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Competencies for Community Psychology Practice in Spain: Standards, Quality and Challenges in Social Intervention

Competencies for Community Psychology Practice in Spain: Standards, Quality and Challenges in Social Intervention by  Isidro Maya Jariego

Author(s): Isidro Maya Jariego


In this paper, competencies for community psychology practice are examined within the Spanish context, based on the experience of a Master in Psychology of Social and Community Intervention in the University of Seville. The list of competencies was developed specifically for monitoring the practicum of master students, and it was developed in a portfolio format, following the usual pattern in the European accreditation process "EuroPsy," designed by the professional associations of psychology. The portfolio consists of 29 generic professional competencies, grouped in seven blocks: needs specification, evaluation, product development and services, psychological intervention, assessment of psychological interventions, communication, and enabling competencies. At the national level, we analyze the impact that the new system of training and accreditation of psychologists who perform health activities is having on the professional recognition and the role of community psychologists. At the international level, we compare the EuroPsy proposal with the list of 18 competences proposed by Dalton and Wolfe (2012) and approved by the Society for Community Research and Action, APA Division 27. Finally, we discuss the advantages and limitations of a generic model of competency assessment, focused on the professional practice of psychology.


Download the PDF version for full article, including Table and Annex.


EuroPsy is a system of accreditation of professional psychology in Europe, which has been implemented since 2010 with the coordination of the European Federation of Psychologists' Associations (EFPA). The European certificate of psychology aims to improve standards of professional practice, increase transparency and facilitate internal mobility of professional psychologists (Lunt, Peiró, Poortinga & Roe, 2015). EuroPsy is based on a shared competencies model that contributes to greater convergence in the training of psychologists and serves as a guide for the evaluation of professional practice. It is therefore a tool that promotes the search for common standards and a shared definition of the profession of psychology in Europe (Peiró & Lunt, 2002). Currently this recognition system is used in 20 countries, while 36 members of the EFPA approved their implementation and are eligible for the application of the certificate.

One of the central elements of the EuroPsy system consists in defining core competencies that professional psychologists should develop. Those competencies include both the actual psychological content of the professional practice as well as the general capabilities that allow providing effectively a professional service of any kind (EuroPsy, 2015). The European certificate distinguishes four professional contexts: namely, clinical and health psychology; work and organizational psychology; educational psychology; and "other" (to be specified), among which may be included psychology of social and community intervention. There are also two types of expertise currently recognized by EuroPsy that result in specialization: psychotherapy and work and organizational psychology. In both cases (the professional contexts and specialties) the profile of community research and action appears to be less established in the professional field.

In the Master in Psychology of Social and Community Intervention at the University of Seville (Spain) we carried out one of the first experiences in implementing the EuroPsy model of competencies in the field of community research and action (Maya-Jariego, 2009). Specifically, we rely on the "guidelines for the evaluation of skills through supervised practice" designed by professional associations of psychology in Spain (Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Psicólogos, 2008) to propose a monitoring system of the practicum in community intervention for Master’s students. In this case, the EuroPsy model provides the generic competency framework, while the guide of the Master specifically adapts the content to the characteristics and usual activities of psychologists of social and community intervention[1]. Thus, it was intended to fill a gap in the definition of professional profiles of psychology and thereby contribute to greater recognition of this area of practice.

In this article, we briefly describe the use of the EuroPsy competencies model in the training of psychologists of social and community intervention, from the specific case of the University of Seville (Spain). The European accreditation model is compared with the 18 competencies for community psychology practice recognized by the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) (Dalton & Wolfe, 2012). This allows us to reflect on the international validity of the 18 core competencies as well as the need to strengthen the role of the community psychologist in Europe.

The professional competencies of psychology in the EuroPsy certificate

The EuroPsy model proposes 20 primary competencies and 9 enabling competencies in the professional practice of psychology (Table 1). The primary competencies correspond to the workflow of psychologists in a sequence in which

  1. the customer request is received,
  2. evaluation or diagnosis are performed,
  3. services based on psychological theories are developed,
  4. interventions are designed and implemented,
  5. the actions carried out are valued and, finally,
  6. the results are reported (EuroPsy Team, 2009, cited in Peiro & Tetrick, 2011).

This is a generic framework of capabilities that are deployed specifically depending on the professional context of intervention, whether this is clinical, educational, organizational or otherwise. The model implies the classic cycle of action research (Lewin, 1946), with a process of planning, action, and observation.

Table 1: Table 1. The 29 competencies of psychologists in the EuroPsy model
Source: EuroPsy (2015), <> (See PDF version or image below)

Secondly, enabling competencies are general skills that contribute to the proper exercise of any profession. Professionals benefit from proper career planning, as well as the ability to stay current in their discipline knowledge, to develop relationships with colleagues or clients, and to reflect on professional practice itself, among others. Although they are not competencies specific of the psychologist, they are considered also necessary for professional practice.

The competencies of the European certificate of psychology not only differ in content from the skills recognized by the SCRA (Dalton & Wolfe, 2012), but also in the assumptions and mode of operation. Specifically, the EuroPsy model, unlike the 18 competencies of the SCRA, (1) proposes generic skills of professional psychology, which develop transversely in different contexts of application, (2) is designed as part of a system of accreditation and professional recognition, and (3) includes some skills applicable in any professional activity (not only for psychologists). This makes it a meta-model that needs to be completed with the content that refer to a practice and a specific intervention context.

The guide for supervised practice in psychology of social and community intervention

The European certificate of psychology establishes as a requirement the realization of "at least one year of supervised professional practice full time, or equivalent." It is a form of professional training that can be performed as part of the external practices of the Degree in Psychology or working under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

In this context, the General Council of Associations of Psychologists published three "guides for supervised practice" to monitor the practical training of psychologists in the clinical, educational and organizational fields (Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Psicólogos, 2008). Each is a portfolio with concrete examples illustrating the type of activities, methods, and common strategies in each application context. Both psychologists in training and supervisors can use it as a model for detailing the activities they have done, justify the procedure followed in professional practice, and provide evidence of its realization.

In the Master in Psychology of Social and Community Intervention we used this model as an assessment tool for students' practica (Maya-Jariego, 2009). Thus, we developed a "supervised practice guide" in the specific field of social and community intervention, which was lacking at the national level.

The document consists of 29 examples, one for each competence, in which

  1. the activity is described,
  2. recipients and context of realization are indicated,
  3. the procedure followed in practice is explained,
  4. the results obtained are summarized and
  5. evidences of performing the activity are provided.

To illustrate, in Annex I we present seven examples (one for each specific professional role and one referring to the enabling competencies, previously presented in Table 1)[2].

The guide for supervised practice defines, through examples, the role of the community psychologist, and serves as a learning and accreditation tool. Specifically, the portfolio (1) illustrates with examples what is the work of the community psychologist, (2) allows self-assessment of the skills required for professional practice, and (3) facilitates the use of the guide of competencies for the accreditation process.

During the first three years of implementation of the master, between 2010 and 2013, the guide for supervised practice demonstrated its applicability in a variety of contexts of intervention, such as:

  • initiatives to promote health, centers of drug prevention,
  • programs for the rehabilitation of women victims of maltreatment,
  • the center for refugees,
  • community development projects, intervention with families and minors
  • programs for citizen participation and volunteering, among others.

The guide is particularly useful to promote student reflection on the professional role. However, it is an exercise in meta-cognition and sometimes students find it difficult to identify what skills are involved in the development of certain specific activities. In fact, self-assessment is a key enabling competence, which affects learning ability based on experience, among others.

The 29 examples of the guide for supervised practice refer to activities such as assessment of social needs, analysis of community readiness, social skills training, initiatives for community prevention and promotion, program evaluation and enhancement of the sense of community, among others (Maya-Jariego, 2009). That is, they are broadly in line with the contents proposed in the list of competencies of the SCRA (Dalton & Wolfe, 2012). The examples of the guide of supervised practice include activities such as community programs development and management, initiatives for social change, and community research. Therefore, even taking as starting point a generic framework of capacities and referring to the European context, when we descend into community settings, the contents of the Spanish case are comparable to the proposal from SCRA, and rather similar.

Strengthening the role of the community psychologist in Spain

The training of community psychologists usually puts the emphasis on the evaluation of contexts, intervention at multiple ecological levels, and collaboration with the community (Maya-Jariego, 2016). The area has been adequately described by the "seven core values" of social justice, wellness promotion, sense of community, respect for diversity, empowerment, collaboration with the community and empirical basis (Kloos, Hill, Thomas, Wandersman, Elias & Dalton, 2012). It has consolidated as a pragmatic space, in which converge the design, implementation and evaluation of effective actions with empowerment, participation and community fit strategies. All these descriptors are conveniently represented in the 18 competencies of SCRA (Dalton & Wolfe, 2012), and in the 29 examples of community intervention according to the EuroPsy model (Maya-Jariego, 2009).

In addition, community action research has helped to enrich the roles of psychologists, incorporating the role of change agent, working in collaboration with the community. Hence in the two lists of competencies the participant-observer role as well as the development of horizontal relationships with the community are included. Similarly, both make reference to the ability to set up collective empowerment dynamics and to promote the capabilities of groups and communities. This innovation in the role has been called "community approach" and has extended to areas such as nursing and public health, among others. In a way, this can be considered a contribution from community psychology to psychology as a whole, as well as to other disciplines.

However, the professional profile of the psychology of social intervention appears to be in a permanent process of redefinition. In fact, the proposal of the Master of the University of Seville emerges as an effort to equate social intervention with other areas of psychology. Both in the "practice areas" of EuroPsy as in the "supervised practice guides" of the associations of psychology in Spain, it seems to be an area with less tradition than clinical, educational and organizational psychology.

In Spain, the incorporation of new professional accreditation systems has reopened the debate on the role of the community psychologist. Specifically, new norms and laws that introduce regulations for professional practice of psychologists in the health field were adopted[3]. To carry out its work in the public health system, professionals must now have the title of Specialist in Clinical Psychology or make the Masters in General Health Psychology. In this context, the concerns of professional associations to get recognition in the health system for professional psychology has left in the background the needs of other professional profiles. For example, some psychologists with a community or social action profile have been forced to clinical specialization or to complete their training in health psychology in contexts where social needs require other roles and professional profiles.

In this context, skills inventories are of great value in preserving and in the institutionalization of a professional profile that, during the last decades, has been giving a response to community needs in a pertinent and effective manner. Both the definition of professional profiles by associations of psychologists in Spain[4], as the European standards of accreditation and the list of 18 competencies of the SCRA are antecedents that can contribute in this regard.


In sum, community psychology (a) has a defined professional profile, characterized by the intervention in multiple ecological levels and collaboration with the community; and (b) has led to the development of effective strategies for prevention and promotion. In fact, community psychology (c) has introduced innovations in the role of the psychologist as a change agent in the community, and contributed to the formalization of an approach that has spread to other disciplines. This profile (d) appears adequately represented by inventories of competencies of the SCRA and the European certificate EuroPsy showing their applicability in different international contexts. So (e) both lists can contribute to strengthening the role of the community psychologist in its regional reference space.

Annex 1 Examples are available in PDF version and in the images below.


[1] The Master in Psychology of Social and Community Intervention was designed following the requirements of the accreditation system of academic titles during the course of 2008-2009. The official title was established by the Agreement of the Council of Ministers of 12 November 2010 (BOE of 16 December 2010). The University of Seville published the curriculum of the Master with the Resolution of 20 July 2011. The guide for supervised practice was applied experimentally during the first three years of implementation of the title (2010-2011, 2011-2012 and 2012-2013).

[2] The full document in Spanish, with 29 examples, is available at:

[3] The Law on Health Professions (LOPS) in 2003 left the psychologists practicing in the health sector in a legal vacuum. To resolve this, the Public Health Act 2011 and subsequent regulations introduced new regulatory developments for professional practice of psychologists in health, such as the need for clinical/health specialization. This situation was developed in: Maya-Jariego, I. (2014). Regreso al futuro: el perfil del psicólogo comunitario y de la intervención social. Published in E-Voluntas, retrieved 10/6/2016:

[4] The profile of the psychology of social intervention according to the Professional Association of Psychologists of Spain was defined in:


Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Psicólogos (2008). El modelo de competencias del certificado EuroPsy en la formación del prácticum de psicología. Comité Nacional EuroPsy: Madrid.

Dalton, J. & Wolfe, S. (2012). Joint column: Education connection and the community practitioner. The Community Psychologist, 45 (4), 7-14.

EuroPsy (2015). EuroPsy. European Certificate in Psychology. Available in [Retrieved 10/06/2016]

EuroPsy Team (2009). EuroPsy European Certificate in Psychology regulations revised. Brussels: Mimeo, EFPA.

Kloos, B., Hill, J., Thomas, R., Wandersman, A., Elias, J. & Dalton, J.H. (2012). Community Psychology. Linking Individuals and Communities. Wadsworth: CENGAGE Learning.

Lewin, K. (1946). Action Research and Minority Problems. Journal of Social Issues, 2 (4), 1540-4560.

Lunt, I., Peiró, J. M., Poortinga, Y. & Roe, R. A. (2015). EuroPsy: Standards and Quality in Education for Psychologists. Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe Publishing.

Maya-Jariego, I. (2016). Ecological settings and theory of community action: “There is nothing more practical than a good theory” in Community Psychology. Global Journal of Community Psychology Practice, 7 (2), 1-6. Retrieved 24/06/2016, from <>.

Maya-Jariego, I. (2014). Regreso al futuro: el perfil del psicólogo comunitario y de la intervención social. Publicado en E-Voluntas, consultado el 10/6/2016:  

Maya-Jariego, I. (2009). Guía EuroPsy para la Evaluación de la Práctica Supervisada en Psicología de la Intervención Social y Comunitaria. En Facultad de Psicología (Ed.). V Curso-Encuentro sobre Docencia. Sevilla: Fénix Editora, pp. 66-108.

Peiró, J. M. & Lunt, I. (2002). The context for a European framework for psychologists’ training. European Psychologist, 7 (3), 169-179.

Peiró, J. M. & Tetrick, L. (2011). Occupational Health Psychology. In Martin, P., Cheung, F., Kyrios, M., Littlefield, L., Knowles, M., Overmier, B. & Prieto, J. M. (eds.). The IAAP Handbook of Applied Psychology. Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 292-315.


Download the PDF version for full article, including Table and Annex.


Table 1. The 29 competencies of psychologists in the EuroPsy model
Annex 1 - Example 1
Annex 1 - Example 2
Annex 1 - Example 3
Annex 1 - Example 4
Annex 1 - Example 5
Annex 1 - Example 6
Annex 1 - Example 7


Isidro Maya Jariego Isidro Maya Jariego

Isidro Maya Jariego, Doctor in Psychology, is Associate Professor at the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Seville (Spain), and director of the Laboratory of Personal Networks and Communities. He was founder and coordinator of the Master in Psychology of Social and Community Intervention (2010-2013) and coordinator of the Doctorate Program “Community and Social Intervention” (2007-2013). Editor of the journal REDES, Revista Hispana para el Análisis de Redes Sociales since 2002; his main interests are social network analysis, cultural diversity and community intervention.

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Keywords: community psychology, competencies, Spain, EuroPsy