Liberation psychology is an approach founded by
Ignacio Martín-Baró, who was a psychologist and Jesuit priest.
Ignacio Martín-Baró & Liberation Psychology
Martin-Baró, who had earned his psychology degree in the U.S., struggled to apply the U.S. and European models from his training in war torn El Salvador. His primary critique was how U.S. approaches tended to be designed for the wealthy elite and did not aim to serve the poor and oppressed. He also noted how most U.S. models focused on individual pathology rather than truly considering the influence of a person’s context.
Liberation psychology is not a single approach to mental health, but an umbrella term for numerous models in which there is a focus on addressing the psychological wounding of oppressive societal structures; a recognition that truth is co-created not distributed by those from above; and models in which mental health workers align themselves in solidarity with the oppressed and are also transformed and humanized in research and practice (Comas-Díaz, Lykes, Alacón, 1998; Martín-Baró, 1994; Platt, 2010 Watkins & Shulman, 2008).
Gaining an understanding of Liberation psychology can also challenge us to become more conscious how U.S. universities and mental health is deeply embedded in and influenced by U.S. culture. While many U.S. taught models help clients to tune into the micro-system of the family, Liberation psychology assists clinicians to also consider and influence the macro-level of society.