I review the marginalized status of community psychology in the history of psychology in Canada, emphasizing the early precedents of applied mental health and community interventions. I present the findings from inquiries into undergraduate and graduate training in community psychology in Canada. After assessing current problems in the subdiscipline, I make recommendations for future directions and discuss the potential usefulness of community psychology to professional psychology in meeting the challenges of public mental health.
J'examine le caractere marginal de la psychologie communautaire dabs l'histoire de la psychologie au Canada, en mettant l'accent sur les premieres interventions communautaires et en sante mentale. Je presente les conclusions d'enquetes sur la formation de premier, de deuxieme et de troisieme cycles en psychologie communautaire au Canada. Apres avoir evalue les problemes que connait actuellement cette sous-discipline, je recommande des orientations pour l'avenir et je traite de la mesure dans laquelle la psychologie communautaire pourrait aider la psychologie professionnelle a relever les defis que pose la sante mentale de la population.
Community psychology, in my view, is the applied subdiscipline that is explicitly oriented to developing psychological theory, values, and research methods and to creating innovative social interventions, all for the purposes of: preventing social, economic, health, and mental health problems; improving the quality of life and well-being, particularly for marginalized groups; and building the sense and reality of community and empowerment. (For reviews of the epistemic bases of community psychology and their theoretical, methodological, and practical implications, see the edited volume by Tolan, Keys, Chertok, & Jason, 1990.) A distinctive feature of community psychology, ideally, is the planned use of participatory research in active collaboration with citizens to promote a more equitable distribution of community resources. In both theory and practice, community psychology is broader in scope but overlaps to some degree with professional psychology (i.e., clinical, counselling) and applied social, industrial-organizational, developmental, and educational psychology. The concept of primary prevention, for instance, which is central to community psychology, has insinuated its way into other subdisciplines of applied psychology and other professions such as social work.
Current Canadian examples of community psychologists' work include: (1) the application of the standard of social justice to cases of sexual assault in comparison to physical assaults and robberies in order to expose a criminal justice system that minimizes male violence against women and to propose law reform (Renner, Alksnis, & Park, 1997); (2) a participatory, peer-centred evaluation of an urban organization that stimulates community-based economic development intended to counter the debilitating effects of extant marketplace conditions through community organizing, mutual aid, and alternative economic and employment practices (Papineau & Kiely, 1996); (3) the development and evaluation of a collective drama approach with adolescents in schools to heighten peer awareness about and prevent violence against women, which incorporates innovative research methods and report-writing (Community Education Team, in press).
According to conventional wisdom, American psychologists originated community psychology in response to the U.S. community mental health movement and social issues in the 1960s. More recently, the community psychology division of the American Psychological Association (APA) became known as the Society for Community Research and Action to signal its action-science intentions. But community psychology, practiced in nations as diverse as Cuba, New Zealand, and Venezuela for over a decade, actually has a much longer history in Canada than in the U.S., although a shorter formal emergence (Babarik, 1979). In fact, one could say that, like basketball, community psychology is a Canadian invention (Walsh, 1988). Unfortunately, the history of community psychology in Quebec and English Canada has received very little recognition in the standard accounts of the evolution of Canadian psychology.
In this paper I review the extant histories of psychology in Canada in relation to community psychology, and I summarize the current status of the Canadian subdiscipline, including an update of Canadian training in community psychology. I conclude with some observations on the viability of this Canadian invention in relation to developments in professional psychology and in Canadian society.
Personally, I bring multiple perspectives to this account of the status and future of community psychology in that I emigrated to Canada in 1971 from the U.S. and trained in clinical and community psychology in Canada. I then worked as a clinician for a decade before becoming an academic community psychologist for the next decade and contributing to the subdiscipline's journals. Recently, I served on the executive of the community psychology section of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA). My personal history enables me to make some specific and global observations of the community psychology scene. But to counter possible "blind spots," I shared an earlier version of this paper with key figures involved in the development of contemporary community psychology in Canada. I am grateful for their comments.
The Origins Of Community Psychology
Wright and Myers (1982) in their history of academic psychology in Canada quite specifically noted the tradition at Toronto and McGill of applied mental health research that was conducted between the two world wars. They stated, "Early intervention and parent education were viewed as essential elements in any mental health promotion program" (p. 16). Moreover, Wright and Myers even used the term community psychology with reference to this period of mainstream Canadian psychologists focussing on prevention and human resource development.
In the 1940s and '50s, William Line and colleagues at Toronto were vigorous promoters of community research and action (Babarik, 1979). (See Walsh, 1988, for other examples of Canadian antecedents of community psychology.) In one of the earliest histories of psychology as a whole in Canada, Line (1951) in his Royal Commission report explicitly used the term "community psychology" in relation to the primary prevention activities of applied psychologists. Line also used the concepts "action research" and "grassroots participation," which have considerable currency presently in community psychology. Line described the Canadian community as many communities, each representing a different value-system, abounding in variety and contrast; here we can discern anticipations of the concept of diversity. However, this precursor to what we regard today as community psychology soon was submerged. The influential critique by MacLeod (1955) of alleged premature professionalism within academic psychology in Canada and earlier trends shifted academic psychologists' concentration to "basic processes." Consequently, Canadian psychology was redefined for the next several decades, at least in anglophone universities, as primarily a laboratory experimental science (Adair, 1981; Conway, 1984; Wright & Myers, 1982). The submersion of Canadian psychology's historical roots in community research and action has been sustained ever since, as the following story illustrates.
In the 1960s, the federal Science Secretariat commissioned CPA to provide a descriptive account of psychologists in Canada in terms of their work, the proportions of psychologists engaged in pure and applied research, and the size of their graduate programmes. The subsequent report by Appley and Rickwood (1967) made no mention of community psychology. A few years later, Myers (1970) was moved to lament the relative disappearance of a distinctively Canadian blend of psychological research with community needs.
Correspondingly, examination by my research assistant, Audrey Rosa, and me of all articles published in Canadian Psychology (CP) and its predecessors since the journal's founding in 1951, showed that community psychology has not been discussed substantively, aside from the late Park Davidson's (1981) contribution. Another exception is Jean Pettifor's (1996) presidential address in which she connects community psychologists' emphasis on social responsibility with the CPA ethics framework. However, a historical account based solely on published material can be misleading. It is possible that the relative absence of coverage in CP is due to community psychologists sending their work elsewhere. In fact, the second issue of the 1982 founding volume of the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health (CJCMH), which consisted of a collection of articles on community psychology in Canada, was originally intended for publication in CP. As one of the contributors, I recall that my colleagues and I were aware of a conflict with the CP editor over editorial responsibilities. Many of us interpreted this conflict as a lack of support from mainstream psychologists for our subdiscipline. Hence, the CJCMH special issue came into being.
There are several other egregious examples of the neglect of Canadian community psychology. In 1992, a special section on the history of psychology in Canada appeared in Canadian Psychology, but there was no mention of community psychology. Other histories of psychology in Canada similarly give this Canadian invention short shrift. For example, Adair (1981) described the evolution of "applied psychology" in Canada in the '70s, but he clearly meant clinical psychology. Dobson (1995) regarded academic and applied psychology historically as more closely linked in Canada than in the U.S., even though he conceded that there have been and are intradisciplinary tensions associated with divergent value-orientations and organizational power. But Dobson ignored the historical contributions of both early and more recent community psychologists. A partial list of these contributors would include Camil Bouchard, Margaret Kiely, Francine Lavoie, and Maurice Payette in Quebec, and Benjamin Gottlieb, William Line, Patrick O'Neill, and Bruce Tefft. In addition, Adair, Paivio, and Ritchie (1996) in their Annual Review of Psychology chapter on the last 50 years of psychology in Canada refer to community psychology just once, at the end of a list of training areas in applied psychology.
These accounts appear to exemplify the presentist approach to history whereby the past is interpreted in terms of its value for the present. That is, given the dominant position of general-experimental psychology in Canada from the 1950s and the ascendancy of professional psychology in the recent past, earlier activities and contributions that were not congruent with the predominant approaches have been neglected. It is as if Line's (1951) and Wright and Myers' (1982) descriptions of the origins of psychology in Canada and community psychology's role in it had never been written. Moreover, save for Davidson (1981), the few histories of community psychology in Canada have not been published in Canadian journals (Babarik, 1979; Bennett, in press; Walsh, 1988).
Historical Relation To Clinical Psychology
In the American version of community psychology, the subdiscipline was a 1965 child of clinical psychology (Walsh, 1987). This relationship continues in the majority of U.S. community psychology training programmes in that they are linked administratively if not in theory and practice to the more powerful clinical programmes. But the relation of community to clinical in Canadian psychological circles since the 1970s has been somewhat different. In his history of clinical psychology in Canada, Conway (1984) credited Park Davidson with "articulating a distinctive model for Canadian clinical psychology" (p. 182), which Conway speculated might catch fire at some future point. Davidson's (1981) vision did not incorporate direct clinical service; rather, the professional psychologist developed and evaluated community programmes and consulted with direct service workers, such as paraprofessionals. Interestingly, Davidson, who failed in his paper to acknowledge his community psychology predecessors and the applied mental health orientation of pre-World War II Canadian psychology, in effect was advocating a return to the original Canadian approach. Davidson placed great stress on the factors of provincial influence on health and mental health and of Canadian federal policy emphasizing prevention. Furthermore, he regarded Canadian clinical psychology as like community mental health in the U.S., given that he regarded his contemporaries in Canadian professional psychologists as responding to local issues as they emerged and integrating clinical and community perspectives.
However, Jean Pettifor (1982) sounded a different note, when she pointed out that the desired shift to community mental health in many public mental health settings never materialized or occurred in name only. For example, broadening the scope of mental health to the community was highly dependent on individual psychiatrists and hospital administrators who managed mental health units. In addition, from my experience in both worlds, the actual clinical orientation that has prevailed in Canadian psychology is not community mental health but direct service, patterned after the American model of clinical roles and the "independent practice" ideal, which was secured by provincial and then national accreditation and networks.
So hegemonic was this reorientation in applied psychology in Canada that there are few traces of the community perspective left in contemporary professional psychology. For instance, Dobson and Dobson's (1993) edited book on professional psychology in Canada gave no substantive attention to community psychology and provided outdated information about graduate training in the subdiscipline. In addition, the CPA section on clinical psychology approved a definition of its domain in 1993 that contains no mention of community psychology or even of community mental health (Vallis & Howes, 1996). Reference is made to overlap with the other two groups in professional psychology (counselling and clinical neuropsychology) and with psychiatry and social work. Although the term "prevention" appears in the "general principles" of the definition, I wonder how professional psychologists can practice this principle without the appropriate knowledge base that community psychologists helped to establish. A similar relatively narrow vision of mental health and professional training is evident in the views of directors of clinical psychology training programmes (Alden, Mothersill, Steffy, McIlwraith, Steinberg, McMullen, & Tasca, 1996).
Another current example is the report on the 1994 Mississauga Conference on Professional Psychology, which four senior contributors to Canadian community psychology attended. In one of the three working groups at the conference, the terms consumer input and social responsibility were used in relation to internal and external advocacy for professional psychology. But there was no explicit discussion of community psychology and no mention of the need for professional psychologists to consult with those colleagues whose specialty is community (Dobson & King, 1995).
Perhaps there are political factors operating in professional psychology that militate against the inclusion of community psychology in professional training (Jean Pettifor, personal communication, September 4, 1996). The standardized credentials for accredited professional training in psychology in the U.S. and Canada serve to legitimize both the academic and the societal status of the profession. Because the theories, values, research models, and practices of community psychologists bear directly on social change, professional psychologists might regard community psychology as biased by its political agendas rather than being an objective science. In fact, any scientist-practitioner model of professional training and practice, of which community psychology is one sort, is necessarily steeped in overt, as well as covert, social-political issues and human values (Pettifor, 1996).
Recent History Of Community Psychology
The neglect of community psychology by both professional and academic psychology in Canada apparently has not inhibited the development of the subdiscipline over the last 25 years. The first paper sessions at a CPA conference were held in Montreal in 1972. According to the historical account of one founder of community psychology in Canada (Bennett, in press), formal training was instituted during the 1970s in response to a number of factors, including demands for mental health services, federal policy encouraging the development of a health vs. an illness focus (Lalonde, 1974), and the apparent vibrancy of community psychology in the U.S. Indeed, U.S. resources saturated Canadian programmes in community psychology in the 1970s (Tefft, Hamilton, & Theroux, 1982). By the early 1980s, graduate training was available in francophone universities and in anglophone universities coast to coast. In fact, Nelson and Tefft's (1982) survey showed that half the universities providing graduate training in psychology included some type of training in community psychology.
In 1980 the CPA section on community psychology was established, providing a national network of sorts and ritualizing the formal emergence of the field. Key figures in the early years of the section, such as Bruce Tefft, Pierre Ritchie, Margaret Kiely, Jean Pettifor, and Patrick O'Neill, have contributed significantly to both graduate training in the subdiscipline and Canadian psychology generally. Their students have gone on to make their own contributions to community psychology in Canada. For example, Tim Aubry, who did his doctorate at Manitoba, has investigated the community integration of psychiatric consumer/survivors (Aubry & Myner, 1996), and Danielle Papineau, who completed her doctorate at Universite de Montreal, studied grassroots, community economic development interventions (Papineau & Kiely, 1996).
Furthermore, the initiation of CJCMH in 1982 served to sustain interdisciplinary and bilingual cooperation among Canadian-based academics and community workers in promoting a broad conception of community mental health with respect to Canadian environments. In fact, a review of the first decade of CJCMH (1982-1991) found that the journal's content has largely matched its espoused goal (Peirson & Walsh-Bowers, 1993). CJCMH has provided much-needed Canadian resource material for undergraduate and graduate training in community psychology. Also, in the 1980s one French (Guay, 1987) and two English textbooks on community psychology and social intervention appeared (Bennett, 1987; Bennett & Tefft, 1985). Moreover, federal health and mental health policy statements that stressed health promotion and prevention complemented the subdiscipline's orientation (Epp, 1986, 1988; Lalonde, 1974). Despite the problems in the status of community psychology at that time, such as the cultural gap between anglophone and francophone community psychologists and the heavy American influence, I concluded (1988) that the field was quite likely to survive. As Davidson (1981) had argued, political, cultural, and professional psychology differences between Canada and the U.S. had enabled a distinctive type of community psychology in Canada to emerge.
But will the subdiscipline survive into the 21st century? Two sources of current evidence provide serious cause for concern. First, the community psychology section of CPA has seen its membership dwindle over the years to 36 in 1997. In contrast, at the same time there were approximately 50 Canadian-based members in the corresponding community psychology Division 27 of APA of whom just six were also members of the CPA section. Many, if not most, academics who teach community psychology courses in Canada do not belong to the section. And many individuals who made key contributions in the past to the community psychology section have withdrawn their membership in it. Furthermore, few francophones have been members. Although there have been some exceptions, such as bilingual community psychology symposia in 1986 and 1997, the CPA conferences have not been congenial experiences for francophone community psychologists. For example, Francine Lavoie of the Laval programme is now a Fellow of Division 27, where her work has received a warmer reception than among anglophone psychologists in Canada.
To update and expand the Nelson and Tefft (1982) report on Canadian graduate education in community psychology, my assistants and I conducted a survey of 56 departments of psychology in April 1992, to which 25 departments responded. Given the less than desirable return rate of 45%, we reviewed undergraduate and graduate calendars of all Canadian universities for 1992-1994. In addition, to confirm the status of training for this paper we reviewed 1996 calendars and the CPA www site, but these listings are susceptible to inaccuracies, as course offerings can be unstable.
As Table 1 indicates, 19 Canadian psychology departments currently offer graduate courses in or related to community psychology, including programme evaluation, community mental health, primary prevention, among others. This figure represents a decrease of one programme from the 1982 Nelson and Tefft survey. Although six departments no longer provide any graduate education in community psychology, six other programmes now do. However, the OISE programme in community psychology, which flourished for roughly a decade, is defunct. In addition, just two universities, both francophone (UQAM and Laval), offer a Ph.D. in community psychology, although doctoral training in the related subdiscipline of applied social psychology is provided at Guelph, Saskatchewan, and Windsor. In anglophone institutions, Laurier offers the only free-standing M.A. programme, where a doctoral programme is a possibility for Fall 1998.
Note: n/a means not applicable.
Table 1 also shows that at the undergraduate level only 19 departments offer any related course in the subdiscipline. In contrast, Laurier, Laval, and UQAM provide several courses each, including field placements. What is also interesting about the findings is that in nearly all of the largest and reputedly prestigious universities, community psychology has no presence at either the graduate or undergraduate level: UBC, Alberta, Calgary, Western, McMaster, Toronto, York, Queens, and McGill. But Western will be reviving a graduate course in community psychology within the clinical doctoral programme for 1997-98 (David Evans, personal communication, June 13, 1997).
Issues For Future Development
The status of graduate and undergraduate education education suggests that, with the exception of Laval, UQAM, and Laurier, training in community psychology depends upon the good graces of isolated professors scattered across the country. A key person in the development of Canadian education in community psychology, Geoff Nelson at Laurier (personal communication, September 1, 1996), interpreted the above data as indicating that without doctoral programmes in (anglophone) community psychology, there is no pool of academically inclined community psychologists to draw from, so the subdiscipline does not spread to other departments of psychology. His view is that community psychology will remain a master's level, field-based approach in (English) Canada until there is a "feeder system" in academia.
There is another fundamental concern pertaining to the survival of community psychology in Canada, in my opinion. Like any branch of social science, community psychology is subject to macro-level economic, social, and political forces, and it is quite likely that the prevailing conservative climate in Canadian society since the 1980s has contributed to the waning of a subdiscipline that actively promotes community change and reform of degrading social conditions. As Levine and Levine (1970) long ago pointed out when analyzing nearly a century of helping services in the U.S., liberal social climates support situational explanations and interventions, whereas conservative climates foster person-centred theories and solutions. Currently, professional psychology as a body in Canada is intentionally adopting the concepts and language of serving the interests of the marketplace and corporate globalization (e.g., Dobson, 1995; Dobson & King, 1995). As a much smaller and relatively invisible member of the Canadian psychology family, community psychology is in a vulnerable position. Consequently, it too could be a branch of psychology serving as an administrative science and profession, maintaining society's neo-liberal goals of individualism and privatization through indirect surveillance of the population. Ironically, community psychology could strengthen the status quo, despite its macro-level theoretical concepts and lofty political vision and its cultural function as a haven for professors and students with social-change inclinations, unless there is a countervailing, concerted effort to critically reflect on its actual relationship to society.
On the other hand, community psychology could use its marginalized status in the Canadian psychology family to its advantage and consciously and fully develop its mandate for emancipatory theory, ethics, research, practice, and training. Community psychologists have already demonstrated their leadership as researchers and social-change agents in many areas of primary prevention, such as preventing violence against women, community-based economic development, and support programmes for adolescent mothers (Nelson, Prilleltensky, Laurendeau, & Powell, 1996; Laurendeau & Perreault, 1997), and in community integration of psychiatric' consumer/survivors. With this recent rich history, as well as the valuable legacy of Canadian community psychology in earlier decades, the subdiscipline could continue to make its mark on Canadian society, provided that in the current climate there is sufficient public support for community well-being. For example, the bulk of prevention programmes are directly supported by provincial governments, obviously subject to political trends, and are funded at a very low level relative to other health and social services (Nelson et al., 1996; Laurendeau & Perreault, 1997).
But in order for full development of the subdiscipline to occur, in my opinion, academic community psychologists will need to be mindful of at least two issues. First, they will need to maintain their Canadian networks of support and Canadian identity, such as the CPA section and CJCMH, with francophone as well as anglophone colleagues, whatever the political resolution of Quebec. Such an identity is essential to actualize community psychologists' capacities for maintaining the viability of undergraduate and graduate education in the subdiscipline and for responding effectively to the needs and resources of local Canadian communities. Although some psychological concepts and practices might be transferable to other cultures and nation-states, community issues demand locally generated concepts and practices. But failure to develop viable networks of community psychologists within Canada could pave the way for cultural integration with U.S. community psychology. The following comment from Jean Pettifor (personal communication, September 4, 1996) could be instructive: "I do not see community psychology in Canada as having successfully developed the structural organizational components to support a strong visible identity in training, specialty recognition, job descriptions, etc."
Secondly, graduate education programmes need to actually mirror the core values of the field rather than the paternalistic practices of the patriarchal institutions of higher learning in which the programmes are embedded. For example, a systematic evaluation of the Laurier M.A programme found that the programme was meeting its outcome and process goals to a large extent; nevertheless, several key dimensions in the culture of training, such as the status of women in it, the lack of feminist content and process, the psychological sense of community, and a supportive learning environment, definitely needed improvement (Alcalde & Walsh-Bowers, 1996). Unless community psychologists consciously nurture their graduate education programmes, they are likely to perpetuate in practice the very drift to the institutional status quo that they deplore.
In terms of its relations with sibling areas of applied psychology, such as professional psychology, community psychology in Canada has much to offer. It already has a track record of productive liaisons with other disciplines and professions like social work, as the co-authored articles published in CJCMH attest.
In fact, according to Dobson (1995), professional psychology is in trouble and, I would argue, needs community psychology's expertise. On the one hand, as Dobson noted, the public sector is diminishing as the private sector becomes more prominent in both universities and clinics. Dobson contended that, because "psychology is a business as well as a discipline and profession" (p. 7), psychologists should seek partnerships with the private sector. This approach might fit well with the independent practice model of professional psychology, given that NAFTA points to international licensing of psychologists and greater influence from multinationals on research and practice. However, at least some community psychologists in Canada, including myself, would not identify with this orientation because of the ethical danger that such partnerships could exacerbate psychologists' susceptibility to collaboration with corporate and government goals that maintain economic, environmental, political, and social injustices in Canada and elsewhere.
On the other hand, public institutions are currently swinging from relatively autonomous professional departments to a programme management model that threatens the very identity of professional psychologists, as well as other disciplines. Public clinical services are shifting from longer-term to short-term in the face of lengthy waiting lists and government cutbacks. These developments demand creative responding. One approach could be professional psychologists allying with applied social and industrial/organizational psychologists. Although this idea might have merit, I would propose that the logical and historically demonstrated alliance for professional psychologists is with their community colleagues. The viability of professional psychology in public mental health services can be enhanced, if it embraces the integrative model of community psychology and clinical psychology previously advanced and successfully practiced by Line (see Babarik, 1979; Walsh, 1088) and his Canadian predecessors. Maybe Conway (1984) was clairvoyant when he speculated that the Davidson approach to community mental health might be found useful some day.
Like Dobson (1995), I believe that opening professional psychology to diverse frameworks, of which community psychology is one valuable sort, can sustain the growth of psychology both as a discipline and a profession. With both the profession and the discipline concerned about making Canadian psychology relevant to policy-makers and the 21st century, the time is ripe for connecting with community psychology. The Canadian psychological family can be enhanced by incorporating the theories, values, ethics, research, and practices of this subdiscipline. As Jean Pettifor (personal communication, September 4, 1996) put it, these potential contributions "can strengthen the moral and social value of the practice of psychologists who have adopted other specialty identities." One concrete way to begin a productive liaison with community psychology is to appoint community psychologists to academic departments so that they can have an influence on the discipline at large in undergraduate and graduate programmes.
Thus, the nature and scope of education, practica, and internships in professional psychology could be broadened so that students could discern and integrate into their subsequent professional practice community psychology theories, values, research methods, and social interventions. Concrete steps toward an alliance between community psychology and professional psychology could benefit not only the respective subdisciplines but also the Canadian public.
I presented a previous version of this paper at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, August 1996.
I am grateful to Pam Johnson, Adele Parkinson-Heyes, Audrey Rosa, and Don Roth for their research assistance, and to June Larkin, Geoff Nelson, Patrick O'Neill, Danielle Papineau, Jean Pettifor, Don Roth, and the three reviewers for their comments.
Please address all enquiries to the author, Department of Psychology, WLU, Waterloo, Ontario, N2L 3C5. e-mail: email@example.com
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