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Therapists as Agents of Social Change

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1 Therapists as Agents of Social Change
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” - Maria Robinson

2 Questions of the Day “Objective good health is related to happiness”
Do you agree that health, education, climate, race and gender do not matter much for happiness? Are changing social conditions impractical? Do citizens of the USA tend to say they are happy even when they aren’t? Why or why not?

3 Knee-Jerk of Community Psych
Reflexivity: the subjectivity and social location of community psychologists in their roles as social interventionists, including the privileges that they enjoy “One cannot be a community psychologist in one’s public life at work and then go home to one’s private life and ‘turn off’ the values that inform one’s work as a community psychologist” (Nelson & Prelletensky (2005), p152)

4 Truth or Conscientization
The process of gaining awareness of the conditons that oppress people Praxis: Critical “‘reflection and action upon the world to transform it’” (Freire, 1970)

5 What Does Praxis Look Like?
Cultural Context Vision Actions Constituencies Needs

6 How Should Praxis Look? Cultural Context Vision Actions Needs

7 Praxis makes perfect Dimensions State of Affairs Subject of Study
Outcome Vision/values What is the ideal vision? What values guide the vision? Social organizations that promote a balance among values for personal, relational, and collective well-being Vision of justice, well-being and empowerment Cultural/Social context What are the facts? The “true” state of affairs? Psychology of individual and collective Identification of prevailing norms and social conditions oppressing minorities Needs How is the state of affairs perceived and experienced Grounded theory and lived experiences Identification of needs of oppressed groups Action What can be done to change undesirable state of affairs Theories of personal and social change Personal and social change strategies

8 The Making of a Community Psychologist
Experiences Reflexes Accountability Outcomes Social Norms and Abnorms “Rocking the boat” Attitude PRAXIS = FACILITATOR

9 Core Ingredients Competencies Skills Assumptions
Understand the central roles of power in the social world; frame problems in terms of power inequities; challenge victim-blaming assumptions; focus on strengths Values Clarify the vision and values on which interventions are based; advocate for values that promote liberation from oppression and personal, relational, and collective well-being Principles and Theories Understand and apply CP concepts and theories (prevention, empowerment, sense of community); use ecological and system approaches to intervention focusing on group, organizational, community and social change, rather than individualist approaches

10 Professional Ingredients
Competencies Skills Personal Effectiveness Personal reflection and conscientization; communication skills (basic attending and influencing, assertiveness, leadership, setting boundaries) Partnership and Collaboration Consultation; group process facilitation; organization development; community development; partnering with diverse stakeholders, including disadvantaged people; team-building Technical Competencies Project management; grant-writing; oral and written communication skills

11 Focus Ameliorate vs Transform Ameliorative: Transformative:
Band-aid vs. Major Surgery First Order Change vs. Second Order Change Ameliorative: an approach to intervention that focuses on improvement rather than fundamental change of underlying assumptions, values and power structures, also known as first-order change Transformative: an approach to intervention that focuses on fundamental change of underlying assumptions, values and power structures; also known as second order change

12 The Characters of Change
Characteristics Ameliorative Transformative Framing of Issues/Problems Technical and rational problem solving Terms of oppression and inequities of power Values Holistic, health, caring and compassion Self-determination, participation, social justice, respect for diversity, accountability Levels of Analysis Ecological perspective; improving personal well-being Terms of power dynamics; improving collective well-being Prevention Focus Enhancing personal skills, self-esteem and support systems Reduction of systemic risk factors (racism, sexism, poverty) Desired Outcomes Personal enhanced well-being (health, choice) Group enhanced well-being (power and justice) Invention Process May be ‘expert-driven’ but includes stakeholders Partnership with community and stakeholders; local ownership of change process Roles for Community Psychologists Professional expertise to solve problems Work with oppressed groups to challenge the status quo and create social change

13 Promoting Healthful Change
Whose interests will be served? Is there value congruence between the change agent and those with whom he/she will be consulting? What form will the intervention take (eg action research, consultation, skills training)? What previous interventions have been tried and with what success?

14 What’s the Alternative?
Alternative Settings: Voluntary associations created and controlled by the stakeholders who share a problem or oppressive condition Eg – Self-help, mutual aid organizations If a social condition is not deemed oppressive does it need changing?

15 Tips and Tricks for Facilitating Social Change
Who’s in the room? What kinds? Types? Shapes? Colors? Class? How often do YOU speak? Are you ACTIVELY listening? Support others by soliciting their thoughts and ideas Whose work and contribution gets recognized? Work against creating a structure that alienates some of the stakeholders Ask what needs to be done vs. asking others to do something Social change is a process – a complex, laborious process

16 Social Interventions Is social service the same as social change?
The belly of the beast: outsiders or insiders? Challenging the status quo: linking the immediate concerns of citizens with larger structures of inequality Promotion of personal, relational, and collective well-being Balancing self-determination, caring, compassion and respect for diversity with principles of social justice and sense of community

17 Examples of Ameliorative vs Transformative Social Interventions
Setting / Role Ameliorative Transformative Government / Insider Contribute to population health Prevent epidemics Social supports Public education Provide basic necessities Support full employment Equity legislation Progressive taxation system Eliminate poverty Universal health insurance Universal family support SMOs and NGOs / Outsider Demand more services Pressure to improve community Increased participation in local politics Funds for charity, research and demonstration projects Oppose economic colonialism Resist globalization Fight exploitation Support networks of resistance Depowerment of the powerful Create links of solidarity Sustainable communities Promote culture of equality Teach psychopolitical awareness

18 Import Trivia 1% reduction in GDP eliminates gains in reducing urban poverty experienced during a 3.7% growth in GDP Recession has a particularly strong effect on inequality Growth by itself, without appropriate social policies to ensure fairness in the way its benefits are distributed, brings little benefit to health equity

19 Strengths and Limitations
Characteristic Government SMOs and NGOs Strengths Breath Depth Length Sustainability Transformative Participatory Integrative Weaknesses Ameliorative Conservative Regressive Unaccountable Contradictory Transitory Insular and internecine Indifferent to diversity

20 Roots of Social Movements
Suffering / Deprivation Consciousness Raising Congealing Events Political Opportunities

21 Community Psychologists Working in Government Organizations
Bureaucracy Paperwork Limited, Defined Scope Measureable (Ameliorative) Less an agent of change than an agent of policies

22 Community Psychologists in SMOs and NGOs
Limits on personal income Inefficient ways of working Diverse educational levels of coworkers and staff members Diverse cultural experiences may create misunderstandings and tension Compromising one’s own personal values? Fractured goals

23 Role of Community Psychologist in Social Organizations
Facilitate: Social change People power / empowerment Collective action

24 How to Prepare as a Facilitator for Social Change
Multiple sources of support Congruence and confluence of interests Communications network Organizational effectiveness Resource mobilization

25 Collective Action Strategies
Build Recruitment because Size Matters Media and Marketing Campaigns Create Coalitions of Intersecting Interests Create Lobbying and Political Influence Efforts Protest the Status Quo


27 Changing Vocabulary Alternative Setting: settings that are designed to, and are often in opposition to, mainstream or traditional settings Ameliorative: an approach to intervention that focuses on improvement rather than fundamental change of underlying assumptions, values and power structures, also known as first-order change Framing: reframing how social issues are conceptualized or understood; transformative interventions involve reframing the way issues are typically understood Praxis: the integration of theory and practice in social intervention; it includes attention to cultural context, vision, action and needs Reflexivity: the subjectivity and social location of community psychologists in their roles as social interventionists, including the privileges that they enjoy Social Intervention: one who engages in transformative social change, as contrasted with social technician and social reformer roles Social Movement Organization: an organization that is specifically dedicated to transformative social change Transformative: an approach to intervention that focuses on fundamental change of underlying assumptions, values and power structures; also known as second order change

28 Intervention Vocabulary
Ameliorative: interventions purposeful activities designed to alleviate the resutls of living in unjust and prejudicial societies Coalition: a group of groups dedicated to achieving social, economic, or health goals for a particular sector of the population Health Promoter: person assigned the role of improving an aspect of the population’s health Human Development: refers to comprehensive improvement in the education, health, housing, social and economic conditions of a population Internecine: struggles within social movements or political parties NGOs: non-government organizations dedicated to a particular cause Program Developer: person collaborating with others in developing a governmental or non-governmental project Resource Mobilization: infusion of material intellectual and human resources into social change efforts Social Interventions: are intentional processes designed to affect the well-being of the population through changes in values, policies, programs, distribution of resources, power differentials and cultural norms SMOs: social movement organizations dedicated to a particular cause Transformative Interventions: intentional processes designed to alter the conditions that lead to suffering

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