Community Practice Vignette - Bob Heckel
SCRA Community Psychology Practice Council
Community Psychology Practice Profile
Name: Robert V. Heckel
Location: Columbia, South Carolina
Phone Numbers: (W) 803-734-0378
Name and website of workplace(s): U of South Carolina, Psychological Services Center.
Titles(s): Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Psychology; Director, Psychological Services Center at USC
How would you prefer to be contacted? (Please mark all that apply)
Please list professional affiliations that relate to community psychology practice.
Fellow Divisions 27, 12. Fulbright Scholar to India 1971 working on community/universities intervention
In which of the following formats would you be interested in sharing your account? (Please mark all
Article in "The Community Psychologist" x
Would you be willing to participate in longer interview or answer more questions via e-mail or a
longer questionnaire? (Please mark all that apply)
Questions about Your Community Psychology Practice
Please describe the work you do, for pay, as a community psychologist, including the setting(s) where you work?
I directed a research institute the Social Problems Research Institute for 16 years beginning with a
small grant of 50,000, growing to an average of one million per year for much of its life. It served as a
practicum site for community students, with 12-14 students holding assistantships working in the areas
of community development, desegregation, TRIO programs, and working with schools and government
agencies and NGO's. Additionally, I taught courses in community, consultation, group dynamics, and
What training/education do you have in community psychology?
Beginning as an undergrad I took extensive training in anthropology and sociology in addition to
my psychology courses. This continued in graduate school as well. I was exposed to a number of
internationally known scholars/researchers from these fields: Maurice Mook, Luther Bernard, Walther
Coutu, and Jesse Bernard. I would have selected those areas for graduate training but found that they
were observers rather than activists attempting interventions. I found psychology was interested in
behavioral change. That had great appeal. I did bring with me from those courses an understanding
that appropriate interventions required thorough knowledge and understanding of peoples and their
Please describe how your training/education contributed to your work as a community psychologist.
What do you view as the most important skills you learned in your training as a community
Training in community did not exist when I got my degree in 1955. However there were
pockets of intense activity, at UNC with Wil Edgerton and community psychiatrist Bill Hollister, and
especially at Michigan with their Social Psychology group that had been influenced by Lewin, and
the National Training Laboratory and their focus on community interventions, leadership and group
development. I count my experiences at NTL as providing a path and direction supplemented by ongoing
research on community interventions that served me will and continue to be part of my professional
role despite a somewhat advantage.
What other experiences or training have contributed to or enhanced your ability to work as a community psychologist?
I served on the faculty for 9 of 12 weeklong workshops sponsored by NIMH held each year by the
community psychiatry program from UNC. I have also served on numerous intervention programs at
USC, most sponsored by grants. Other group experiences were a continuing part of my training and
teaching throughout my teaching career.
Are there other ways you use your community psychology background and training, either unpaid or in paid roles other than your primary work?
There have been a number of dissertations in community among the 86 dissertations that I have
directed (and continue to be involved with). I have served on a wide variety of community organization's
boards and advisory groups. I have been called on as a consultant in helping groups deal with a series
of issues, some political but primarily those focused on community growth and development. I have
published and presented several hundreds of articles. I have published 29 (or so) books and monographs
most on community subjects (A vita of my work is available.)
What advice might you give to students or people considering community psychology as a career?
Develop an intense curiosity and learn as much as you can about everything. Never think for a moment
that you know what is best for others. Ask them. Talk to community activists. Though he is gone, there
are still folks like Don Klein who will share their wisdom with you.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your role as a community psychologist practitioner?
It has been a great ride. At 86 my interests are still alive and the field has never looked better.