President's column

President Ray Miller reflects on the benefits of hindsight.
A crystal ball should be essential equipment for any president. Preparing the monthly column means anticipating significant developments that may occur between writing it and the time you read it. A hostage to hindsight.

A crystal ball should be essential equipment for any president. Preparing the monthly column means anticipating significant developments that may occur between writing it and the time you read it. A hostage to hindsight.

The article by Caroline Watt in this issue (p.424) on the work of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit was therefore particularly timely. Alas, it failed to reveal the secrets of precognition, but it did remind me of interesting insights from undergraduate days at Strathclyde University. There I encountered Professor Gustav Jahoda and his book The Psychology of Superstition (Penguin, 1969). It revealed the potential for psychology to provide an understanding of many ‘paranormal’ occurrences that had seemed simply the stuff of mystical tales and thrilling yarns. Even the most esoteric human experiences might be amenable to psychological interpretation.

This had practical consequences in a career as a clinical psychologist. Dealing with hallucinations and delusions, or the apparently irrational beliefs that often seem associated with psychological distress, it was helpful to reflect on perspectives on memory, perception and cognition gleaned from parapsychological research.

Misty though my crystal ball is, it reveals some plain facts about the Society’s future financial prospects. For seven years members were protected from inflationary pressures through innovative income generation and good management of resources, enabling us to build reserves. As a result, last year saw the first subscription increase for a considerable time.

However, it is clear that such a stop-start policy has significant drawbacks. Now we are living on those reserves; investing past savings in securing our future. Year on year we face increasing costs and members expect higher levels of activity on their behalf. The rising cost of living is something we all face in our day to day lives and the Society is not immune.

Work is continuing on developing new sources of income and efficient cost control. Even the recent purchase of new London offices was funded by the increase in value of our previous premises, not only providing better services but earning income.. But, in order to provide a stable environment for planning and development, it is essential we move to a system that takes inflation into account on a routine basis. The reserves that served us well as a buffer are depleting and, without urgent action to remedy the situation, will run out. That would leave the Society facing hard choices.
The Trustees believe that action now will preserve our ability to represent the discipline and practice of psychology strongly at a time when it is in increasing demand.  We have invested in improved facilities and infrastructure and are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities we have fought to make possible. However, unless we follow through, the benefits could be lost.

The business plan for the coming year will identify a number of ways of increasing income and reducing expenditure. Subscriptions must also contribute to inflation proofing if we are to succeed in achieving the objectives that members have demanded through the strategic plan.

One of these objectives relates to statutory regulation. By the time this is published it is rumoured that we will have heard more of the government’s plans through a report of the Foster Review of non-medical regulation, completed late last year. In that review we argued forcefully that previous proposals for the regulation of applied psychologists had been flawed. The optimum way forward would be to establish a ‘General Psychology Council’ to regulate both psychologists and other professions, such as counselling and psychotherapy, who share significantly in the development and delivery of psychological interventions.

We believe that the government may not share this view and that it may remain convinced that the appropriate route to regulation will be through the Health Professions Council. Trustees have recently reaffirmed our key principles:

The Society believes that it is vital for public protection that a separate and independent regulatory body is created. The working title for such a body is ‘The General Psychology Council’.

The regulatory model exemplified in the Health Professions Council (HPC) is inadequate for the regulation of psychologists and, subsequently, allied professions. An action plan has been developed to deal with a range of eventualities and members will be kept fully informed.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate Emma Gore Langton and Craig Aaen-Stockdale, winners of the undergraduate and postgraduate student writer competitions respectively. Their articles appear in this edition (p.412) and make impressive and interesting reading. A crystal ball isn’t needed to predict a successful future for them both.

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