Community Psychology Explores How Individuals Relate to Society

How to Identify Different Types of Communities in Community Psychology

Community Psychology Explores How Individuals Relate to Society

At Pacific Oaks College, we define community psychology as the branch of psychology that studies how individuals relate to their communities and the reciprocal effect that communities have on individuals. But the word community may not be as straightforward as you think.

Read on to discover how to identify five different types of communities, which can be useful when conducting research that has the potential to impact them.

What is a community?

Before we start exploring specific types of communities, let’s first define what a community is.

As we outline on our community psychology program page, those working in the field of community psychology don’t confine their concept of a community solely to specific neighborhoods or geographic areas.

Instead, a community is recognized as a distinctive social system that impacts and informs an individual’s life through various influences and organizational factors. It is as much an environment as it is a set of relationships or even a feeling.

Apart from being locational, a community can also be relational, meaning that members share a deep sense of community that does not depend on their whereabouts (i.e. churches, fans of a particular sports team, or the military).

What are the different types of communities?

Because traditional psychology examines people on a fairly individual level, community psychology seeks to understand them within the context of their communities.

Oftentimes, community psychologists will view their subjects with varying levels of analysis, the majority of which reference different types of communities.

Below are five levels of analysis used for research in community psychology and the corresponding types of communities that may be associated with each.


As you may have guessed already, an individual is not a community but rather its subject and agent. In terms of its focus, this is the narrowest level for analysis. The main consideration for this level is examining how an individual interacts with his or her community and vice versa.


Just beyond the level of the individual are microsystems. Microsystems are the most intimate groups with which an individual participates, engages, and grows.

These groups may consist of the following:

  • Families
  • Friends
  • Classmates and teachers
  • Coworkers
  • Activity or team members

As you can see, most microsystems refer to the places and people an individual visits and interacts with on a regular basis.


Beyond the level of microsystems is organizations. This level is comprised of the institutions that often contain an individual’s microsystems. These institutions can, depending on their own processes, influence either microsystems or the individual through various linkages. Examples of these types of communities may include the following:

  • Schools
  • Workplaces
  • Neighborhood associations
  • Religious centers


For many of us, where we live is foundational to our sense of community. Locality, meaning the numerous spaces in which an individual resides, orients identity through the cultural, political, and economic events and activities that occur within them. Localities can be as small as neighborhood blocks or as large as entire towns, cities, and regions.


Of all these levels of analysis, macrosystems are the broadest and, to a degree, the most intangible. Macrosystems encompass a wide range of behaviors and ideas characterizing community systems that are more universal in their scope, such as:

  • Cultures
  • Societies
  • Governments
  • Belief systems
  • Social movements

Community psychologists must consider multiple levels of analysis when conducting research.

By understanding these five levels and their corresponding types of communities, a community psychologist can successfully discern how to serve their communities in the best possible ways.

Community Psychology degree programs

Pacific Oaks offers online and on-campus Community Psychology degrees. These programs prepare students with the skills to identify the needs of a community and design interventions that lead to positive and sustainable results.

Learn more about community psychology

Do you want to help communities thrive? Consider pursuing a B.A. in Community Psychology with Pacific Oaks College. Request more information by filling out the required information in the form below, or apply now through our application portal.


Community Psychology | Help Individuals and Communities Thrive

Community Psychology Explores How Individuals Relate to Society

Community psychology explores the way individuals relate to society and how community issues impact individual health and wellbeing. Those who work in the field take a multi-disciplinary approach that can include elements of public health, sociology, political science, and social psychology.

Working in community psychology provides professionals in the field with another career track option that allows them to focus their skills on a specific area of psychology.

Focusing on community psychology is an opportunity to explore some of the most important issues in a growing, diverse population.

Among those questions are why some people become bigger contributors to a community than others and how issues such as crime and poverty impact the mental health of individuals.

Community Psychology Principles

Community psychology emerged in the 1950s in an effort to expand the field of psychology beyond the focus on the individual and nuclear family. One of its foundational principles is that psychology should address ways to treat patients once problems emerge and address social conditions that increase the risk of mental health issues.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, community psychologists work under a set of principles that include the following:

  • Personal wellness and access to resources
  • Social justice and freedom from oppression
  • Sense of community and connectedness
  • Multiple dimensions of diversity (gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, etc.)
  • Community collaboration, participation, self-determination, and empowerment

The American Psychology Association writes that community psychology work focuses on “the development of theory, research, and practice relevant to the reciprocal relationships between individuals and the social systems that constitute the community context.”

What Do Community Psychologists Do?

Community psychologists can work in many fields, depending on their education and training. They may work as educators, program directors for government agencies or nonprofits, consultants, policymakers, or researchers for governments, universities, or community organizations.

According to the Society for Community Research and Action, no matter the specific job they hold, community psychologists work toward certain goals. Those goals include:

  • Seeking to expand “helping” beyond traditional psychotherapy to promote wellness
  • Engaging in action-oriented research that develops and evaluates programs
  • Basing work on a scientific foundation that leads to a better understanding of how social environments influence health and wellness
  • Building collaborative relationships with community members, groups, and organizations
  • Consulting with organizations to build capacity to address social problems
  • Analyzing government, civic life, and workplaces to understand and improve fair and diverse participation
  • Fighting oppression and working to reduce social inequalities and empower marginalized people

Qualities of Successful Community Psychologists

The skills needed by community psychologists start with those needed by all psychologists. They include strong analytical and communication skills, integrity, patience, interpersonal and observational skills, and strong problem-solving skills.

Community psychologists also need strong research skills and a deep understanding of the issues that impact the communities they work in. They must also learn to leverage their skills to support disadvantaged or disenfranchised people and help them build better connections with their communities.

Community psychologists focus on creating positive social change through first-order change and second-order change. First-order change involves changes in each person that can prevent or fix community problems. Second-order change involves changing social systems to provide more support for individuals, allowing them to fit better into their communities.

How to Become a Community Psychologist

Working as a community psychologist requires first earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Most jobs also require earning a master’s degree. Many move on to earn a doctorate.

Touro University Worldwide provides coursework in community psychology starting at the undergraduate level. Students learn about the relationship between individuals and the surrounding community. They also explore how society can help or hinder how individuals and communities function.

Working in community psychology offers an opportunity to expand how psychology supports both individuals and communities. Earning a degree in psychology is the first important step toward working in this fascinating area of the psychology field.


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