Susan Pick was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico to German refugee parents who had fled the country just before World War II. Pick claims her childhood brought into question for her some of the differences between the social mindset of her European family and that of her Mexican peers. It influenced her interest in social psychology and served as inspiration for her later research.
In 1975, she received her bachelor’s in social psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London), and then began Ph.D. research at that school.
Her doctoral thesis research suggests that, although many of the women in these communities liked the idea of family planning, they lacked the possibility to use contraception because they did not know how use it, lacked access, feared social scrutiny, or, most importantly, believed that they did not have the right to make these decisions about their health. Her study indicated that the women were incapacitated by feelings of guilt, shame, fear, resentment, and prejudice. With this finding, Pick suggested that the reason why many health programs were unsuccessful in reducing unwanted pregnancies was because their sexuality education models did not confront the psychosocial barriers, which were ultimately preventing young women from using contraception. In 2010, she published her findings and subsequent theory of social change in her book Breaking the Poverty Cycle: The Human Basis for Sustainable Development.
Pick began her career as a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) in 1975 . Among the courses she has taught are: research methods, group dynamics, health and development, life skills, competencies for personal agency, and the integration of social and human development .
In 1984, she took a year of sabbatical in the Anahuac University. In 1985, she founded the non-government organization IMIFAP (Yo Quiero, Yo Puedo), devoted to bolstering human and social development in Mexico in the areas of health, citizenship, productivity, and education. The FrEE (Framework for Enabling Empowerment), at the base of all of IMIFAP’s programs, is based on the “Human Capabilities Approach”, developed by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
In 1994. she began a two-year project with the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico to develop a degree program focused on the psychosocial aspects of health. In 2005, she participated in another two-year fellowship, this time at the Harvard School of Public Health, where she published works on health promotion and the reduction of poverty, including the book, co-written with Jenna Sirkin, Breaking the Poverty Cycle: The Human Basis for Sustainable Development.
She was co-editor for Revista de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Psicología Social (The Latin American Association Journal for Social Psychology) between 1979 and 1984. Between 1993 and 2003, she did editorial consulting for the International Journal of Psychology, and, in 2006, contributed to the American Journal of Public Health.
Her distinctions include the highest-level membership in the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (Mexico’s National System of Researchers) and the Academia de la Investigación Científica (The Academy of Scientific Research), and she served as a member of the Doctoral Committee in the Faculty of Psychology at Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León (Autonomous University of Nuevo León) from 1998 through 2000. In 1995, she was elected to the Presidency for the International Scientific Committee in the 25th Inter-American Congress for Psychology, and in 1997, she held the Presidency for the First Regional Congress of Psychology for Professionals in Mexico.
In 2001, she received the American Psychological Association's “Distinguished International Psychologist Award” in 2002. In 2005, she received the “Florence Denmark/Gori Gunwald Award for Contributions to Women’s Psychology” from the International Council of Psychologists. In 2006, she received the “Distinguished Professional Award” from the International Association of Applied Psychology as well as the award for “Creators of Social Psychology” from the Mexican Association of Social Psychology.