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One on one... with David Lane

Director of the Professional Development Foundation and joint winner of the Society’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Professional Psychology; includes web-only answers

12 July 2010

One way coaching psychology can help the nation through an economic crisis
Coaching psychologists are working with leaders across a range of industries who are faced with critical decisions about the sustainability of the response they make to the current crisis. The solutions of the past, based in predictable linear responses, do not fit more emergent or chaotic situations. Helping leaders
to work within these more complex frameworks is one way to make a difference.

One inspiration
Gladys Alwood, the missionary. As a young child, I corresponded with her. That she took the trouble to write to a child across the world seemed important, as did her encouragement to always go beyond disappointments.

One moment that changed the course of your career
A conversation with ILEA Educational Psychology Service in 1974 which led (unintended) to establishing an Education Guidance Centre in Islington. ILEA were abuzz with innovative people and ideas at that time, and Islington seemed to be a natural home for maverick psychologists pushing the boundaries of practice.

One book that you think all psychologists should read
One that certainly changed my practice was Beyond Counselling and Therapy by Carkhuff and Berenson (1969). It showed me that it was possible to draw upon a range of traditions in working with clients and pointed the way to my own development of approaches to individualised case formulation. Around the same time I was fortunate to meet Fay Fransella and Sybil Eysenck. Fay certainly focused my attention on really understanding the way the client saw the world and Sybil the importance of remaining a scientist as a practitioner. Sybil also pointed me to Vic Meyer which generated a very long-term association, so various influences came together that strengthened my sense of the value of formulation in working with clients within a tradition of research lead thinking. Getting support from ILEA SPS to develop my ideas enabled the thinking to become practice. I can trace a journey from this book through to The Impossible Child (Trentham) in the 1970s to 1990s to Constructing Stories – Telling Tales (Karnac) in 2010.

One regret
Not making a real impact on the sustainability debate. I first started publishing material on this in the early 1970s but then moved my attention to other areas. I returned to it in the 1990s (commissioning Global Warming and the Built Environment, published by Spon in 1994) but I wish I had more consistently addressed this question.

One thing that you would change about psychology
A frustration in the way ‘Regimes of Truth’, in Foucault’s term, are allowed to dominate debate for too long – new ideas are rejected too soon or marginalised. For example, when we started to use behavioural and cognitive behavioural ideas in education in the early 1970s, the reaction from some within the field was vitriolic.

One great thing that psychology has achieved
The continuing struggle to be scientist-practitioners. The discipline’s commitment to this frame is a defining feature for me – it is far from easy but does mark psychology out as offering a special contribution to the human sciences.

One cultural recommendation
All psychologists should read Kafka’s The Trial.

One thing that ‘organised psychology’ could do better
I think the BPS is getting better but in the past we have been very resistant to new areas of psychology being professionalised. We marginalised sports psychology for many years, kept counselling psychology at bay for too long, and coaching psychology is struggling to find its place. We need to get better at welcoming new practice and encouraging its growth.

One hope for the future
That regulation does not kill innovation.

One problem that psychology should deal with
The sustainability of the planet – there is much psychology could offer here, some are making a contribution, but we are marginal in this debate.

One misconception about coaching psychology
That it is coaching by people who happen to be psychologists.

One hero/heroine from psychology past or present
So hard a question as there are so many who changed our thinking… Hebb, Rogers, Mead… but I guess in the end the founders of our discipline, Wundt and James, because they started its professionalisation.

One alternative career path you may have chosen
Teaching is my alternative career. I love to teach and had I not moved across from teaching into psychology then I would have been content to stay there.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
Psychology is the study of behaviour, how we think, feel and act. It is a central discipline to our understanding of being human. What better subject for a career than that?

One proud moment
In psychology, I guess finally getting, after 10 years effort, the 34 nations in the European Federation of Psychologists Associations to agree to the proposals for a specialism for psychologists in psychotherapy.

One more question
We are well established as a discipline, although there are always struggles, but we need to seek collaborations with other disciplines. My practice has benefited greatly by influences from sociology and collaborations with non-psychologists.