Letters

Including views on applied training, promoting psychology, statutory regulation and more.

Revolutionising applied training

CONGRATULATIONS to Professor Peter Kinderman on his radical thinking about the future of training and the career structure of applied psychologists, and for re-stimulating this debate which has been the subject of thinking within the BPS over very many years. His article ‘The applied psychology revolution’ (December 2005) provides some sound principles and a compelling case.
I do recall one meeting of the (then entitled) Membership and Qualifications Board of the BPS about 10 years ago, when we were informed by a long-serving psychologist that the Divisions had been set up to match the careers available for people during the 1940s/1950s. At that time, we needed people to work in posts in LEAs. hospitals, prisons, and so on. The BPS divisional structure had an eye therefore to potential employers of applied psychologists.
The employment landscape has now changed radically, and there is greater flexibility required by the workforce. There has been a breaking down of traditional career barriers, and, bluntly, employers and clients wish to hire people who are capable and qualified to do the job, rather than look at titles and BPS Divisions. More applied psychologists than ever before work privately, for different employers, part-time and flexibly, and many have unique and developing portfolios of skills.
Educational psychologists (EPs), who were not mentioned directly in the article
(I was sorry to note), are really at the forefront of some of these changes. EP training is changing and widening, from a one-year MSc course to a three-year doctorate programme in September 2006. Our own three-year programme at the University of East London will be a doctorate in educational and child psychology.
In addition, the workforce of professionals working with children
is changing, and will be fundamentally reviewed in line with the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda. Structural changes are already taking place. A major DfES consultation is under way, investigating the future role of educational psychologists in the context of these ‘Every Child Matters’ reforms.
I am delighted that the debate about an applied psychology revolution has been stimulated, and would argue that the particular and recent developments in educational psychology need to be highlighted, not least in respect of the changes to EP training and employment structures. These are therefore both exciting, liberating but challenging days which require careful thought and brave future planning.
Irvine S. Gersch
University of East London

HAVING just started my doctoral training in counselling psychology, I read ‘The applied psychology revolution’ with interest . Upon finishing the article, I asked myself: If Peter Kinderman’s model had been in place, would I have chosen this career path?
I did not do a psychology undergraduate degree, and had no wish to do so. I studied philosophy, followed by a master’s in applied psychology, a BPS conversion course for postgraduates, and finally the counselling doctorate at Surrey. For many years
I worked voluntarily with children with special needs, and underwent (and still am undergoing) personal therapy. Of all of these activities, the BPS conversion course was all I specifically undertook in order to prepare for doctorate training at Surrey. The rest I did for completely unrelated reasons (mainly for personal growth and a bit of fun) before I had any idea that I wanted to train as a counselling psychologist, even though
they have all aided me in my understanding and application of counselling theory. If Peter’s model had been in place, I very much doubt that I would have chosen, or been able to enter into, counselling psychology training. With my undergraduate degree in philosophy I would not have been eligible to apply for an ‘associate psychologist’ position, hence I would not have been able subsequently to get on doctoral training without doing another undergraduate degree in psychology. This, I feel, would have been a shame for both me and the profession.
Roly Fletcher
Department of Psychology
University of Surrey

AS chartered counselling psychologists, we were intrigued, but also disturbed, by Kinderman’s ‘revolution for applied psychology’.
The Division of Counselling Psychology was created from a perceived need to recognise abilities and opinions from a non-medicalised, non-NHS-driven view of psychology. This humanistic view of each individual client with the ability to consider their social, cultural and economic influences was paramount.
Kinderman’s comments regarding other (i.e. non-clinical) trainings being ‘a variety of poorly co-ordinated training courses’, along with the inference that psychologist practitioners have a junior status, are, we believe, damaging to both psychologist and client. Indeed, these assertions fly in the face of the ‘different but equal’ status recognised by the BPS.
For post-qualification we have relatively new trainings and BPS recognition in place with perhaps more specialisms to follow. The post-qualifying routes of neuropsychology and psychologists specialising in psychotherapy both reflect the ideas of different but equal. It is of concern that under Peter Kinderman’s proposals different-but-equal experience, wisdom and learning outside of a prescribed route may become ignored and redundant.
Whilst Kinderman uses the term ‘branches’ to denote the family of applied psychologists, this single-tree metaphor implies a common trunk up to and including chartered status. Perhaps however, the family of applied psychologists is more analogous to a wood, in which a range of trees grows from the same soil (GBR status), its value lying in both the diversity of the trees and the unity of the wood.
Susan Van Scoyoc
Duke Street, Chelmsford
Barbara Douglas
Hazel Grove, Stockport

WHILST I agree with the central argument of Professor Kinderman’s article, that current training systems are failing to deliver the number of applied psychologists required in
a range of fields, I would suggest that prior to the radical overhaul suggested, some exploration of why this is occurring is essential.
In my own profession of clinical psychology, courses have been unable to increase their intakes to the levels suggested by the Department of Health, despite having a growing pool of well-qualified and talented graduates to choose from. One of the major inhibitors of the growth of these courses is the lack of placement supervisors who are willing to supervise on a regular basis. If all clinical psychologists who were able to supervise did so, there would be no difficulty raising intakes to the levels suggested. This begs the question, why don’t more clinical psychologists supervise?
The answer may lie in the fact that the current training system depends on the goodwill and willingness of placement supervisors to offer regular placements (there is no additional financial remuneration for doing so). Unfortunately, these attributes can easily be taken for granted by courses (the fact that after offering 23 six-month placements, I have only ever received formal letters thanking me on two occasions is testament to this). In my own experience, courses typically offer little in return for the significant commitment shown by regular supervisors, and where additional training is offered, for example in the form of supervisors workshops, this often appears to be primarily for the benefit of courses.
Another source of tension has been the way in which the issue of ‘top-up’ doctoral courses has been handled. A number of training courses offered these for clinical psychologists who qualified before doctoral courses were instigated. However, many people who chose to take them found that the very same courses which depended on their goodwill to offer regular placements were prepared in turn to charge them very high fees and require levels of coursework not far short of those expected within the full-time course. Unsurprisingly, many of these courses have now been wound up, but this has left many clinical psychologists without the opportunity to attain doctoral status.
This has resulted in the anomalous situation of clinicians supervising the work of trainees who are perceived to be studying for a higher-level qualification than their supervisor holds. It has also resulted in a great deal of confusion amongst service users and other professionals. I’m sure I am not the only experienced psychologist who has had to explain on numerous occasions why I should not be referred to as ‘doctor’ when this is the case with junior members of the department.
One possible, mutually beneficial, solution to the current impasse would be
for courses to offer a straightforward, reasonably priced doctoral course for experienced clinical psychologists, contingent on a regular commitment to supervise. Otherwise, and without any serious attempt to rebuild relationships with supervisors, I fear that course intakes will remain at unacceptably low levels and there will be increasing pressure to develop alternative training routes. However, these are likely to remain dependent on the involvement of field supervisors in some capacity, and unless we learn lessons from the failings of the current training system, any new system is likely to encounter exactly the same problems in due course.
Charles Parkes
Camden Learning Disabilities Service

I FOUND the article by Professor Kinderman most interesting and thought-provoking, but it is unfortunate that he appears to suffer from a form of blindness that has led him to ignore totally educational psychology, bearing in mind that educational psychologists formed an influential group who fostered the early development of the Society.
In his article he uses the terms ‘applied’ psychology and ‘clinical’ psychology as though they were interchangeable, but surely one is generic and the other descriptive. I accept that a clinical psychologist is an applied psychologist but so also are educational, occupational, forensic, sports, counselling, social or health psychologists.
I would agree with Professor Kinderman that ‘the diversity of training routes serves to foster envy and confusion’. Also, in my own experience, this diversity can lead to an assumed ‘ring fencing’ of expertise between clinical and educational psychologists in the area of child development, particularly when the latter may have spent considerably more time studying and dealing with problems found in the age range 0–18 years. Both groups of psychologists have a lot to learn and a lot to contribute. Educational psychologists are partially to blame by creating confusion in professional training through the rigid insistence (by some) on teacher training for qualification to a postgraduate course, a situation which fortunately no longer applies in Scotland.
Professor Kinderman does not seem to be able to step outside the current model of clinical training, by producing Level 1 through to Level 5. Is this really the best way to do it? I would suggest a Level 1 which would be an extended undergraduate course lasting 4–5 years, covering all aspects of psychology, applied and theoretical. Then at Level 2 there should be a rigorous, focused training for clinical, educational, sports, etc. psychologists, a training which would lead to the current practising certificate required by the Charter. This Level 2 training could naturally be developed in a modular system. It could be shared and specific, a situation which could lessen the distinctiveness of a ‘brand’ of applied psychology. It would also allow for the ease of transfer from one career path to another, or even the development of multiple qualifications. This would be overseen by the present Divisions of the BPS, as they do today, having acquired considerable experience in this field. Level 3 could then be tailored to cover CPD, a most successful growth industry in psychology. I am afraid that I cannot agree with the pursuit of ‘doctoral’ training, a status symbol we can well do without.
Finally, the concept of a ‘College of Applied Psychology’ is by no means new. If the BPS could trawl through its archives they would find that a ‘College’ was first mooted (circa 1975) by the late former President Mae Davidson, when she was Chair of the Professional Affairs Board. I regret that, 30 years on, my own papers have been lost and my memory is slightly suspect, but there should be others who were involved in the production of a working party report (or, should that be a focus group paper). It is good to know that members of the Society are still thinking.
Douglas Conochie
156b King’s Gate
Aberdeen


FOR some time now it has been apparent that there has been a converging direction of travel for clinical and counselling psychology. For example, many clinical psychologists have come to see that a technological-medical model does not fit well with human psychological distress, and that the relationship is central to effective therapeutic practice, and many counselling psychologists have come to appreciate that psychometric testing, if done from a client-centred perspective, may have a useful place in their competencies. Increasingly, too, counselling psychologists are expecting to find employment in the NHS. However, as representatives of the two professions we often have embarrassing situations when making presentations about workforce matters at Department of Health meetings, or over NHS job applications, where counselling psychologists often complain of prejudiced behaviour by commissioners, heads of department or assessors.
At the same time there are real differences between the two professions. Could a more generic training structure make use of the similarities while encompassing these differences?
Alan Bellamy
Pembrokeshire and Derwen NHS Trust
Llanelli

IN reference to ‘The applied psychology revolution’, I would just like to say that I could not agree more with the ideas proposed. As a psychology graduate with 18 months’ relevant experience, I myself am totally at a loss as to which career path to pursue. I am interested in clinical, counselling and forensic psychology, but there are so many factors to consider. For instance, do I want to pursue clinical when there are very limited places on the training course? Do I want to fund myself if I choose forensic or counselling? If I choose forensic is it fair that I will get paid less than clinical or counselling psychologists? I am convinced that there are many more graduates facing these problems and I will be interested to see how the BPS reacts to Peter Kinderman’s proposals.
Laura O’Connor
11 Slows, Sandford, Crediton, Devon


I AGREE on the whole with Professor Kinderman’s ideas but would like to suggest that clinical neuropsychology need not be considered separate from his proposal.
I am unable to see why as a profession it too cannot be incorporated as one of the training streams, like clinical, health or forensic, and occur at the doctoral level of training. In addition it is interesting to note that the core elements of his training model (though without the associate stage) have already been successfully developed and implemented in Australia (where I trained).
Further to his proposal I would like to suggest that integrated training across disciplines in applied psychology, where different branches share common core training, has additional advantages. It promotes understanding and respect between psychologists of different branches, it provides the public with a more unified identity for psychology and it allows trainees to make decisions about the direction of their own career much earlier on in their training (somewhat different from the current scheme where for example those interested in clinical neuropsychology must first train in generic clinical psychology before they are deemed ‘qualified enough’ to decide about and embark upon training in clinical neuropsychology).
In response to Professor Kinderman’s remarks in relation to economic equity across branches of applied psychology, I would like to point out that clinical psychologists within the UK are in a remarkable position, having their tuition paid for and receiving a salary. I am aware of no other training in the world where such a privilege exists. In agreement with Professor Kinderman it does seem very unfair for this remarkable privilege to be in effect restricted to the chosen few.
Finally, I would like to suggest that the associate stage in Professor Kinderman’s scheme could be considered optional for those with enough experience and who wish to ‘jump’ straight to doctoral level training. Or it could also be considered a career in and of itself, as a level of practice akin perhaps to the Staff Grade Doctor in medicine.
Martin Bunnage
The Burden Centre
Frenchay Hospital
Bristol

WITH reference to references

In the December issue we published an article by Roy Baumeister that dispensed with the conventional referencing system. Instead it used more of a narrative structure, and pointed people to a list of references in the web version (via www.thepsychologist.org.uk). An editors’ note at the end of the article sought your views on this approach.I received 15 replies, which can be read on our web forum. It’s fair to say opinion was extremely mixed, ranging from ‘Hurrah!’ to ‘incredibly unscientific and very annoying’. Balance of opinion appeared to be, however,
in favour of keeping the traditional approach.
By the time you read this the results of our reader research should have given me more to go on, but for now we will leave the decision in the hands of the authors. In other words, if people prefer to write for us as Baumeister did – clearly evidence-based and with an accompanying list of references, but not formally cited as part of the text – we will happily review such articles. We may consider a compromise form of presentation, in which a few key sources of further reading are included. As one respondent pointed out, complete reliance on web-based presentation for the references does work against those without easy access to the web.
As another respondent noted, either way it was a good article. If you missed it first time around, I urge you to dig out your December issue (or read it in the archive at www.thepsychologist.org.uk if you want the references!). It’s not too late to let me have your thoughts on whether we should be aiming for a magazine-style presentation that we hope would enthuse readers to go and find out more, or an authoritative and academic style that serves as more of a ‘one-stop shop’. Of course, there is the option of attempting a mix, both within an article and across each issue (and see tinyurl.com/buusg for similar discussions from the BMJ). The Psychologist – all things to all people!
Dr Jon Sutton, Editor ([email protected])

Statutory regulation surrender

EARLY in 2005 I wrote to protest about the BPS executive’s proposal that the Society should be controlled by the government’s Health Professions Council rather than by the BPS itself. I hesitate to express renewed concern about our President’s January 2006 column, for it now appears that we are after all likely to go down the HPC road.Two features of that column are especially significant. First, it notes that ‘the government has just agreed continued funding for a separate specialist register for forensic practitioners’ – in other words, even the government does not see the HPC as the only route to statutory recognition. Second, after presenting the case for the BPS to have its own official regulatory body, the column continues: ‘Having said that, we recognise that Ministers may choose to pursue a different route and to stay with current regulatory arrangements. If this is the case, the Society believes that a careful examination of the structures and processes of the HPC is an urgent necessity.’ The article then goes on to list various concerns about the government’s proposals, especially the focus on maximum harmonisation across the many professions that will be covered by the HPC umbrella.
Surely we are now surrendering our key bargaining position. The above quotation says in effect that if the government nevertheless insists on the BPS being placed under the HPC, we will go along with the HPC provided that the government first makes a careful examination of the structures and processes of that body. If I were a government Minister, I would be delighted with such a friendly acceptance of the HPC proposal, provided only that I first appoint suitable people to undertake the suggested careful examination of structures and processes, and report back to me. Supposing that this examination concluded that certain amendments should be made to deal with some of the BPS concerns, but that in principle the idea of the HPC controlling the BPS was seen to be a good one, what can the BPS then do other than accept the fait accompli? This could mean that a board of the government-defined great and good, with a few temporary seats reserved for whichever profession was currently being scrutinised or adjudicated upon, would now be in ultimate charge of professional psychologists.
The column does not seem to recognise that the HPC proposal is part of the long succession of centralisation decrees and legislative measures that have been introduced by the government in recent years. At every level – the attempted setting up of regional governments, the proposed police, ambulance and fire services mergers, the removal of ever more powers from local government, and in many other areas – we see the local being replaced by the regional or national. Big is good, while small, neighbourly and relevant are bad. Orwell did not write in vain. With such a record, is it any surprise that the government favours a single HPC to encompass as many professions as possible? We could all be marching in statutory lock-step before long.
If we as a Society adhered to the position that we would not accept being part of a generic HPC, one cannot think that the government would insist on the nuclear option of compulsion. The Society could legitimately, even if not within a statutory context, set up a new democratic controlling body with a small majority of psychologists and a large minority of non-psychologist board members. While this would not have official recognition, most of the organisations that employ psychologists in this country would be likely to recognise its judgements and its ethical and practical standards (as they do now). One could then wait for a future Labour government (or some other administration) to recognise that psychologists are not prepared to accept the control of any body that is not broadly representative of psychologists, and to grant finally the statutory recognition for which the Society has striven for so long.
Walter Barker
39 The Furlong
Henleaze, Bristol

A caring profession?

AN event I was looking forward to was the day conference ‘Psychology and Human Rights’ that had been planned for 17 November last year. When I looked on the Society website for further details, I found that it had been cancelled for ‘lack of sufficient interest’. Should we take this as a true indication of the level of concern of British psychologists for human rights? Might British psychology be criticised for being essentially conservative, supportive of the status quo, uninterested in taking part in debate about the transformation of society? Can someone convince me otherwise?
Jim Orford
School of Psychology
University of Birmingham

Sex and systemising

ELLIS Mosley (Letters, December 2005) suggests that clinical psychology involves a fair degree of systemising and yet has more women than men working in it. His implication is that the idea that systemising is more common in males is therefore questionable. I am pleased that this issue is being discussed in your pages.
I would point out though that clinical psychology (when it is practised well) involves
a good balance of systemising (collecting data, testing for what variables might be influencing behaviour, affect or cognition, drawing up systematic intervention programmes, etc.) and empathising (tuning into a client's thoughts and feelings, and responding with an appropriate caring emotion to the client's mental states).
It comes as no surprise to me that the profession of clinical psychology attracts more women than men, since studies show that women on average have higher levels of empathy and that women (again, on average) are more likely to have the 'balanced' type of brain – one that can both empathise and systemise. These same studies show that men (on average) are more likely to have a profile of their systemising being stronger than their empathy.
So, the best test of Mosley's idea would be in professions that make fewer demands on empathy and make maximal demands on systemising. The clearest examples of such professions are mathematics, engineering, physics, and computer science. And it is relevant that the sex ratio in most of these fields is typically at least 3:1 male:female.
Simon Baron-Cohen
Autism Research Centre
Cambridge University

Bisexuality research questioned

WE would like to thank Hardman et al. for requesting further engagement with the methodological problems in Chivers’ research on bisexuality (Letters, January, 2006), given the lack of space for this in our November letter.
For unfamiliar readers, the Rieger, Chivers and Bailey (2005) study (the one which focused on bisexuality) investigated men who self-identified as heterosexual (30), bisexual (33) and homosexual (38). Penile circumference change was measured as the men viewed ‘neutral’ films and films depicting two women or two men having sex. The study found that most bisexual-identified men ‘appeared homosexual with respect to genital arousal, although some appeared heterosexual’ and concluded that ‘it remains to be shown that male bisexuality exists’.
One problem with the study was that a third of the men who took part were excluded from the analysis because they had no more erection when watching ‘sexual’ than ‘non-sexual’ films. Therefore generalisations to all bisexual-identified men must be treated with caution, and the categorisation of the remaining two thirds as ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’ in relation to genital arousal seems dubious (what were the other third?) Also, the use of gay and lesbian pornography is problematic as pornography is culturally specific. Would women be classified as genitally ‘heterosexual’ if they exhibited clitoral arousal watching gay male porn? Another problem is that the conclusions violate the conventions of hypothesis testing by placing weight on
a non-significant statistical test. Additionally, genital arousal is no clear indicator of innate sexual preferences (think of those who become aroused at high-heeled shoes), and the notion of sexuality as either biological or social is problematic.
We maintain that a major problem in such research is the lack of a critical stance regarding potential underlying assumptions. There are many examples of damaging psychological research based on dubious assumptions (e.g. about race and intelligence, or women’s moral inferiority to men). It would be arrogant to think we are no longer capable of such mistakes and biases.
We stand by our call for psychologists to think through potential implications for communities involved. A widely publicised New York Times article (Carey, 2005) concluded from the Rieger et al. report that bisexual men were either ‘straight, gay or lying’, and psychology textbooks continue to use such research to support only bimodal views of sexuality.
Meg Barker
Alessandra Iantaffi
Camelia Gupta
On behalf of the UK bi research group (Bi-BLIO)

References
Carey, B. (2005, 5 July). 'Straight, gay or lying: Bisexuality revisited. New York Times.
Rieger, G., Chivers, M.L. & Bailey, M. (2005). Sexual arousal patterns of bisexual men. Psychological Science, 16(8), 579–584.

W. Peter Colquhoun (1928–2005)

PETER Colquhoun was an extremely gentle and kind man whose modesty concealed a very bright and agile mind. His career had major implications not only for the field of psychology, but also for the whole of society. Peter’s early research on the effects of alcohol on a simulated driving task informed the selection of the blood-alcohol limits in the UK and he also helped in the choice of the devices used to measure them. With regard to his contribution to psychology, Peter’s work on human performance as a function
of circadian rhythms and shifted sleep-wake cycles pre-dated the current explosion of interest in circadian rhythms by more than three decades.
During the 1960s, Peter, a prolific and always rigorous empiricist, made a very considerable contribution to the knowledge base of vigilance theory, identifying task features that affect the decline in vigilance over time. To the surprise of no one but himself, the literature is still full of references to Peter’s groundbreaking work in this field.
From the early 1970s until his early retirement in 1988 the three of us were
very fortunate to have worked under Peter’s leadership, originally at the Sussex outstation of the MRC Applied Psychology Unit in Cambridge, and later at the independent MRC unit which the outstation became, namely the MRC Perceptual and Cognitive Performance Unit at the University of Sussex. Peter was Unit Director, and also an Honorary Professor in the Laboratory of Experimental Psychology at the University of Sussex. Peter’s leadership style was always low key, but was also incredibly supportive. He always (albeit very gently and with good humour) provided the strong scientific guidance needed to keep us on the straight and narrow path, typically over coffee, which we regularly took together.
Peter’s whole career was devoted to research, in particular the temporal determinants of performance efficiency, and to the training of researchers. He excelled at both. Given that he was such a nice man, people wanted him to succeed and helped him to do so. Honours included fellowships
of the British Psychological Society, the Ergonomics Society, and the Working Time Society, and the Ergonomics Society’s Bartlett Medal for his contribution to applied psychology. The support and honours that Peter received from his peers surprised him – they should not have. The world is poorer for his passing.
Angus Craig
Simo

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