Public Psychology: A Competency Model for Professional Psychologists in Community Mental Health


Joyce P. Chu and Luli Emmons
Palo Alto University

Jorge Wong
Asian Americans for Community Involvement, San Jose, California

Peter Goldblum, Robert Reiser, Alinne Z. Barrera, and Jessica Byrd–Olmstead
Palo Alto University


Abstract:  Recent attention to gaps and inadequacies in U.S. community mental health systems has revived efforts
to improve access and the quality of mental health care to underserved, diverse, rural, and seriously
mentally ill populations. The importance of elements such as evidence-based practice importation, needs
assessment and evaluation, and mental health care disparities in this effort calls for innovation and
leadership from professional psychologists. Yet, psychologists have been diminishing in representation
from public mental health settings, and there have been limited efforts to comprehensively define the
competencies required of practice in the public psychology specialty. This article presents the unique
functional and foundational competencies required of psychologists to lead a transformation in the public
mental health system. These public psychology competencies provide a foundation for professional
psychologists to meet the challenges of a changing public mental health services context and promulgate
effective evidence-based community systems of care. With education and training efforts, exposure to the
public psychology competencies established in this study can aid in the transition of more psychologists
into the public sector.