Why the future belongs to community research | Ronald Harvey | TEDxAUBG

this is unbelievable I feel like a rock star alright so I have I'm Ron Harvey I'm an associate professor of psychology here at AU BG who here is a member of a community please raise your hands everybody here is a member of the community your hands raise please who here has heard or knows what community psychology is ah my students I see a few of them here great I'm going to start with a very banal but it's very simple and powerful truth for all members of a community right and we affect those communities that those communities also affect us many people don't live in ideal communities maybe they live in poverty maybe they live in oppressive systems maybe they live in systems of injustice and it's not surprising then that some of those people would develop psychological problems anxiety depression substance abuse but if people go to get treatment usually they'll be treated as an individual they'll be treated only and expected to change by themselves but that doesn't treat the larger systems that are maybe causing some of these problems and so I'm a community psychologist and I'm interested in how these larger systems affect health and well-being so today I'm going to talk to you what is community psychology give you a little bit of industry I'm going to give you examples of community psychology research and I tell you why I think the future belongs to community psychology and tell you a little bit about the future of community research community psychology was founded in the United States in the mid 1960s the civil rights movement the women's liberation movement the youth movement the protests against the war in Vietnam the founders of community psychology were idealistic young clinical psychologists working in urban mental health centers and they saw clients suffering from anxiety depression substance abuse problems not very different from today but because they were young and socially aware they knew that these people were living in poverty were oppressed we're living in corrupt social systems that were at least on paper constitutionally obliged to treat them as full citizens and we're not so maybe these responses were completely normal these founders of community psychology said we need to get to the root causes of what causes the psychological problems that affect physical and psychological health and well-being by getting to the root causes we can do something that maybe like prevent problems before they start or we can maybe enhance health and well-being because it's much easier to prevent problems than to treat problems after they've already arrived and so community psychologist wants to get to that root part of the of the problem in order to solve it the other thing that makes community psychology very different from other forms of psychology is we do not pretend to be distant distant scientists we do not pretend to be objective scientists we want to be agents of social change we want to work in the communities that we are interested in we want to work with community members to be our collaborators we want them to teach us about what is going on in their system and what is going on in their communities and this intuitively makes sense who knows more about living in an oppressive system than people living in oppressive systems who knows more about living with addiction than people with addictions so community psychologists work with people in in schools in an improv workshop on a school board to be actually part of the board or in rural Kenya working with people to set up HIV awareness programs those people tell us how they want the programs to work and we work with them and help them design it with our knowledge and our expect ease there's another advantage to doing this when people have a say in what goes on in their communities they own it they literally own it they helped design it and when people designed their own interventions they buy into it much stronger and they live long after the expert of the community psychologist has left I don't know about you but I don't like to be told what to do most people in most places don't like to be told what to do but working with people as collaborators solves that problem we also work with lawyers policymakers government officials sociologists social workers clinical psychologists anybody that affects social change even people in government the police anybody that has an impact on the community why I've been saying change a lot who here has tried to change themselves it's difficult isn't it I heard this quote very early in my community psychology training if you truly want to understand something try to change it this is from it's I found three attributions for this quote what is Kurt Lewin was an influential twentieth-century psychologist possibly the godfather of community psychology Walter Dearborn who's a student of Yuri bronfenbrenner also an influential community psychologist and melts eight to all revolutionaries but the idea is that if you truly want to understand something try to change it within yourself you'll resist but in when we're studying individuals in large social systems we really want to understand where they exist in how to change it and the way we do that is by invoking what we call an ecological model this is bronfenbrenner ecological Systems Theory you can see at the center is the individual you me anybody that we are talking about inside the community we have our own biology we have our own age we have our own genders and that is the thing that we own immediately outside of that we have a micro system these are the people in places and things that have a direct impact on us those are our neighbors our families our schools and so on that we interact with on a day-to-day basis from there we have an XO system which is the school funding the the things that hover over all of these systems whether or not things get funded or not the mass media social and welfare services and so on the outer layer here is the largest layer it's the attitudes and beliefs of the culture it is the social beliefs the cultural context in which we live and then there's also a chrono system these things evolve over time right the way things are today is not the way they were a hundred years ago the beliefs that people have 100 years ago absolutely impact us today the only thing I would add to this model is the planetary layer right we exist on a planet and we are influencing the planet as well as the planet is influencing us and if you don't think concerns about global climate change is causing anxiety depression and hopelessness that I haven't convinced you yet but I think maybe I'm on my way so I'll give you an example of the the importance of context and the importance of this ecological model I study a specifically I studied people coming out of treatment and reintegrating back into their community people with drug addictions alcohol addictions and so on so I'm going to give you a little bit of an idea of the scale of the problem at least in the United States this these data are from the substance abuse and mental health services administration just a couple years ago so in the United States in 2015 had twenty 1.7 million people about 8% of the adult population had substance abuse problems of those only 2.3 million about 11% received treatment so almost 90% of people who need substance abuse treatment don't get it or don't use it for whatever reason of those 1.3 million or 2.3 million 1.3 million about 57% have been in treatment at least once prior so what this suggests is that there's this revolving door of treatment people go into treatment they're usually given detoxification services and then there's release back into the community so if you look at this diagram again you'll see treating the individual and then putting them back in the school neighborhood doesn't change anything individuals it's very difficult for individuals to resist the systems that bring them into being and that caused problems in 1975 a group of addicts created a system called Oxford houses if anybody at the time asked recovering individuals what they needed to stay clean they would usually say something like we need an affordable safe place to live we need decent jobs so we can be self-supporting and we need friends that are going to support us to stay clean and sober and so this group of addicts in 1975 created the system called Oxford House Oxford houses are literally rented houses in the United States there's small scale communities of seven to twelve individuals of one gender all men are all women and they agree to three democratic principles one everybody let us pay their fair share they split the rent the expenses and all the chores they go on within the house you must remain drug-free and alcohol-free if you use you must leave immediately all the decisions made within the house that affect everyone in the house must be made democratically there's no professionals living in these houses there's no authority living in these houses it is only people in recovery living in these houses but they're very sex successful they have over 90 percent we've done studies at the universe at DePaul University with my mentor Lenny Jason he's been studying Oxford houses for over 25 years we've done multiple studies with Oxford House as collaborators and we found in randomised trials over two years if you randomized people into usual care or into Oxford House after two years 90 percent of people in Oxford House are sober were about 45 percent of people in usual aftercare have relapsed that's unbelievable right and we think that it's because Oxford House people have created a community around themselves and what they say and what they they have a say in their communities they have a say and what goes on inside and nobody tells them what to do and they have their own rules that they follow one of the nice things about working with the community as collaborators is that they tell us what we should research and one of the things they told us is that you should look at these social networks that evolve within an Oxford House we think that will give you a clue as to why they're effective and so we did a study of the social networks that form within Oxford houses and we found that this one of the strongest predictors of staying clean and an Oxford House is wait for it when you make a friend in an Oxford house and when you make a friend an Oxford House you care and they care for you it's very unlikely in individualized treatment that would be prescribed for something for you to do nobody's going to write this on a prescription pad make a friend and hand a treat to you for you to go out and do but because this is a naturalistic system this is what happens we found this to be the greatest predictor of sobriety in an asura house so I am a two-time Fulbright Scholar I did both of my full rights here in Bulgaria and my question was do you think in Oxford House would work in Bulgaria it's a very different cultural context right but we think that there nothing very special friendship works the same everywhere living together works the same everywhere and so I decided to test whether or not this model would work for an Oxford House also in Bulgaria and what I found is that working in a collaborator in Bulgaria is super fun this is me with my collaborators in Varna that in August of last year and we opened up the very first Oxford House in Natalie in Bulgaria but in continental Europe this is our opening ceremony we have the Bulgarian colours as a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the house we worked so hard to put this house together we chose the furniture together we assemble the furniture together quite frankly I carried a lot of the furniture in there myself because these guys were doing something else but we put it together and they formed a community and unfortunately we had to close the house down the house was not suitable for wintertime we had to close it down this January there are some other mistakes that we made along the way where we're going to try again but the big thing that I learned about doing international research is this it's the importance of context right context is the water that we swim in I think I borrowed this phrase from the late David Foster Wallace if you ask a fish what it's like to be a fish they'll tell you lots of things but they won't tell you that they're wet all of the time right that culture in context is the water that we swim in and the thing that I learned by doing my research in Bulgaria is it taught me the contextual things that make Oxford houses work in the United States we have a system of laws we have a culture that supports a recovery that doesn't exist everywhere that made me a better community psychologist doing international research and help help me learn about context that I would never have learned back in the United States so why is this so important it's important because we're becoming an increasingly globalized world we have data coming at us from all directions and they affect us as individuals and it's very difficult to know how those things are affecting us community psychologists because we have this systems approach to looking at things can maybe help design interventions that can maybe improve the health and well-being of people in communities in many different contexts beam here in Bulgaria has taught me a lot of things I have two collaborators two colleagues from Vanderbilt University Doug Perkins and Nikolai mahalo they've been coming to Bulgaria and spreading the seeds of community psychology since 2012 I taught a short class in community psychology at new Bulgarian University last year but I'd like to introduce you to somebody really special this is why the future belongs to community research this is a you BG's community psychology class of 2017 this is the first full community psychology class ever taught in Bulgaria these are 21 students not everyone is pictured here 21 students from 11 different countries they're coming up with 21 amazing and this is where I usually get weepy that my class my class members knows is I usually start to tear up a little bit but they've come up with 21 amazing interventions in their home communities to address things like foster homes arts PTSD just a bullying just amazing things and they're going to put this together and we're going to have the final exam is their proposals and so not only does the future belong to community research the future belongs to international community research because the more we learn in this globalized community the more maybe we can make a friend and understand each other I thank you very much for your attention [Applause] [Applause]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *