Society

News from our February issue, including President's Column, Society awards and more.

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

The turn of the year saw me attend the annual conferences of two of our Divisions – the Division of Clinical Psychology in December 2014 and the Division of Occupational Psychology in January 2015. Chatting to colleagues at these conferences, I was delighted to encounter the enthusiasm, indeed passion, with which they talked not only about their work as professional psychologists in often very difficult and demanding contexts, but also about their involvement with their Divisions and the Society.  

In both cases these levels of enthusiasm were evident not just amongst those who are regular attenders at such events and very much part of the Society’s and the profession’s establishment, but pleasingly also amongst the trainees, students and early-career practitioners I spoke to, who were bursting with ideas. In many cases they had probing questions to ask me about how to improve the external profile and impact of psychology, how to ‘make things happen’ in the Society overall (as opposed to within their own subgroup) and why things currently work the way they do (or don’t!). What was interesting was that although the questions were challenging and the concerns real, it wasn’t difficult to establish a sense of common purpose after some discussion and explanation. Their evident passion didn’t mean that they weren’t prepared to listen, consider, sometimes re-evaluate previous positions and commit to improved and more joined-up ways of working. It was not difficult, in those discussions at least, to build a sense of an overall shared identity as psychologists, and as members of the BPS, rather than primarily defining ourselves in ways that highlight our differences more than our commonalities – whether as trainees, clinical psychologists in the NHS, independent practitioners, academics or students.  

I’m not sure we take enough time to have those conversations across the different parts of our discipline, profession and Society, however, instead spending most of our working lives interacting only with those within our own specialism (albeit geographically spread), or with those from other professional backgrounds but who practise alongside us in a particular setting. The sense of ‘Psychology’ as a coherent and recognised discipline and as a distinctive form of professional practice is something we can no longer take for granted but need to work at and fight for.

The UK Research Excellence Framework exercise, assessing the state of all UK research, is another area where we can see some of the difficulties we currently face. In the REF process, peer reviewers spent much of 2014 examining the published outputs of all researchers since 2008 as well as looking at their research grant earnings, assessing institutions’ PhD training record and wider aspects of their research environment and support and also, for the first time, evaluating the evidence of the wider social, policy and economic impact of research.

For this exercise Psychology was grouped together with Psychiatry and Neuroscience for review by a single panel, whereas in the 2008 exercise the majority of the discipline’s research had been evaluated on its own by a panel of psychologists, with only clinical psychology split off to a separate panel with Psychiatry and Neuroscience. Being part of a composite panel is one of the reasons it’s difficult to gain an integrated picture of the quality of UK psychology research and its impact, since we can’t as yet separate out the Psychology from the Psychiatry and Neuroscience entries and scores. Furthermore, as with previous exercises, many Psychology researchers’ work was submitted to other panels for assessment, often because the work lay on the boundaries with sociology, business, social work, education or allied health professions, for example, and was seen as more likely to be assessed effectively by those other panels.

Once again this makes it very difficult to build an accurate and coherent picture of the quality, quantity and impact of psychological research in the UK. This is particularly problematic as we seek to present a clear picture to the public and to governments/policy makers/funders as part of our attempts to raise the profile of the discipline and make strong arguments for the value it provides. The Society’s Research Board is of course working hard to try and help interpret the output of the REF2014 exercise to enable the Society to present this strong unified picture, but it is a difficult task.

The larger point that psychology’s experience in the REF exercise raises for me is that it seems to be increasingly difficult (and yet increasingly important) to be able to talk about the whole discipline of psychology, not just feel it is a loose assemblage of a bewilderingly large number of subdisciplines, many of which seem increasingly isolated from and perhaps even antagonistic to each other, if we are ever to make an appropriate impact in the public arena.

To end, some good news. Three members of the Society were recognised in the New Year Honours list and congratulations go to all three.

Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in Practice 2014
Guy Holmes

A clinical psychologist who has worked in NHS mental health services in Shropshire for the last 20 years has been honoured by the Society.

Dr Guy Holmes has won the 2014 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in Practice. The award is made each year by the Society’s Professional Practice Board to recognise the achievement of someone who is currently making an ‘unusually significant contribution’ to the profession.

Dr Holmes has published over 50 academic articles in areas as diverse as psychiatric medication, male victims of sexual abuse and service users' experiences of mental health services. Many of his articles have been co-authored with people who are receiving mental health services, as indeed were his books This Is Madness, This Is Madness Too and Psychology in the Real World.

His community-based groupwork has been profiled on BBC Radio 4’s All in the Mind and he was one of the judges for the programme’s 25th anniversary awards. Walk and Talk, a group he helped set up with people who currently receive mental health services and other members of the general public, was also featured this year on Claire Balding’s Ramblings programme.

His community psychology approach, as well as community groups that Guy and other local people have set up such as Toxic Mental Environments, The Black Dog and Thinking about Medication, are described on the website www.psychologyintherealworld.co.uk. The site was designed and is administered by Dr Holmes’s collaborator Nicki Evans.

Grant award for Liverpool interactive art exhibit

Madlove, an interactive art exhibit reimagining a psychiatric hospital, is set to receive a 2014 Public Engagement Grant from the Society.

Madlove is a new participatory installation and event series created by the artist known as ‘the vacuum cleaner’ (Jamie Leadbitter) in collaboration with FACT (a Liverpool-based media arts centre) and BPS Associate Fellow Professor Peter Kinderman, Head of the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society at the University of Liverpool.

As part of the research and development process the vacuum cleaner is holding workshops throughout the UK with patients and professionals from the health and psychology sectors, as well as members of the general public. The accumulated ideas and knowledge will be used to develop a blueprint for a creation of a temporary psychiatric hospital at FACT in spring 2015 that will be open to the public as part of its Group Therapy exhibition (see tinyurl.com/o57zd3x).

Professor Kinderman said: ‘We are extremely pleased to have received this BPS grant to help facilitate this opportunity for an arts/science collaboration. We hope that involving the public in the creation of a dynamic designer asylum they can actually visit and engage with will encourage people to consider current perceptions of mental health through a playful and imaginative design process.’

Professor Catriona Morrison, Chair of the BPS Education and Public Engagement Board, said: ‘As the representative body for psychology in the UK making the public aware of the breadth of psychology as a science is an important part of the Society’s work. The Public Engagement Grants are one of the methods we use to achieve this.’

Lifetime Achievement Award Neil Frude

The Cardiff-based pioneer of a mental health self-help scheme that has gone around the world has been honoured by the Society.

Professor Neil Frude, head of the South Wales Doctoral Programme in Clinical Psychology, is to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for 2014 from the Society's Professional Practice Board. This award is made each year to recognise someone who has made an unusually significant contribution in a career as an applied psychologist.

In 2003 Professor Frude developed the Book Prescription Scheme, under which GPs recommend books from a shortlist of self-help books ratified by psychologists to their patients.

It has developed from a local initiative to a national, government-funded scheme in Wales.

Similar schemes have been set up in other countries, including Denmark and New Zealand. In 2013 a national books on prescription scheme for England was launched by The Reading Agency.

Earlier in his career Professor Frude researched the family and the effects of physical abuse on children. More recently he has taught in universities and on clinical psychology training courses. He is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society.

In 2004 he appeared as a stand-up comedian for 16 nights at the Edinburgh Fringe in his one-man show.

Exploring the ‘always-on culture’

What are the implications of technology use across the working life span for well-being, work–life balance and work outcomes? During 2015 Dr Christine Grant, Professor Gail Kinman, Dr Almuth MacDowell, Dr Cristina Quinones and Svenja Schlachter will be hosting a series of seminars funded by the Society’s Research Board.

The series will explore and develop an understanding of how people are managing digital usage, and to what extent they are able to manage boundaries between work and activities in other life domains. Also explored will be the impact of ICT use on psychological and physical well-being, as well as work-related outcomes and other domain-specific issues, such as satisfaction with life and work. Particular consideration will be given to exploring the strategies individuals use at different life and career stages to ‘manage’ their ICT use, their preference for work–life integration or separation, and the role played by perceptions of control over domain management and other individual differences. The seminars are as follows:
I    27 March: Open University, Milton Keynes. Will include high-profile keynote speakers and presentations and discussions of research from a range of relevant disciplines.    
I    15 May: Birkbeck, University of London, Bloomsbury. The impact of technology across the life span and its impact on boundary management. Keynote: Professor Ellen Kossek, Purdue University, Indiana, USA.
I    7 July: University of Bedfordshire, Luton. The way forward, how to develop effective policy, best practice and guidance on technology use across the working life span. Speakers: to be announced.

Professor Gail Kinman told us: ‘The research to be discussed and synthesised in this seminar series has important implications for individuals at different life stages, organisational functioning and society in general. It will inform approaches to “healthy” working practices relating to ICT use. Given that the nature of work is rapidly changing, with many being increasingly able to work “anytime and anywhere”, employees and employers need more creative, flexible and sustainable strategies to manage work–life balance effectively throughout the life span, and equip individuals with coping skills to do so proactively.’

For further information contact: [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]. Note each seminar may be booked separately, spaces are limited and will be allocated on first come first served basis.

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