This article is reprinted from Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds). (2009). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource (Edition 2009) [CD-ROM]. International Journal of Psychology, 44 (Suppl. 1) "Origins" section.
International Psychology: A Synthesis
Michael J. Stevens and Danny Wedding
In this chapter, we attempt a synthesis of the 27 national psychologies (drawn from the nine regions of the world) that are presented in the Handbook of International Psychology. Needless to say, there are countless ways in which to approach a synthesis that mirrors the various purposes of such a task. Originally, we considered comparing country psychologies within and between regions using the same exhaustive outline that we asked our authors to follow. We abandoned this approach for two reasons. First, we realized that the cultural, historical, and political differences among countries, which contribute to the distinctiveness of their psychologies, made it impossible for authors to provide information on every component of the outline. Second, we believed that it would be more beneficial for our readers if we undertook a sweeping view rather than a detailed one. Consistent with previous volumes on international psychology (Gilgen & Gilgen, 1987; Sexton & Hogan, 1992), we wanted our readers to conclude their examination of the Handbook with an appreciation for contemporary international psychology and how it might evolve in the future.
We begin by examining several general trends in psychology around the world. Some of these trends were first identified in previous volumes on international psychology (see Gilgen & Gilgen, 1987; Sexton & Hogan, 1992), and we try to accent the historical links between the Handbook and earlier works. Of course, some trends have changed since the publication of the previous books on international psychology, and others have emerged only recently. Specifically, we highlight the continued growth of the discipline and profession of psychology, the proliferation of scientific and applied specializations, regional revitalization, the expansion of psychology in developing countries, the feminization of psychology, and the emergence of new paradigms that accentuate contextual realities and challenges (e.g., multiculturalism and indigenization). We end by considering what American psychology can gain from an understanding of psychology as constituted in different countries and regions of the world. We believe that this part of our synthesis is especially important to readers who have been exposed mainly to the abstract, mechanistic, and quantitative vision of American psychology, a Weltanschauung with limited applicability in a world that faces enormously complex and contextually embedded challenges.
GROWTH OF PSYCHOLOGY
We launch our examination of general trends in psychology with evidence of psychology’s continued growth as a discipline and profession.
Numbers of psychologists and psychology students
Sexton and Hogan (1992) remarked upon the record increase in the number of psychologists worldwide through the early 1990s, with marked expansion in Brazil, Israel, Spain, and South Africa. In general, these trends are continuing. For example, Brazil has over 10,000 psychologists joining its workforce every year. There are about 7,000 psychologists listed in the registry of Israeli psychologists, an increase of more than 100% since the late 1990s. The number of registered psychologists in Spain was 32,100 in 2002 versus 25,200 in 1994. In South Africa, there are about 120 psychologists per million citizens, a 45% increase in density in slightly over 10 years.
Each of the 27 countries that we sampled reported evidence of growth in psychology. Even in heavily industrialized countries, the expansion of psychology is yet to plateau. In Germany, the number of students studying psychology more than doubled in less than 30 years; in the United Kingdom, the number of applicants admitted to psychology programs in 2003 rose by 20% over that in 2002. In developing countries, the number of universities with psychology programs, the number of psychology majors, and the number of psychologists with advanced degrees is growing. Two countries illustrate the rise of psychology in the developing world: the Philippines reports that 32% of its 249 psychology programs were inaugurated in the last decade, and the number of Polish psychologists grew by 20% when the psychology graduates of 2000 entered the workforce. However, in many developing and underdeveloped countries, the growth of psychology lags behind that of other social sciences, such as economics and sociology, which are perceived as having greater value to society and hence more marketability. In addition, the proportion of psychology graduates employed in the field is very low in some countries. The unemployment and underemployment of psychologists reflects the oversupply of graduates relative to each country’s needs and the resources available to support jobs in psychology. This is the case in Colombia, where 12% of psychologists are unemployed, and in Thailand, where the demand for psychologists falls below the supply of psychology graduates.
The definition of a psychologist
The definition of a psychologist varies considerably across countries. Moreover, in some countries such as Kenya, psychologists are virtually indistinguishable from counselors in their training and job responsibilities. Generally, the title of psychologist is conferred upon those who hold a baccalaureate or master’s degree in psychology, who then may practice professionally, treating clients or serving as research psychologists in state and private enterprises. In many countries, the master’s degree is a relatively recent curricular innovation (e.g., available in Australia only since 2000), which mirrors the increased specialization of psychology, especially in applied areas. However, many countries have begun to offer advanced training through postbaccalaureate courses and continuing education credit. The United States stands alone in its declaration of the doctorate as the entry-level degree for the professional practice of psychology, although other countries where psychology is highly developed are following suit. In the United Kingdom, the D.Clin.Psy. or Psy.D. is required for the practice of clinical psychology and other applied specialties, and in Quebec, Canada, universities have eliminated applied master’s programs in response to stiffer eligibility criteria adopted by the province’s professional regulatory authority, criteria that include a competency-based doctorate.
Unlike clinical psychologists, most academic psychologists around the world are expected to possess advanced degrees that reflect their research training. However, although doctorates may be required for promotion to full professor in developing countries, they are not necessary for employment at lower academic levels. In Argentina, for example, only 1.3% of academic psychologists have doctorates.
SCIENTIFIC AND APPLIED SPECIALIZATION
Aside from the increased number of psychologists and psychology students worldwide (Rosenzweig, 1999), the growth of psychology can be indexed by the proliferation of scientific and applied specialties and the formation of organizations that represent these specialties.
More than 15 years ago, Gilgen and Gilgen (1987) noted a vigorous trend toward applied specialization, and argued that each country’s path of specialization reflected the needs and goals of that country (e.g., raising economic productivity in developing countries vs. promoting health in developed countries). Similarly, Sexton and Hogan (1992) identified different emphases that countries place on various areas within psychology. More recently, Japan, for example, has seen a rise in the number of specialties and their interface. Although the Japanese Psychological Association has only five divisions, each subsumes a number of related specialties (e.g., one division includes perception, cognition, learning, and physiology; another brings together clinical, forensics, rehabilitation, and personality). In addition, there are 38 other organizations that attest to the growth of psychological specialization in Japan.
Since the Chinese government introduced its “one country, two systems” policy, the Chinese Psychological Society has expanded to 15 committees, each representing a distinct disciplinary area; in that time, China also launched three organizations with narrow scientific and applied foci. Even in Nigeria, an underdeveloped country, psychological associations have been formed to convene professionals in various applied specialties (e.g., the Nigerian Association of Clinical Psychologists). With the transition to civilian government and the gradual restoration of the economy and renewal of political institutions, Nigerian psychology will surely become more specialized.
Education and training
Growing specialization in scientific and applied psychology is also reflected in the formalization of training in a specialty. In Russia, there are approximately 15 paths to specialization accredited by the Ministry of Education. In 2002, the Indonesian Alliance of Psychologists created an independent regulatory entity to oversee the general and specialized preparation of psychologists. Specialization in psychology is sometimes mirrored in the codification of practice standards for specialists, particularly if a specialty is well established (Oakland, 2003). Although this is the case in industrialized countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States, where the practice of clinical, counseling, educational, and school psychology is regulated by law, it is not a given elsewhere. For example, notwithstanding psychological specialization in Turkey, the title of psychologist can be adopted by anyone with a relevant baccalaureate degree. Moreover, standard definitions of different specialties are lacking, and many Turkish psychologists want to establish clearly defined and rigorous training requirements for highly specialized jobs in psychology.
The tide of specialization can also be gauged by the shifting content of journal articles. Among the most rapidly growing specialties in Mexico are the treatment of addiction, community health, and environmental psychology. Although Mexico does not have specialized training programs in psychology or professional associations for specialists, research in the aforementioned areas appears frequently in flagship Mexican journals.
Advances in communications technology
Innovations in telecommunications have exerted a profound influence on specialization in psychology. The Internet and World Wide Web are noteworthy for the speed with which a broad spectrum of contemporary psychological literature can be accessed. The relative ease with which academic and applied psychologists can contact international colleagues has also yielded collaboration within specialties. For example, many specialty conferences solicit proposals electronically and provide electronic abstracts of cutting-edge research. Other digital resources disseminate information about opportunities for additional specialization in teaching, research, and practice (e.g., academic exchanges, clinical training, and support for travel and for organizing conferences [e.g., Stevens, 2004]).
In our sample of 27 countries, almost all reported having access to the Internet and World Wide Web. The leading universities in most developing countries are digitally wired, as are hospitals and psychology organizations, although to a lesser extent. The benefits of advanced telecommunications to psychologists in developing countries include the availability of specialization via distance learning, access to recent scholarship in scientific and applied specialties (e.g., cognitive science, capacity building), and opportunities to network with international organizations that represent specialized domains. In some underdeveloped countries, expatriates have used the Internet to cultivate mentoring and peer-consultation relationships with colleagues at home. Communications technology has its detractors, however. Mexican psychologists complain that online literature is prohibitively expensive; they observe that the Internet and World Wide Web are not equally accessible to psychologists around the world, and worry that the gap in knowledge and skills between psychologists in industrialized countries versus developing and underdeveloped countries will widen. In addition, Indonesian psychologists report that the Internet and World Wide Web are not very useful because few of them are proficient in English, the increasingly accepted language of cyberspace. Finally, Nigerian psychologists believe that the dominance of English-language materials will prolong dependence on the expertise of the West and weaken the effort to construct a more congruent indigenous psychology.
Beyond the expansion of scientific and applied specialties, the growth of psychology is apparent in its rejuvenation in certain regions of the world, notably in Europe and South America.
Gilgen and Gilgen (1987) wrote about the gradual stagnation of European psychology by the late 1970s. The current revitalization of European psychology takes two forms: the renewal of psychology in West European countries that are member states of the European Union (EU), and in East European countries that have transitioned from communism to alternative economic and political systems.
The Leonardo da Vinci program, funded by the EU and administered by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA), involves 12 partner states that are (a) comparing education and training requirements within and between countries, and (b) developing a common core curriculum that will render qualifications for a psychology degree equivalent across Europe (Project EuroPsyT, 2001). The search for a European educational framework stemmed from earlier directives to federalize trade and political identity (e.g., the 1957 Treaty of Rome). The framework calls for a 6-year program comprised of 3 years of undergraduate study, a 2-year postgraduate certification, and a 6th year of supervised professional practice. The EFPA has agreed to facilitate a consensus regarding the core curriculum, minimum standards, and the award of a European Diploma in psychology as early as 2004. The Europeanization of education and training in psychology clearly shows the continent’s evolving identity as it distances itself from U.S. influence and harmonizes its internal differences.
A similar trend is occurring in North America, following the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a treaty designed to promote the movement of goods and services across Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Psychologists from these countries, working through the Trilateral Forum on Professional Issues, are reviewing national models for the preparation and credentialing of psychologists with an eye toward possible regional standardization.
Since the collapse of communism, Eastern Europe has undergone a transformation unprecedented in magnitude and scope that has led to the resurgence of psychology in the region. This transformation involves a complex and unfolding interaction between “top-down” causes, mostly economic and political, and “bottom-up” influences, such as normative systems that regulate daily life (Stevens, 2002). Adopting this perspective, a multidisciplinary team of social scientists and systems analysts at the University of Warsaw studies the “local” impact of Poland’s transition from communism. Innovative research at the university includes computer simulations that map the slow, radiating course of macrosocial change.
In Russia, as elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the number of applicants to psychology programs has increased dramatically, as has the number of admissions. Many private universities have opened to accommodate the high demand for education and training in psychology. Alongside these trends is a movement to restructure the relationship between psychologists and physicians by credentialing psychologists as independent providers of psychotherapy. In addition to the rekindled interest in the work of Pavlov, Bekhterev, and Vigotsky, new areas of psychological science and practice are now recognized through the establishment of distinct academic departments (e.g., social adaptation and management training). These pedagogical developments mirror the needs of Russians and Russian society; they also constitute a clear repudiation of the ideologically driven education and training mandated by the former communist regime.
South America has also witnessed remarkable growth in psychological science and practice, particularly in countries with relatively healthy economies and political institutions. However, economic volatility and military coups have sometimes interrupted the development of psychology in South America, demonstrating the vulnerability of the discipline and profession to conditions in which individual rights are threatened or violated (Jing, 2000; Stevens, 2002). Fortunately, many South American countries now have state or federal laws that protect the status and activities of psychologists; for example, in 1998 the governments of Chile and Paraguay legally recognized the right of psychologists to practice professionally. Unlike the EFPA, the Interamerican Society of Psychology (SIP) has not embraced political advocacy. The implementation of regional trade agreements (e.g., the Andean Pact) may give this regional organization a political agenda and enhance coordination among national psychology organizations throughout South America. This is a likely outcome because, historically, South American psychology has gained vitality through regional exchanges among psychologists. Today, many Argentine psychologists have left their country due to the economic and political crises of 2002, raising concerns about a brain drain. However, their temporary relocation to neighboring countries will yield a cross-fertilization of theories and techniques, and when they repatriate, their experiences abroad will shape the future of Argentine psychology.
Brazil is an exemplar of the renewal of South American psychology. Brazilian universities have inaugurated a variety of graduate programs, and Brazilian psychologists are at the regional forefront of unifying science and practice in the psychology curriculum. Textbooks by Brazilian psychologists balance national and international scholarship, indirectly and sometimes overtly questioning the relevance of imported psychology for Brazil. Most significantly, Brazilian psychologists have been leaders in translating and adapting psychometric tools into equivalent versions appropriate to the culture of Brazil and in refining qualitative research methods.
Like their South American colleagues, Colombian psychologists have started to pursue nontraditional activities. Rural psychology has gained prominence, with more psychologists residing in villages and working in indigenous settings. Most Colombian psychologists have abandoned liberation psychology’s radical call for social change and justice; due to the country’s decades-old civil unrest, they remain committed to working for peace and reconciliation, albeit apolitically.
PSYCHOLOGY IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES
As noted earlier, the growth of psychology appears to covary with certain economic and political conditions (e.g., market-oriented forms of representative government) that combine to amplify the public’s need, understanding of, and support for psychology (Jing, 2000; Oakland, 2003; Rosenzweig, 1999). Under these circumstances, government, business and industry, and the populace turn to psychology as an instrument for enhancing national development and individual welfare. Accordingly, developing countries often invest in psychology by creating jobs, allocating resources for education, research, and practice, and by enacting laws that legitimize and protect psychology. Such investment reflects the hope that psychological science and practice will address national challenges.
Several countries in East and South Asia may be classified as “developing” according to the Human Development Index (HDI), a formula used by the U.N. Development Program that includes Gross Domestic Product per capita, life expectancy, adult literacy, and rate of school enrollment (Jing, 2000). Two prototypic developing countries in Asia are China and India. Given their status as developing countries, their psychologies emphasize research on social aspects of human functioning and interventions that target social problems linked to modernization. Thus, psychology in the developing world is skewed toward application.
Another feature of psychology in developing countries is its reliance on imported conceptual frameworks, investigative methodologies, and applied tools. Some of the harshest criticisms of imported psychology, particularly of Western psychology, come from psychologists in developing countries (Gilgen & Gilgen, 1987). Unfortunately, Western psychology is often applied to social problems without first being adapted to indigenous cultural and historical contexts, thereby sharply reducing the probability of successful outcomes.
Chinese psychology is slowly adopting a multifaceted approach to meet the demands of China’s rapid economic modernization and increased exposure to the world. Globalization has produced significant problems (e.g., crime) and challenges (e.g., educational reform) for Chinese society. Unprecedented government support has created favorable conditions for education and training, scientific research, and professional practice in psychology. Psychology has emerged as a highly popular college major, and the number of students and professors participating in international exchanges has increased. Practicing psychologists are helping people balance the adjustments required by modernization with the continued observance of cultural traditions. Concerned about the moral decline of adolescents, psychologists have developed a holistic approach to education that includes instructional methods for nurturing Confucian virtues of harmony, loyalty, and altruism. Rather than applying Western models and interventions to address the unique problems associated with modernizing a socialist economy within the framework of Chinese culture, Chinese psychologists have embraced a multidisciplinary perspective, borrowing concepts, tools, and techniques from economics, history, and politics, and have begun collaborating with other social scientists.
Despite impressive economic gains, India is considered an underdeveloped country, with most of the population impoverished and subsisting on agriculture. Nevertheless, because of its advanced status in science and technology, India is also viewed as a high-tech powerhouse. Contemporary Indian psychology is characterized by the imperative that indigenization, grounded in religious scripture, is the preferred route for understanding and effecting change at the individual and societal levels. At the same time, Indian psychologists struggle to free themselves from the lingering notion that “West is best.” As in many developing countries, psychology has become popular, and India boasts a wide range of specialties that have research and practice agendas reflecting the needs of the country. Progress has been made in standardizing the core curriculum, integrating indigenous methods (e.g., yoga nidra), and “vocationalizing” specialty training. Two factors, however, curtail the advancement of Indian psychology: (1) psychology organizations are often short-lived and ineffectual due to internecine conflict, and (2) many female psychologists are so burdened by multiple roles that they lack time and energy to devote to their profession.
FEMINIZATION OF PSYCHOLOGY
More than 10 years ago, Sexton and Hogan (1992) observed that “psychology around the world tends to be a female occupation, in some cases dramatically so” (p. 469). Not only are more women than men declaring psychology as their undergraduate major, women are also pursuing graduate education and training in psychology in larger numbers. In Western countries, the percentage of female undergraduates ranges from approximately 66% in the United States to 84% in the United Kingdom, and 80% of baccalaureates in Spain are awarded to women. Likewise, women form an overwhelming majority of psychologists and psychology students in India and Pakistan. Even in the conservative Middle East, the number of women pursuing psychology degrees has risen; in Egypt for example, 66% of baccalaureates are awarded to women. In graduate psychology programs, women have been the majority for some time in the United Kingdom and recently became the majority in the United States. In other countries, however, women tend not to pursue graduate study. For example, notwithstanding the number of female baccalaureates in Egypt, few women matriculate into advanced programs. In Japan, 80% of doctorates in psychology are awarded to men. To some extent, the feminization of psychology noted in the United Kingdom and the United States parallels that occurring in other health professions. For example in 2003, for the first time, the majority of applicants to U.S. medical schools were women.
There also appears to be an imbalance between women and men in the psychology workforce. In Western countries such as United Kingdom, women are becoming dominant in most settings in which psychologists are employed. In South Africa and Israel, women constitute 60% and 70% of working psychologists, respectively. In Spain, 75% of registered psychologists are women. In the developing world, women also constitute the majority of psychologists. For example, women make up 60–70% of the psychologists in Colombia. Interestingly, several employment trends for psychologists in the early 1990s (see Sexton & Hogan, 1992) have since changed. There are now more female than male psychologists in South Africa and Australia, where the composition of the Australian Psychological Society is 72% female. However, there are several countries in the Middle East and Africa in which psychologists tend to be male; in Egypt 65% of psychologists are male, and in Nigeria 95% are male.
Although women fill a variety of positions as psychologists in diverse settings, traditional differences in specialization remain, with more women holding jobs in clinics and schools, and more men employed in academia and in business and industry. This demarcation reflects the employment status of female psychologists in many countries, regardless of cultural affiliation or degree of industrialization. In Australia, significantly more men than women are Fellows in the Australian Psychological Society, suggesting that men are dominant in academia. In Spain, although the proportion of women in all specialties is growing, they are the minority in academia, in business and industry, and in the military and police forces. Furthermore, female psychologists in Spain earn less than their male counterparts, and are more likely to be employed part-time. In Colombia, most female psychologists work in applied areas, whereas men make up the majority in academia and university administration; men also form the leadership of the Colombian Society of Psychology. In India, in spite of vastly outnumbering male students, women are less likely to pursue a career in psychology due to their tendency to marry and relocate; those who remain in the field often work in low-paying community service jobs.
Women and men who pursue psychology as a career do not differ in school backgrounds, reasons for pursuing psychology, choice of psychology courses, or plans upon graduating (Metzner, Rajecki, & Lauer, 1994). Thus, the feminization of psychology in the workplace may be more a reflection of cultural norms, in conjunction with a national need for applied psychology. Because traditional gender roles are preserved in many countries, women are expected to shoulder the burden of domestic responsibilities. The unequal division of domestic labor makes it difficult for women to pursue their careers in the same unfettered manner as men, particularly as administrators, consultants, and scientists. Likewise, discrimination in the workplace is problematic for many female psychologists, who often do not have recourse to institutionalized protection or redress and consequently find themselves frustrated vocationally.
The reductionism of Western psychology tends to overlook the cultural, economic, political, and religious conditions in which human experience and action are constituted (Gergen, 2001). As a result, Western psychology has yielded fragmented and overly simplified accounts of highly complex and contextually embedded phenomena. Western psychology has also become more isolated from other social sciences, further restricting its capacity to explain phenomena that are multidetermined.
Moreover, Western psychology assumes a universal research methodology that is impervious to cultural bias (Gergen); understandably, this ethnocentric stance has evoked reactions among psychologists worldwide. Finally, the support of a powerful publishing industry ensures the continued influence of Western psychology. Because English is the language of psychology, the conceptual, empirical, and practical contributions of non-English-speaking psychologists are often neglected, as the market will not bear the cost of foreign scholarship that deviates from Western tastes (Draguns, 2001). Ironically, that scholarship has enormous potential to advance psychological science and practice.
As noted in the introductory chapter to the Handbook, there is growing dissatisfaction with Western psychology for all of the aforementioned reasons. The limited transnational usefulness of Western psychology has triggered paradigmatic shifts in various parts of the world. Some have occurred in specific countries whereas others are beginning to manifest themselves across regions. We now turn to three evolving perspectives that represent paradigmatic challenges to Western psychology: multiculturalism, indigenization, and the realignment of psychology according to civilization.
The critical and central role of culture is becoming more apparent to psychologists, and various specialties have heeded the call for greater sensitivity, understanding, and competence in studying and working with culturally diverse peoples. In cross-cultural terms, emic approaches, in which research and practice hinge on what is familiar and meaningful to members of a culture, seek greater balance with etic approaches that emphasize universals, which transcend cultural divides. Psychologists, particularly those in heterogeneous and industrialized countries, increasingly realize that their activities are imprinted by a Western emic and hence are received perspectives with limited utility. Thus, British psychology students now study social constructionist views of the discipline, and German psychologists advocate for ethics codes and laws that address the context of culture within which psychology is practiced.
The multicultural movement in the United States illustrates American psychology’s responsiveness to charges of “cultural malpractice.” American psychologists are keenly aware that the changing demography of the United States in terms of age, ethnicity, language, and race necessitates an evaluation of research procedures, assessment instruments, and intervention strategies. Multicultural psychology in the United States has a broad expanse, defining culture in terms of the worldviews shared by groups with a common sexual orientation, physical disability, or socioeoconomic status. There now are U.S. psychology organizations that represent African American, American Indian, Asian American, and Hispanic American interest groups. In addition, the code of ethics of the American Psychological Association (APA) acknowledges that cultural competence is necessary for ethical professional practice.
Australian psychologists also recognize the importance of sensitivity, knowledge, and competence in working effectively with its indigenous population. Australian psychologists work with indigenous communities to promote social justice, reconciliation, and inclusion, in addition to wellness. Many endeavor to empower communities, knowing that these approaches drive transformative change and offer indigenous communities the capacity to assess their needs and to develop and deliver their own services.
Singapore, a cosmopolitan country, is becoming more heterogeneous due to its commercial infrastructure and strategic location. Consequently, the Singapore Psychological Society is contemplating the design of a program to orient practitioners to the special needs of residents from distinct cultural and religious backgrounds.
Sinha (1997) has characterized the purpose of indigenization in unmistakable terms: indigenization is a struggle for consciousness in which the search to restore a people’s identity demands confronting the intellectual hegemony of the West. Sinha has also cautioned against borrowing reductionistic models from the natural sciences because these models isolate the person or group from the many contexts to which they are bound. By implication, a contextually sensitive psychology requires a multidisciplinary focus, which might orient psychologists toward neglected domains, such as spirituality. Chinese and Indian psychologists have heeded these warnings and exhortations, and are reconfiguring theory, research, practice, and pedagogy into more contextualized and multidisciplinary forms (e.g., the program in indigenous psychology at Utkal University in Bhubaneshwar, India). Interestingly, in most countries in which indigenization has gained momentum, it is rare for someone to argue that Western psychology should be eliminated, even though it may have been imported and of limited usefulness; more typically, recommendations call for an amalgam of psychologies matched to the context in which they will be used.
Sinha (1997) has stated that “of the countries in Asia, the trend to indigenize psychology is strongest and most articulate in the Philippines” (p. 153). Indeed, since 1975 the National Association for Filipino Psychology has piloted efforts to indigenize psychology. Virgilio Enriquez has written extensively on the Filipino context of understanding and inquiry, and has produced more focused works on the Filipinization of personality theory, methods of data collection and analysis, and the struggle for justice and freedom (e.g., Enriquez, 1992). In spite of these contributions, few psychologists in the Philippines are committed to indigenization; although clinical psychologists integrate their clients’ strong kinship ties and religious values into therapy, the practice of other specialties such as industrial-organizational psychology, remains fully integrated with Western psychological traditions.
Indigenous approaches to healing have a rich history, especially in Asia. Naikan and Morita therapies are indigenous to Japan and have their origins in Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, respectively. Both therapies value self-observation and the acceptance of anxiety, and both minimize therapist-client interaction. In Thailand, traditional-medicine clinics have been established at provincial hospitals where patients can obtain the services of folk healers, mainly herbalists and massage therapists. Over the years, Thai psychologists have also been actively involved in training Buddhist monks to deliver mental health services. The challenges associated with developing scientifically sound indigenous measures of personality assessment in Asian countries are discussed in a recent special section of the journal Psychological Assessment (e.g., Cheung, Cheung, Wada, & Zhang, 2003).
There are also cases of indigenization in Europe. In Poland, Kazimierz Twardowski originated the theory of purposeful action, which paved the way for a uniquely Polish theoretical and methodological perspective that is in its third generation, having survived the intellectual devastation of fascism and communism. The theory is discipline-wide in scope, as its fundamental tenet states that all human activity is purposeful and forever adapting to environmental changes in order to fulfill its initial purpose. The theory has stimulated basic and applied research on decision-making, emotional regulation, and the expression of temperaments.
There is also evidence of indigenization in Africa. Psychologists at Kenyan universities integrate African cosmology into education and training, careful not to compromise the canon of knowledge that is accepted as psychological. South African psychology offers a case in point of indigenization. Although South African psychology is grounded in Western epistemological tradition, the contemporary issues it faces are African. Hence, South African psychologists struggle to balance Western theories and techniques with indigenous knowledge and methods that arise from and are relevant to the Black community. South African psychologists are in a paradigmatic bind: they want to disassociate from a psychology that served the oppressive practices of apartheid, yet they fear abandoning the disciplinary and professional conventions that ensure their standing in the psychology community. Notwithstanding this conflict, indigenization proceeds apace. Postmodern approaches are taught at universities. Qualitative inquiry has gained a foothold, as it does not require participants to be proficient in English or familiar with objective assessment. Psychological practice has become oriented toward social change and includes interventions to empower communities. The prevalence of indigenous healing practices (e.g., divination and herbal remedies) reflects Black-African traditions as well as the dearth of rural practitioners of psychology, and South African psychologists are currently debating the merits of including traditional healers in the healthcare system.
A new world order?
Huntington’s (1997) The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order offers a provocative framework for understanding the dynamics of global change in the 21st century. Huntington proposes that cultural identity influences patterns of association, collision, and separation throughout the world. He asserts that modernization has not produced a global village, but rather an emerging civilization-based world order in which the West is declining and its pretensions to universality cause conflict with other civilizations. Huntington’s vision of a new world order provides a basis for anticipating how psychology might evolve internationally. Specifically, psychology might become culturally realigned across regions that have a common language, religion, and world view. With Huntington’s model in mind, we search for evidence of early manifestations of national and regional shifts in psychology that reflect changing patterns of cultural identity. Specifically, we focus our analysis on the Islamic world and the Latin world. Before proceeding, we acknowledge several assumptions and shortcomings of our analysis. First, we appreciate that global economic and political realignment does not automatically yield a parallel shift in a discipline and profession. Second, we recognize that economic and political change often precedes more elemental changes within society; in fact, economic and political change typically meets with resistance, especially when it collides with opposing local norms (Stevens, 2002). Finally, we acknowledge that the countries we sampled in the Handbook and the information we asked our authors to provide were neither sufficiently representative nor comprehensive for us to draw firm conclusions.
The Islamic World
Huntington (1997) speaks of an Islamic resurgence that is “a product of and an effort to come to grips with modernization in non-Western societies ... . These developments undermine traditional village and clan ties, and create alienation and identity crisis. Islamist symbols, commitments, and beliefs meet these psychological needs” (p. 116). Similarly, is it possible to speak of an Islamic psychology emerging across the Muslim world, which includes countries in the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, and the Pacific Rim?
Of the 27 countries sampled in the Handbook, 5 have a clearly Islamic cultural identity: Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey. These countries are located in four regions of the globe: the Middle East, the Pacific Rim, South Asia, and Europe.
Egyptian psychologists are quite involved in relating the science and practice of psychology to Islam. Some have tried to fashion a psychology from the writings of early Arab and Muslim scholars, whereas others have sought to reframe contemporary psychology in Islamic terms. Nevertheless, much of Egyptian psychology reflects the assumptions, theories, research findings, and methods imported from the West, which some fear has stifled the emergence of an Islamic psychology. Egyptian psychologists have not focused on the sociocultural dimension of psychology, and therefore their research and practice sometimes appear to be insensitive to the contextual realities of the region.
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Although Indonesian psychologists acknowledge the importance of including and standardizing nontraditional approaches in the psychology curriculum, they have yet to respond to those pressing for an Islamic psychology. This is a politically sensitive issue for the country in view of growing radicalization in the Muslim community. Indonesian psychologists are comfortable applying constructs from Eastern paradigms in their work with Asian clients, such as collectivism and spirituality, which are also central to a Muslim worldview.
Iran, an Islamic republic, has undergone profound change since the 1978 revolution. One effect of transforming the country into a theocracy was the disruption of scientific and professional psychology. The Iranian Psychology Society was banned in 1978, only to reopen in 1995. The clinical master’s program at Tehran University was also closed in 1978, and reconstituted 7 years later at the Tehran Psychiatric Institute.
With its turbulent past and recent renewal, Iranian psychology has had little chance to build an Islamic psychology. However, Iranian master’s-degree students are learning about Muslim perspectives on psychology, researchers are investigating the relationship between religious observance and psychological adjustment, and practitioners are reforming prisons according to Islamic law.
Of the five predominantly Muslim countries, Pakistan comes closest to having a genuine Islamic psychology. In 1988, the Society for the Advancement of Muslim Psychology was launched with the aim of crafting a psychology and psychotherapy based on the Koran and scholarly treatises on Islam. A course in Islamic studies is mandatory for undergraduates, and graduate courses on Islamic psychology have also been developed. Clinicians offer several Islamic variants of psychotherapy. For example, Zikr Allah is a technique based on Sufi mysticism designed to alleviate stress. Other interventions synthesize Islamic values with Western psychotherapies that are grounded in rationalism and functionalism (e.g., rational emotive behavior therapy).
The history of Turkish psychology points west, explaining why an Islamic psychology did not evolve in a country rich in Islamic culture. The forced secularization of Turkey gave more credence to Western scientific ideas and practices than the Islamic knowledge that prevailed during the Ottoman Empire. Turkish psychology appears invested in its continued integration within mainstream psychology. In spite of recent political expressions of Islam, Turkish psychologists have remained curiously disinterested in bridging their imported psychology with secular Islamic traditions. However, there are some indications of change. A new course in clinical psychology at Ankara University surveys the contributions of indigenous perspectives (e.g., Sufism) to understanding aspects of individual psychology. Research on family systems is beginning to address culturally based issues of dependence, independence, and interdependence. In the corporate world, consulting psychologists are working to harmonize the global trend toward a more egalitarian organizational climate with the paternalistic traditions of Turkish businesses.
Based on our review of five Muslim countries, we conclude that a transregional psychology along Islamic lines is in a nascent stage of development, and it is unclear whether a fully formed Islamic psychology will someday emerge out of the larger Muslim world.
The Latin World
Huntington (1997) identifies a Latin American culture that, though originally European and linked to Europe and North America, today has its own civilization. Latin America is primarily Spanish-speaking and Catholic, and has indigenous peoples who have greatly influenced its development. Latin America also has a strong authoritarian and corporatist culture, further distinguishing it from European and North American culture. Is it possible to speak of a Latin American psychology that includes Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia, as well as Mexico?
One paradigm that is fundamentally Latin American is liberation psychology. Liberation psychology “attempts to work with people in context through strategies that enhance awareness of oppression and of the ideologies and structural inequality that have kept them subjugated and oppressed, thereby collaborating with them in developing critical analysis and engaging in a transforming praxis” (Comas-Díaz, Lykes, & Alarcón, 1998, p. 778). Liberation psychology emanates from several core elements of Latin American history: the struggle of indigenous peoples, economic and political oppression, and violent social upheaval. Because so many have been and remain poor and oppressed it is reasonable to assert that abstract and reductionistic Western psychology is ill-suited for understanding, studying, and altering people’s lives. Instead, liberation psychology asks psychologists to dialogue with people as they review the conditions in which they are embedded and initiate transformative action. Simply put, the psychologist must enter the other’s worldview and join in the narrative of oppression and transcendence.
Whereas Colombian psychologists were politically involved during the 1980s, they are less so today, perhaps because of the obvious dangers of activism. Argentine psychologists are also less politically active than before. Brazil, however, has a long-standing organization called the Society of Political Psychology. In pursuing the possibilities of NAFTA, Mexican psychologists seek to resolve the political impasse concerning the reciprocity of credentials that would permit the movement of psychologists across Canada and the United States.
Our review suggests that the opportunity for a reorganization of psychology along Latin American lines may have come and gone. If liberation psychology is no longer a unifying paradigm in Latin America, what happened to it and what if anything has replaced it? We note that liberation psychology remains vital in some Latin American countries (e.g., Guatemala and Peru) that have suffered more recent and severe economic, political, and social oppression. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, however, must be viewed differently. During the 1980s, much of Latin America shifted from authoritarian regimes and command economies to pluralistic, market-based democracies. As a consequence, respect for human and civil rights increased. The evolution of Latin American economic and political systems, along with trade agreements with the United States, have brought the cultural identity of Latin America closer to that of Canada and the United States (Huntington, 1997). It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suggest that Latin American psychology has also moved north.
Furthermore, recent economic and political developments have reinvigorated civil institutions in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. Largely due to government support, cohesive social units (e.g., volunteer organizations) are better serving the needs of the community. Thus, the push for radical social transformation has declined, along with support for liberation psychology. Moreover, regional trade agreements of the 1990s (e.g., Mercosur and the Tripartite Pact) not only promise greater economic integration and prosperity for Latin America, but also the integration of education and training, research, and professional practice in psychology. As psychologists in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico enter the 21st century, they already share the following agenda: broadening and standardizing the curriculum, increasing the number of graduate programs and paths of specialization, improving employment opportunities, widening access to online databases, supporting multicultural research and services, updating ethics codes to safeguard human rights, federalizing the regulation of professional psychology, enlarging the consultative role of psychology associations within government, and promoting international partnerships.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGY
From the outset, we envisioned the Handbook of International Psychology as a means of informing our readers, particularly American readers, about the science and practice of psychology in distinct countries and regions of the world. We believe that intellectual isolation is perhaps the single greatest obstacle to the advancement of psychology. Authoritative knowledge and skill in psychology rest on an appreciation of contextual elements as well as individual and universal variables that determine human experience and action. By exposing our readers to diverse psychologies, we hope to heighten their awareness and understanding of the foundations, current status, and evolving characteristics of psychology worldwide. We also hope that they will become more involved in organized efforts to address a number of pressing global concerns such as intergroup conflict, national transformation and development, threats to the natural environment, physical and mental health needs, and the struggles of disempowered groups.
Most chapter authors shared their views on what American psychology and psychologists might gain from becoming familiar with psychology in their countries. Below, we summarize the points that our authors made explicit or which we distilled from their writing. Because we were unable to sort these views into nonoverlapping categories, we present them in list form:
- In many countries, studying or working abroad has become highly relevant to the professional development of psychologists, especially for those who seek academic careers. Increasingly, databases are being marketed that offer information on how to gain international experience in teaching, research, and practice. The Fulbright Scholar Program is one such opportunity that the authors, as former Fulbrighters, strongly endorse for anyone desiring a professionally transformative international experience. The Peace Corps and, to a lesser extent, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), offer other invaluable opportunities to gain firsthand exposure to a different culture, language, and system of values. Finally, we recommend that psychology departments establish study-abroad exchanges through which students can internationalize their education and training.
- Psychologists in other countries are educated and trained in specialties that are virtually unknown in the United States. For example, transportation psychology is an important specialty as reflected in psychology curricula, divisions within psychology organizations, and the number of psychologists working in the area. Likewise, political psychology has more prominence abroad. We believe that psychology departments in the United States should add courses in these areas as upper-division electives or, at least integrate modules on these specialties into survey-type classes.
- In most countries, a baccalaureate, which may require 5 years to complete, or master’s degree is a prerequisite to holding the title of psychologist and practicing professional psychology. Countries that require a doctorate for entry into the profession are the minority. Do alternative international definitions of psychologist lessen U.S. psychology’s concerns about the licensure of master’s-level practitioners? Or is doctoral-level training fundamental to competent practice, given the sophistication and specialization of American psychology? These questions merit further debate.
- Given the efforts in many countries to federalize the regulation of professional practice, perhaps the time has arrived for American psychologists to seek national standards for licensure. The APA might work legislatively to establish more uniform eligibility criteria for the title of psychologist and delineate the functions that define professional practice in psychology. These efforts would substantially reduce the confusion and frustration that many psychologists and employers experience as a result of interstate variation in licensure. The experiences of European psychologists, rapidly moving toward an EU standard for credentialing psychologists, and Canadian psychologists, whose Mutual Recognition Agreement introduced a national, competency-based approach to professional regulation, provide meaningful models for American psychologists to emulate.
- Although the exception, psychologists in a few countries are authorized as primary-care providers, and some have prescription privileges. In these countries, psychologists are recognized as expert treatment providers, whose services are key to illness prevention and health promotion. Implicit in their status as primary-care providers is the recognition that psychological variables mediate physical disease and wellbeing. We call upon American psychologists and psychology organizations to redouble their efforts to educate the public about the role of psychologists as primary healthcare providers. The recent inclusion of the word health in the mission statement of the APA also supports this goal.
- Psychologists around the world tend to be tolerant of, if not receptive to, indigenous cultures. In various ways, these psychologists have integrated religious philosophy and folk tradition into their perspectives of the person. From these perspectives, psychologists conduct research and deliver services that are culturally relevant. We invite psychology departments in the United States to explore how indigenous psychologies can be integrated more fully into the curriculum. We endorse efforts to internationalize scholarship, particularly that which incorporates non-Western perspectives and methodologies. Finally, we encourage practitioners who work with non-majority clients and communities to familiarize themselves with alternative therapies and consult with nontraditional healers.
- There have been growing calls to bridge the gap between science and practice in American psychology. Other countries serve as models of cooperation and collaboration between research and applied psychologists in the education and training of students, as well as on studies and interventions at the community and societal level. For example, most psychologists worldwide are trained according to a consumer model, in which professional practice is informed by scholarship (Oakland, 2003). Perhaps because American psychology is so specialized, psychologists have difficulty communicating and working with colleagues from across the discipline. Although American psychology will likely remain specialized, its vitality hinges on forging internal alliances and consideration of viable alternatives to the scientist-practitioner framework for training.
- There are new opportunities for multidisciplinary collaboration in areas that traditionally have been subsumed under the rubric of psychology, such as cognitive science, as well as in domains that by custom lie outside the purview of psychology, such as environmental conservation. We encourage American psychologists to archive and share their findings with colleagues from related disciplines in order to improve the coherence and utility of knowledge in the social sciences. Furthermore, there are numerous social issues whose resolution would surely accelerate if addressed in a multidisciplinary fashion (e.g., addiction and crime). We hope to see an increase in multidisciplinary responses to psychosocial and sociocultural issues in the United States.
- Many foreign scholars have diagnosed American psychology as fragmented, identifying the underlying cause as reductionism, in which highly complex and contextual phenomena are isolated in laboratories and dismantled in experimental manipulations that rob them of meaning. Many American psychologists find it difficult to adapt their Western intellectual heritage to the call for disciplinary reform. American psychologists must confront the disputed external validity of their science and practice and determine how to rectify it. Like their international colleagues, American psychologists will struggle with whether to choose conceptual, methodological and technical isolation, pluralism, or unity in the discipline and in relation to the social sciences generally.
- Psychologists worldwide are heavily involved in investigating and responding to social issues. We maintain that psychology students would be better served if given opportunities to learn how psychology can facilitate an understanding of, and solutions to, social concerns (e.g., meeting the heathcare needs of isolated rural or marginalized inner-city communities). Moreover, American psychologists can learn much from their international colleagues about participatory research methods and capacity-building interventions that have a sociopolitical agenda.
- In many countries, social needs are the most powerful force behind the development of psychology. American psychology has an opportunity to drive social policy as never before, given the changing demography and sociocultural dynamics of the United States and the international issues that have surfaced on American soil (e.g., terrorism). There is no social policy on which psychology cannot make an informed contribution.
- 12. Finally, the pattern of communication between American psychologists and their international colleagues remains largely unidirectional, which limits opportunities for professional development. In the globalized world of the 21st century, communication among psychologists must become reciprocal. A major obstacle to the bidirectional flow of information is that English is the language of psychology. Most American psychologists are not fluent in a foreign language, unlike their international counterparts. We believe that undergraduate majors should be encouraged to learn a foreign language. We further believe that the language requirement must be reinstated for the doctorate, as it has been at the University of Texas-El Paso, where clinical psychology students are required to become bilingual in order to meet the needs of the community they serve. In addition, American psychology will be remiss if its journals fail to publish innovative and fertile theories, research methods, and applied practices by psychologists from around the world. Editors of American psychology journals have an obligation to disseminate knowledge that challenges U.S. norms (e.g., reductionism) and has potential value to the discipline and profession.
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© 2004 Brunner-Routledge