PSYCHOLOGY IN COLOMBIA Rubén Ardila RUBEN ARDILA received his degree in psychology from the National University of Colombia (in Bogotá) and his Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (U.S.) in Experimental Psychology. His research areas are the experimental analysis of behavior, psychobiology, and history of psychology. He has been Chair of the Psychology Department at the National University of Colombia, Chair of the Psychology Department at the University of the Andes, and Director of the Psychology Graduate Program at the University of St. Thomas. Dr. Ardila has written 27 books and more than 250 scientific papers, published in several countries and in several languages. He has been visiting professor in Argentina, Germany, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the United States. Dr. Ardila is also a member of the executive committee of the International Union of Psychological Science, the International Council of Psychologists, and was president of the Interamerican Society of Psychology. He is the founder and editor of the Latin American Journal of Psychology. OVERVIEW Colombia is located in northwestern South America, with coasts on the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) and the Pacific oceans, and with the Amazon River at the south. The area encompasses 439,737 square miles (1,138,914 square kilometers). Colombia’s natural resources include oil, coal, natural gas, most of the world’s emeralds, fertile soil and plenty of water. The climate is cool in the mountains, where the majority of the population lives, and tropical on the coast and in the east. The population was 42 million in 2003; the literacy rate is 90.9% and 71% of the people live in urban areas. Ninety-five percent of the people are Roman Catholic, and the national language is Spanish. The Human Development Index (HDI) was developed by the United Nations Development Program to serve as a composite measure of a country’s health vis-à-vis other nations. The HDI is comprised of three key variables: life expectancy, knowledge (as measured by the adult literacy rate and school enrollment), and per capita gross domestic product. Colombia ranks 57th among 174 countries on the Human Development Index. Table 1 shows the main demographic indicators comparing Colombia and the rest of the world for the year 2000. Colombia has a long tradition in education, above all in the humanities and in the arts. In the major cities there is an elite class with a high level of education; members of this class are very well-informed about what is happening in the world, above all in politics, art, literature and economics. A very good relationship with the United States and with Europe exists. There are many colleges and universities in Colombia, but these schools vary widely in quality. A university education is thought to help with social ascent, and it is clearly a status symbol. The high value of education has caused the proliferation of universities, and within them there has been a proliferation of service and health programs such as medicine, law, business administration, and psychology. Table 1 Demographic Indicators for the Year 2000 Population Colombia 38 million Life Males Expectancy 62 years Total Average Age Fertility Rate per Woman Annual per capita income Literacy Urban percent Population over 65 World 6000 million Females Males Females 70 years 69 years 75 years 67 years 72 years 22 years 25 years 3.3 2.8 US$1600 US$3610 90% 71% 87% 44% 5% 7% Adapted from: Population Reference Bureau (2002), Wartenberg (2003). Psychology in Colombia is a well-established discipline. It has a long tradition that goes back in a broad sense to the primitive inhabitants of the current territory of Colombia, and in the strict sense to the founding of the first professional program of psychology (i.e., a major in psychology) in 1947. At present, there are 12,000 graduated psychologists, 20,000 students of psychology, and 77 professional training programs. There are 43 psychologists per 100,000 people in Colombia. The development of psychology in Colombia can be divided into five phases (Ardila, 1973, 1993): 1. Before the arrival of the Europeans, in the territory that today is called Colombia, several cultures existed with medium levels of social and cultural development. They were not as advanced as the Mayas, the Aztecs or the Incas. These early inhabitants of Colombia had clear ideas about behavior, the family, the raising of children, the soul, sexuality, the normal and the abnormal, and harmony among people. The study of the indigenous psychologies of Colombia is just beginning. 2. After 1492, following the arrival of the Spanish, the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas was introduced, which included the study of the faculties of the soul. The Spanish colonial period lasted three centuries, during which many universities and centers of higher learning were created. There were scientific expeditions (led by Humboldt, La Condamine, Mutis, and other European scientists), which shed light on aspects of astronomy, botany, geography, zoology, and the behavior and social organization of several human groups. 3. In the 19th century, many scientific advances were made in psychology. Some physicians wrote theses on psychological topics, educators carried out pedagogical innovations, and philosophers were concerned with studying perceptual and epistemological problems, the nature of the mind, etc. 4. The professionalization of psychology began in 1947 with the creation of the first professional training program at the National University of Colombia. It was founded by Mercedes Rodrigo (1891-1982), a Spanish immigrant who had left her country because of the Spanish Civil War: Rodrigo was invited to Colombia by the rector of the National University and arrived in 1939. She founded the Section of Psychotechnics and, in 1947, the Institute of Applied Psychology. She established the importance of psychometric investigation, adapting many psychological tests and creating new ones. She also made progress on the professional application of psychology to education and to the world of work. Rodrigo trained many collaborators and students. When Rodrigo disembarked in Colombia, a certain research tradition in psychology already existed, as evidenced by the modest body of published work at the time. The applied work of Rodrigo was very important and fulfilled social needs that already existed in the family, community, schools, and industry. On November 20, 1947, she created the Institute of Applied Psychology for the purpose of training professional psychologists. It is relevant to point out that, at the time, the profession of psychologist did not exist in any country of South America. 5. Growth and consolidation. Psychology has grown considerably between 1952 (the year that the first psychologists in Colombia received their diploma) and today. Seventy-seven programs exist for professional training in psychology, among which 20 are graduate programs. All of the main cities of Colombia (Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Manizales, Medellín, and Pereira) have psychology-training programs. The majority of psychologists live in large, metropolitan centers that have potential for the greatest development. Nevertheless, in recent years there has been a tendency to fill the existing shortage of psychologists in small towns. In general, however, psychology is a predominately urban profession. The professional organization which represents psychology in Colombia is the Colombian Society of Psychology. Founded in 1979, it organizes and hosts the Colombian Congress of Psychology every two years, publishes a newsletter, serves as the voice of the profession in Colombia, represents the country before the International Union of Psychological Science, maintains a Code of Ethics (Sociedad Colombiana de Psicología, 2000), and carries out many other activities to promote psychology as a science and profession. Other organizations exist, dedicated to specific areas, including the Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy, the Colombian Association of Clinical Psychologists and Psychotherapists, the Colombian Association of Neuropsychology, the Colombian Association of Social Psychology, the Society of Industrial/Organizational Psychologists, and the Society of Sport Psychologists. There is also an association of faculties of psychology, the Colombian Association of Psychology Faculties. In general these professional associations have good relationships with one another, and are complementary rather than competitive. The professional associations serve psychologists in many ways: they defend the profession, support its inclusion in society, foster positive relationships with the government, and address problems associated with the recruitment and training of psychologists. These associations have multiple links with the government and with NGOs. There is little tension between scientists and practitioners in Colombia. The status and role of psychologists are high vis-a-vis other disciplines. There was an obvious struggle for power between psychiatrists and psychologists a few decades ago; today, that struggle no longer exists. The salaries earned by psychologists are similar to earned by other Colombian professionals, but are very low by international standards. Some psychologists have several jobs in order to maintain a decent standard of living. However, other professionals also work multiple jobs, so this is not unique to psychology. EDUCATION AND TRAINING To enroll in a Colombian university, a student has to take a national exam (similar to the Scholastic Aptitude Test in the United States). It is an aptitude and knowledge test. This entrance examination includes abstract reasoning, verbal reasoning, knowledge of history, philosophy, mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, etc. All high school graduates must take this state exam (called the ICFES national exam). In addition, some university careers (for instance, art and music) require special exams. The required score for admittance varies in each university and from program to program, but admissions criteria are generally very high across university programs. In the case of psychology programs, admissions criteria are especially high. Psychology students are highly selected and are among the best qualified in the whole country. Some universities (e.g., the National University of Colombia) enroll less than 10% of the candidates who apply for admission to psychology programs. There are no scholarships available at the undergraduate level, although some students will qualify for financial aid. In contrast, at the graduate level, students often qualify for financial aid and grants, although less than the 50% of students qualify for scholarships. At an organizational level, psychology programs are almost always embedded in a college of psychology (Facultad de Psicología), although a few universities have departments of psychology. The college structure usually allows more independence and autonomy than the department structure. The tendency in Colombia, and in the rest of Latin America and Spain as well, is for psychology to be studied in autonomous colleges, which are part of universities. These universities can be public or private. The “professional school of psychology” model also exists in Colombia, but is more limited, and there are few professional schools independent from Universities. The most prestigious public universities that train psychologists are the National University of Colombia (established in 1947), the University of Valle - Cali (established in 1976), and the University of Antioquia – Medellín (established in 1977). Many private universities also train psychologists. Some of them are excellent, whereas others are less than stellar. The private universities that offer the best psychology training programs include the University of the Andes, Javeriana University, Konrad Lorenz University, Autonomous University of Bucaramanga, Catholic University of Colombia, University of Manizales, University of the North (Barranquilla), University of St. Buenaventura (Medellín), and the University of St. Thomas. The typical curriculum for undergraduate training lasts five years. It is very professionally oriented and very different from the typical undergraduate psychology curriculum in the United States (B.A. or B.S.). It is actually more similar to the professional training that is offered in various European countries, for example in Germany, Spain, and Sweden. During the five-years of training, instruction in all areas of psychology is provided at a basic level (perception, cognition, learning, social psychology, research methodology), as well as at an applied level (clinical psychology, community psychology, educational psychology, industrial/organizational, health psychology). In addition, students take courses in related disciplines (anthropology, biology, English, informatics, neuroscience, physiology, sociology, statistics). During the last three semesters, students focus on one area, for example, clinical, educational, industrial/organizational, or sport psychology. Students also have a year of supervised practice and a graduation thesis. This thesis is typically very demanding, and it is intended to be an empirical contribution to the profession. A generic degree in psychology is awarded at the undergraduate level. This degree is similar to the master’s (M.A., M.S.) in the United States. No specialized degrees are offered at the undergraduate level. In Colombia, the curriculum at the master’s level is very specialized, and is also oriented towards scientific research. It is expected that a graduate student will master an area of psychology (e.g., forensic psychology) and go on to conduct scientific research in that area. Graduate programs are available in clinical psychology, behavior analysis, neuropsychology, educational psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, social psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, family psychology, and cognitive psychology. Doctoral programs in psychology do not exist in Colombia as of 2003, but there are advanced plans for the development of doctoral programs at two Colombian universities. Colombian psychologists with a Ph.D. or Psy.D. have most often received their advanced training in the United States, Belgium, Mexico, Russia, or Spain. Out of the 12,000 psychologists working in Colombia, perhaps 300 hold an M.A. or a M.S., and 40 or 50 have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. The pedagogic methods used in training programs in psychology are very broad, and include lectures, seminars, practicum, lab sessions, and fieldwork, among other techniques. The emphasis on theory, research, and practice varies across training programs at different universities in Colombia. Students use a variety of resources in learning about psychology, including books written by Colombian psychologists, books translated from other languages (mainly from English, by U.S. authors), international journals, journals edited in Colombia, indigenous and translated psychometric tests, hardware and software, audiovisual materials, etc. University libraries possess good collections of books and journals, primarily those published in the United States and Europe, but also from other Latin American nations (e.g., Argentina, Mexico). A small percentage of psychologists receive their education and training outside Colombia, mostly in the United States, Spain, Canada, and Mexico. The professional practice of psychology requires a degree in psychology and registration by the Secretary of Health. Licensing and certification are based on one’s professional training. There are no formal requirements for continuing education, although many Colombian psychologists participate in conferences, seminars, and /or workshops. The major continuing-education event is the Colombian Congress of Psychology, which meets every two years. SCOPE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL PRACTICE The profession of psychology has been regulated by law in Colombia since 1983. However, this law is currently being revised. In addition, the Code of Ethics was updated in 2000 (Sociedad Colombiana de Psicología, 2000). It is a comprehensive code, and one that covers most situations, helping psychologists resolve the most vexing ethical dilemmas they encounter. The Code of Ethics was originally promulgated in 1974 (see Federación Colombiana de Psicología, 1974) and was revised and updated in 2000 to conform to changes in society and to new challenges that confront the profession. The Code of Ethics has the following sections: professional competences, integrity, professional and scientific responsibility, social responsibility, respect for others, confidentiality, avoiding harm, interference in professional activity, delegation and supervision, fees and financial arrangements, advertising and professional promotion, therapeutic relationships, evaluation, assessment and diagnosis, scientific research, applications and social context, relationships with colleagues and other professionals, relationships with the society and the state, and disciplinary regime. The training of psychologists is very rigorous, and high standards are set for professional practice. Psychology is considered to be a science of behavior, but this does not mean that the predominant paradigm is behaviorism. In fact, the vast majority of training programs offer instruction in all fields and in all approaches, including behaviorism, cognitive psychology, humanistic psychology, psychobiology, and psychodynamics. However, it is fair to state that the behavioral approach has had more influence in the profession than the other theoretical approaches. Psychologists attempt to harmonize their practice with the traditions of the Colombian culture and with the sociopolitical undercurrents of the country. This is not always simple, especially in a varied and heterogeneous developing country like Colombia, a nation with multiple cultural traditions. Some traditional approaches have been adapted to Colombian culture and society. Colombian psychology has tried to be original, although at first it tended to mimic or reproduce foreign models, as has probably occurred in all countries of the region (see Alarcón, 1997, 2002). Most new psychological ideas came from the United States, England, France, and Germany. Experimental psychology came from Germany. The ideas of Piaget came from the French-speaking world. Psychoanalysis came from several sources, including the Argentina, France, and the United States . Original psychological research has been carried out by Colombian psychologists. Theories have been postulated (e.g., the experimental synthesis of behavior; see Alarcón  for a description of the theory), books have been written, psychological tests have been constructed, and important studies have been conducted in cognitive development, comparative psychology, the experimental analysis of behavior, and social psychology. Models of clinical intervention and new procedures in educational psychology also have been proposed. In spite of the leadership that Colombian psychology currently occupies in Latin America , there is a long way to go. Colombian psychology maintains a delicate balance between (a) the use of psychological theories and techniques of the developed world and (b) the formulation of original proposals for a “local” psychology. In Colombia, psychologists are still grappling with the etic – emic distinction, a dimension that is taken very seriously in the developing world. This issue refers to the universality of psychological laws, in contrast to the “indigenous” approach that is relative to particular cultures and epochs. Psychology in Colombia is more Western-oriented, and scientific principles are accepted as universal and not necessarily unique to the people or the culture of Colombia. Colombian psychologists provide a wide variety of services in an equally wide variety of settings: · In hospitals and clinics, psychologists carry out assessment, diagnosis, evaluation, psychotherapy, prevention, and research. The relevance of health psychology is increasingly recognized in these settings. · In the armed forces, psychologists have clinical, educational, and organizational duties. Due to the Colombian conflict (with the guerrillas) and state of war that exists in parts of the nation, the psychological work of the armed forces has emphasized rehabilitation. Many psychologists offer counseling to soldiers who have been wounded in combat or have become disabled in normal life. · In business and industry, psychologists participate in selection, motivation, training, evaluating job performance, and enhancing the lifestyle of employees, among other things. An ever increasing number of psychologists in Colombia are working in business and industrial settings. · Psychologists also provide services in schools and institutions of higher education. The psychological tasks important in these settings include aptitude testing, guidance and counseling, professional orientation, research on the teaching-learning process, and training in pedagogical competences. · Psychologists conduct research in a variety of settings, most often in specialized centers or in universities. The work is most often done in multidisciplinary groups that focus on specific problems or issues. · Psychologists working in academic settings are devoted to teaching, research, and administration. In the larger, urban universities, academic life is much more intense than in small institutions. · Colombian psychologists also engage in traditional clinical practice. An increasing number of people feel comfortable consulting a psychologist for counseling and psychotherapy without fear of being stigmatized. In spite of the legal recognition of psychology in Colombia, there are still nonpsychologists who provide psychological services. Shamans, witch doctors, and even Catholic priests act as psychologists without having had training in pastoral psychology. In addition, some general physicians, social workers, speech therapists, and teachers often provide psychological services without having appropriate training. In various work settings described above, the relationship between psychologists and non-psychologists varies, but it is generally congenial. Clashes, friction, and power struggles occur, but these were more pronounced in the past. In general, psychologists in Colombia work well with teams that include other professionals. FUTURE CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS Colombian psychologists frequently complain that too many psychology-training programs exist (there were 77 in 2003), and that instruction in these settings is not always adequate, as current graduates are not meeting the scientific standards that have been traditional in Colombian psychology. The challenge of how best to train psychologists for the new century, for Colombia and for the entire world, is a difficult and important challenge. A related problem is the number of psychological professionals in Colombia. It’s not that “too many” psychologists exist, but, due to the enormous popularity of psychology at the undergraduate level, it is probable that unemployment rate for psychologists will increase. Currently, about 12% of Colombian psychologists are unemployed; this rate is similar to the unemployment rate in other professions. Psychology has been traditionally a “female” profession in Colombia, and approximately 60%-70% of Colombian psychologists are women. The contribution of men and women has been equally important, but women tend to devote themselves chiefly to applied activities. Managerial and research posts are generally taken by men (e.g., presidents of the Colombian Society of Psychology, deans of colleges of psychology, researchers and authors in the science of psychology, conference organizers, and spokesmen for the discipline). The future of psychology in Colombia seems to be promising. However, for future progress to occur, it will be necessary to develop new areas of work, organize doctoral programs, surpass the isolation and provincialism of the majority of Colombians, and improve the economic standards in all professions (this applies not only to psychologists, but also to economists, engineers, physicians, etc.). It is likely that the profession of psychology will continue to be viewed as a highstatus profession, and the social image of psychologists will remain positive. However, the profession is still identified with the clinic and psychology is considered as merely a helping profession. It is seldom that an ordinary person knows that psychologists also work with animals, investigate chromatic perception, carry out studies on the localization of brain functions, are experts in computer applications, and evaluate governmental programs for illness prevention and health promotion. On the contrary, people think that psychologists only work in clinical settings, helping adults to resolve problems of living and guiding children who encounter school-related difficulties. Psychologists are expanding the sphere of their contributions, particularly by becoming more engaged in nontraditional settings and tasks. Rural psychology is an area of growing importance in Colombia, as is the psychology of peace, reconciliation, and problem solving, especially in the context of war. In the past, psychologists were very involved in political issues, in social change, in the search for social justice, and similar matters. Today, they are not as involved. Critical psychology, "engaged compromise psychology," and “liberation psychology” were very important in the decade of 1980s. These terms refer to enormous social issues related to social justice. Many psychologists think that politics is too important to leave only to politicians, but the majority of psychologists prefer to do their job well and not to involve themselves directly with Colombian politics. Opportunities for international partnerships are abundant, yet are not fully realized. Few Colombian psychologists participate in international congresses, with the exception of the Interamerican Congresses of Psychology, attend conventions of the American Psychological Association, or publish in international journals. It is obvious that Colombian psychologists can learn a lot from international psychology, as all psychologists stand to benefit from international partnership. However, communication needs to be bi-directional: south-to-north, as well as north-to-south. For psychologists in the United States, it is always surprising to find that there are relatively well-developed psychological communities in the developing countries. In the globalized world of the 21st century, international cooperation and the exchange of ideas, products, and people will increase dramatically. As Colombia becomes more involved in international psychology, it will succeed in understanding its local problems in global terms and contributing even more to the understanding of human behavior. REFERENCES Alarcón, R. (1997). Orientaciones teóricas de la psicología en América Latina [Theoretical orientations of psychology in Latin America]. Lima: Universidad Femenina. Alarcón, R. (2002). Estudios sobre psicología latinoamericana [Studies about Latin American psychology]. Lima: University Ricardo Palma. Ardila, R. (1973). La psicología en Colombia, desarrollo histórico [Psychology in Colombia, historical development]. Mexico City: Editorial Trillas. Ardila, R. (Ed.). (1993). Psicología en Colombia, contexto social e histórico [Psychology in Colombia, social and historical development]. Bogota: Editorial Tercer Mundo. Federación Colombiana de Psicología. (1974). Funciones, responsabilidades y código ético del Psicólogo [Functions, responsibilities and ethical code for psychologists]. Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, 6, 265-278. Population Reference Bureau (2002). Cuadro de la población mundial (Table of the world population). Washington, D.C.: Population Referente Bureau. Sociedad Colombiana de Psicología. (2000). Codigo ético del psicólogo (Ethical code of the psychologist). Bogota: Editorial ABC Wartenberg, L. (Ed.). (2003). La cátedra abierta en población 2000-2003. (Open chair on population sigues, 2000-2003). Bogota: Universidad Externado de Colombia. IMPORTANT PUBLICATIONS Amar Amar, J., & Abello, R. (1998). El niño y su comprensión del sentido de la realidad. (The child and his comprehension of the sense of reality). Barranquilla, Colombia: Ediciones Uninorte. Ardila, R. (1986). Psicología del hombre Colombiano (Psychology of the Colombian people). Bogota: Editorial Planeta. Carrillo, S., Gutierrez, G., & Carrillo, M. (1999). Calidad de vida en la vejez (Quality of life in old age). Avances en Psicología Clínica Latinoamericana, 17, 77-93. Dulcey-Ruiz, E. (1985). Imagen de la vejez en los medios de comunicación social en Colombia (Image of old age in mass media in Colombia). Bogota: Center for Gerontological Psychology. Gómez, V. (2000). Relación entre estrés e inmunidad : una visión crítica a la investigación (Relationship between stress and immunity: A critical vision of research). Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, 32, 31-45. González, J.M. et al (2001). Investigaciones sobre salud sexual y familiar en el Caribe colombiano (Research about sexual and family health in the Colombian Caribbean). Barranquilla, Colombia: Editorial Antillas. Puche, R. (2000). Formación de herramientas científicas en el niño pequeño (Formation of scientific tools in small children). Bogota: Arango Editores. Riso, W. (1998). Intimidades masculinas (Masculine identities). Bogota: Editorial Norma. Toro, F. (2001). El clima organizacional. Perfil de empresas colombianas (Organizational climate. A profile of Colombian enterprises). Medellin, Colombia: Cincel. Zimmermann, M. (1995). Psicología ambiental y calidad de vida (Environmental psychology and quality of life). Bogota: Ecoe Ediciones.