Written by Soleil Olivier
After decades of the misconception that psychologists were mostly niche experts, society today recognizes the broader impact of this profession. In industries as diverse as data analysis and entertainment, psychologists are now being onboarded to relay their expertise on the cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of humanity. Consequently, it’s no surprise that the average job outlook in psychology is at an impressive 8%. This means that given the demand for psychologists in various diverse industries and sectors (not limited to healthcare) approximately 13,400 positions are opened annually.
Many of the careers that psychologists are now pursuing are outside of traditional medical settings. Presently, many psychologists are at the forefront of community-building initiatives. In the present national climate, here are some of the most critical ways that psychologists are helping communities.
Amid calls to defund the police and restructure outdated law and order practices, there is a rising call for a more nuanced approach to law enforcement. As such, numerous local and federal agencies now include forensic psychologists in their daily operations. In fact, by 2026, this expertise is expected to grow by 14%.
A big reason the number of experts is expected to grow by so much is due to the way psychology in law enforcement is now being taught, with top educational institutions offering contemporary forensic psychology degrees. To better satisfy current circumstances among law enforcers, victims, and the accused, these programs focus on psychology, criminal justice, and social science through criminal theory and investigative practices. Through these, forensic psychologists can accurately and fairly note patterns in criminality (both among the accused and in law enforcers). With these findings, those in power can make relevant changes that can recognize and prevent criminal behavior, identify high-risk demographics, and reduce instances of police abuse. Down the line, many advocates of reform also believe that forensic psychologists can play a larger role as inmate advocates. In this capacity, psychologists can better tailor rehabilitation efforts to lower instances of recidivism.
Although recent years have seen the stigma toward mental health shrink, the resources at hand for crises remain lacking. In communities, this can result in rising cases of addiction, turmoil, and even fatalities. The latter is especially a concern, as a report on police responses reveals that over 1 in 5 people fatally shot by police had mental health issues. This tragic likelihood is even more magnified in certain demographics like men and people of color.
These instances have led many to call for better crisis responses—not just for agencies, but also for those nearest and dearest to patients. Fortunately, with more mental health professionals like psychologists entering the field, crisis support efforts can be better staffed and developed. This can lead to the development of mental health emergency resources like 24/7 counselors, self-help support groups, and family education. These can massively enhance the outcomes of mental health crises and reduce the negative impact that can occur when these crises are improperly handled.
Holistic School Systems
Students today are dealing with unprecedented social challenges. For millions of students across the country, this has dealt a heavy blow to their social, emotional, and cognitive well-being. So much so, that their academic performance has similarly suffered. As a result of this, many school districts have begun doubling down on creating holistic school systems. To date, just 8% of all school districts meet the recommended ratio of one school psychologist to 500 students, while only 14% have one counselor for every 250 students.
In many cases, these professionals play an added role of helping shape student wellness endeavors. These include community immersions and mindfulness activities. In these schools, surveys have shown that students are more likely to thrive both personally and professionally. Furthermore, students who are happier and feel more supported at school have been shown to express more interest in civic participation. This is a hugely significant benefit for many communities that want to ensure a cycle of community-building.
While providing therapy remains top-of-mind for many in relation to psychologists, the impact of psychology in community-building cannot be denied. By empowering diverse sectors and demographics, psychologists can help usher in more well-rounded communities with more stable foundations.