Critical texts for those new to critical psychology

~Britta Wigginton (b.wigginton@uq.edu.au)

The field of critical psychology can seem overwhelming.

I speak from personal experience. I completed my PhD in a department that was entirely positivist (‘scientific’), with the exception of my supervisor who encouraged me, despite being in the first month of my PhD, to attend the 2011 ISCHP conference in Adelaide. For me, critical psychology has been as much a professional as it has a personal (re)education into the world.

critical psychology reading list

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What does ‘critical’ mean?

Charlotte Paddison reflects on what it means to be ‘critical’ in the context of health psychology.  Is this about being dismissive?  About being negative?  No, not at all!

Lecturing is great.  And not least of all because you get all sorts of interesting questions from students.   Recently, I was asked what does being ‘critical’ mean?

Being ‘critical’ can mean different things to different people, in different contexts.  The Oxford dictionary describes it as “expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgements” and “involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work.”  Neither of these quite fit the bill for describing critical perspectives in the context of health psychology.

In the course I teach on (Critical issues in Health Psychology), we talked about:

  • Reflexivity

Being willing to question our own value stance as researchers and practitioners, and to question the values and assumptions that underpin health psychology as a discipline

  • Inclusiveness

Value-driven approach that specifically seeks to act to improve health for those who are most disadvantaged

  • Asking questions of methods

This includes questions about choice and appropriateness of methods, and the assumptions about research and knowledge generation that unpin these choices

  • Who benefits?

Asking whose interests are being met by the research, who benefits, and conversely, which groups in society are ignored or overlooked

We also discussed the value of examining social and political aspects of health and health care, the analysis of power, and the value of researchers as ‘agents of social change’.

This description is, of course, both subjective and incomplete.  But maybe it is a helpful starting point?  Perhaps others will have ideas to add here, sharing their views of what constitutes ‘critical’ in health psychology – it would be great to share these!

Interested to learn more? 

Here are some useful resources:

  • Lyons, A.C., Chamberlain, K., (2006). Locating the field: Introducing health psychology. In Lyons, A.C., and Chamberlain, K., (Eds) Health Psychology: A critical introduction.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rohleder, P. (2012). Introduction: critical issues in clinical and health psychology.  In Rohleder, P. Critical issues in clinical and health psychology.  Sage: London.
  • Marks, D. F. (2002). Freedom, responsibility, and power: contrasting approaches to health psychology (editorial essay).  Journal of Health Psychology 7, 5 – 19.
  • Fox, D., Prilleltensky, I., & Austin, S. (Eds.) (2009). Critical psychology: An introduction (2nd edition).  London: Sage.

Is there such a thing as mixed epistemology research?

Is there such a thing as mixed epistemology research?  ~Gareth Treharne (gtreharne@psy.otago.ac.nz)

Mixed methods research is a well-established feature of many fields of social science research, including health psychology (shameless plug: see Treharne & Riggs, 2014). That’s not to say that all social science researchers (or readers) value mixed methods research – indeed, the notion of mixing methods might be hotly debated by some critical health psychologists and lead them to ask questions such as:

By mixed methods, do you only mean a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods? Surely we should be more interested in innovative mixtures of qualitative methods?

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ProfFile: Elizabeth Peel

This is the first in our new series ProfFile: informal interviews with leading or under recognized critical health psychologists.

ProfFile 1: Elizabeth Peel – who is (amongst other things) a Lesbian, Left-Handed, Left-Wing Critical Health Psychology
 Professor

What is your current position?

I’m Professor of Psychology and Social Change, and Director of Research for the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Worcester, UK. I also Chair the BPS (British Psychological Society) Psychology of Sexualities Section.Liz Peel

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Welcome Note From The Chair

Chris Stephens Chair of ISCHP
Chris Stephens
Chair of ISCHP

Chris Stephens, Massey University, NZ – C.V.Stephens@massey.ac.nz

The 2015 meeting of ISCHP  in Grahamstown was very successful with a rich and varied programme of relevant events, visits and presentations, including three inspiring and engaged keynote speakers. Once again, many participants commented on the inclusive nature of ISCHP meetings, with many saying that this has been the best conference they have ever attended.

As the new elected chair of ISCHP I have been reflecting since on the development of the society and our future.  I have been fortunate to have been able to attend all of the ISCHP biennial meetings since the society was founded in Birmingham in 2001. At that meeting we elected Michael Murray, who had boldly initiated the first international meeting in St Johns in Canada, as our first innovative Chair. Kerry Chamberlain followed, and continues as ‘perpetual past chair’. Kerry’s contribution is notable for his visible ongoing commitment and dedication to the aims and functioning of the society. Wendy Stainton Rogers has also been an outstanding immediate past chair, fostering that sense of inclusion by actively encouraging the involvement of students and researchers from more difficult to reach places such as Eastern Europe and South Africa. Her sense of justice and ethical practice has been inspiring, and the hilarious social events that she led are memorable.

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