“It was an exciting time… They [Swampscott conference participants] wanted to intervene in social problems that were not explicitly mental health in nature, and that’s why they talked about becoming “social change agents” – a vision that was a sea change for American psychology.”
U.S. community psychology was founded at a conference in Swampscott, Massachusetts, 1965.
The conference spawned a new type of action-oriented psychology called Community Psychology.
Community Psychology became an innovative approach to research and practice, and quickly became a new field of study.
This field now includes a set of principles and practice competencies that have evolved to fit contemporary challenges.
How and Why Did Community Psychology Begin?
“Community psychology” in the U.S. emerged in the 1960s in response to the limitations of psychology in solving social problems. Stimulated by the community mental health movement, early developments that led to the birth of the field included:
- the action research of the Yale Psycho-Educational Clinic
- the community-based Fairweather Lodge program
- teaching children competencies, such as interpersonal social problem solving skills
- early identification of children with behavior problems in the Primary Mental Health Project
- the seminal workforce analysis done for the 1961 Presidential Commission showing an urgent need for prevention services
At the Swampscott Conference….
Thirty-nine conference participants came together to define how psychologists could impact social change and policy beyond psychological therapeutic interventions. Annette Rickel, a former president of SCRA, described the purpose of conference as “…to delineate the education of psychologists for a role in community mental health. She noted that training in community psychology would emphasize “education for prevention, provision for innovative field training experiences, and the need to create a knowledge base for community psychology through research and evaluation”
Organizing Principles for Community Psychology Research and Practice
- Considering individual vs. systems change, including first order vs. second order change
- Understanding social ecological levels of analysis and intervention
- Focusing on wellness, strengths, and competence (vs. deficits and disorder), including an emphasis on prevention, resilience, and health promotion
- Valuing and promoting empowerment and social justice, including liberation from oppression
- Understanding human diversity and cultural contexts
- Advancing stakeholder participation, multi-level collaboration, and sense of community
- Developing empirically-based models for action
- Promoting theoretical and methodological pluralism
Competencies for Community Psychology Practice
|Foundational Principles||Ecological perspectives
Sociocultural and cross-cultural competence
Community inclusion and partnership
Ethical, reflective practice
|Community Program Development and Management||Program development, implementation, and management
Prevention and health promotion
|Community and Organizational Capacity-Building||Community leadership and mentoring
Small and large group processes
Consultation and organizational development
|Community and Social Change||Collaboration and coalition development
Community organizing and community advocacy
Public policy analysis, development, and advocacy
Community education, information dissemination, and
building public awareness
|Community Research||Participatory community research
Original Article: Tebes, J. K. (2016), Reflections on the Future of Community Psychology from the Generations after Swampscott: A Commentary and Introduction to the Special Issue. American Journal of Community Psychology, 58: 229–238. doi:10.1002/ajcp.12110
For More Information:
Yale Psycho-Educational Clinic – Sarason, S.B. (1966). Psychology in community settings: Clinical, educational, vocational, social aspects. New York: Wiley.
Fairweather Lodge program – Fairweather, G.W. (1980). The Fairweather lodge, a twenty-five year retrospective (No. 7). San Franciso: Jossey-Bass
Teaching Children Competencies – Shure, M.B., & Spivack, G.(1978). Problem-solving techniques in childrearing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Primary Mental Health Project – Cowen, E.L., Trost, M.A., Izzo, L.D., Lorion, R.P., Dorr, D., & Isaacson, R.V.(1975). New ways in school mental health: Early detection and prevention of school maladaptation. New York: Human Sciences Press.
Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health – Albee, G.W. (1959). Mental health manpower trends. Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health. Monograph Series No. 3, New York: Basic Books.
Swampscott Conference – Rickel, A.U. (1987). The 1965 Swampscott Conference and future topics for community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 15, 511–513.
General Information on Community Psychology – Kloos, Hill, Thomas, Wandersman, Elias, and Dalton (2012), Levine, Perkins, and Perkins (2005), Moritsugu, Wong, and Duffy (2010), Nelson and Prilletensky (2010), Orford (2008).
SCRA (2012). The Community Psychologist, 45, 8-14.
By Jacob Kraemer Tebes with Ashley Simons-Rudolph