Four short phrases quickly came to mind:
1. Meeting the membership
During my year as President I made sure that I visited, and spent time with, every one of our ten divisions, all of our branches, and as many as possible of the Society's sections and special groups
This, without doubt, is one of the very best bits of being a Society President, allowing me to see first-hand the fantastic work that our members and our staff are involved in, answering questions, taking feedback, listening to important messages, and making sure that they are heard by people who need to receive them.
Not only that, but being present at important public engagement events – from science and cultural festivals to our own Psychology for Students and Psychology for Graduates events – helped me to appreciate that the public appetite for all things psychological is simply massive.
2. Pushing our presence
In an interview published in 'The Psychologist' when I started my term as Society President in May 2015, I said:
I’m going to use my term as President to seek a higher profile for the profession, a stronger voice for psychology and greater influence on policy and practice. But I’d also like to see better access, equality and transparency for our Society too.
Throughout my time as President, at every possible opportunity, I felt that it was important to reinforce the message that psychologists need to be present and active everywhere that we can make impact - but also that our mere presence, by itself, is not enough.
We need not only to be there but to be seen to be there and for what we say to be heard, understood, and acted upon.
I see our involvement in the independent mental health task force (Five-year Forward View) where we were given a real chance to influence government policy directly, and the establishment of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on psychology as being just two of the many signs that we are continuing to make real progress with this.
The planned reforms of the Society (see below) will also, I hope, result in a BPS that is more influential, more accessible, more transparent, more democratic, and more representative.
3. Breaking down barriers
Every President takes on at least one key task during their term. Richard Mallows' was to reform our Society's policies, Dot Miell's was to develop our Strategic Plan, Peter Kinderman's has been about overhauling training of the psychology workforce, and mine was to oversee the largest organisational restructuring that the BPS has ever seen.
And what a privilege this has been.
The three-year review is now complete and our recommendations, set to be signed off by the Trustees in early May, will soon go out for Society-wide consultation, after which a new implementation group will be formed to lead the next phase.
The key message here is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts - 'The Society' is not located in Leicester, London or anywhere… we, the members, are the Society.
As I have been saying throughout my time on the Presidential Team, ‘Together we can!’
Finally, the past three years have seen the Society forge important alliances both nationally - with groups such as the BACP, BPC, UKCP, and the Mental Health Foundation - and internationally with organisations like the New Zealand Psychological Society, the Psychological Society of Ireland, the Russian Psychological Society, and the Swedish Psychological Association.
4. Championing the cause
The goal of the British Psychological Society, as stated in our Royal Charter, is to "diffuse a knowledge of psychology, pure and applied", something which we have been able to apply to issues such as:
- welfare reform, by campaigning to reform the current systems for measuring people's capability to work (WCA);
- the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, through the formation of our first ever Presidential Taskforce, on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants
- the psychological consequences of social factors, by joining the 'Walk the Talk' campaign, walking between the Society’s offices in Leicester and London to highlight the psychological effects of poverty, food poverty, unemployment and homelessness;
- stigma, through speaking out, and encouraging others to speak out and communicate the message that we are all human, that there is no 'them' and no 'us' but just 'only us';
- psychological wellbeing, of psychologists and all other psychological healthcare workers, through having the privilege of championing our psychological wellbeing project, the Psychological Wellbeing Charter that we introduced together with 30 other healthcare organisations and providers, and the Collaborative Learning Action Network (CLAN), that we formed and which is now pioneering best practice in this area.
In conclusion it’s been an absolutely incredible three years, with the year spent as President definitely being amongst the best years of my life so far.
Challenging and demanding? Certainly, but, most of all, incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. So please accept a huge thank you from me to everyone who helped make the experience so wonderful.
What's next? Six weeks off for good behaviour and then the next six years (potentially) leading the European province of a religious order (the Anglican Franciscan Third Order) together with continuing both clinical and academic work.
Onwards and upwards, BPS and all the best.