), Jonkman et al. (2017) concluded that children in usual foster care improved similarly to those in the program. Goemans et al. (2018) found that, although child internalising and externalising behaviours predicted parental stress, parental stress was not a predictor of child internalising and externalising behaviours.

The Circle of Security program (COS) is a parenting program developed specifically for children at risk of disrupted attachments and their caregivers (Powell et al., 2013). The program is designed to promote attachment security in early parent/child relationships through supporting and strengthening the caregiver’s skills in observing and understanding the children’s needs, observational and inferential skills, reflective functioning, emotion regulation, and empathy for the distress that the caregiver’s unregulated emotions cause in their children (Powell et al., 2013). The Circle of Security Parent DVD (COS-P) program is an eight-week education-focused manualised program with audiovisual and printed materials to promote discussion and understanding of how to promote secure attachment and prevent at-risk infants from developing insecure attachments (Cooper et. al., 2009; Yaholkoski et al., 2016). The COS-Parenting (COS-P) program offers a modified, shortened version of the original 20-week COS intervention intended to facilitate caregivers’ understanding of concepts related to attachment (Cooper et al., 2009). It has been widely adapted to be delivered in eight sessions.

COS-P uses engaging and accessible graphic representations to illustrate separate components of the attachment system (Ainsworth, 1979), including the child’s need for exploration and need for comfort and protection from the caregiver. Through pre-recorded videos and facilitated discussions, caregivers increase their capacity to observe and read children’s behaviour to identify the attachment-related need being expressed, reflect upon their own reactions and feelings in response to difficult child behaviours, and provide a sensitive caregiving response (Marvin et al., 2002). The COS-P program was chosen in hopes it would prove effective even in the special case of foster carers, who are in the position of dealing with behavioural issues and relationship dynamics inherited from children’s relationships with biological parents, and whose difficulties may have been compounded in the interim by relationship instability, residential instability, and other factors. To understand the impact of the program, the COS-P program was implemented and evaluated with 54 foster carers across two ETS sites over two years. Given the competing demands on foster carers, recruitment to such program evaluation studies are often difficult. The small number of participants was sufficient to power a preliminary study on the impact of the COS-P program. The findings revealed small and non–significant changes in the emotional symptoms on the Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for children in the care of the foster carers following the program. This was seen as an important finding given the profile of children referred to the ETS service, who exhibit severe and complex mental health concerns. It was possible that null findings reflect a ‘ceiling effect’ of scores on the SDQ – with the measure not being sensitive enough to pick up on changes among clinical populations with severe and complex symptoms. Given these findings, the service investigated other suitable measures to be utilised across the service, such as the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) questionnaire (Epstein et al.,2015). The ETS service utilised the CANS, in addition to the SDQ, in future statewide evaluations of interventions, as well as the program (Eadie et al., 2017).

Interestingly, no significant changes were found in measures of the foster carer-child relationship, as evaluated by the Parent-Child Relational Index (PCRI). This finding was somewhat puzzling, as COS-P aims to enhance the parent–child attachment relationship. Contrary to this finding, recent research (Kohlhoff et al., 2016) found positive changes in the reflective functioning of mothers of toddlers following participation in the program. It’s unclear how this change translates to parental behaviour in the context of caregiving relationship and attachment security, as Huber et al. (2015) found no association between maternal reflective functioning and child attachment status following the COS-P program. An implication of this finding for the service was to incorporate structured interviews, observational and other self-report measures of the carer-child relationship to assess whether the relationships of children with attachment difficulties have improved following the program. Such assessment methods would also improve the rigor of the assessments conducted at the service, while also contributing to more detailed understanding the impact of the program. To further understand this null finding, it was hypothesised that the timing of the post-intervention evaluation procedures, which occurred immediately following the completion of COS-P, may not have afforded the opportunity to capture observable, measurable changes in carer-child outcomes. To address this, the service planned to allocate resources to follow-up children and families that attended the service post-discharge  in an effort to evaluate service satisfaction, and longer-term needs and impacts of the intervention. Such follow-up efforts led to the establishment of a ‘COS-P Graduate Group’ – a weekly community of practice group for foster carers who completed the program to meet and support other carers in implementing the program practices.

Finally, the results of the program evaluation revealed significantly reduced levels of parent–child dysfunctional interactions and parental distress as measured by the Parent Stress Index (PSI-4-SF). It was also found that there were significant reductions in the reports from the foster carers of their perceptions of their foster child as being difficult to take care of, as well as reduction in the overall stress related to their role as a foster carer. Parenting foster children can be stressful, particularly when there are difficulties in the carer–child relationship and/or child emotional or behavioural difficulties. Unfortunately, when a caregiver is feeling stressed, helpless, or fearful in the relationship with their child, they’re more likely to reject the child’s requests for closeness and/or comfort, and the infant is more likely to develop an insecure attachment pattern (Lyons-Ruth, 2007; Main and Hesse, 1990). The fact that this brief psychoeducational intervention was shown to be associated with decreases in caregiver helplessness and more positive feelings about the child was therefore promising. Thus, such findings of such pilot program evaluation provide other PHCPs, administrators, and policymakers with a more nuanced understanding of the impact of such programs, while also informing avenues for improving the quality of services provided, outside of such standalone interventions.

Develop, Implement, and Manage Intervention Programs

PHCPs are often called upon to develop, implement, and manage intervention programs, especially those with prevention and health promotion goals (SCRA, 2012), and also programs for re-adaptation, crisis and trauma response, human resource capacity building, and the implementation of coordinated systems of care (Cook & Kilmer, 2012; Lavoie & Brunson, 2010; van de Hoef et al., 2011).

To find an appropriate intervention program, it’s sometimes more efficient to identify  an existing program and assess potential fit with the particular setting, goals, and resources. In other cases, it’s more appropriate to develop a program suited to the particular needs and goals of the setting and compatible with existing resources, structures, and practice. For both existing and locally-developed programs, ensuring the continued success of a program over time involves supervisory, management, and human resources activities, as well as financial management, marketing and strategic planning (McMahon & Wolfe, 2017; SCRA, 2012). Implementing programs in a sustainable way in any local context involves issues of fidelity to core program elements and fit and adaptation to the local context (Castro et al., 2004). It’s vital to ensure a supportive organisational and community context and organisational support for the program at multiple levels (Blanchet-Cohen & Brunson, 2010), and create conditions and processes that ensure that effective programs continue to operate successfully and even expand their reach (Cook, 2014).

PHCPs can organise a collaborative approach among multiple community actors to identify stakeholder goals and assemble a meaningful and coherent package of intervention activities. The dual role of community psychologists both as researchers and as stakeholders make it possible to consider multiple perspectives and values, identify models, distill the evidence base, and systematise the choice of objectives and activities. Their training in developmental psychology also prepares them to consider issues related to age (Lavoie & Brunson, 2010).

Build Capacity at Organisational and Community Levels

PHCP practitioners frequently participate in organisational and community capacity building activities aimed at developing links among citizens and organisations, strengthening networks and communication, and aligning efforts and resources to accomplish common goals (Wolff, 2010; Wolff et al., 2017). Some essential components of this capacity building process include the ability to identify and convene diverse stakeholders, facilitate mutual trust, promote collaborative decision-making with authentic buy-in from all stakeholders, and to work together to act in ways that surpass what an individual actor would be able to do alone (Aspen Institute, 1996; Wolff, 2010).  At the organisational level, capacity building enhances the capacity of an organisation to attain its goals by introducing or improving organisational tools, policies, and processes (SCRA, 2012). This work may involve helping an organisation to develop an organisational vision, mission, and strategic plan; aligning stakeholders, resources, and organisational processes around these priorities; building a communications strategy; promoting organisational learning; or putting mechanisms in place to monitor efforts and results (Hawe et al., 2000; Norton et al., 2002). At the community level, capacity building fosters collaborative relationships and concrete action among community members, groups, and organisations (SCRA, 2012). It may involve helping community actors to define a shared vision and engaging, energising and mobilising individuals and groups around an issue of shared importance (SCRA). Grassroots community organising involves working collaboratively with community members to gain the power to improve the conditions affecting their community (SCRA). Community coalition building creates networks of organisational and resident stakeholders who work together across organisational boundaries to address  a common issue (Allen, 2005; Foster-Fishman et al., 2001; Francescato & Zani, 2017; Wolff et al., 2017).

Many other professions and disciplines recognise the importance of secure networks, social capital, and collaborative relationships. Community psychologists participate in and foster these efforts, bringing among other things an awareness of social justice and equity, and the importance of involving people who are directly affected by the conditions being addressed, as well as those with relatively less power and voice (Rappaport, 1981; Wolff et al., 2017). Community psychologists are particularly attuned to identifying and mobilising existing strengths that exist, but which may be under-recognised or under-utilised in the community (Kelly, 1971). They are also knowledgeable about relevant research and practice that may be taking place elsewhere and can suggest ideas that have been successful elsewhere (Dagenais, 2006; Lavoie & Brunson, 2010). A particular contribution of PHCP is the ability to use participation processes – such as participatory action research, participatory arts and theatre, community forums, Delphi techniques, and small and large group facilitation techniques – to promote co-construction of knowledge and a positive climate for change efforts.

Analyse a Problematic Situation, System, or Practice

The work of community psychologists sometimes involves making sense of an ambiguous and problematic situation in order to identify the problem better, create a shared and coherent understanding of the situation, and explore possible solutions. As Caplan and Nelson (1973) pointed out many years ago, what’s done about a problem depends on how it’s defined. If failure to obtain mental health care, for example, is defined in terms of individual characteristics and problems – such as lack of information or insufficient motivation – then person change intervention options are most logical, and change efforts would likely focus on public awareness campaigns to disseminate information or increase individuals’ awareness of the importance of care. If explanations are situation-focused – for example, if lack of access was attributed to a lack of providers, high treatment costs, duplication of effort, and competition for resources and recognition – then system change in the form of mobile clinics working with community organisations to offer low-cost care, or coordinated efforts to create interorganisational links would be a more logical solution (e.g., Lundburg et al., 2011; Wolff, 2014).

The analysis of a problem, a situation, a milieu, or practices consists of taking a critical, analytical, and contextualised look at a social issue or a social object such as a community program, organisation, or institution. It may involve naming and documenting a little-known problem and raising awareness about its existence. It might involve documenting and exploring different viewpoints held by various stakeholders involved in the situation (Juras et al., 1997). It could involve taking on the role of ‘critical friend’, where as a participant in the setting, the community psychologist tactfully confronts ways of thinking or acting that serve to maintain the status quo (Evans et al., 2008). It helps to reveal how a group conceives a particular situation and suggests levers for change that might be created by introducing new mental models of the situation (Christens et al., 2007).

Develop, Analyse, and Advocate for Public Policy

PHCPs can be involved in efforts to influence public policy (Maton, 2016; Phillips, 2000). This type of work seeks to create change at the societal level by targeting the policies that govern its institutions and how they operate, the distribution of resources, and the structure of existing programs and services.

PHCPs can play several public policy roles. They may provide research-based information on social problems and their possible solutions, or work to raise awareness of an issue so that it becomes part of the political agenda. They can conduct policy analysis, examining the various policy options that are available and determining their actual or potential impact concerning a set of policy goals. They might participate in policy advocacy to influence decision-making processes and advocate for specific policies (Bouchard, 2001; Bouchard, 2010; McMahon & Wolfe, 2017; van de Hoef et al., 2011). PHCPs can collaborate within a community to encourage citizen participation in policymaking, or strengthen the capacity of institutional leaders to reach out to and listen to their constituents (Brunson & Boileau, 2008; Chavis, 1993). PHCPs might work directly in the political system as a political attaché or policy staff (Phillips, 2000; van de Hoef et al., 2011), or even hold a position as an elected official or as a ministry-level decision-maker (Bouchard, 2001; Bouchard, 2011; Starnes, 2004).

Becoming involved in politics and the political process is not always easy or comfortable for psychologists, in part because of the contested nature of the political process (Bernier & Clavier, 2011; Fafard, 2015; Phillips, 2000). The distinction between providing information as a researcher versus acting as a lobbyist or political activist can be challenging to manage (Bouchard, 2001; Francescato & Zani, 2017). Even when persuasive arguments are based on a solid research base, it can be difficult to accept that scientific knowledge is only one element among many in a political decision-making process (Bernier & Clavier; Bouchard, 2001; Fafard, 2015).

Although few PHCP training programs provide training on the process of public governance (Phillips, 2000), community psychologists bring to this field a broad knowledge of topics  of interest to social policy planners (e.g.,  the influence of social networks, exclusion, citizen science – see Borda, Gray & Downie, 2019), and a broad ecological analysis of phenomena, including exo- and macrosystem factors. They’re skilled at building and sustaining working relationships and effective communication with a variety of stakeholders, and can apply these skills with policymakers, elected officials, governmental staff, and community leaders (SCRA, 2012).

Accompany and Participate in Social and Political Action

PHCP typically works with disempowered groups in contexts that are constructed economically, politically, and historically and proposes structural and contextualised understanding of these social situations. When these groups encounter social and economic interests that differ from their own, the work inevitably enters into the realm of politics and social action (Burton et al., 2012). Social action – defined as efforts to address inequities of power and privilege between an oppressed group and society at large – is an option for challenging these existing power relations in society (Le Bossé & Dufort, 2001; Lykes et al., 2003; Moane, 2003; Rothman & Tropman, 1987).

PHCPs may engage in explicitly political commitment as experts with particular knowledge of the evidence base and the risks and harms involved in a particular situation. They might work with community groups to organise a protest movement, participate in a collective advocacy process, or conduct a grassroots community organising with a rights-based focus. They can help to maintain positive group dynamics, a valuable contribution for small groups engaged in difficult campaigns (Burton, et al., 2012).

Taking a stand on social issues requires engaging in value debates and taking on political issues. As with policy analysis and advocacy, there can be tensions between acting as a practitioner/professional versus as a political activist (Lavoie & Brunson, 2010; Francescato & Zani, 2017). Some resolution of this dilemma can be found when community psychologists are also able to identify with a social movement as part of their civic and personal identity, and to recognise their own and others’ rights to act as fully enfranchised members of civil society (Burton, et al., 2012; Dzidic et al., 2013).

Common PHCP Change Strategies 

PHCPs use diverse strategies to promote change across different activities and settings. Table 14.1 briefly highlights a number of change strategies typical to CP practice that have been discussed in detail elsewhere (Bond et al., 2017b; Francescato & Zani, 2017; Lavoie & Brunson, 2010). Other strategies can certainly be added depending on the area of specialisation.

Table 14.1 Common CP Change Strategies

Strategy Type Description
Conscientisation Creates a group process in which social relations and collective action lead to greater awareness of the social and political structures that limit and distribute power in society, and the possibility for change (Franscescato & Zani, 2017; Montero 2012; Montero et al., 2017).
Alternative settings Seeks to move completely out of the current system and create a new resource, challenging the established order instead of trying to change an existing service. Some examples include mutual aid groups, cooperatives, social economy enterprises, counterspaces (Case & Hunter, 2012; Cherniss & Deegan, 2000; Francescato & Zani 2017).
Knowledge mobilisation Aims to reduce the gap between science and practice by involving practitioners and clients in creating knowledge and applying it in a particular context (Dagenais, 2006; Worton et al., 2017).
Applied research Allows stakeholders to identify solutions to problems by gathering information, developing and testing hypotheses, crafting change processes adapted to a particular context, and evaluating their impact in that specific context (Juras et al., 1997; van de Hoef et al., 2011).
Participation Seeks to understand and improve fair and diverse participation in work and life settings. Participatory action research promotes social change and quality of life for oppressed and exploited communities (Creswell at al., 2007; SCRA, 2012).
Community education Aims to educate members of the community and promote healthy behaviour change related to using social marketing and public awareness campaigns (SCRA, 2012; Gagné et al., 2014).
Consultation Builds a collaborative process aimed at identifying and solving problems and identifying useful data and resources, takes place within the context of a specific mandate given by a group, organisation, or community. In CP, consultation is envisaged as a tool for development and empowerment that often takes place in complex systems involving many stakeholders (Laprise & Payette, 2001; Meyers, 2002).
Training, coach Develops individuals' and groups’ abilities to work more effectively towards their mentoring goals and is especially effective when individual capacity building is supported by tools and processes that provide continuing support. Training in such skills as reflective practice or evaluation can be a crucial component in capacity building efforts (Lavoie & Brunson, 2010; SCRA, 2012).

Training, Job Settings, and Titles 

As McMahon and colleagues (2015) have aptly highlighted, few job ads state they’re specifically seeking a community psychologist to fill the position. These jobs may be advertised for generally registered psychologists or provisional psychologists or may be listed under a related title (e.g., Clinical Worker, Clinician, Mental Health Case Manager). However, the training and experience PHCPs acquire through a combination of academic programs and related work experience typically equip them well to be employed in a wide variety of settings. Given the relatively low numbers of psychologists working in the AoEP as community psychologists in Australia (less than 100), the majority of psychologists working in public health and community settings would be generally registered or clinically endorsed. However, these psychologists typically have a particular interest in serving the needs of vulnerable communities and may have sought additional training, work experience, or clinical supervision to support their work roles in the PHCP sector. Psychologists with other AoEP may also be working in public health and community psychology environments, such as a health psychologist working in an NGO with people experiencing substance misuse, an educational and developmental psychologist working in a flexischool, or a counselling psychologist working in a domestic and family violence centre. Thus, any registered psychologist can work in public health or community settings. This is particularly relevant as dedicated postgraduate training programs in Australia are very limited, including the Master of Applied Psychology (Community Psychology) at Victoria University.

Undergraduate or honours psychology graduates with an interest in CP and PHCP can be found working in many types of settings, including academic settings, philanthropic organisations and private foundations, public and private health and human service agencies (e.g., child safety), regional, state and federal governments, comprehensive community initiatives, self-help groups, prevention organisations, community mental health centres, non-profits, schools, community-based organisations, advocacy groups, religious institutions, and neighborhood groups. They work in organisations offering applied research, consultation and evaluation services, and community development, architectural, planning, and environmental firms. They may also be found in corporations or as researchers in community organisations, universities, think tanks, or government agencies (McMahon & Wolfe, 2017; Neigher et al., 2011; Wolff, 2014).

Fully registered and master’s trained PHCPs are well prepared to promote mental health and community wellbeing in a variety of roles, may seek further training in related areas (e.g., business), and tend to work closely with other professionals in related ‘helping’ fields (e.g., counselling, social work, human services). Some relevant job titles across sectors (e.g., health, education, housing, community welfare, justice and corrections) might include:

  • community mental health worker
  • clinical worker
  • case manager/care coordinator
  • grassroots organiser
  • community development specialist or urban planner
  • program or project director
  • grant writer
  • trainer
  • director of a non-profit or community-based organisation
  • research/evaluation consultant
  • coordinator for a community coalition
  • policy analyst, governmental administrative staff, or political attaché
  • executive staff of a non-profit or for-profit organisation (Hakim, 2010; McMahon & Wolfe, 2017; Viola et al., 2017).

For further exploration of descriptions of diverse career paths of individual psychologists working in public health and community settings throughout the world, see Bouchard, 2010; Chavis, 1993; van de Hoef et al., 2011; Wolff, 2014.

Conclusion

Psychologists working in PHCP settings share many of the values, concepts, and change strategies of other community-focused specialties, such as applied sociology, social work, community economic development, public health, applied anthropology, and prevention science. However, PHCP adds a unique constellation of perspectives surrounding community change and interventions compared to other disciplines. PHCP practice is, among other things, fundamentally based in an empirical approach, using research not only to describe social problems but also as a lever for change and advocacy. PHCP uses psychological and psychosocial knowledge to promote sustainable social change. PHCP are well placed to adopt a critical and analytical approach to environments and systems through the use of concepts such as social regularities, person-environment fit, and ecological analysis. They hold a tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to legitimise multiple points of view. They seek out individual and group strengths and strive to identify levers for change that are already present in the situation. PHCP’s move beyond analysis, towards action, by establishing a climate of mobilisation and synergy, and by promoting concrete possibilities for change (Laprise & Payette, 2001). These features of PHCP contribute to the wide variety of applications and careers that community psychologists can pursue.

This chapter was adapted by:

  • Amy B. Mullens, School of Psychology and Counselling, Institute for Resilient Regions, Centre for Health Research, University of Southern Queensland
  • Govind Krishnamoorthy, School of Psychology and Counselling, University of Southern Queensland
  • Éidín Ni She, School of Population Health, University of New South Wales
  • Lorelle J. Burton, School of Psychology and Counselling, University of Southern Queensland

It has been adapted from Brunson, L., Gilmer, A., & Loomis, C. (2019). Applications and careers in community psychology: Practicing in settings, systems, and communities to build well- being and promote social justice. In M. E. Norris (Ed.), The Canadian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science. Kingston, ON: eCampus Ontario. Licensed under CC BY NC 4.0. Retrieved from https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/psychologycareers/chapter/applications-and-careers-in-community-psychology/

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Please reference this chapter as:

Mullens, A., Krishnamoorthy, G., Ni She, E.,  & Burton, L. (2022). Applications and careers in psychology within public health and community settings to build wellbeing and promote social justice. In T. Machin, T. Machin, C. Jeffries & N. Hoare (Eds.), The Australian handbook for careers in psychological science. University of Southern Queensland. https://usq.pressbooks.pub/psychologycareers/chapter/community/


  1. Community psychology continues to be a recognised yet small area of endorsed practice with the Psychology Board of Australia, however we've replaced the term CP with PHCP in this chapter about the Australian context to allow for broader applicability of content to other psychology roles and training while still acknowledging its history.

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The Australian Handbook for Careers in Psychological Science by Amy B. Mullens; Govind Krishnamoorthy; Éidín Ni She; and Lorelle J. Burton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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