Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why I Think You Should Join SCRA's Community Psychology Practice Council

by Olya Glantsman, Ph.D. 
DePaul University

I was first introduced to Community Psychology in 2001. What immediately drew me to the field were its preventive perspective and action orientation. Though I have spent the majority of my career thus far in the academic setting, I have always been amazed by the practical aspect of the field. In 2011, while still a graduate student, I attended a roundtable by the members of Community Psychology Practice Council’s (CPPC). I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the session’s members and by the graduate students’ involvement.

It is hard to imagine a more welcoming group. I have been a member of the Practice Council since 2011 and it has been nothing but a wonderful experience. On the monthly calls we discuss current work and new initiatives in our field. CPPC is also a great source for networking and monthly peer consultation calls help new and seasoned practitioners alike understand the intricacies of working with communities. Another unique aspect of this group is its value of the students’ perspectives and how easy it is for students to get involved. In fact, many of the leadership positions in CPPC are often occupied by graduate students and early careers.

The CPPC provides one with a myriad of opportunities to get involved. In the past couple years I have been involved with a number of projects including the CP Practice blog, the monthly THEory into ACTion Bulletins, the Online Learning, and the Summer Institute Initiatives. In January, I represented the council at the SCRA’s annual Mid Winter Meeting and I could not be more proud of not only the group’s many achievements, such as the Summit at the Biennial or the Annual Mini-Grants initiative, but the people, who year-after-year make all this possible.

Whether you are an undergraduate student trying to learn more about what Community psychologists do or a graduate student trying to explore the possibilities that await you upon graduation, whether you are an early career trying to get more involved in the field or an academic wanting to understand the realm of practice, or even a seasoned practitioner who would like to be exposed to the work of others or share your experiences, I would highly encourage you to join the Practice Council by emailing me at

Brief History of the Group:
The Practice Council was born out of 2005 Biennial Conference at Champaign. The 1st Practice Summit occurred at the 2007 Biennial Conference in Pasadena and hosted over 100 participants. In 2008, Community Psychology Practice Work Group became SCRA Council of Community Psychology Practice and holds a formal seat on the SCRA Executive Committee with full voting rights. Since July, 2005, the group holds monthly meetings every 3rd Friday at 2pm (EST). In March 2013, the group began holding monthly peer consultation calls as practice share and support. Learn more about the CPPC here:

Olya Glantsman is a recent graduate from DePaul University’s Community Psychology doctoral program. Since 2001, she has been working at DePaul’s Center for Community Research. One of her life-goals is to raise awareness about the field of Community Psychology. She is currently a coordinator of the Undergraduate Concentration in Community Psychology at DePaul University, a co-coordinator of the CP Practice Blog and CPPC’s representative to the Executive Committee.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Undocumented Americans" video

What is it like to grow up as an undocumented youth in America? 

A few months ago our blog featured an APA post on the risks associated with immigrant youth holding unauthorized status (

This past month, APA has produced a video on undocumented
immigrant youth:

Here is a brief description of the video:
"Undocumented Americans," follows three undocumented youth, Jong-Min, Pedro and Silvia, who arrived to the US as young children and who share their stories and the struggles they face. Their experiences reflect the plights of millions of undocumented children and youth in America who often face isolation from peers, the struggle to pursue an education, fears of detention and deportation, and the trauma of separation from family and loved ones. This video calls for valuing the contributions of and caring for all members of our society, even those without documentation. The video is followed by answers to common questions about undocumented youth in America.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Role of Community Psychologists in Understanding the Digital Divide

THEory into ACTion
A Bulletin of New Developments in Community Psychology Practice 
  February 2014

The Role of Community Psychologists in Understanding the Digital Divide
Gloria Mullons, MUPP and Suzette Fromm Reed, PhD

          For years we have known that economic success and advancement of individuals and thus communities is intricately tied to “information tools, such as the personal computer and the Internet” (The U.S Department of Commerce: National Telecommunications & Information Administration’ (NTIA) report, 1995). More Americans than ever have access to telephones, computers, and the Internet. At the same time, however, NTIA has found that there is still a significant "digital divide" separating American information "haves" and "have nots.” What is the role of the community psychologist in bridging this gap?

The most obvious principle of community psychology that applies to reducing the space between the “haves” and “have nots” in the realm of the digital divide is Empowerment. According to Julian Rappaport, empowerment is a positive approach to helping those who have fewer resources, both tangibly, in terms of money and power and psychologically, in terms of confidence and a sense of efficacy. The concept suggests the importance of both individual determination over one’s own life and democratic participation in the life of one’s community, often through mediating structures such as schools, neighborhoods, churches, and other voluntary organizations. Empowerment conveys both psychological sense of personal control or influence and a concern with actual social influence, political power, and legal rights. It is a multilevel construct applicable to individual citizens as well as to organizations and neighborhoods; it suggests the study of people in context. 

          Community psychologists are positioned to create next steps for implementation of programs aimed at minimizing the digital divide into communities. For example, a community psychologist can facilitate the engagement of community members in technology by utilizing existing in-person peer-to-peer support group models based on the principles of adult learning and family support. These programs are strengths based and provide a gateway to parent leadership opportunities. One such model is Parent Café created by Be Strong Families/Strengthening Families Illinois. Parent Café is aimed at supporting programs and communities in engaging parents, building protective factors, and promoting deep individual self-reflection. Inspired by parent cafes, the first author designed a peer-to-peer support group model aimed at community engagement in technology called Café Technology. Café Technology is designed to engage community members in peer-to-peer conversations about computer usage, applications, stresses and successes. Café Technology encourages a discussion of individual resilience and flexibility when learning about computers, the value of technology and its role in communication, how searching the internet is both instinctual and learned and the fact that everyone needs helps when using software/applications at some time. Café Technology can go on for 15 minutes or an hour. It’s up to the group. There are no formal rules to Café Technology, but there are some agreements for participants including: 1) speaking from one’s own experience (using “I” statements), 2) listening attentively without interrupting and 3) not speaking negatively about oneself or others. Although technology may not seem to be a sensitive topic, it can tap into insecurities. It is suggested that “Vegas rule” be applied-- what happens in Café Technology, stays in Café Technology.  Preliminary research on the impact of Café Technology on community members is being considered.

          Utilizing a model like Café Technology in Community Technology Centers is likely to be more effective than models outside of the community. CTC’s are part of a federal initiative that acknowledges the role of community-based organizations and non-profits in delivering access to basic and advanced telecommunication services. More specifically, CTC’s provide access to information technology and related learning services to children and adults in their community setting. CTC’s face challenges such as unfunded mandates and low turnout of residents. Community psychologists can play a role by engaging communities through Participatory Action Research, perhaps by using Café Technology chats in an effort to identify ways of creating greater community interest. This empowerment process, along with advocacy efforts aimed at funding mandates, can increase utilization and pave the way to advancement and economic success of both individuals and their communities.  

          There are many potential roles for community psychologists in the area of the digital divide. Community Technology Centers (CTC’s) are communities themselves that work most effectively when they balance sense of community and empowerment. Community psychologists can work with content experts and community members to develop a curriculum for CTC’s tailored toward meeting community members “where they are” with regard to computer skills, and psychological baggage related to technology. CTC’s are increasing across the country yet for them to be effective there is a need for curriculum that is tailored to the needs of each community and its members. 

          Given that limited research has been found on community psychologists work with CTC’s, the first author has conducted exploratory interviews with six Community Technology Center Coordinators to assess how to develop curriculum that meets community members needs in CTC’s. Formative review of the interviews revealed a few interesting points. Prior to any formal class offerings, community member’s computer skills are always assessed. If the assessment is passed, they may enter the formal class.  However, if the assessment is not passed, “sit-downs” are held with community members to prepare them for the assessment.  The assessment process can provide the opportunity to meet community member’s needs, but for those who have trouble taking assessments, or even reading, this could act as a barrier. For instance, some members have low literacy and are visual learners; the extra work needed to pass an assessment goes above and beyond what they would need to become literate with computers. Another interesting although not unexpected formative finding is that CTC coordinators report that it is harder to work with elderly.

          There are clearly opportunities for community psychologists to help facilitate an empowerment process by working with CTC’s and community members, perhaps through Café Technology, to ensure even the most disadvantaged communities have the information tools necessary to  advance and have the opportunity for personal and economic success at both the individual and community levels.

This is part of a series of bulletins highlighting the use of community psychology in practice. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome. Please direct them to Bill Berkowitz at