President's column

Ray Miller writes.
The marriage of science and practice in psychology remains the bedrock on which both the discipline and the profession are firmly founded. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the Annual Conference in Cardiff. The ornate splendour of the City Hall was an impressive setting, outshone only by the eye-catching range of speakers and poster displays.
The marriage of science and practice in psychology remains the bedrock on which both the discipline and the profession are firmly founded. Nowhere was that more apparent than at the Annual Conference in Cardiff. The ornate splendour of the City Hall was an impressive setting, outshone only by the eye-catching range of speakers and poster displays.

Following her gracious welcome to the city, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff was still wandering round the displays half an hour after her official departure. She was intrigued and amazed by the range of topics covered that she had previously not associated with psychology. She asked a number of insightful questions and requested a copy of one particular poster that had attracted her attention. I think that counts as a success in ‘Bringing psychology to society’.

I have always regarded the Society’s Annual Conference as a bit of an Aladdin’s Cave. It is tempting to choose sessions that accord with one’s area of work or interest, but greater value often comes from a more serendipitous selection. Listening to presentations in areas I might consider peripheral to my interests broadens my perception. I absorb new ideas and concepts that expand my day-to-day thinking.

The conference is one of our major member services, and costs are held to a very low level compared with events of similar quality. I would like to see even more members taking advantage of this and hope you will join us in York next year. Well done to the Standing Conference Committee and the staff who ensured it ran so smoothly.

Another event was the seminar organised by the Professional Practice Board to discuss the ‘Layard Proposals’ (see ‘Pressing for more psychological therapists’ on p.266). Members will already be aware of the interest in the social and economic costs of psychological distress taken by Lord Layard, Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics (as reported in The Psychologist, November 2005). His proposals envisage centres providing improved access to psychological therapies along the lines of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines. Although the initial Society involvement has been psychologists in the health and social care sectors, it was clear at the seminar that his concept of preparing people for work and returning them to employment cuts across many of the applied psychologies.

Lord Layard spoke along with Richard Taylor, a Director of the National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE). It was particularly encouraging to hear both pay tribute to the increasing recognition of the central role of psychology in social policy development. It is even included in the government manifesto.

The credibility of the discipline in making such impacts depends significantly on the high standards that are set for education and training at every level. It was therefore a matter of concern to hear of rumours that the advent of statutory regulation might lead to a relaxation in the standards for accreditation of undergraduate courses in psychology leading to the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR). I have circulated an open letter to a number of bodies stating that this is totally without foundation.

We await the latest information on the government’s intentions regarding the regulation of non-medical professions. The findings of the Foster Review are expected to become public around the time you will be reading this. However, it has been clear in all discussions that the accreditation focus of statutory regulation will be on the postgraduate training required to attain practitioner status and entry to a Register. Undergraduate course accreditation for GBR will remain firmly the province of the Society. There will be no relaxation of the standards required.
In particular, educational institutions will continue to be encouraged to improve on the minimum acceptable staff to student ratio of 1:20.

Lastly, one advantage of writing this column is that I get to read some of the content of The Psychologist before it hits the presses. Like the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, I’m intrigued and amazed by the variety of the content and the high standard of the contributions. In this edition I was particularly taken by Willem Kuyken’s article on autobiographical memory in depression. That memory is not simply some sort of biological DVD recorder is one of the insights that seems to me to separate the psychologist from the general public. Understanding that what we recall and how we recall it is intimately bound up with our emotions and mood states gives us a very different perspective on the role of memory in day-to-day living. In his article Kuyken demonstrates the implications for the treatment of problems such as depression and, once again, the essential link between theoretical science and practical application.

This is a marriage that will last.

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