What is Liberation Psychology?

By January 15, 2015

Today’s psychology focus is on Liberation Psychology. You will love this approach if:

  • You are a person who works with people who have suffered oppression.
  • You volunteer/work as a community organizer.
  • You are a business leader with economic interests in third or fourth world countries and desire to practice conscious commerce.
  • You are an individual who wants to promote life in all your relations.

liberation-psychLiberation psychology is a move you make rather than a thing that is.

It’s a social psychology. It does not separate the individual from society to deal with intrapsychic or personal problems; rather it looks first to the social conditions of an individual and seeks to resolve the conditions of oppression that result in individual distress.

Liberation comes in the form of changing social, economic, and other societal structures that perpetuate domination, oppression, and inequality.

It began in the 1970’s through the work of its founder Ignacio Martin-Baro, an El Salvadoran Spanish-born Jesuit priest and social psychologist assassinated for his beliefs.

What is the main praxis of this approach?

  • 3 basic truths: fully accept and embrace the promotion of life as your primary task; action is valued more than theory (actions speak louder than words); preferential option for the poor (those who have, are the guardians of those who don’t have)
  • 3 essential elements for building a liberation psychology: seek to break the chain of personal (intra-psychic) as well as social oppression; recognize that only the participant can break the cycle of oppression; truth comes from below, the most marginalized voice must be explicated and heard
  • 3 emergent tasks for a liberation psychologist: concientizacion – establish the interconnection between the individual distress with societal oppression so that the individual can become an agent for change; realism-critico – each problem comes with its own solution. Superimposed pre-defined theories should be avoided; de-ideologized reality – an effort must be made to eliminate self-perpetuating stereotypes and give new images for what it means to be the once oppressed person.

Resources for further exploration:

Writings for a Liberation Psychology by Ignacio Martin Baro

Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

“Liberation Psychology and the Occupy Movement” on Huffington Post

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