Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pushing Open the Doors

The moment she started talking and telling me about her doctoral program, I was hooked. That day the clouds revealed rays of light, shining down on me, and I had found the ultimate doctoral program. After graduating from college it took me more than 8-years to find my calling and a discipline that would integrate my knowledge and experience. In 2007, I began a doctoral program with an emphasis on community psychology in the Psychology in the Public Interest Program at North Carolina State University. Since then, I have been exposed to a variety of experiences, individuals, and opportunities that have reinforced my decision and have aligned themselves with my professional goals. However, over the past four and half years I have had to explain what community psychology is and, on occasion, deal with individuals who would respond with “That sounds like social work” or “Isn’t that social psychology?” My adamant “no” followed by terms used from systems thinking and the ecological model left them still wondering “So what is community psychology again?” For me, I never second guessed my decision to pursue this degree or ever had an “identity” issue as a doctoral student in my program. I knew what I wanted and how the program would provide that. It was through my doctoral experience that I wanted to find ways to work with individuals that would continue to promote and advocate on behalf of community psychology and the myriad ways in which we contribute to shaping psychology and the larger world. How was I going to do that? First, I needed to apply for fellowships or other opportunities that would provide me with the platform to discuss my program and CP. Secondly, I needed to get in front of undergraduates and other prospective students and inform them about my discipline and focus. I also needed to apply the principles of community psychology and go out and make connections with community-based organizations. Use the principles and methods I have learned in courses, through conversations and training and apply them within a setting that required me to negotiate my role as a community psychologist. The struggle is not in my own validation, but in exposing people to a field that will lead communities towards innovation, transformation and liberation. I am constantly learning and wanted to share this blog space with other doctoral students and CPs. I do encourage each and every one of us to seek those spaces and, if they are not there, create them and push open the doors loudly so that people will know who and what we are.

Dawn Henderson
Doctoral Candidate
Psychology in the Public Interest
North Carolina State University


  1. Great post Dawn! One tool to help explain Community Psychology is a value proposition that can be found on the Practice Council's page on the SCRA website:

    The last sentence of this post in particular got me do we get the word out about community psychology? Is something like the value proposition enough?

    What are your thoughts blog readers?

  2. Wonderful blog Dawn! One way I get the word out is to consistently introduce myself as a Community Psychologist, and to insert it everywhere I can when referring to myself. I also have it featured prominantly on my web page. I was really stunned when I taught a research methods class at the University of Texas at Dallas and asked my students "How many of you have heard of community psychology?" Nobody raised their hands! We all have work to do to create greater awareness of the field and it's good to see how you are doing that.

  3. Did you find any study that differentiates between Macro Social Work and Community Psychology? I finished an MSW and I am now in my first year of PhD and my program has an emphasis on Community Psychology.

    1. None that I know of but maybe I should look into this...hmmmm!

  4. Do you know of any community psychology programs in south Florida?