Fourth and Long: Time to Go Inches!

by Josh Vlahakis

The road to social justice is a never-ending path that splits into innumerable different directions; take a right and you are on pace to contribute to the termination of world hunger, take a left and you may just find the cure for all cancer. Ah, yes, what we have here is a general perception when it comes to fighting social justice: it comes down to influential heroes who are going to do something extraordinary to save the day.


Yes, the world needs those courageous enough to lead and to do so by example. However, social injustice is not something that can be tackled alone. Oftentimes it seems that when people want to do good for others, they want to do so on such a substantial level, almost to the point where it seems like they are doing it for themselves rather than the group or subgroup for which they are advocating, a point that is vividly illustrated in Prilleltensky’s (2001) analysis of praxis derived from values.


In order to distinguish oneself from the masses, he or she may strive to construct a social identity (Scott & Wolfe, 2015) of being a savior. I find that this topic is worth writing about at all because we would all be so much better at properly and effectively addressing social inequity if we adopted a more community-based mindset.


We need to focus on inches, not touchdowns; we need to focus on hitting the ball out of the infield to allow the runner to tag up from third base, not hitting grand slams. As Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) demonstrated, little victories are of utmost importance because they can lead into wins on a larger scale. I am not taking anything away from anyone who dreams big, from anyone who believes revolutionary change is possible.


All I’m saying is that we need to start small before we can go big. I learned this invaluable lesson from volunteering at the Restaurant Opportunities Center in the summer of 2016. My team did a phenomenal job of demonstrating to me the importance of volunteerism. In just a few months, I was not able to single-handedly create any policy change that positively impacts restaurant workers, but I was able to help collect a substantial amount of data that are have been released in what is now the most comprehensive report on the state of Greater Boston’s restaurant industry ever released.


With the United States arguably more concerned about national security than ever before, we have to ask ourselves the most efficient ways to go about protecting ourselves. I argue that positively impacting just one person could spare the world from having to experience another traumatic event. Even if it is as simple as saying hello to someone you don’t know, it could significantly influence one’s way of thinking in a positive direction.


I am an advocate for quality, unconventional human interaction because I believe that the world will be a much better place by everyone’s standards if we all took the time to practice our reflexivity. As Foster-Fishman et al. (2006) posit, “in order to build a healthy community, an active citizen base is needed” (p. 143). Even though there are billions of people in this world, we cannot succumb to the power of the diffusion of responsibility. It is up to every single one of us to do our part in making absolutely certain that this world is as close to our envisioned utopias as it possibly can be.


I am doing this by expressing sincerity in my emotions, by being honest with myself and those around me, by smiling to everyone I see. I constantly ask myself: what can I do better?


How are you doing this? What can you do better?


One step at a time…


#UML #CommPsych #littlewins



Josh Vlahakis is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology master’s program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Foster-Fishman, P. G., Fitzgerald, K., Brandell, C., Nowell, B., Chavis, D., & Van Egeren, L. A. (2006). Mobilizing residents for action: The role of small wins and strategic supports. American journal of community psychology, 38(3-4), 143-152.

Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value‐Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and Social Action. American journal of community psychology, 29(5), 747-778.

Scott, V. C., & Wolfe, J. K. (2015). Community psychology: Foundations for practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Where Do Trauma Studies Fit in Community Psychology?

Jeremy Laporte

For several months, I have been considering the place of trauma in community psychology. These thoughts were sensible, considering the events occurring in my life over that time. I recently left a job in the mental health field where I often had knowledge of my clients’ trauma experiences and witnessed the effects firsthand. This experience piqued my interest in psychological trauma. I hoped to investigate the topic further as I started graduate school for community psychology. As I became more familiar with both concepts, however, I began to doubt whether this was possible. Trauma tends to be defined in terms of the individual, while community psychology, by definition, looks at larger contexts. Fortunately, a section on child maltreatment in an article (Prilleltensky, 2001) changed my thinking. The section detailed how this problem, which is undoubtedly enacted on an individual level, can be tied to larger social forces. As such, I intend to use this post to explore the relationship between trauma and community psychology’s values of personal, relational, and collective well-being.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) includes a negative effect on individual well-being in the definition for trauma found on their website. (“Trauma and Violence”, 2017) This website also shows a potential role for relational well-being when discussing trauma. It indicates that the negative behavioral and mental health effects of trauma can impact an individual’s relationships, namely with their family members. Further, it points to the importance of social support in mitigating these negative effects. Strong, supportive relationships can empower a person to continue with their lives after a traumatic experience with little impact to their functioning. Thus, healthy relational well-being is an important factor in trauma’s impact on individual well-being. This also provides a possible area of intervention for community psychology. The field provides techniques for increasing and strengthening social connections. If individuals in a particular community are likely to experience traumatic events, these interventions may lessen the effects of these experiences.

Tying trauma to collective well-being is more difficult. While the behavioral changes (substance abuse, aggression, etc.) that may result from traumatic experiences will likely have a negative impact on the community, this is still the outcome of trauma’s effects on individual well-being. However, unhealthy collective well-being can produce trauma, as conditions such as community violence are tied to traumatic experiences. Further, certain types of trauma, such as domestic violence and child neglect, can be tied to social conditions like poverty. Therefore, community psychology’s pursuit of social justice plays a role in decreasing traumatic experiences in disempowered populations. This framework is still overly focused on trauma as impacting individual well-being, though.

Fortunately, as detailed by Prilleltensky (2001), this is not an uncommon problem for community psychology, as the field generally struggles to direct equal attention to collective well-being. It does not necessarily remove trauma from the scope of community psychology, but opens the possibility for the field to expand on the concept using its unique values and vision. Keeping that author’s criticism in mind, then, it is important to investigate how trauma can directly impact collective well-being, rather than first affecting the well-being of individuals. Interestingly, the SAMHSA suggests the possibility of “historical trauma” (“Types of Trauma”, 2016), negative experiences that influence entire communities and can be transmitted across generations. In the United States, it is often associated with the experiences of oppressed racial groups who face violence and discrimination for their prescribed social identities. It suggests that trauma can affect collective well-being directly when negative experiences target communities as a whole rather than individual members. However, as long as trauma is defined in the individual terms mentioned previously, it is impossible to fit the concept into this framework. This suggests another role for community psychology to play in trauma studies: the ability to create a theory that redefines trauma in a way that allows for a direct impact to both individuals and groups of people.

#UML #commpsych


Jeremy Laporte is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell



Prilleltensky, I. (2001). Value-Based Praxis in Community Psychology: Moving Toward Social Justice and   Social Action. American Journal of Community Psychology. 29: 747-778

Trauma and Violence. (2017). Retrieved from

Types of Trauma and Violence. (2003) Retrieved from

“The Problem with Real Culture”

by Karleena Corey


Does the United States have a true and pure culture? In a country where we are a true melting pot of different cultures, there still seems to be extreme xenophobia, or fear of people from other countries. Xenophobia certainly has been heightened since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, especially Islamophobia, but xenophobia has always been an issue in the US. Unless you are a Native American, your family have emigrated from a different country, so why the pushback on immigration? I think most of us know the answer is racism, because there seems to only be an immigrant problem if you are an immigrant of color. This dates back to the the early 1900s when citizenship in the US was not granted to non-White citizens, and it was only recently in 1952 that immigrants of color were allowed to become naturalized citizens (Yakushko, 2009). The Middle Eastern, Caribbean, African, and South and Central American cultures are the cultures that are not “accepted” in the United States- where diversity is exactly what makes up our version of culture.

Bennett, C. (2015). The Melting Pot. Licensed under

In community psychology culture is defined as societal customs and values which lie outside the exosystem, where individuals do not participate, but have an indirect influence on (Cooper & Denner, 1998; Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). In other words, people living in the US are not purposefully influencing the culture, but do so just by existing in the community. Culture can also be developed from experience, therefore different parts of the US, and even different neighborhoods and communities, have distinct aspects of culture anyway. But, again, it is only a problem when it is a community of color that has different cultures from the mainstream, which in the US is White people, who have always been the dominant race (Yakushko, 2009). As the dominant race they are the in-group, and immigrants of color are the out-group, and the in-group is afraid of values, beliefs, and attitudes being challenged by foreigners (Yakushko, 2009). White immigrants inherit White privilege when they emigrate to the US, and are not discriminated against based on the color of their skin, and they are not seen as a threat (Yakushko, 2009). It is the cultural beliefs and values of those who physically look different that is the threat to the “US culture”.

What can we do to help? I believe that there is little hope in our current political and social climate to try and change the minds of people who are xenophobic, but rather what can we do to help the immigrants who live in fear in our country? Due to the pressure from natural-born US citizens to assimilate and leave behind their culture, immigrants actually do not always adjust in the US well (Yakushko, 2009). Also, immigrants tend to internalize the narratives that are often said about them (being lazy, stupid, etc.), which leads to feelings of worthlessness (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). To empower and restore psychological well-being in the immigrant communities, community psychology would suggest that we help them be aware of their injustices, and help them understand the circumstances behind their oppression (Nelson & Prilleltensky, 2010). We need to make immigrants feel welcome and wanted by bringing them together, and working with them in our communities. We need to stand with immigrants in solidarity, and listen to what problems and oppressions they are facing. They are not alone. We are all real Americans.





Bennett, C. (2015, December 12). The Melting Pot [Cartoon]. Retrieved September 27, 2017, from

Cooper, C. R., & Denner, J. (1998). Theories linking culture and psychology: Universal and community-specific processes. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 559-584.

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well  being (2nd ed.) New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Yakushko, O. (2009). Xenophobia: Understanding the roots and consequences of negative attitudes toward immigrants. The Counseling Psychologist, 37(1), 36-66. doi:  10.1177/0011000008316034