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Presidential Blog

Have you thought of upgrading your Society membership?

You may be a Graduate member looking to become a Chartered member or a Chartered member looking to become an Associate Fellow. In both cases the Society website will guide you through the process.

Or you may have graduated in psychology this summer. If you have, please accept my congratulations. I hope you found the subject as fascinating to study as I did.

If you achieved a 2:2 or better (or if you have completed a Society-accredited conversion course) then you are eligible for Graduate membership of the Society.

As a Graduate member you can use the letters MBPsS after your name, signalling your achievement and your commitment to high professional standards.

Graduate membership also enables you to join the member networks of the Society, providing valuable opportunities for networking and professional development.

If you are thinking of a career in psychology you will find the resources on the Careers, Education and Training pages on the Society website helpful. You may be particularly interested in the interactive tools there. They will help you find out more about the different areas of psychology you might work in, including training routes, pay and work experience.

In fact these pages may be useful to all Society members – there are many useful links on continuing professional development, for instance.

If you are a new graduate you may be particularly interested in a Society event designed later this year. Psychology4Graduates 2015 takes place in London on 2 December.

The day will highlight the career opportunities available to psychology graduates.  You will have the chance to hear prominent psychologists discuss their careers and give insights in to what postgraduate study in the subject involves. There will be valuable networking opportunities too.

But whatever stage you are at in your career as a psychologist, there is a grade of Society membership to suit your needs.

Fri, 28/08/2015 - 16:02

Over the summer it seems that not a day has gone by without a story about children and mental health being in the news.

This week has seen widespread coverage of the Children’s Society Good Childhood Report. This found that English children rank 14th for life satisfaction out of 15 countries surveyed. Bullying and appearance are a concern for them to a degree unknown in many other societies.

And only today I saw a story suggesting school nurses need more mental health training.

The picture can be confusing. Young Minds said £35m has been cut from child mental health services across the UK in the last year, yet the Cabinet Office had encouraging news on traditional concerns about young people, such as alcohol, drugs and pregnancy.

So maybe we need to ask a more fundamental question: What does a good mental health service for young people look like? And this is just the question that will be addressed in the next issue of Child & Family Clinical Psychology Review, which will be published this autumn.

As to the need for more training, this is just the reason the Society helps fund MindEd. This website offers mental health education to adults who work with children as professionals or volunteers. It is well worth exploring.

The Society is working hard to ensure that psychologists are part of the debate on improving mental health services for children and part of the solution.

Fri, 21/08/2015 - 16:07

It’s a considerable achievement to stage your 30th annual conference – particularly so when you are a student organisation with all the turnover in membership and committee members that involves.

So I was impressed when PSYPAG – the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group – celebrated that landmark. The conference took place at the University of Glasgow this summer and Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, the Society President, attended.

There was an impressive roster of keynote speakers – Dr Rachael Jack, Professor Padraic Monaghan and Professor Richard Wiseman – and a packed and fascinating programme in which postgraduate students presented their research in progress.

Subject in the programme included: energy drinks, behaviour, attainment and mental health in secondary school children; moral development and playing video games; and men’s fear of false accusations of rape.

At this point postgraduate students are probably expecting me to urge them to join PSYPAG, but I have some good news. If you are involved in postgraduate study in psychology at a UK Institution then you are automatically a member.

So let me instead suggest you get involved with PSYPAG. It is run on a voluntary basis by an elected committee of postgraduates for postgraduates.

Its aims are to provide support for postgraduate students in the UK, act as a vehicle for communication between postgraduates and represents postgraduates and practitioners-in-training within the Society.

PSYPAG is not a part of the Society, but it is funded by our Research Board in recognition of its importance to the future of psychology.

Wed, 19/08/2015 - 17:05

Photo credit: Marcos Bevilacqua/BPS


It was a trip down memory lane for me to revisit somewhere that was once my favourite place for studying and revising during my time as an undergraduate at UCL: Senate House Library at the University of London. 

The Society’s link with the library is an important part of our services to our membership. The library is the leading national psychology resource, and many grades of BPS membership include a free library card to access it. It is certainly worth a visit.

As well as access to the Society’s extensive collections, membership includes onsite access to all Senate House Library’s print collections and digital resources. Discounted borrowing cards are also available for other BPS members, including student members.

There is more information about how get a library card and full list of library benefits to BPS members online. Additionally, the Society has agreed special offsite access to ebooks and online journals for candidates registered for its professional qualifications.

It was a really fruitful afternoon, with a tour of the library and a chance to see some of the hundreds of  books and I also met with Head Librarian Jackie Marfleet and her team and presented her with a BPS lapel pin.

The Society has had a partnership with Senate House Library for nearly 70 years and we discussed future work together. I’m particularly keen on proposals to develop a Senate House Library Psychology Day, as part of the library’s programme of subject days. I’ll be keeping members informed of future plans as they develop.

I would particularly like to thank Mura Ghosh, the psychology research librarian and Peter Dillon-Hooper, manager of the BPS History of Psychology Centre for organising the visit. 

Please do visit our Facebook page if you'd like to see more photos from my visit to Senate House Library.

Mon, 03/08/2015 - 15:39

The EFPA Congress is a major biennial event for European psychologists so I was delighted, with colleagues, to represent the Society, and to be able to network with representatives of the other psychological associations and societies from across Europe. This is a significant scientific gathering for all in our field.

Members of the BPS delegation were Professor Dorothy Miell (Vice President), Professor Peter Kinderman (President Elect), Dr Carole Allan (Honorary General Secretary), and Dr Mark Forshaw (Chair, Membership and Standards Board).

Personally, it was also a huge honour for me to be invited to co-chair the General Assembly following the Congress, together with Dr Christopher Kabas of the Austrian Psychological Society. This was a gathering of 140 psychologists from 35 different European Psychology Societies and Associations, speaking 25 different languages. I was pleased to be able to welcome delegates in their own languages.

I am a great believer in the benefits of sharing knowledge and supporting development of psychology across borders. EFPA is central in this work and I would encourage all our members to help to promote international links.

Delegates at the General Assembly took the first steps of provisional and conditional planning for a 2019 Congress to be held in Moscow. There was also agreement on statements in support of the Greek Psychological Association and on Colonialism. News on the Hoffman Report had broken just before the Assembly and delegates agreed a statement issued by EFPA.

Last, but not least, the EFPA Executive Committee elections were held. I should like to offer my congratulations to those elected :

  • President - Dr Telmo Mourinho BAPTISTA (Portugal) 
  • General Secretary - Robertas POVILAITIS (Lithuania)
  • Treasurer Christoph STEINEBACH (Germany)

Committee members are:

  • Bernard CARUANA (Malta) 
  • Eleni KARAYIANNI (Greece) 
  • Tor Levin HOFGAARD (Norway) 
  • Bruna ZANI (Italy). 

The next congress in 2017 takes place in Amsterdam. It will be hosted by the Belgian and Dutch Psychological Associations.

It was a packed few days in Milan and I know that the Psychologist magazine is publishing conference reports on some of the key talks later in the summer. I'll be reporting about the other events from  the EFPA Congress over the next few weeks.

Fri, 24/07/2015 - 13:38

Since becoming BPS President in May I’ve been invited to numerous events to talk about the Society. On Friday 17 July I gave the opening keynote address at an event on professional and ethical practice issues for psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors: an important part of civic and community engagement .

Hosted by University of East London the event was aimed at practitioners from a range of fields to help them find out about issues including ethics, standards, accountability and possible legal considerations in all areas of professional practice.

I was pleased to be part of a programme where other speakers included Andrew Reeves, Chair of the BACP, and Professor Steve Pilling, Director NICE.

Events like this give us an excellent opportunity to ensure that the Society’s messages about ethical practice are shared. It is a privilege to be invited to address a peer audience and an important opportunity to meet colleagues from other fields of work to listen to their points of view.

Later in the day I was pleased to be able to facilitate a workshop with Dr Pauline Lane, of Anglia Ruskin University, on working with suicide and self-harm and, over lunchtime, launched the Handbook of professional and ethical practice for psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists (2nd edition) Rachel Tribe, Jean Morrissey (eds) Routledge, 2015, 341pp,isbn 978-0415705295.

The Presidential diary for the year is already pretty full and so I shall be blogging about other events as the year progresses.

Thu, 23/07/2015 - 16:23

The Summer Budget 2015 and Comprehensive Spending Review could have provided the Government with the opportunity to reinforce its 2014 Science and Innovation Strategy with a commitment to vital investment in science and engineering.

However, the opportunity to do this has unfortunately been missed this time round, and the budget announcements did not address the issues of research funding that we had hoped for.

The British Psychological Society believes that investment in research activity and infrastructure is crucial to enabling Psychology to continue playing a leading role in the creation and application of knowledge.

The benefits to the UK from psychological research include health improvement and wellbeing, and economic recovery through increased productivity and wealth creation. Yet, this can only be fully realised with strategic planning and investment, led by the Government. Alongside other science and engineering initiatives, the psychological research base will suffer cuts in real terms unless the UK Science Budget is increased.

The UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 confirmed the high standing of British Psychology in relation to internationally excellent and world leading research. Appropriate and sustained investment is therefore essential to enable the continued renewal of the necessary infrastructure and to generate the significant benefits to the UK that the REF identified.

Following today’s budget statement, the British Psychological Society will continue to call on the Government to re-establish its commitment, as set out in its 2014 Strategy, to invest in research through allocating increased funding to the Science Budget during this Parliament. We shall be working hard in order to keep this issue on the Government's agenda.

Wed, 08/07/2015 - 17:11

The Society is concerned that psychological tools are being misused in the UK benefits system and could lead to results that lack validity, efficacy or fairness.

The use of psychological tools and techniques could have adverse consequences on an individual’s understanding of themselves, their attitudes and behaviours if they are inappropriately used or not freely entered in to.

We now want to open a dialogue with the government about applying psychological methods to public policy that emphasise best practice, trust, efficacy and appropriateness.

There must be public confidence in psychology as a person-centred science. It should not be used for financial, political or ideological ends.

A recent paper by Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn argued that interventions are being introduced to the UK benefits system to promote a 'positive' psychological outlook or leave claimants to face sanctions.

As a Society we shall continue to raise our own concerns about public policy developments where psychological interventions are being used to shape decisions about work capability or access to state benefits. We are already calling for an ‘end-to-end redesign’ of the WCA process - see our recent briefing paper and call to action.

The British Psychological Society exists to promote excellence and ethical practice in the science, education and practical applications of psychology.  It is right that we call for an open dialogue about applying psychological methods to public policy.

Individual wellbeing, not resource rationing, must be central to policy decisions about the use of psychology in the benefits system. We have yet to be assured this is the case.

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 15:57

Professor Jamie Hacker HughesThe British Psychological Society’s Presidential team has expressed concern at research suggesting that people claiming unemployment benefit are being coerced into undertaking psychological interventions.

The research by Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn is published in the June 2015 issue of Medical Humanities.

Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, President of the British Psychological Society, said:

“We are concerned at what the paper has revealed, particularly the issue of coercion to undertake psychological interventions.

"Friedli and Stearn suggest that unemployment is being rebranded as a psychological disorder, with an increasing range of interventions being introduced to promote a 'positive' psychological outlook or leave claimants to face sanctions.”

While psychology certainly has a role to play in the welfare system, it must be used ethically and effectively. Earlier this week the Society called for thorough reform of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process. The WCA is a test used by the Department for Work and Pensions used to decide whether people can claim sickness benefit.

In a briefing paper the Society highlighted a growing body of evidence that seriously ill people are being inappropriately subjected to WCA, which does not effectively measure fitness for work and can produce inappropriate outcomes for claimants. 

You can find more about the Society’s view of the WCA and links to the briefing paper and the accompanying call to action on this website.

In May, welcoming Mental Health Awareness Week 2015, the Society’s Presidential team called on the government to recognise the impact of war, poverty, social divisions, inequity and the abuse of fundamental human rights on psychological health, and to work to protect citizens’ mental health through addressing these problems.

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 09:56

One of the six strategic goals in our 2015-20 Strategic Plan is to 'maximise the impact of psychology on public policy'. To that end, yesterday (left to right) Richard Pemberton (Chair of our Division of Clinical Psychology), Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes (Society President) and Professor Peter Kinderman (Society President Elect) met Dr Lisa Cameron at Westminster. Dr Cameron is a Chartered Psychologist and the newly elected MP for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow.


Brian Dow, the director of external affairs at Rethink Mental Illness, has welcomed our new briefing paper calling for fundamental reform of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) process.

He says:

“This deeply flawed system is causing huge distress, and pushing many vulnerable people to the brink. Indeed, in a court case earlier this year, judges said that it puts people with mental illness at a ‘substantial disadvantage’.

“We welcome this report’s call for major changes to the process, including using assessors who have specialist knowledge of mental health. But to really fix this test so that it no longer discriminates against people with mental illness, we need to see much more extensive reforms.

“Another huge problem is that people have to gather their medical evidence from their GP or psychiatrist, to prove that they are too unwell to work. That can be an almost impossible task if you’re experiencing serious mental health problems, and so people are often being assessed without this crucial evidence being considered.

“Until these major problems are addressed, the system will continue to disadvantage people when they’re at their most vulnerable. We’re calling on the Government to overhaul the system from top-to-bottom, otherwise it will continue to punish many of the people it’s meant to support.”

You can download the briefing paper from our own website and also – on the same page - our call to action on the WCA. There we ask for:

  • a reliable, valid and fully researched method of assessment to replace the Limited Capacity for Work Questionnaire (ESA 50) and the face-to-face WCA;
  • training in assessment, scoring and interpretation for the test administrators;
  • specialist assessors to assess people with mental, cognitive and intellectual functioning difficulties;
  • supervision of the assessors from qualified clinicians with expertise in rehabilitation, assessment and interpretation;
  • referral routes to specialist assessment and support for those with psychological, cognitive and intellectual functioning difficulties;
  • appropriate periods of reassessment for people with long-term conditions, based on specialist advice to accurately reflect the prognosis.

Our President, Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes, said as the briefing paper was published:

“There is now a significant body of evidence that the WCA is failing to  assess people’s fitness for work accurately and appropriately, with people who are seriously physically and mentally ill being found fit for work and those with acute, transient episodes being assessed as lacking capacity and treated in the same way as those with a longer term prognosis.

“Appeals against the decisions are running at approximately 50 per cent and around half of those appeals are upheld. The cost to the taxpayer from this alone is £50m, with a similar amount being spent on reassessment.  The DWP is now under significant pressure to publish data on the number of people who have died whilst claiming out-of-work disability benefits.”

Tue, 09/06/2015 - 14:49