Community Psychology Training in Canada in the New Millennium

By Aubry, Tim; Sylvestre, John et al. | Canadian Psychology, May 2010 | Go to article overview

Community Psychology Training in Canada in the New Millennium


Aubry, Tim, Sylvestre, John, Ecker, John, Canadian Psychology


Ten years ago, Walsh-Bowers (1998) described in Canadian Psychology the marginalized status of community psychology in Canada. The purpose of this research was to investigate the current status of community psychology training in Canadian universities. The online calendars for undergraduate and graduate programs in departments of psychology in Canadian universities were reviewed for course offerings in community psychology. Subsequently, an e-mail survey of program directors was conducted to confirm and extend the findings of the online search. Results were compared with those of similar previous surveys conducted in 1980-1981 (Nelson & Tefft, 1982) and 1992-1994 (Walsh-Bowers, 1998). Findings show a small amount of growth in community psychology training at the undergraduate level since the last survey in 1992-1994, with more courses available in more Canadian psychology departments. There are also marginally more graduate courses in community psychology offered now than 15 years ago, but these are located in fewer psychology departments. Findings are discussed in the context of contemporary professional psychology and future directions for growing community psychology.

Keywords: Canadian psychology, community psychology, training

Community psychology occupies a rather unique place in the field of psychology. It adopts many of the methods, practises, and concerns of other areas of psychology, such as clinical and social psychology, and seeks greater institutional recognition and security within the psychology family. Nonetheless, community psychology was born of disaffection with mainstream experimental and clinical psychology, and while developing its own theory and research base, it has also advanced an explicit critique of mainstream psychology. Always marginal within the field of psychology, there has been ongoing concern for its ability to gain a secure foothold in the psychological establishment, particularly in terms of its ability to grow through the education and training of future generations of scholars and practitioners.

In the two previous decades, national surveys were conducted describing the status of education and training in Canadian universities (Nelson & Tefft, 1982; Walsh-Bowers, 1998). This article updates these surveys by examining the current status of education and training of community psychology in Canada. We begin by first defining community psychology and providing a brief overview of its history in Canada. Then, we examine community psychology's status in the context of Canadian psychology. Following a presentation of findings from our survey, we discuss their implications for further strengthening training in community psychology in Canada.

The article reflects multiple perspectives that include those of a midcareer academic (Aubry) trained in clinical and community psychology, an early career academic (Sylvestre) trained in applied social and community psychology, and a doctoral student (Ecker) specialising in community mental health and community psychology. All of us share an interest in developing training in community psychology in our home department and elsewhere across Canada.

Definition of Community Psychology

Although numerous definitions of community psychology exist, most touch on one or more of these three themes: values, research, and action or intervention (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2005). Nelson and Prilleltensky (2005) have included these themes in their definition of community psychology as

the subdiscipline of psychology that is concerned with understanding people in the context of their communities, the prevention of problems of living, the celebration of human diversity, and the pursuit of social justice through social action, (p. 22)

In terms of values, community psychology involves research and intervention that are focused on improving the living conditions of marginalized people. In this vein, Nelson and Prilleltensky (2005) have advocated an explicit focus on community psychology values in the pursuit of liberation by addressing oppression and promoting well-being. …

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