Society

Includes President's Column, Award for Excellence in Psychology Education, Lifetime Achievement and more

President’s column
Peter Banister
Contact Peter Banister via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

In my column for last November I spoke of the need for us to get more involved in influencing the development of public policy, and I said that the Trustees would be discussing this in their November meeting, and we would welcome any contributions from members. I in fact got a large number of very useful comments, all of which were relayed on to my fellow Trustees and copied to the Policy Advice Team in the Society’s office; for which many thanks. Our members have a wealth of knowledge and expertise and are a fund of innovative ideas, which are always worth drawing upon. Moreover, we live in a time of rapid change, and we need to respond positively and proactively to developments.

Not surprisingly the debate is still very much ongoing, and the office has provided an interesting detailed summary of the Society’s recent achievements in terms of meeting our strategic objectives; I found myself very impressed with this, as it included several developments that I was not aware of. This list deserves wider circulation to members when it has been finalised. 

Moreover, I think that it is significant that we now have a Director of Policy in post with the recent appointment of Nigel Atter to this important role. Nigel will already be well known to many involved in the Society; he has broad experience in a number of relevant contexts, and has been heavily involved recently in helping us to develop policy. He will be ably supported by another colleague who is also very familiar with the Society, Lisa Morrison-Coulthard, who has now been appointed to the role as Lead Policy Advisor. Another welcome recent appointment is Tanja Siggs, who is our new Policy Advisor (Legislation); she joins us with a wealth of parliamentary experience, both at the UK and at the European level.

Despite these achievements it has become obvious that we may need to revisit our Strategic Plan with a view to possibly making it more concrete. It is interesting to note in this context that the American Psychological Association, the largest such association in the world in terms of members, has a strategic plan with only three broad goals (and more detailed objectives); these are to maximise organisational effectiveness, to expand psychology’s role in advancing health and to increase the recognition of Psychology as a science. Is there something to be said for us to also be more focused, rather than to try to do everything at once?

The European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations similarly tends to concentrate on relatively specific issues and last September held a conference on Psychology for Health in Brussels, which involved psychologists from across Europe, European Commission policy makers, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other representatives. This conference concentrated on eight areas where psychology can make a contribution to health (such as the impact of lifelong learning and health promotion). It might be worth our considering relating to some of these wider European-wide initiatives, and becoming more involved in them. For instance, there is a planned European Union Joint Action on Mental Health and Well-being, which is starting this year to promote exchange between member states, and the WHO is also pushing forward a new European health policy framework under the title of ‘Health 2020’.

The European Union also tends to concentrate on specific issues; this year is the European Year of the Citizen, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of ‘Union citizenship’ (versus national) under the Maastricht Treaty, which lists achievements such as the freer movement of goods, services and people, easier travel (especially across borders), access to healthcare systems, and cheaper European phone calls.

The purpose of the year is to raise citizens’ awareness of their rights and to stimulate their active participation in Union policy making, and to stimulate debate about the impact and potential of the right to free movement (how much research is there in psychology on the impact of the recent influx of other EU citizens into the UK, for instance?). Finance will be available, conferences and seminars planned, and there is an intention to improve communications re citizens’ rights in the EU. For further information please see http://europa.eu/citizens-2013/en/home.

What might be of greater interest to us is that it was proposed by the European Brain Council that 2014 should be the European Year of the Brain. The original proposal had the strapline of seeking ‘to change the way all Europeans think about their brains, forever’. This has now developed into ‘The Age of the Brain’,a three-year broader campaign involving successively Europe, North America and Asia Pacific with the aim of ultimately creating a powerful and long-lasting legacy. The push here is for in particular further interest and investment in brain research; it has been pointed out that the cost of brain disorders in Europe exceeds cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. Details of the development to date can be found at www.ageofthebrain.org. This obviously should involve the Society, and we already have links with the Science Museum in London, which has and will be providing a number of related exhibitions. There is also of course Geoff Bunn’s excellent Radio 4 History of the Brain, which is still available on the BBC iPlayer.

All these developments are ones that we do need to be involved in, but of course as members pointed out there are also other pressing issues, which include the impact of what is becoming known as ‘austerity psychology’, both on the discipline itself, including practice, but also on all members of UK society. In addition there is the possible contribution that applied psychology can make to our current economic circumstances, including the positive impact of behavioural economics, looking at the factors that might affect economic decisions of individuals, institutions and governments, including limits of rational decision making and social psychological factors. We have a lot to contribute, but perhaps we need to focus more? We also need to be better at communicating to others about our achievements and our potential. 

Award for Excellence in Psychology Education
Dr Peter Thompson

Dr Peter Thompson, Senior Lecturer at the University of York, has received the British Psychological Society Award for Excellence in Psychology Education. The panel was particularly impressed with Dr Thompson’s ‘contribution on a national and international level as well as his obvious commitment to staff and students within his department’.

Dr Thompson was nominated by an impressive roster of fellow psychologists, comprising Professors Susan Gathercole, Alan Baddeley, Tom Troscianko and Andy Young. Professor Gathercole said: ‘I strongly believe that Dr Thompson meets the criteria of sustained and inspiring commitment to the teaching of psychology in a way that has excited and stimulated not only undergraduate students of psychology but also school children of all ages.’

Following a degree in psychology and a PGCE, both at Reading University, Dr Thompson then obtained a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Following a period of postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Dr Thompson took up a lectureship at the University of York in 1978, winning a promotion to Senior Lecturer in 1991.

According to Professor Gathercole, ‘Peter’s first love has always been teaching. His philosophy is that although visual perception and sensory physiology can be daunting areas of study for some undergraduates, bright students will always understand and appreciate a topic that is taught well and with enthusiasm. One of the ways that Peter has achieved this is by using visual illusions and paradoxes to provide students with insights into how our brains construct representations of the external world’. He also established the ‘Viperlib’ database of illustrations of phenomena related to visual perception (http://viperlib.york.ac.uk).

Dr Thompson is famed for creating his own illusion, ‘The Thatcher effect’. This is a surprising demonstration that although inverted features in an upright face disturb our recognition of the face greatly and appear grotesque, the feature inversions are difficult to detect if such a face is rotated by180 degrees (see picture).

Demonstrating a lifelong commitment to outreach, Dr Thompson is a popular choice to represent his area on TV, has addressed the Society’s student lectures, and has hosted the ‘Best illusion of the year’ contest. After setting up an after-school science club in a local primary school, he even constructed a 10 km scale model of the solar system (www.solar.york.ac.uk), which now stands along a section of the National Cycle Network just outside York

The now late Professor Tom Troscianko commented: ‘Many academics see teaching as a secondary activity, something to get done as quickly as possible so that we can return to our laboratories. Peter shows us that it does not need to be so. A better understanding of the basic science is obtained through laying out the problems in such an approachable way that they begin to seem more tractable. We are often told that teaching at top universities is “led by research”. Well, Peter demonstrates that the reverse can be true – research can be led by great teaching.’

Lifetime Achievement Award

Professor Peter Fonagy, Freud Memorial Professor of Psychoanalysis at University College London and Chief Executive of the Anna Freud Centre, is to receive the Society’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Professional Practice Board chose to honour Professor Fonagy in recognition of his outstanding research and teaching achievements. His work has transformed the way we understand human attachment and many common and serious mental disorders and his findings have been translated into effective new clinical practice across the world.

He commented: ‘I feel deeply honoured by this recognition from the Society and proud on behalf of all the colleagues whose creativity and support I have enjoyed over the years. British clinical psychology has led the way internationally in very many therapeutic applications of psychological science over the last three decades and I am proud to have been around to see this and perhaps contribute to the effort.’

Professor Fonagy’s ground-breaking research has shown that a parent’s quality of attachment to his or her own parents predicts the strength of the infant’s attachment to that parent and the child’s resilience and outcomes later in life. Mentalisation, the fundamental human capacity to understand our own and others’ minds as minds, was the mechanism proposed by Professor Fonagy to explain this relationship. His later research has confirmed that impairments in mentalising ability are linked to abnormal social cognition in childhood and adult psychopathology. This work enables us to understand how supportive early environments can generate resilience against adversity and how social cognition problems are involved in a number of common mental health conditions.

Professor Fonagy’s work has given a unifying focus to a wide range of therapeutic models and also heralded a change in scientific attitudes amongst psychodynamic clinical practitioners. This revolutionary understanding created a foundation for all psychological therapies, whatever their modality or orientation, that builds on the evolutionary mechanism available to strengthen and clarify representations of mental states.

In collaboration with psychiatric colleagues at UCL and in the United States, Professor Fonagy led the development of a highly effective treatment approach for borderline personality disorder (BPD) called Mentalisation Based Treatment (MBT), which is now widely practiced in the UK and internationally. MBT is an innovative form of psychodynamic psychotherapy designed to help those with BPD who suffer from disorganised attachment and have failed to develop a mentalisation capacity within the context of an attachment relationship.

In the longest follow-up of its kind, Professor Fonagy and Professor Anthony Bateman showed that differences between individuals who had received MBT and comparison groups were sustained for eight years following randomisation, with considerable savings in healthcare costs. Further studies have confirmed the effectiveness of this approach with these chronically suicidal and self-harming clients, and the treatment method has been described in two professional books selling more than 10,000 copies.

Professor Fonagy has had a significant impact on delivery of other mental health services, founding the Centre for Outcome Research and Effectiveness at UCL, which has been responsible for 20 out of 21 of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines for treatment of mental health problems.

Today, Professor Fonagy is National Clinical Lead of the Department of Health’s Children and Young People’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies Project (CYP IAPT), which aims to transform existing mental health services by training staff, supervisors and service managers. He is also Director of the UCL Partners’ Mental Health and Well-Being Programme, an ambitious initiative focusing on prevention, early identification and intervention, addressing the social determinants and consequences of mental disorder, and promoting the integration of mental and physical health. He has written or co-authored 16 books, nearly 400 original papers, including papers in press, and over 200 book chapters.

Practitioner of the year

Susan Van Scoyoc has won the Professional Practice Board’s Practitioner of the Year Award 2012 for her outstanding commitment to professional practice in court and family work, as a researcher, teacher and supervisor, and to the Society and profession as a whole.
A Chartered Psychologist of some 20 years’ standing, Susan Van Scoyoc is an HCPC-registered practitioner in both health psychology and counselling psychology. She manages a busy private practice providing psychological therapies, training and expert witness services for solicitors, local authorities, courts, tribunals and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Susan Van Scoyoc has particular interests in subjects related to physical health, women, human rights and family relationships. She registered with UK Expert Witness and has held many senior board and committee roles within the Society.

PsychSource opens gateway

As we reported in the December issue, the Society, in partnership with Wiley, launched PsychSource, a custom-built website offering a new way to access a wealth of academic and practice resources.

In the first week or two there were a few post-launch issues to resolve, to be expected when a site goes live, but these were sorted out quickly by Wiley and BPS technical people. Our front-line Help Desk staff were also well briefed to guide people to using the new system, and they continue to do this and to feed back comments.

In the first two months since the launch of PsychSource, the site had over 16,000 unique visitors clocking up nearly 100,000 page views. These are impressive figures for any new website. Ann Colley, BPS Chief Executive, said: ‘PsychSource was a major project planned as part of our publishing partnership with Wiley-Blackwell. It’s great to see it come to fruition and the positive feedback we have received is extremely gratifying for the joint team who worked so hard on its development.’

Feedback from users has been overwhelmingly favourable, and comments received included some constructive suggestions for improvements (some of which have already been implemented). The joint Wiley/BPS team that developed PsychSource will be getting together again before the summer to review the site and to consider possible further development and enhancement. 

As a reminder, PsychSource is your gateway to exploring
and using the crucial research published across the Society’s 11 journals and extensive books programme, as well as in 32 other key psychology journals, together with multimedia resources.

In addition to being fully searchable, some material is conveniently brought together in ‘Collections’ – edited selections of content on a single topic. These may be either ‘virtual issues’ of a single BPS journal title drawing on articles from current and earlier volumes of that journal, or groupings from the entire range of PsychSource content (books, journals and multimedia).

The site also offers a convenient access point to other Society resources supporting research, teaching and practice – hundreds more journals via EBSCO’s  Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection; The Psychologist and Digest archives; conference proceedings; archive catalogues, including audio and visual archives; Origins timeline; up-to-date guidelines and policy documents; and much more. PsychSource is available for everyone to use, but some content is reserved for Society members.
I    PsychSource is at http://psychsource.bps.org.uk or click on the link on the left-hand side of the BPS homepage

On ‘reparative’ therapies 

The Society has published a position statement that opposes any psychological, psychotherapeutic or counselling treatments or interventions (often referred to as ‘reparative’ or ‘conversion’ therapies) that view same-sex sexual orientations (including lesbian, gay, bisexual and all other non-heterosexual sexual orientations) as diagnosable illnesses.

The statement, ‘Therapies attempting to change sexual orientation’ (download at tinyurl.com/b2qcs6u) prepared by the Society’s Psychology of Sexualities (PoS) Section, details the Society’s belief that people of same-sex sexual orientations should be regarded as equal members of society with the same rights and responsibilities.

Dr Lyndsey Moon, Chair of the Section said: ‘This includes freedom from harassment or discrimination in any sphere, and a right to protection from therapies that are potentially damaging, particularly those that purport to change or “convert” sexual orientation. We believe that people of all genders and identities should be regarded as equal members of society and protected from potentially damaging therapies and pathologising.’
I    For best practice guidelines on working therapeutically with sexual and gender minorities, please refer to the Society’s Guidelines and Literature Review for Psychologists Working Therapeutically with Sexual and Gender Minority Clients (tinyurl.com/av6rhk4


New book on the history of educational psychology

In 1913 the first applied psychologist took up his post with the London County Council. Cyril Burt’s job was to assess children for special educational programmes and develop tools to identify children who might need alternative kinds of education.

This centenary is being marked by our History of Psychology Centre (HoPC) with the publication of its first monograph. British Educational Psychology: The First 100 Years outlines the development of the profession in the UK over the first century of its existence. It examines a number of different themes that have emerged over time and documents key points in the profession’s development.

In their preface the book’s joint editors, Christopher Arnold and Julia Hardy, say: ‘Understanding the development of our profession can help keep our current practices in perspective and yet remind ourselves that issues that were alive a century ago are still in evidence today.’
The production of this book was a collaboration between HoPC and the Society’s Division of Educational & Child Psychology. If any other member networks plan to publish histories of their subdiscipline – whether professional, scientific or organisational histories, or a combination – please e-mail: [email protected].
I    http://hopc.bps.org.uk/hopc/histres/history/monographs.cfm


Training routes

For a number of years the Society has offered a range of qualifications in different areas of psychology for those who wish to undertake postgraduate training but, for a variety of reasons, may not be able to attend a Society-accredited professional doctorate at a university. The Society’s qualifications are sometimes referred to as an independent way of training, since the candidate is able to develop their own individual plan of training that meets the broad criteria set by the Society. Successful completion of a Society qualification leads to eligibility to apply for Chartered membership of the Society and Full membership of the relevant Division.

All of the Society’s qualifications which lead to eligibility for Chartered membership are approved by the HCPC. This means that any trainee who is awarded a Society qualification is eligible to apply for registration with the HCPC and practise under the appropriate protected title.

As independent routes to training, the Society’s qualifications offer a high degree of flexibility and can therefore be a more favourable option for those who have commitments that prevent attendance at a traditional university course. In some areas of psychology, the Society’s qualification may be the only route to acquiring the necessary supervised practice to become eligible to apply for both Chartered membership and HCPC registration. Some trainees may already be in positions that would be suitable for undertaking a Society qualification, and in some cases financial support from the employer can be negotiated by the trainee.
I    To find out more, please visit www.bps.org.uk/qualifications or call the Qualifications Team on 0116 252 9905

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