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.

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