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Presidential Blog

Sunday 11 October was World Obesity Day. To mark it, I was one of seven psychologists who signed this letter to the press:

Patients who are obese, as well as those who are affected by diabetes, chronic pain and other physical health conditions linked to obesity often have a combination of a high body mass index, unhealthy lifestyle and difficulty in making behavioural changes which would help reduce their symptoms. 

Practitioner psychologists have a crucial role to play in helping patients to make long term positive changes to their unhelpful and unhealthy behaviours.  Indeed, there is extensive evidence to show that psychologists have a key role to play in helping patients to move towards healthier and happier outcomes.

Given psychologists' expertise in facilitating behaviour change, the strong evidence-base demonstrating their impact and effectiveness and the likelihood that health psychology input could reduce the burden on GPs; we would like to draw attention to the current shortage of practitioner psychologists in the NHS and call for this situation to be redressed.

The full list of signatories was Dr Max Benjamin, Imperial College London; Dr Angela Busutill, Sussex Partnership NHS Trust; Dr Paul Chadwick, Royal Free Hospital; Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, President, British Psychological Society; Professor Stephen Joseph, University of Nottingham; Fenella Lemonsky, Imperial College; Professor Daryl O'Connor, University of Leeds; and Professor Karen Rodham, University of Staffordshire.

Our letter drew on the Society’s 2011 report, ‘Obesity in the UK: A psychological perspective’, the result of cross-discipline working group including clinical, educational, health, counselling and sport and exercise psychologists. It highlighted the added value that psychological and therapeutic approaches can offer when integrated effectively with other obesity treatments.

Tue, 13/10/2015 - 16:17

Tomorrow, Saturday 10 October, is World Mental Health Day. I have sent this letter to the press to highlight the role psychologists can play in ensuring those living with mental health issues live with dignity.

This Saturday, 10 October, many organisations and individuals will be involved in activities to highlight the 2015 World Mental Health Day. We know that one in four people in the UK will experience psychological ill health but that only one quarter will receive ongoing treatment. Awareness days such as this are helpful to challenge stigma and ensure that psychological wellbeing is seen as being equally important as good physical health.

This year the focus is on ensuring those living with mental health issues can live with dignity. Dignity in psychological healthcare means ensuring those who need help are able to access it in a reasonable time and without fear of stigma, especially in vulnerable groups. Our members tell us that access for all age groups can be patchy in different parts of the UK. We need to hold the Government to its commitment to increase funding for mental health and guarantee parity of esteem (equity of provision, availability and access) with physical health.

As the President of an organisation representing psychology I’m aware of the challenges of further integration of physical and psychological health care services. However, it’s a task that we must continue to work towards in order to provide the very best care and the best results. We can best empower those using psychological health services by involving them in decision making and care planning, in exercising choice between therapies offered and in ensuring informed consent to any intervention.

For those seeking treatment, the Society’s website hosts a number of searchable lists of registered psychologists. These can be found at

The Society and its publishing partner Wiley have put together a selection of journal articles relevant to the day’s theme. 

We have also organised two free public lectures in Northern Ireland. 

Fri, 09/10/2015 - 16:38

The new school year is well under way and later this month families will enjoy half term. I heard this week that October is Walk to School Month, which got me thinking about the BPS behaviour change briefing on physical (in)activity.

It notes that in 2008 only 32 per cent of boys and 24 per cent of girls achieved the recommended level of physical activity.

The Society’s briefing is primarily about physical activity in adults, but it does support the idea of incorporating more exercise into your daily routine rather than suddenly joining a gym. And perhaps parents could get more exercise by walking with their children and arranging activities for half term?

Many will already know how keen I am on running, and it's been good to run together with other psychologists in various places around the country. I'm thinking of seeing if we can get psychologists running together at a number of events around the UK next year too.

Only a thought at this stage but it might be yet another, slightly different, way of continuing to raise our profile.

You can hear the lead author of the briefing, Mark Uphill, talking about the ideas behind it in an audio interview on the BPS website.

The Society has published five of these behaviour change briefings. The other topics covered are:

  • school attendance, exclusion and persistent absence
  • energy conservation
  • tax and tax compliance
  • personal debt.
Wed, 07/10/2015 - 15:05

In August Dorothy Miell mentioned a forthcoming issue of Child & Family Clinical Psychology Review (CFCPR) looking at what a good mental health service for children and young people looks like.

It is now available as issue 3 of CFCPR: ‘What good looks like in psychological services for children, young people and their families. It was launched at the annual conference of the DCP Faculty for children, young people and their families, which I am attending today, and you can buy it through the BPS Shop.

The editors argue that:

“Mental health and psychological wellbeing must be promoted and delivered in whole community systems that integrate health, social care, schools and the voluntary sectors. These systems must reach out and deliver services that are acceptable and accessible to all children, young people and families across all communities, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or social class.”

Tue, 06/10/2015 - 14:43

When I visited the Division of Health Psychology annual conference in London last week everyone seemed delighted with the venue and the scientific programme.

For the first time the event featured an expert webinar. Dr Vincent Deary used a single clinical case to show that health psychologists must work in a truly multidisciplinary way to understand and intervene effectively in someone’s life.

The webinar was streamed live and you can now watch a video of it on Youtube.

The new chair of the DHP is Professor Karen Rodham from Staffordshire University. The photograph above shows Karen receiving her BPS badge and In the one below I am meeting members of DHP Scotland. (Photo credits: @SarahEGolding @HealthPsyScot)

Mon, 28/09/2015 - 11:37

Jamie Hacker Hughes with Paul Salkovskis and Bath students

Earlier this month I spoke at the University of Bath’s two-day psychology research conference. I am pictured here with the programme director of the Bath clinical psychology doctorate, Professor Paul Salkovskis (left), and this year’s cohort of students.

I told the conference: “This is a fascinating time to be embarking on a career in the sector: across society, psychology is in a better position than ever before to really make a difference.

“For those joining the profession or thinking of starting out on the Doctorate, a combination of tenacity, flexibility, academic and interpersonal skills is needed to succeed.”

I really enjoyed meeting the students and hearing about their research projects as well as talking to them about the jobs they are shortly going to start and their hopes for the future.

I have to say that I'm really impressed by the quality and character of the psychology students and postgraduates who I meet in my travels the length and bread of the country and I know that our profession is going to continue to be in very good and capable hands in the future.

Thu, 17/09/2015 - 13:15

10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1, the home of the British Academy (photo: British Academy)

Each year the Society holds a joint lecture with the British Academy where a leading psychologist shares insights from his or her research.

This event was inaugurated in 2001 as part of our centenary celebrations and is a good example of the sort of links we are keen to foster with other scientific organisations.

The 2015 lecture is on Thursday 17 September, when you can hear Michael Anderson, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, speak on: ‘Keeping a spotless mind: The neuroscience of “motivated forgetting”.’

Michael will look at the paradox that, though forgetting is seen as a human frailty, neuroscience increasingly recognises that we benefit from mechanisms that discard unwanted memories. Without them we might be choked with irrelevant information and find it more difficult to cope with life experiences.

His lecture is being given at the British Academy in London – full details on its website - and I'm much looking forward to going.

You can watch videos of the last three of these BA/BPS lectures there too: Ian Deary on the Scottish Mental Surveys of 1932 and 1947, Maggie Snowling on dyslexia, and Francesca Happé on learning in autism.

And if you are looking for other Society events this autumn, you will find a selection in my last post.

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 13:44

The audience at last year's Psychology4Graduates


With the autumn and the new academic year fast approaching, there is an impressive list of Society events coming up.

The Society’s History of Psychology Centre is looking forward to 2016 and the 60th anniversary of the Division of Clinical Psychology with an event at the University of London on 14 October. Clinically Applied: Origins of a Profession has been convened by John Hall and will feature contributions from senior members of the clinical psychology profession.

These annual HoPC ‘Stories of Psychology’ symposiums are always fascinating. I spoke at last year’s one, which had a First World War theme. You can find all the presentations from it on the Society’s Youtube channel.

Another celebration is the 10th anniversary of our very popular Research Digest. On 9 December, again at the University of London, the Digest’s editor Christian Jarrett and Uta Firth will discuss Psychology: Heaven and Hell.

The event will reflect the structure of peer-reviewed journal papers - the ‘References’ being represented by the wine, nibbles and networking at the close of the evening.

On 17 September Dr Michael Anderson from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit will give this year’s joint British Academy / British Psychological Society lecture on “Keeping a spotless mind: The neuroscience of ‘motivated forgetting’.

In recent years participation in both the Cheltenham Science and Literature Festivals has become an important part of the Society’s public engagement programme. They offer the opportunity to bring psychology to new audiences.

This year’s Literature Festival takes place in Cheltenham from 2-11 October and the Society will be sponsoring three intriguing sessions.

Alastair Campbell, Matthew Syed and the neuroscientist Vincent Walsh will tell you How to Win at Life, while the writer Matt Haig and the health psychologist Professor Rory O’Connor will offer Reasons to Stay Alive.

In the third session, Dangerous Minds, the Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad will join the psychologist Kevin Dutton to present her account of the massacre perpetrated by Anders Breivik.

We shall again be running two of our popular Psychology4Students events, which are designed to intrigue and inspire A level, pre-tertiary and first year undergraduate psychology students. This year’s venues are Sheffield (19 November) and London (1 December).

A newer but equally popular event is Psychology4Graduates. This is aimed at an older audience: recent graduates who may be considering a professional career in psychology. This year it will be held in London on 2 December.

My colleagues in the Presidential team and I look forward to meeting many of you at these events over the next few months.

Thu, 03/09/2015 - 12:22

Readers of this blog will already know how much I value international links for psychology. Therefore, I see it as a significant milestone that the British Psychological Society (BPS) and the Russian Psychological Society (RPS) this summer signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).Our aim is to encourage educational and professional links between the two organisations.

As BPS President I was part of the formalities along with RPS Vice-President Professor Larisa Svetkova. We officially signed the  MoU at a ceremony in Milan, immediately following the final session of the 14th European Congress of Psychology.

Thu, 03/09/2015 - 11:51

Along with so many members of the BPS who choose to put themselves forward for office, committee work and organising our Society's many activities, there is always the day job that still needs doing. Life cannot be put on hold completely. It's just the same for the BPS President.

One of the benefits of having a Presidential Team of three (President, President-Elect and Vice-President) is that we are able to cover a large number of official BPS commitments between us, sharing the work, and I would add, the enjoyment, of meeting people and visiting interesting places. Of course that still gives all three of us time to pursue some of our own interests and to support causes that are personally important to us.

The system is a tried and tested one, and it works well. It is important that all three of us understand, and make it clear, when we are representing the Society, and when we are doing things in a personal capacity. I am pleased to have been able to continue with at least some of my personal interests so far during my term of office.

Being an ambassador for the BPS is a privilege. As BPS President I have many opportunities to meet interesting people, and make connections on behalf of the Society. I'm writing this at the end of August and already there are nearly 40 engagements up to December, in my official diary. I expect that many more will come in too.

Part of the governance of our Society is to have a figurehead who helps to promote the objectives and plans that have been agreed through our structures. Building these relationships is an important part of the President's role and I want to continue building a substantial legacy of stakeholder relationships for Society Presidents to build on and nurture in the future.

Fri, 28/08/2015 - 16:31