Saturday, August 19, 2017

The British Psychological Society and the UK Association of Clinical Psychologists

I’ve recently become a grandfather for the second time. Sophia has joined my family. And my family is better and stronger and happier for her arrival.

Over recent months, UK clinical psychologists have come to the conclusion that the time has come – in order better to promote the principles they value, the best interests of the NHS, their clients and their profession – to establish a new professional body, the ‘Association of Clinical Psychologists’. In my view, this is a positive move. There are many reasons to hope that such a new organisation will l be successful. And I strongly believe that the British Psychological Society should actively work with this new group; actively negotiating a division of responsibilities and discussing robust mechanisms of joint working.

My position, outlined in writing and presented at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Division of Clinical Psychology in York on 5th June, is that there was a powerful argument for the establishment of a new body. I argued that the BPS as it is currently constituted is too big and disparate to be cohesive and effective, and clinical psychology needs either very radical, very rapid reform of the Society (which now seems highly unlikely) or its own organisation. I likened this to the birth of a granddaughter; a new and welcome member of a family, rather than a rival or alternative. I suggested that the birth of a new professional body for clinical psychologists, working with, but independent of, the existing BPS, was rather like the relationship between the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Physicians (or indeed the British Medical Association). I pointed out that, if the activities demanded by the clinical psychologists was indeed the remit of the British Psychological Society, then we should simply get on with business, but that has proved difficult for many years, and I am sadly not optimistic. Alternatively, if these activities (as we have repeatedly been told) lie outside (‘ultra vires’) the Society’s responsibilities, then both parties should logically be happy for a new organisation to take on these duties.

Now that a decision to establish a new organization for clinical psychologists has been taken, I repeat my position that I think the BPS should work with it, even actively negotiate a division of responsibilities. Unfortunately, my colleagues on the British Psychological Society Board of Trustees disagreed. Their collective position was that the Society needed to press forwards with one message; that the Society (and only the Society) was the natural home for psychology and psychologists. This ‘one Society’ message was, and is, in significant contrast to my message of ‘we need to discuss respective areas of responsibility’. Hence, my position as a Trustee became untenable.

My position has really not changed. I am more than proud of the work I have done with and for the Society over the years. We have had major successes, and I think we have worked hard and effectively to take forwards the promotion of the effectiveness and utility of the science and practice of psychology and psychologists, pure and applied.


I remain proud to remain a Member of the British Psychological Society, and I am confident that we will continue to be successful in promoting the Society’s charitable objects. I do now, however, think that the time has come for a new, more dynamic, professional body for clinical psychologists. I very strongly hope – and believe – that the existing BPS and any new body will rapidly learn to work together on issues of mutual interest and learn to divide up areas of responsibility rather than compete fruitlessly. I shall work actively to that end… just not as a Trustee of the British Psychological Society.

15 comments:

  1. Why do we need those clinical psychologists who prescribe harmful medications?

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  2. Clinical psychologists don't - in the UK at least - have the responsibility for any prescription of medication.

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  3. Thanks for all the work you've done over the years - I think it's past time for a separate body, maybe even for gaining back the authority to register the profession - I think clinicians have lost out when this went to the HCPC, whose standards are more general and this perhaps less stringent that I'm comfortable with.

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  4. I'm not so sure, myself, about that. I don't really like it when professions regulate themselves. I do advocate (I did - Malcolm Adams and I were responsible for liaising with HCPC (HPC, then) when it took over regulatory powers) independent and statutory regulation. But... I can see a future in which HCPC were to liaise with ACP (as well as / instead of, the BPS) over the Standards of Proficiency and investigations. But... and this is my point... if ACP does indeed establish itself, we will have to have mature, sensible, discussions over such divisions and sharing of responsibilities.

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  5. Peter , I for one am dismayed at the continual attempts by clinical psychology to reinforce its sense of privilege and entitlement over other psychologists. The sub text is very clear. That clinical psychology is somehow better than other practitioner psychologists. The association as far as I can see is seeking to protect its dominance within the NHS. I can think of no better way to describe what is happening as " Trumpism". In action. It's a form of blindness to the wider context of a rapidly developing psychological context. Shame on you and the association.

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  6. I haven't been part of the group proposing a new organization, but I'm sure that's not the aims or intention of those involved. It wouldn't be my reasoning. But in any case, my point is that we should be engaging in sensible discussions... which would, I hope, ensure that we avoid such undesirable and, frankly, counterproductive approaches.

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  7. As a bystander, yet very committed advocate of clinical psychology, I remain uneasy about the new idea in the form of an associate, as it stands. It appears to be a replica of the DCP but floating in space somewhere. Aside from the energy, experience and dedication required to launch and sustain any new organisation, it concerns me that this is all that clinical psychologists want. They don't seem to want more. Behaviour is a central influence on health and psychological wellbeing; the others being genetics and nutrition. The role of applied psychology, in all its forms, is key to a healthier society, healthier people, healthier organisations, and healthier future generations. The dominant role as a reactor to events, and ill health, limits the potential to do great service to people. The medical model as exhibited by the NHS isn't the appropriate mothership for applied clinical and other psychology, as it's predomonately a reactive service, waiting for people to become ill before it does anything. Applied clinical psychology should create its own mothership. I don't see the proposed association being that mothership, ready to make the argument to be much more influential in the future health of UKplc, because applied clinical, and other, psychologists can and should, and by not doing so, are letting thousands of people down.There is still a lack of confidence in the profession; so lacking that it is now almost invisible in parts of the NHS. Maybe, this is all that clinical psychologists want from their profession, to be seen as an also ran. Not in my dreams. In my dreams, applied clinical psychologists are leading the psychological wellbeing and performance agenda, helping society at large to bridge the gap between knowledge and action to prevent ill health and promote the environment that triggers people to feel success and happiness. The BPS could help to do this; it hasn't so far, but people run these organisations, and they don't remain for ever. Will the new association be better equipped, I wonder?

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  8. I haven't played any part in planning the new organization, having been, instead, a Trustee of the British Psychological Society. But I'm sure those who are proposing it would agree - they're proposing (I hope) exactly the kind of 'mothership'; leading, effective, bold, that you're also talking about. I suspect there's a very great deal of work to do... and my position, throughout, has been that this should be more akin to a midwife assisting in the birth of a new member of the family, as opposed to rivalry and opposition. Will the new organization be better equipped? My guess is that the organizers would say something like "join us and help us achieve those aspirations".

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  9. I'm the wrong age. Another couple of years and my voice won't be heard again. and this may be another, and possibly, more fundamental challenge, of getting the much younger generation of clinical psychologists to devote their energy and time to making something work brilliantly. You have to have real passion to make things work, as you know as you have it in spades. What is it that the younger generation of clinical psychologists are really, deeply passionate about? It may be to do the very best they can for the patient that's before them. Is this enough to make an association work brilliantly? we shall see, no doubt.

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  10. We shall see. I'm much more interested in the idea of a professional body advocating for the public than for the benefit of its members... so we'll see to what extent a Thatcherite and Blairite culture has embedded itself in our junior colleagues. My hope... we still have a passion for social change and public service. We shall see.

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  11. Well done Peter for acting with such honour, it must have been a difficult decision. While I am aware that the trustees exist I don’t know who they are or what they do. I know that I’m in the same position as many other members - indeed I suspect that it’s the majority - I have not been able to find any account of trustee’s discussions, minutes etc. The senior management of the BPS feels a bit like a secret society or rather a society with secrets. A bunch of anonymous individuals meeting and making decisions without explanation and with no apparent accountability to the membership. I mentioned this to Nicola Gale who said that minutes would be published. I await that with interest but won’t be holding my breath.
    Jon Coldwell

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  12. A debt of gratitude Buy Assignment  is in order for all the work you've done throughout the years - I believe it's past time for a different body, possibly to gain back the specialist to enlist the calling, yet I'm certain that is not the points or goal of those included. It wouldn't be my thinking. However, regardless, my point is that we ought to take part in sensible talks. We might see. I'm significantly more keen on the possibility of an expert body upholding for people in general than for the advantage of its individuals.

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