Psychology Should Look to Solve Problems Socially and Not Individually

After all, we are social animals.

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It’s becoming more and more apparent, humans are social animals. Society, other people, or even other animals, are all around us…and for a good reason. Even the most antisocial of us (me sometimes…), likely needs “someone”. It appears in fact that we are wired to live in “packs”, down to our own neurological structures. We are not made to be alone.

We thrive in groups, therefore, we also have group problems. At the end, the idea of mental illness, or just mental problems (however we want to call them) as a problem of the individual, is a very traditionally western idea. In many parts of the World, as well as in many minority cultures, that idea wouldn’t make sense. We are our own self, but we are part of something bigger, like an ecosystem made of people. Our families, us and our partners, our schools, our towns, cities, countries. We are one, but also a bigger one.

Psychology and Social Sciences should commit to solve issues socially

This need to social problem solving is even more apparent since the end of 2019. Covid-19 has forced many people around the globe to isolation, augmenting loneliness and mental/physical health problems.

However, the pandemic (and the even more recent attack on Capitol hill) also showed us that being overly social is a double-edged sword. For example, yes, people can teach people how to social distance or be a mask-wearing example. But we can also be too social, and help the spread of the virus. I know, it’s been a mess.

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But, going back to non-pandemic scenarios, I believe that intervening at a level of more than one person at a time, just makes more sense.

Let’s take the case of a family. Individual A, let’s call them Jess, goes to therapy. Jess talks about her issues, the therapy tries to help Jess solve issues around THEIR perception of the problem. And yes, it might be a true perception of the problem. But, how do the changes in Jess attitudes and behaviours influence family life? Wouldn’t changes in one person, one piece of a puzzle, necessarily influence other people’s behaviours too? Doesn’t it make more sense, at that point, to see (at least at times) Jess in the bigger context of their family life?

Not all Therapy/Interventions is created equal

And by this sub-title I don’t mean that some therapy approaches are necessarily better than others…but there are already fields that are looking at a more “holistic” approach to Psychology.

Some of these are Couple’s Therapy, Family Therapy, Applied Social Psychology (for bigger groups), as well as others, like Solution Focused Brief Therapy.

Now…I cannot explain one by one these approaches, because it would be kinda boring. But I have linked some info in all the terms, click if you’d like. But, for an idea of how some therapies or (in the case of social sciences) interventions are different that the “one person lying down next to a Freudian looking therapist” idea, I will give you a short insight on one of them.

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Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), for example, works on co-constructing solutions and goals with the client. There it is, the first non-individualist approach. The client is part of the team, this little society working together to solve a problem.

Plus, the client is often not one client, but a family. This makes SFBT also a non-white-centric approach (Plus, the founder was in fact a Korean-American woman).

This approach draws from the clients’ strengths to find solutions. These strengths are often the clients’ values, social beliefs, and spirituality. Why is it non-white-centric? Maybe it’s better explained through examples.

East Asian clients, for instance, tend to see themselves as part of a bigger culture system. Group/Social approaches can fit culturally diverse clients, like for example Asian clients, by co-constructing the therapy session, or for example focusing it on the bigger family system. Another example… thanks to the focus on group , hope (solutions) and future, SFBT has demonstrated to apply successfully to Muslim clients as well.

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Now, I am not endorsing SFBT as the best practice for Psychology. I am just saying, let’s see not only Social Psychology, but also Therapy, as a group effort. Where no one is alone. If people are alone, let’s build communities around them. Communities that work together, even with psychology experts, to make better societies.

A good person can make another person good; it means that goodness will elicit goodness in the society; other persons will also be good.

Bhumibol Adulyadej

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Italian from Taranto, Australian from Melbourne, a “born again gamer (?)”. Writing about social psychology, businesses, and most likely, quite a bit of poetry!

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