President's Letter September 2016

The latest from Peter Kinderman.

15 August 2016

The annual conference season is under way, and so I have been flying the flag for British psychology. Our mission is ‘to promote the advancement and diffusion of a knowledge of psychology pure and applied’, and members of the British Psychological Society are experts in things that really matter to people: relationships, education and learning, mental health, health, politics, sport, work and organisational structures, prejudice and intercultural understanding, designing and working with emerging technologies, and – particularly relevant given this month’s focus in The Psychologist – crime, policing, surveillance and paranoia. As I’ve said before, our contribution is guided by our science, our professional training and our values.

We clearly have a lot to offer. Our international colleagues see UK psychology as world leading, especially in fields that require critical or idiosyncratic (or even iconoclastic) thinking. Major worldwide trends in psychology have leading thinkers from UK universities and our admired health and social care system. But, especially in the light of the Brexit vote, we need to be continually mindful of our position in major international discussions. Our international profile is good but it is not guaranteed. We need to be nimble and present to maintain our position in international debate. As individual academics and practitioners, we have a responsibility to speak with colleagues across the world. As President of the BPS, I have a particular responsibility to ensure that our links with the international scientific and professional communities are maintained.

In the complex and challenging areas of clinical and forensic psychology, and especially where they overlap, we must also be mindful of our obligations to protect both the reputation of the profession and those members of the public who use our services. And we have seen several expressions of concern recently, including worries over people who appear to me to be using carefully chosen pseudo-professional titles that are, by implication, claiming qualifications or professional status that they do not possess. This means that we as individuals, the British Psychological Society, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and the media all have a responsibility to act. Those of us who are legitimately qualified and experienced professionals who provide a service to the public but feel it is acceptable not to be registered because they don’t use a protected title should consider this as a call to action to reflect on their own accountability. The Society is improving its professional practice guidelines and could use them in collaboration with HCPC to outline more clearly the standards of professional behaviour that we value.

The government is beginning the process of consultation to consider major reforms that would unify the regulatory councils. We should engage closely in the imminent consultation, and press for both a more intelligent approach to the regulation of our profession and sister professions, as well as for a closure of the ‘implied competence’ loophole, if necessary. It’s possible that we also need more explicit legislation to clarify the language and allow prosecution more easily. This could also bring professions such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapists under the regulatory remit. It would be timely to look to improving investigatory processes, and to look at a more mature relationship between the BPS (which has a duty to promote the profession) and HCPC (with a more specific remit to protect the public) as they work together in the public interest.

- Peter Kinderman is President of the British Psychological Society. Contact him at Pr[email protected] or follow on Twitter: @peterkinderman.