History: The history of community psychology was based on a long tradition which fought against discrimination of races and cultural minorities. Also phenomena were made obvious, showing that the well-being of citizens has to do with the quality of life in different parts of a town, or with economic changes (e.g. unemployment) and social events at least in the time around 1930 (Fryer, 2008; Reich et al. 2017). In 1963 the so called Swampscott conference in the USA were the defined beginning of community psychology. This conference started with ideas how to change the educational system in psychology more enriched with the basic ideas and ideals in different fields of psychology and how to produce helping and preventive systems beyond the individual well-being.


Goals, definitions, values: Some basic features in several definitions of community psychology are given: Community psychology go beyond an individual focus and is studying the interactions between individual and contexts taking into consideration by observing relational, organizational, cultural, historical, economic, political and environmental issues, to detect positive or noxious influences and to promote collective well-being and health on different systemic levels (from situations up to political, economic and cultural structure of society). Community psychology has a special concern in enlightening their effects in the oppression, inequality, discrimination, exclusion and loss of freedom. So its focus is not only on prevention, but rather on social change. Its main goals are then both epistemic and transformative. Qualitative and quantitative research design are part of its multidisciplinary oriented tools. Action research, participatory and empowerment based research are most important. Values in Community psychology are not only objectivity but also justice, equality, right of diversity, and democracy.


Roots: Based on this historical background, community psychology has developed and is organized worldwide, also in numerous professional societies. In Europe, the ECPA (European Community Psychology Association) represents many national associations. Community psychology is influencing many field in psychology and other disciplines. In various universities worldwide and especially also in Europe Community psychology is organized as Bachelor, Master and Doctoral Degree (see information). Theories, methods and results are mentioned in numerous textbooks and journals (e.g. Christens, 2019, Dalton et al., 2001, Kagan et al., 2012, Kloos et al., 2012, Levine et al., 2005, Moritsugu, 2017, Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010; Orford, 2008; Rappport, 1977). Central journals are reporting extensive research efforts (e.g. American Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology).


Organization: Community Psychology is worldwide distributed (Reich et al., 2007). In Europe Community Psychology is represented  by Standing Committee for Community Psychology within the European Federation of Psychological Associations (EFPA) and the European Community Psychology Associations (ECPA; coordinating the activities of many European Countries (see links for CPS, see below).


Careers in Community Psychology: The fields of activity of community psychologists are highly diverse. They range from advisors of community oriented Programs to activists in social movements. Consultation of community psychologist are used in particular in the development and support of community oriented programs of public providers or non-profit organizations. Here, areas such as Prevention and Health Promotion play a central role, but also in all programs that want to enrich resources in communities. But also unorganized social actions are supported to strengthen the ties of networks and to examine political, ethical and social possibilities to influence communities. Last but not least, community psychologists also play a central role in the field of research. In particular, competencies in the field of environmental analysis, knowledge in terms of conditions of empowerment processes, and skills in program development and evaluation are required.


The Standing Committee (SC) for Community Psychology has 12 members (and 5 corresponding members) from across Europe and held their inaugural meeting in 2013. The European Community Psychology Association (ECPA) and their national members are closely related with the SC. In close relation to the definition the SC is observing and documenting influences on different systemic levels (life conditions of individuals, groups, networks, organizations, and communities). The second task of the SC is to promote activities in research and practice to prevent people from risks especially rooted in the social, political, cultural and economic structure (see activities).


Selected references

Bond, M. A., Serranop-Garcia, I., & Keyes, C. B. (2017). APA Handbook of Community Psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cristens, B. D. (2019). Community Power and Empowerment (Advances in Community Psychology). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dalton, J. H., Elias, M. J., & Wandersman, A. (2001). "Community Psychology: Linking Individuals and Communities." Stamford, CT: Wadsworth.

Fryer, D. (2008). Some questions about “The history of community psychology”. Journal of Community Psychology, 36(5), 572-586.

Kagan, C., Burton, N., Duckett, P., Lawthom, R. & Siddiquee, A. (2012). Critical Community Psychology. New York: BPS Blackwell.

Kloos, B., Hill, J., Thomas, E., Wandersman, A., Elias, M., & Dalton, J. (2012). Community Psychology: Linking Individuals and Communities (3rd ed.). New Yprk: Cengage Learning Products.

Levine, M., Perkins, D. D., & Perkins, D.V. (2005). Principles of community psychology: Perspectives and Applications (3rd Edition). New York: Oxford University Press. (p. 64-69).

Moritsugu, J. (2017). Community Psychology. 5 ed. Taylor & Francis.

Nelson, G. & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community Psychology: In Pursuit of Liberation and Well-Being. New York: Palgrave.

Orford, J. (2008). Community Psychology: Challenges, Controversies and Emerging Consensus, John Wiley and Sons.

Rappaport, J. (1977). "Community Psychology: Values, Research, & Action." New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Reich, S. M., Riemer, M., Prilleltensky, I., & Montero, M. (Eds.) (2007). International Community Psychology. Boston, MA: Springer.

Reich, Stephanie M.; Bishop, B., Carolissen, R., Dzidic, P., Portillo, N., Sasao, T., & Stark, W. (2017). Catalysts and connections: The (brief) history of community psychology throughout the world. In M. A. Bond, I. Serrano-García, C. B. Keys, M. & M. Shinn (Eds.), APA handbook of community psychology: Theoretical foundations, core concepts, and emerging challenges., Vol. 1. (pp. 21-66). American Psychological Association.

Viola, J. J. & Glantsman, O. (Eds.) (2017). Divers careers in community psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.


European Journals

Bulletin of the European Community Psychology Association

European Community Psychologist

Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology