President's Column

Pam Maras writes about the complexity and diversity of psychology
It never rains but it pours. I hope that you have all had a good, if wet, summer. The torrential rain that has hit parts of the UK has been the main topic of news throughout July and into August. However, what struck me about the flooding and associated loss of services is the way that people pulled together once again to help each other. Collaborative working is something that psychologists are good at. Many psychologists – both researchers and practitioners – work in multidisciplinary contexts, as illustrated by several articles in this month’s issue.
It never rains but it pours. I hope
that you have all had a good, if wet, summer.

The torrential rain that has hit parts of the UK has been the main topic of news throughout July and into August. However, what struck me about the flooding and associated loss of services is the way that people pulled together once again to help each other. Collaborative working is something that psychologists are good at. Many psychologists – both researchers and practitioners – work in multidisciplinary contexts, as illustrated by several articles in this month’s issue.

The contents page also illustrates the diversity of psychology. We have articles on training mental health professionals; trauma and disaster; stress and coping in the workplace; psychobiology; and parapsychology, memes and consciousness. The weather is something people rarely disagree on, unlike, for example, a film or a book, where differences in views are often more prevalent. On p.538 Dinesh Bhugra and Padmal de Silva consider the use of film and literature in training mental health care professionals in ‘cultural competence’. Dinesh and Padmal remind us that ‘in a multicultural society, cultural competence in assessing and managing patients is essential’. The authors suggest that books and film might allow trainees to inspect their own cultural values and interpretations of image and words, which will then have the potential to inform the way that they implement treatment strategies.

Of course, the rain in the UK cannot begin to compare with the South Asia floods that have devastated the lives of over 20 million people in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal. Psychologists have an important role to play at times of large disasters as well as in the case of individual trauma. On p.544 Paul Greenall and Melissa Marselle draw on their work as psychologists on
a large multidisciplinary project on the effects of 9/11, led by Ed Galea (a colleague of mine at Greenwich). Paul and Melissa describe obtaining accounts of trauma from survivors, and identify important issues for both the conduct of research on traumatic incidents, and the potential effects of interviewing on both participants and researchers.

On p.548 of this issue Mark Kovacs looks at stress and coping in the workplace. Mark suggests that psychologists have an important role to play in devising and implementing strategies linked to models of proactive coping. On an entirely different tack, on p.552 John Pearce asks ‘How does a yak find a drink?’ He considers whether yaks, rats and pigeons use cognitive maps in order to search for food.
Idioms such as ‘It never rains but it pours’ are based on judgements about probability, as is
some research on people’s understanding of the paranormal. In a fascinating interview on p.542
Sue Blackmore explains how she sees interconnections between the three main themes of her work – parapsychology, memes and consciousness.

The complexity of psychology has come very much to the fore in our discussions about statutory regulation with the Department of Health, which increased in the last month. Although the diversity of psychology is clear to us, it’s not necessarily clear to others. The Society has an important role in ensuring that the public and government understand the complexity, diversity and breadth of the discipline. The talks are focusing on putting into operation our principles for statutory regulation, which I am pleased to report the Department agree with in part. The Society has also taken up two allocated places on the Health Professionals Council professional liaison group, which will be discussing standards to inform statutory regulation. Although we still have very strong concerns about the legislation and the proposed regulator, we recognise the importance of keeping lines of communication open.

The move towards statutory regulation is speeding up. It is likely that a Section 60 order
will be laid before Parliament when it returns
in October, followed by a public consultation. Correspondence between the Society and the Department of Health is necessarily becoming more frequent. In light of this, a President’s Briefing will now be published weekly on the Society homepage, so that members can be kept updated on activity. I am also happy to continue to respond to questions and receive any comments.

So what of my summer? It’s been a pretty busy time on the Society front. My aim was to finish reading the book In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré, which a good friend gave me for my birthday three years ago. At the start of the book Honoré describes what he initially thought of as a eureka moment when he spotted ‘The one minute bedtime story book’ in an airport bookshop, but which very quickly led him to a decision to slow down. Honoré cites Guy Claxton’s view that acceleration is now second nature to us: ‘we
have developed an inner speed, of saving time and maximising efficiency, which is getting stronger by the day’. Hopefully by the time you read this I will have maximised my efficiency and saved enough time to be able to read and get past chapter two!

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