responding to the NHS listening exercise, in the President’s column; book award; practitioner of the year; measuring national well-being; online voting; latest from BPS journals; and more

President’s column

One of the pleasures of being President is that the role takes me to every corner of the UK. This has given me an interesting perspective on the debate over the future of Scotland.

As I am based in Scotland, the news that the Scottish National Party wants to move ahead with a referendum on independence has come as no surprise to me. Perhaps the only surprise, in fact, is that many elsewhere in the UK have not noticed how much the issue has dominated Scottish politics over the last few years.

I am also in an interesting position in that I was not born in Scotland, but live there and have the privilege of being the President of an organisation that has the word ‘British’ in its title. It has been interesting to watch the debate unfold with a psychologist’s eye, seeing the use of emotion by all sides and listening to starkly different sets of predictions about Scotland’s future.

The Society has been working steadily to increase the extent to which the profession of psychology is able to inform policymaking across Scottish public life. In some ways the smaller size of Scotland makes working with elected representatives more straightforward than it is as Westminster – something that is welcomed by both parties.

I was pleased to see significant coverage of the Division of Occupational Psychology’s Annual Conference, which took place on 11–13 January in Chester. Media coverage raises the profile of the Society, and this conference attracted interest from across the globe. The most popular stories included ‘turn off your smart phone to beat stress’, and ‘the psychological consequences of customer service’ (see ‘News’ on the Society’s homepage at for these and other items). You can read more about media training on p.140 of the February Psychologist, and you should certainly consider signing up if you are interested in presenting psychological science in a way that is interesting and accessible to the public.

We are also hoping for good coverage of our Annual Conference this year. The event, which takes place at the Grand Connaught Room in London on 18–20 April, will focus in part on sport and exercise psychology, which is particularly apt in this Olympic year. Other themes for 2012 include the psychology of violence and conflict, language and communication, and psychology for the public and private sectors – all of which should provide food for thought for the 600 members expected to attend.

Over the last year the Society’s consultation response team (CRT) has coordinated responses from BPS members to 84 consultations from the UK government and other official bodies. Over 220 members of the Society from a whole range of member networks, including all the Divisions, were involved.

Of particular importance was our contribution to the growing debate around the government’s reforms to the NHS. This was made by a response to the NHS Modernisation Listening exercise, put together by Professor Peter Kinderman, then Chair of the Division of Clinical Psychology, with contributions from the Divisions of Clinical, Counselling and Health Psychology. Among the many points the respondents made, the following were particularly salient;

‘We have major concerns at the implications of the Health and Social Care Bill in several Areas ... Psychologists’ clients tend to be (very) socially disadvantaged and vulnerable, consequently they have particular need for an NHS that is free at the point of use, and a great need for integrated social services. Additionally, our clients tend to be less able to negotiate choice and complex provisioning arrangements and, in fact, are often recipients of very undervalued services (e.g. compulsory care). Consequently, we fear the consequences of unbridled choice and competition – clients need high-quality basic services, not competition.

‘This means that the Secretary of State’s obligation to provide universal, free care should be retained – it is important to show leadership in this regard from the top. We recognise the limitations of the current Strategic Health Authority/Primary Care Trust commissioning system – indeed psychologists are typically advocates of radical reform. But, while a ‘clinician-led NHS’ is to be welcomed, 'clinician’ means more than 'doctor' (especially in mental health care), and there are significant dangers if psychosocial care is not multidisciplinary. Since care is multidisciplinary, commissioning should be likewise: we therefore strongly argue for multi-professional commissioning panels, not GP consortia.’

Every response the Society makes has the indirect impact of bringing the Society, and therefore psychology and psychology-related issues, to the attention of policy makers; some have a more direct impact, in the shape of new legislation, policy documents, guidelines, and so on.

When a relevant document becomes available, details are circulated to all those who contributed to the response and uploaded to the website. The lead author is asked to let the CRT know the extent to which the Society’s response has been taken into account and whether or not they consider any follow-up activity is required.

To find the outcome of a consultation, go to, click on the ‘Consultation Papers’ link, and then change the ‘Status’ drop-down box to ‘Completed’. Depending on the information you have to hand, use the ‘Year(s)’, Region(s)’, ’Consulting Body’ and ‘Keywords’ fields to narrow your search. Once you have found the consultation that interests you, just scroll down to the ‘View Outcome’ link and click to see what has resulted from the Society’s response.

PPB Practitioner of the Year

Dr Barbara Douglas has won the Professional Practice Board’s Practitioner of the Year award for 2011. This award is made each year to recognise, promote and reward good practice by chartered members of the Society. It salutes achievement in the preceding year and help raise awareness of the dedication and professional skills of chartered psychologists.

Over the past year Dr Douglas, who is in private practice as a counselling psychologist, has served as Chair of the Society’s Division of Counselling Psychology and Registrar for its Qualification in Counselling Psychology. She has also presented academic papers, chaired seminars and had a proposal for a co-authored book – Common Presenting Issues in Psychotherapeutic Practice – accepted by Sage.

Speaking of Dr Douglas’s chairing of the Division of Counselling Psychology, Ray Woolfe says: ‘The term “leadership qualities” embraces a variety of styles, and in her capacity as chair Dr Douglas’s leadership has been notable for the respect and support she has engendered from others. She has also been concerned that practitioners should have the means to undertake research, and was successful with other Division chairs, in gaining free online access to major journals for practitioners who normally would not have access to university libraries.’

While Sheelagh Strawbridge says work of her work as Registrar for the Qualification in Counselling Psychology: ‘She has worked unstintingly and taken the lead in the redevelopment of the qualification, which has resulted in its successful validation with the Health Professions Council. As this was the first Society qualification in any area of applied psychology to be taken through the HPC system, it has been very significant, not only for the Division, but for the Society’s broader portfolio of applied psychology qualifications.’

Barbara Douglas graduated from the University of Sheffield with a BA in Psychology in 1981. Following this, she took an MSC in Occupational Psychology at UMIST, a Postgraduate Diploma in Counselling at Manchester Metropolitan University and received the Society’s Statement of Equivalence in Counselling Psychology. In 2009 she received a PhD from the Centre for Medical History at the University of Exeter; her research dealt with the history of psychiatry, and she is an Honorary Fellow of the university, giving seminars in her specialism.

Dr Douglas began her career as a part-time lecturer, first at the Open University and then at University College Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University. She became clinical director of the North West Centre for Eating Disorders, Stockport, in 1990. In 2007 she was appointed senior lecturer in counselling psychology, University of the West of England, where she stayed for two years.

Professor Pam James and Dr Peter Martin, speaking on behalf of the Division’s committee, sum up Dr Douglas’s approach to her work: ‘At all levels and in all communications with professionals and trainees alike, Dr Douglas consistently acts in a professional and ethical manner, which is a good demonstration of best practice as a chartered psychologist. She has consistently blended her professionalism with warmth, patience and good humour.’

Book Award 2011

Vasudevi Reddy

The 2011 British Psychological Society Book Award has been given to Vasudevi Reddy, Professor of Developmental and Cultural Psychology at Portsmouth University, for her book How Infants Know Minds, in which she proposes a radical alternative in developmental psychology.

Using a wealth of examples and arguments she challenges the mainstream consensus that people have very limited social understanding and emotional experience in their first two years of life. She makes a compelling case for the importance of a ‘second person’ approach in which the experience of other minds addressing us as a ‘you’ is developmentally crucial.

In nominating Professor Reddy, Karen Wynn, Professor of Psychology at Yale University, described the book as ‘an extremely creative work that makes a bold and hugely interesting claim. Pulling together a wide range of phenomena to support the claim, it presents a thorough background to the scientific and philosophical theories that have created the present lie of the land and offers us something genuinely new, exciting, and well-articulated.’

On receiving the award Professor Reddy said: ‘I am honoured and pleased at the recognition. My inspiration for writing the book came from my children. I was stunned by what I learnt about infant interests, emotions and skills from engaging with them. Often, what I was observing contradicted what the textbooks were telling me. I explored and supported these observations in further studies and I thought it was important to have this voice heard and put on record some of things babies were capable of in simple everyday interactions with people they know. I think a psychological science cannot make meaningful progress without understanding and using its emotional involvement with its ‘subjects’.’

Degrees of application

The University of Exeter has launched the UK’s first Applied Psychology (Clinical) degree that has been awarded dual accreditation from the Society as a psychology degree with a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) training component which supports eligibility for professional accreditation as a PWP shortly after graduation.

The BSc Applied Psychology (Clinical) has been developed in line with The Future of Undergraduate Psychology in the United Kingdom, a joint paper between the BPS, the Higher Education Academy Psychology Network and the Associated Heads of Psychology Departments aimed at considering how to provide students with an undergraduate learning experience that will enable them to apply their psychological literacy throughout their lives. The programme has been designed to improve student employability following graduation, whether they decide to go into a clinical psychology role or move into a different career, and reduce stigma of mental health sufferers through increased public understanding. Final-year students will undertake a clinical research project and will also complete a clinical placement within a local NHS community or voluntary sector mental health service where they will gain valuable real-life experience of working with mental health patients.

The first students will embark on the BSc Applied Psychology (Clinical) course in October 2012. They will benefit from being trained at the University of Exeter by one of the UK’s leading clinical training groups (CEDAR), which has close ties with both the NHS and SHA. The students will also be partly based in the Mood Disorders Centre, a partnership between the University of Exeter and the NHS, which is well known for its research and treatment for depression.

Professor Eugene Mullan, Director of Clinical Training at the University of Exeter, said: ‘We have identified a gap in higher education which we feel we are in a unique position to fill. This new programme, the first of its kind in the UK, will ensure graduates are well prepared for careers in mental health services, as well as having an excellent academic grounding in psychology. This answers a real need in the healthcare sector.’

- For more information:

Measuring national well-being

Government attempts to measure national well-being need to pay more attention to the impact of work and relationships. That was the message in a British Psychological Society response to the Office for National Statistics in January.

Prepared by Professor Peter Kinderman (University of Liverpool) for the Professional Practice Board, with contributions from members of various Divisions and Sections of the Society, the consultation response praised the proposed domains of measurement as ‘generally welcome and comprehensive’. However, it warned that ‘there remain some gaps to be filled, especially in the areas of well-being at work, the well-being of both younger and older citizens, and in relationships.’

‘The BPS believes that various kinds of relationships have a profound role in determining our well-being’, the response said, ‘from attachment relationships with parents and care-givers in childhood (which establish many of the bases for future functioning), through loving and social relationships, to the caring relationships that protect us in later life. It is important that the ONS adequately addresses and assesses these issues.’

The response also recommended the inclusion of measures of subjective workplace well-being and factors that impact upon it; greater clarity in developing the concept of ‘subjective well-being’; and consideration of explicit or implicit comparisons in order to explain the paradox of little change in subjective well-being despite rising objective indicators.

There was also encouragement to cast the net wider, in examining additional measures in the area of governance: ‘specifically measures of trust in institutions of civic society and views about the UK’s interaction with other countries, and whether the respondent has a sense of influence or power in governance issues and their subjective view of local democracy, or lack thereof.’

Professor Kinderman told The Psychologist: ‘Although controversial, in my opinion the international trend towards considering the social and economic dimensions of well-being offers huge potential. Here, and in this consultation, there’s a real possibility to add a distinctively psychological perspective to an important issue which, despite its obvious psychological aspects, has been dominated by sociology and economics. As I see it, the ONS have identified a set of key domains of personal life. In each of these domains, people are actively evaluating and appraising their circumstances, and these key psychological processes are therefore central to our subjective well-being. As well as transforming political economics, then, the well-being agenda may well be a valuable tool for the advancement of psychology and its practical applications.’

- View the full response at

News from BPS journals

LCP welcomes new Editor

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Paul Taylor as the new Editor for Legal and Criminological Psychology. Paul is a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Lancaster University, where he leads the cross-faculty Security Lancaster initiative. Paul will succeed Professor Aldert Vrij, who during his tenure further established LCP as a leading journal in the field. With a 2010 Impact Factor of 1.306, LCP publishes empirical and theoretical papers in all areas of psychology and law. More details can be found online at Dr Taylor welcomes submissions from BPS members.

LCP publishes its first podcast

Legal and Criminological Psychology has published its first podcast – an exciting step in the journal’s evolution.

Listeners will be able to hear a discussion chaired by Professor James McGuire between Professor Mary McMurran and Dr Russil Durrant as they debate their research on anxiety, alcohol use and aggression. The podcast is an extension to Mary’s article entitled ‘Anxiety, alcohol intoxication, and aggression’ and Russil’s commentary entitled ‘Anxiety, alcohol use, and aggression: Untangling the causal pathways’, as published in the September 2011 issue of LCP.

The podcast can be found at and the articles are freely available to all BPS members (via

Out now in BPS Journals

When given free choice to report whatever they want, liars may look and sound a lot like truth tellers. That’s the conclusion of a new study by Drew Leins (Florida State University) and colleagues, who found that undergraduate students asked to lie tended to report lies that have an experiential basis, as opposed to outright fabrications.

The authors conclude that ‘researchers should consider that in order to be useful to interviewers, new detection methods must be able to account for real-world deceptive strategies. In other words… researchers should allow liars to use the kind of lie that they would normally use when given free choice of what to report. Perhaps that will help yield better solutions to real-world difficulties in detecting deception.’ (In Legal and Criminological Psychology)


A special paper by Michael Billig on 25 years of discursive psychology discusses what it takes for a new academic movement ‘to be successfully established in the current climate of “academic capitalism”’. Two requirements are particularly mentioned: the necessity for a label and the necessity for adherents to be recruited. Billig says that ‘By claiming to be “an antiquarian psychologist” the author was rejecting disciplinary thinking. The paper also considers the intellectual costs of establishing a new specialism or sub-discipline.’ (In the British Journal of Social Psychology)

Society members can access all BPS journals free via

Seminar series

The Society’s Research Seminar Competition, along with the Williams Syndrome Foundation, is sponsoring a seminar series to bring together people working in neurodevelopmental disorders. The series is a collaboration between Kingston University, the Institute of Education, University of London and Newcastle University.

The seminars will explore recent findings in neurodevelopmental disorders, with a particular focus on (1) the new research tools and methods used, (2) discussion of the wider applicability of these new tools and methods across different neurodevelopmental disorders, and (3) identifying future challenges or controversies when studying neurodevelopmental disorders using a developmental approach. These issues will be discussed during three one-day workshops at the organising universities.

- For more information see

Online voting system

The Society’s secure online voting system is open to members. It allows members to vote in Society ballots in a more convenient and environmentally friendly way.

To take advantage of this system, Society members of the Society simply need to sign up.

Signing up is easy: just login to the Society website at and visit the ‘Change your Membership Details’ page ( Once you have done this, scroll down and opt into Society Voting Online.

We understand that some members will prefer to vote using the traditional postal vote. This form of voting will continue.


A piece in the February issue, ‘POSTnotes on video games’, was not credited to its author, Hannah Swift. Hannah is a Research Student (PhD) and Associate Lecturer at the Centre for the Study of Group Processes, University of Kent, and it was she who conducted a BPS fellowship at the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Many apologies to Hannah for this error.

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber