Virginia Paloma (Spain)

What attracted you to community psychology?

Within the academic field, I have been fortunate to have had mentors who helped me to mature intellectually, to initiate me in committed and socially useful research, and to meet a scientific community—that of community psychology—with the same intellectual concerns and personal values as me. Specifically, it was Prof. Manuel García-Ramírez who introduced me to Liberation Psychology and, from there, I came across community psychology.

From the beginning, I was “in love” with Ignacio Martín-Baró, the greatest exponent of Liberation Psychology, a current that emerged in the 1970s in Latin America. This current emphasizes the role that structural dynamics and asymmetrical relations of power play in human suffering. It also encourages building a transformative practice from academia that advocates for the rights and well-being of oppressed people. I remember that one of the first texts that Prof. Manuel García-Ramírez shared with me was “War and Mental Health”.

Later, I did a research stay at the Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas in El Salvador, where Martín-Baró did most of his work. I still fondly remember how I dusted off many of his writings from the shelves of the university library. I went crazy photocopying all the material I could find of his—at a time when his work was not yet digitized. In fact, the folder with all this material that I brought back to Spain is still one of my greatest academic treasures.

What makes community psychology attractive for you?

For me, community psychology (CP) is attractive because I feel that this discipline aligns with my own intellectual concerns and personal values.

My parents raised me in a family environment characterized by intellectual restlessness and concern and help for people in socially vulnerable situations. My upbringing took place largely within a Christian community in a working-class neighborhood. Before I was born, my parents decided to move from a more privileged area of the city to this neighborhood, as a way of being consistent with their own ideals and values. This decision by my parents meant that I grew up in an attentive and intellectually stimulating family environment (my father always had a book to offer me, and my mother accompanied me every afternoon when doing my school homework), along with a largely challenging social environment. For example, I remember that my high school was right next to a slum settlement and my peers were—what I would now consider—an at-risk population in terms of drug use, dropping out of school, teenage pregnancy, etc. At the same time, I remember going with my parents to various demonstrations, protesting in front of the courts against the imprisonment of people who opted for insubordination, temporarily hosting homeless people at home, receiving recurring visits from people with mental health problems or with some kind of functional diversity, etc. We were a family firmly rooted and involved with the reality of our environment.

All this undoubtedly had an impact on my way of being, my dreams, fears, concerns, etc., which clearly led to my professional choice. So, this is why CP was attractive to me (and I decided to specialize in it): because I thought it was a way to be useful to others through my work, contributing as far as I could to generate more individual well-being and social justice in our world.

Please tell us about an event that was formative for your engagement with community psychology.

It is difficult for me to think of a single event. Rather, I believe that it was a series of events that took place at the beginning of my formative period as a researcher (2007-2010) that were key to understanding my engagement with community psychology.

In 2007, when I finished my degree in psychology, I helped Prof. Manuel García-Ramírez to organize in Seville the seminar “Integrating New Migrants in New Europe: A Challenge for Community Psychology”. Here, I had the opportunity to meet in person Isaac Prilleltensky and Maritza Montero, two authors I had already read. Hearing them firsthand was exciting. In 2008, we founded CESPYD: The Center for Community Research and Action at the University of Seville. That same year, I participated in my first conference in CP (which coincided with the II International Conference that took place in Lisbon, Portugal). Both events helped me to deepen my identity as a community psychologist.

In 2009, I made a research stay in El Salvador, where I could learn about the work of Martín-Baró and witness situations of oppression that consolidated my interest in doing work that would serve to advocate for social change. That same year, I also participated in the 12th Biennial Conference of the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) in New Jersey, USA. This brought me closer to the scientific community in the United States, something that was consolidated to a great extent after a research stay at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2010, invited by Fabricio Balcázar.

In your assessment, why is community psychology very useful for working with immigrants?

My studies have been analyzing the degree of subjective well-being—and other related variables—of migrants and refugees in situations of social vulnerability. To this end, I have understood that mental health is closely linked both to individual strengths and the existing social justice in the receiving context. On the other hand, my studies have been characterized by trying to improve this subjective well-being. To this end, I have designed community-based intervention proposals that make use of the community’s own strengths and resources, in order to increase mental health by promoting processes of resilience and psychological empowerment (moving away from individualistic and pathologizing visions).

In this sense, CP offers me a valuable conceptual framework to (a) understand mental health from an ecological or multilevel approach, where the intersecting oppressive social determinants have a great impact on the lives of migrants; (b) design, implement, and evaluate community interventions from a collaborative approach with other social agents and allied disciplines; (c) emphasize the strengths of migrant people and communities, who are considered agents of change; (d) respect, value, and celebrate cultural diversity; and (e) consider research as a way to understand social reality, transform it, and advocate for more inclusive and fair policies.

What are the main challenges community psychologists in Spain are facing today?

In Spain, the Official College of Psychology only defines the specialty of “Social Intervention Psychology,” presenting it as the field within psychology interested in contributing to the study and improvement of social problems. The reference journal in Spain within this field is Psychosocial Intervention. Thus, CP itself is not formally defined, and can be considered as a specific approach within Social Intervention Psychology. This means that there is no easy identification as a “community psychologist.” Moreover, in the academic field, communication networks among psychologists who define themselves as “community psychologists” are scarce. Therefore, I believe that one of the main challenges is to establish meetings within the Spanish territory to identify ourselves, share projects, and seek synergies among us.

Please provide a painting (or mural) that, for you, symbolizes what CP is about.

I have chosen the painting “Almond Blossom” by Vincent van Gogh, painted during his stay in the psychiatric center of Saint-Rémy (France) in 1890. This painting suggests to me the importance of beauty, the beginning of spring and of a new life. CP, like an almond blossom, represents for me hope in life and in a better world.

Uwe C. Fischer (Germany)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I was already fascinated by the systemic approach and its philosophical background when I started to study psychology. Switching the focus from the individual to a meta-level perspective on the interaction and its dynamic process gave me new insights. The content of psychology at the university was already on the road to mainstream psychology, but there were also teachers with an attitude and association to community and health psychology. For instance, Prof. Lothar R. Schmidt was focusing on the empowerment and social context of psychiatric patients and was supporting the political process to bring back the psychiatric individuals from an institution to the community. I was also interested in courses for environmental psychology and the salutogenetic approach of health psychology at the university.

With this mind set, I started as a scientific employee in practice-oriented health promotion and prevention projects. A European and interdisciplinary project on community based addiction prevention with the ideas of community development and bottom-up strategies with a systemic focus on the responsible adults (and not on the drugs and kids) was the beginning process to come closer to the practical and theoretical concepts of community psychology. Curiously, I participated in the conference of the German Association of Research and Practice of Community Psychology (GGFP) and found a warm-hearted group with interesting discussions and different approaches to run a conference. All along, I was involved further on in and initiated new community-oriented projects and I participated more often in the conferences of the GGFP, which strengthened my identity as a community psychologist over the time.

What makes community psychology attractive for you?

Community psychology (CP) presents concepts going further than looking only on the individual behaviour. It focuses on the social, political and cultural context in which the different people and groups are interacting. CP reflects the different perspectives and needs of involved community groups, and also the contextual situation within they are acting and thinking (culture, implicit and explicit rules and structures, distribution of power and resources etc.). CP is target-oriented in enhancing the well-being of the individuals of a community in consistency with the well-being of the whole community.

CP especially focuses on socially disadvantaged or powerless groups and enables their empowerment and participation in the community. The main questions are mostly: “who is (or has the power of) defining a problem and who has the power to decide for a possible solution?”. If the concerning persons are not involved in the two questions, the so-called solutions will mostly fail in the end.

CP supports diversity and the salutogenetic approach (with an important influence on the WHO concept of health promotion and mental health).

CP had an important and sustainable influence on the psychiatric reform process. It is still supporting improvements together with psychiatric patients.

CP focuses on contextual structures, which enables (Sen, 1999) even persons with disadvantages to realize their aims in a self-determined way and degrades care structures, which makes them helpless, powerless and passive.

CP uses the ‘local’ knowledge of the persons concerned. Generalized expert knowledge has not the absolute power. In consequence, CP supports also self-help groups.

CP uses proactive communication and discussions between different groups to clarify contradictions, to enable understanding of the others, and sometimes to find acceptable solutions. Furthermore, CP stimulates social networking.

CP favours bottom-up (or grassroots) instead of top-down strategies.

CP uses the power of community development and civic engagement for changing situations in the sense of the concerned persons.

CP is multidisciplinary oriented, as it is relevant in all disciplines concerning human communities and their institutional contexts or environments (health, education, social life, municipalities, architecture, environment).

CP uses research to realize social solutions for a better life, mostly involving the concerned persons in the research or evaluation process (action and participative research).

Please tell us about an event or experience that was formative for your engagement with CP.

As you can see in the answer for the first question, it was rather a continuous identity-formation process on the way to the harbour of CP than a single event. The process intensified during my scientific work in the project for community-based addiction prevention. In dealing with useful concepts for community development, involving community members for engagement and prevention, the concepts of CP were fitting this need very well.

In your assessment, what is the potential power of CP to respond to the wave of anti-immigration, or xenophobic tendencies in Germany and/or Europe?

That’s a difficult question. The conservation of resources theory (Hobfoll, 1989) tells us that people have more fear and stressful emotions for losing resources than to have no access to new resources. This happens already if they are expecting to lose resources in the future. In dividing people in established and outsider groups (Elias, & Scotson, 1994) the groups (especially the established group) generate their own repetitive narratives about the others and how the others threat their identity, culture, health, material resources and power. These narratives of status quo and expectations are produced and distributed from people in the community, reinforced by political groups and are mostly fare away from direct experience.

CP has the concepts to reinforce the empowerment, integration and participation of migrants and minorities (mostly defined as outsiders from established groups) on the level of local communities and on the political level. The process of separating and defining groups as ‘outsiders’ can be reduced in suspending separation structures and camps (e.g. for migrants and asylum seekers). The stereotype narratives are a great challenge in the digital media society with the self-selection and algorithm controlled information access in a bubble. Other and positive narratives have to be distributed and direct experience and communication possibilities between the groups are needed to build up new narratives.

What are the main challenges community psychologists in Germany are facing today?

The presence of CP in the professional community and in public: Acting in a way of community psychology, but not referring on it and telling about it, seems to be a problem to recognize community psychology. The more CP concepts are seemed to being integrated in other disciplines (but not sustainable), the more it seems to disappear as a ‘brand’ in the conscious mind. With the new “Handbook of Community Psychology in Germany”, we try to bring the brand ‘CP’ back to consciousness.

Defend human rights for migrants and minorities: Human rights are in danger international, in Europe and also in Germany, regarding the tendency of political opinions and the growing parties on the far right wing. Besides the challenge to achieve new enabling chances, it seems that we have to defend already gained rights and resources for minorities.

CP confronted with the digital age: The rapid development of the digital technology with its consequences for the working situation and mental health, but also for the social work itself, brings up questions, how to deal with it. Challenges of social networking and risks of alienation have to be discussed and will be a topic of the next issue of the German journal of CP “Forum Gemeindepsychologie”.

Is there a painting (or mural) that symbolizes what CP is about?

Hands at the Cuevas de las Manos upon Río Pinturas, near the town of Perito Moreno in Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. The art in the cave dates between 13,000–9,000 BP.

“Psychology and social change for our future world”

EFPA SC Community Psychology, AIP, Community Psychology Lab,

University Federico II, Psy-Com Aps, SIPCO

9.00-14.30, 25th of November 2023

Fondazione Mediterraneo, Via De Pretis 130, Naples in person and zoom

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85641575508?pwd=dmVZaG56UVpsR1hpelNsVEdDeW04dz09

9.00 Neapolitan environment friendly welcome!!!

5mns video “Gardening against any addiction!

Dott.Anita Rubino, Dipartimento per le dipendenze Asl Napoli1 Centro

 Psychology today and Environmental future issues

Introduction

Prof. Christoph Steinebach, President EFPA

Dr. David Lazzari President CNOP

Prof. Santo Di Nuovo President INPA

Prof. Cinzia Albanesi President ECPA

10.00 How to use the tools of Community Psychology (e.g., Participatory Research) to support and stimulate climate engagement?

Chair prof. Immacolata Di Napoli   

Promising projects to fight climate change based on Community Psychology principles

Prof. Minou Mebane EFPA WG CP Project on climate change

Prof. Bjørn Z. Ekelund

Strengthening innovative capability for community engagement and climate issues.4 cases applying Theory U and Diver

Community psychological perspectives on climate change

prof Emeritus Bernd Roehrle, University of Marburg 

Climate change and community psychology issues

 Prof. Fortuna Procentese, President SIPCO,University Federico II Naples

 11/25 UN day to fight violence against women and climate change. The respect of the earth as a non-predatory feminine value

Marina Passos, phd Student University Federico II

12.15-14.00 Workshop
The New Bank of Community Ideas and Solutions
In Quest of a Common Global Currency of Tomorrow

In this 2-hours workshop, we will analyze and present patterns of success built into the moments and sense of community, in order to make them transferable to other situations and areas. Interactively, we will discuss conditions needed to create and tell transformative community stories, and share our own stories.

Wolfgang Stark (Germany), with Bill Berkowitz, Leslie Hatch Gail, Brad Olson, Jordan Russell, MoDena Stinette, Tom Wolff (USA), Liesette Brunson (Canada), Caterina Arcidiacono (Italy), Nicholas Carr (Norway)

The ‘New Bank for Community Ideas and Solutions’ offers concrete examples how we build community and collaborate creatively as a community. It recognizes and appreciates inspiring stories of community resilience and creativity as shared ‘societal treasures’ and as an important part of our ‘common social wealth’.

2023 – EFPA ITALIAN SEMESTER ON PSYCHOLOGY

ECPA statement on ceasefire and support to Palestinian people

ECPA calls for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and an end to the genocide of the Palestinians. The Palestinian people have the right to have a place to call home, in which they can feel safe, feel legitimised in their existence, and have their needs recognised. It is time to end the violence against, and the oppression of, the Palestinian people, and to give them back spaces of dignity, recognition, and power. The Palestinian people are not Hamas! The Palestinian people have a right to a future and to their land; they cannot suffer oppression and the violation of human rights any longer. As European community psychologists committed to social justice, we repudiate war and demand respect for the human, civil and political rights of the Palestinian people.

Image by Freepik

General Assembly

We are pleased to announce that the ECPA General Assembly will take place online on November 28, from 4:00-5.30 PM CET time during the 10th Conference and Workshop in Community Psychology in Slovakia 2023

Use the following link to join us:

Topic: ECPA General Assembly – November 2023

Time: Nov 28, 2023 16h CET/15h GMT

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://videoconf-colibri.zoom.us/j/99880490129?pwd=OUtjVENwK1NYUE1zMXUvTktSQy9aZz09 

Password: 313243

During the G.A. the Treasurer for the next mandate (24-25) will be elected. 
 
We have received the nomination of Fortuna Procentese (University Federico II, Naples)

Solidarity with our colleagues at Victoria University (AUS)

We have learned that Victoria University finally decided to close the Master’s program of Applied (Community) Psychology, despite vast opposition from the community of academic and professional psychologists across the world.

ECPA want to express its solidarity with its Australian colleagues and is willing to offer its support to keep Australian Community Psychology active and strongly present in the Global Community.  ECPA website and virtual spaces welcome any initiative that can contribute to this scope. 

Image by Freepik

Call for applications – Student collaborators to co-develop the ECPA-SCRA online webinar series

European Community Psychology Association (ECPA) in collaboration with the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) is organising an online webinar series, composed of five online webinar sessions. Each webinar will focus on key societal challenges and domains for community psychologists, such as borders and migrant justice; feminisms and gender-based violence; violence and resistance in transgender, queer and gender-nonconforming communities; climate/environmental justice; community mental health and homelessness; the prison-industrial complex and abolitionist struggles; decolonising academic knowledge and practices. For each webinar, scholars from ECPA and SCRA respectively will be invited to share their insights with the audience.

The series will take place between November 2023 and June 2024. We are looking for one to two European-based students enrolled in a Master or PhD programme with a focus on community psychology to help organise and disseminate the online webinar series.  

Tasks: Collaborators will help designing the webinar series and identify the ECPA/SCRA scholars to invite for each session. Collaborators will also help disseminate the webinar series and run individual sessions. After each webinar, the two collaborators will finally write a short blogpost with key ideas and discussions coming out of each webinar, or will help ECPA board members finding someone who would be willing to write it.

Each of the collaborators will be provided a grant of 450 Euros .

Application process: To apply for this opportunity please send a brief description, of no more than two pages, of the webinar series how you will design it. Please indicate title and main topics addressed in each webinar and the reason why these are important for community psychology scholars, activists, and practitioners. 

Please also provide a brief motivation letter, describing why you are applying for this opportunity and how this role aligns with and contribute to your academic/professional values and trajectory, and what you are looking to learn from it.

Applications from Black and ethnic minoritised students are particularly welcome.

Applications should be sent via email to ecpa.psychassociation@gmail.com by Friday 22nd September 2023, 24:00h CET. Any application arrived after that deadline will not be considered.

A Committee will assess existing applications and candidates will be informed of their outcomes by 16th October 2023

For any query contact: ecpa.psychassociation@gmail.com 

Advancing science and creating a scientifically informed community 

The editorial team of JCASP has just published an editorial that outlines the scope and the new orientations of the Journal. More focus on social impact, and on relevance for the communities, openness to different theoretical approaches and research (and intervention) methodologies and author-friendly approach. Read the editorial here or download it here and see how you can contribute to the journal. Thanks to the editorial team, and in particular to the editor Loris Vezzali for sharing.

Moises Carmona Monferrer (Catalunya, Spain)

What attracted you to community psychology?

I found community psychology from professional practice. During my final year of psychology degree studies, I started working on a community project in the Torre Baró neighborhood in Barcelona. This was a project that aimed to contribute to the community organisation to build together with the Barcelona City Council a new urban plan for that neighborhood. It was the 2000-2001 academic year. And when I finished my psychology studies in June 2001, I started to find out what type of psychology I could connect with what I was doing. I knew that the tools and knowledge I had known about social psychology did not fill all the concerns and challenges that I faced is this project, which began being 6 months for an urban plan and ended up lasting 4 years for the integral transformation of the three neighborhoods that make up the north of Nou Barris, “north of the north” as we said in Barcelona. I quickly realised that community psychology allowed me, as a psychologist, to work not just to imagine a better world, but to try to build it. It allowed me to reinforce a concern I had as a teenager: Trying to change those things that I did not like in the world that I had to live in.

What makes community psychology special?

For me, community psychology (CP) is like a bonsai within psychology. Something small but very nice, something that requires care and affection. What makes it special, though not unique, within psychology is that it is nothing against the current. Because it is a psychology that goes from the person to the macrosocial. That is, it tries to understand what we do by looking at the person, the context, the culture, the laws, the others…. It has a multilevel look, which breaks with the individualising look that prevails in mainstream psychology. CP asserts that many of the psychological and social problems that people experience have their causes or their roots in the collective, and have their solutions, also, in the collective. Because it is a psychology that recognizes the other: One that not only sees their problems or weaknesses but sees their opportunities and potentialities; one that recognizes their abilities to add, that is capable of learning from “the poor”. CP shows what many people do not want to see because it makes inequalities that are normally hidden visible, because CP denounces these inequalities. CP is a power-building effort for oppressed groups.

Please tell us about an event that was formative for your interest in or engagement with community psychology.

Although in the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to participate in many congresses and training events of CP, at local, national and international level, I always remember in a special way the first international conference I attended outside Barcelona. It was the first community, work and family congress, held in Manchester in 2004 (I think). I had the opportunity to participate thanks to the fact that the previous year, at the European Congress of CP held in Barcelona, I had met Carolyn Kagan and Mark Burton, and they invited me to participate in Manchester. It must have been for the youth, for the transformative energy that I felt in the execution of the community project in which I was working at the time, because it was the first time that I attended a congress outside of Spain, and especially because of the fantastic climate created in the congress that I continue to keep an enormous memory of that time. To discover that there were people in other parts of the world who shared passions, values and the desire to change the world. And to discover that it was possible to organize a scientific meeting at a university where all participants could feel welcomed, cared for and recognized remains a huge recollection and impetus for my interest in CP.

From that meeting of 2004, between scientific sessions, innovative workshops and some pints, two milestones emerged that helped me greatly in my academic consolidation in the field of CP. A 6-month stay at the Research Insititute for Health and Social Change (RIHSC) led by Carolyn Kagan between February and July 2008 and a European project, Residency, between 2013 and 2015 led by Mark Webster from the UK. I also had the opportunity to meet Maritza Montero, who offered to translate the presentation I made in Spanish into English. In addition to starting friendships that are still present today. (Thank you Carolyn for sharing that experience.)

In your assessment, what is the future of community psychology in Europe?

The future of CP in Europe is positive, especially in professional terms. The effect of the context on people’s well-being is becoming increasingly evident. And if we talk about taking the context into account, CP is able to look at the social, the political, the cultural, the environmental contexts, and see how they affect people and their interactions. Now, if we look at it in academic terms, CP, like many other disciplines, risks becoming intranscendent. In a discipline locked in itself, worried about publications and impact rates, and moving away from the oppressed groups it committed to make visible. And give up trying to make a fairer world. This is a problem that goes beyond CP and involves the university and the technocratic publishing drift in which it is immersed.

What are the main challenges community psychologists in Spain are facing today?

The main challenge faced by community psychologists in Spain has to do with their professional recognition. It is true that social and community intervention psychologists are recognized in some basic services, such as social services. For years they have been working in different NGOs and they face the challenge of professional recognition of the figure of the general health psychologist. This figure, created by law to regulate the profession of clinical psychology in the private sphere, is becoming a serious threat to the figure of the psychologist of social and community intervention, for whom there is no regulation by law. From many services and NGOs, the idea of a health psychologist has been confused with the idea of psychosocial intervention. It is necessary to generate an in-depth debate in Spain on the need, or not, to promote by law the figure of the psychologist of social and community intervention. I remember having this discussion with some European colleagues, especially with Caterina Arcidiacono of Italy, who defended precisely the importance of having a specific profile for the community psychologist.

Please provide us a photo that, for you, symbolizes what CP is about.

This photo represents the superpowers from our CP students have in their transition from students to professionals. It arises from a session where we work on this transition and ask them to paint their superpowers on a mask. It is in the last sessions of the semester that the class group feels like a community.

How about a song?

Gracias A La Vida by Mercedes Sosa. “Thanks to life!” tells me how lucky I am to be a community psychologist.

Nicholas Carr (Norway)

What attracted you to community psychology?

As a Norwegian psychologist I was fortunate to be attracted by the national pioneers in community psychology (CP) during my early student years in Bergen. University of Bergen had a more eclectic profile than Oslo, with influences from Europe. The very first professors in Bergen were my teachers. Bjørn Christiansen (3rd row, fifth from left in the photo) was one of those who attracted my attention and became my supervisor. My graduation thesis was a follow up on his ongoing research on the role of psychologists working in the community.

These people and their knowledge are what attracted me to CP. The notion that «it takes a community to raise a child» is evident when looking at the photo of my teachers and mentors who I met in early student years. Later on, I was fortunate to be part of the very first post graduate community psychology training in Norway. The program lacked teachers, so we had to import scholars from Europe, which put me in touch with colleagues I still enjoy contact with today.

Please tell us about an event that was formative for your interest in community psychology.

After graduation my thesis became a reference to ongoing reforms in the post graduate training of psychologists. For me it was formative to experience that psychological knowledge can have a direct impact on health services planning and policies.

I discovered early how CP provides insights to achieve social justice, placing the cultural and political context at the heart of what psychologists do. I wished to orient myself further towards a systemic view of social and psychological problems, and my first job was in a remote community isolated by fjords on three sides! I was given a great deal of trust and equivalent responsibilities.

Working close with the rural youth, gave huge inspiration and meaning for me as a young clinician and school psychologist. The position gave a free mandate to fill according to personal preferences. The first meeting of partners in this project was a major formative event for my growing interest in CP. When I asked the boys dropping out of school what their preferred activity was, the responses gave an impulse to a community project still growing after 35 years.

The early formative years were probably long before my professional years began. Born in the 1950s UK with a psychiatrist and a nurse as parents, the choices of profession were already made. I grew up in a caring environment dominated by the asylum ward next door to the doctors flat. Being a student of Dr. Anna Freud, my father was influenced by the early psychoanalysts. This gave me an opportunity to develop a critical position to the dominating power relationships in clinical settings. My brother and sister both graduated at the same medical college as my father Dr. R.B. Carr, the renowned St. Bartholomew College in London. The opposition role in discussions about mental health has been formative from my early years. I deeply respect my father’s work in prisons during his late years, providing therapy for prisoners doing life-time sentences for murder, having no rights for mental health care services.

As a practitioner more than a researcher, I have taken the odd jobs as a student in major psychiatric institutions to learn how the system functions. There I was confronted with class inequalities inside the hospital. I have never forgotten the less privileged patients from these days.

What makes community psychology special?

The multidisciplinary origin and the diversity of CPs around Europe is a strength for any profession. Personally, I have developed a strong identity and connection, making CP special to me by going beyond the professional role. I see CP as a way of thinking more than a discipline within psychology. It connects to a value-based psychology in order to address the underlying causes of mental problems. Teaching CP on how to analyse determinants of participation and sense of community gave me access to an active professional network in the 1990s.

I began to see the psycho-social processes through which inequality and injustice impact on communities’ health and well-being. This has been crucial in my suicide prevention work, adding a supplying perspective to the individual suicide prevention strategies.

The key message and what makes CP special to me, is that CP challenges the idea that human crisis affects only the individuals, and promotes the idea that well-being is always connected to social and political contexts. By strengthening the bonds, trust and sense of belonging between people and institutions, CP helps communities to recover and give hope after the crisis. Why some communities recover quicker than others, is related to resilience and togetherness. I have always been more interested in the strengths than the weakness of people and communities.

I believe CP can play a crucial role in facilitating growth and resilience during our ongoing global crisis. I feel comfortable in my role as coordinator between people and institutions to increase participation and civic engagement. Working with youth in schools, addiction and mental health services has given me huge pleasure in facilitating and moderating human growth in groups, volunteer organisations and communities. I have a strong perception that CP is welcomed in almost every other discipline of psychology, and we are thereby able to be generous and give CP away.

What is the future of CP in Europe?

As a growing discipline, in contact with real life problems, such as climate change, war in Europe and after effects of the pandemic, I believe we can play an important role in future Europe.

In the songs from the film «Searching for Sugarman» there is a longing for something beyond knowledge, a human experience of connectedness between people. I see a paralel story to this film in the way CP is coming back from the US to Europe, being rediscovered in countries where the ideas originated. The album «Cold Fact» which the film is based on, never sold in the US, but became a cult classic in South Africa. Kids in school could recite the song texts, and the album became a huge inspiration among youth in their struggle against apartheid. Rodriguez’s family came over from Mexico, and he grew up in Detroit. Rodriguez was loyal to his heritage and working class background, and was never interested in making a commercial success.

The most important future challenge is to connect with the multi-disciplinary field of climate change research and action. Looking at the APA Climate Advisory Group in the U.S., the CP perspectives are clearly missing. To fill in the gap, CP approaches can play a significant role by bringing in participation research, communiy resilience, transforming and building communities, climate justice and global sense of community. As a citizen in Norway, a country responsible for the worlds highest carbon emissions I feel a personal responsibility to take part in the fight against climate change.

What is the most important piece we are missing in community psychology in Europe?

I do not think we miss anything specific, as we are extremely diverse with many traditions and cultural backgrounds. What we need in order to have a greater impact in a European context is a unifying element in our different associations. We have for a long time been fragmented and not well connected in professional networks. After 1996 in Rome we saw the first step towards a unifying network across national borders with the ENCP. In 2006, the European Community Psychology Association was formed, which hosted biannual international events. Then in 2011, European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) launched a Task Force, developing into a permanent Standing Committee in 2013. This year in Brighton we are witnessing nothing less than a turning point for European CP. For the first time in the ECP history, the congress is waving a high profile on CP in the official program. The signs are very clear; CP is one of the main thematic tracks, the Scientific Committee has a CP member, the Interdisciplinary Topics are typical CP research areas, a community psychologist is giving a keynote, and the CP pioneer Marie Jahoda will be presented in a historical panel session.

From a position outside EFPA, not well known in mainstream psychology circuits, CP has established itself in the centre of EFPA activities, with an influence on other fields of psychology and society on the whole. This is only the beginning, now we need to build CP as a EuroPsy field of practice and develop CP training at all major universities in Europe. This is what we are missing.

Please offer us a song that, for you, symbolizes what community psychology is about.

The song «Cause» is from Rodriguez’s second album «Coming from Reality».