President’s column; Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity; well-being of the military event; and more

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

A lot has changed over the last 25 years along with The Psychologist, both in terms of the publication itself and in terms of the Society itself. Not only has the BPS grown from just over 11,000 members to nearly 50,000, but also its governance has significantly altered over this time.

This month I want to say a little about this, as I am becoming increasingly aware as I go round and talk to members that are closely involved with the Society in one role or another that there are at times considerable misapprehensions and lacunae in knowledge concerning the governance of the Society.

I know a lot is somewhere on the web, but sometimes it is useful to attempt to gather all the diverse threads together, and not everything is as clear as it might be. Looking at the recent history of the Society, the Council set up a Board of Directors in 1998, developing from a previous Finance and General Purposes Committee and including the Chairs of the then current main Boards and Committees. This was in turn supplanted in 2002 by changing the Royal Charter and Statutes to transfer trustee status from the Council (which had grown considerably in size with the expansion of Member Networks over the years) to a smaller group, which was renamed the Board of Trustees. At the same time the Council became the Representative Council.

There is also a very important Annual General Meeting (AGM), which receives and ratifies the Annual Report and various elections and provides the opportunity for an Open Meeting where members can ask questions, raise issues and suggest topics for Trustee discussion. Previously the AGM took place at the Annual Conference, but this has recently changed to a later date to allow the audited accounts to be presented as part of this important process.

I am sure that members will have noticed our frequently appearing strapline regarding our charitable status; we are a Registered Charity, separately under the Charity Commission for England and Wales (and also currently Northern Ireland) and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. This makes us a non-profit organisation with a number of goals, but also puts limits on what we can do (e.g. campaigning on political issues). We are incorporated under our Royal Charter, which was granted in 1965, and which has been modified over the years (the current edition dates from January 2011, and needs Privy Council and Royal Assent approval for any changes). This Charter explains our governance in some considerable detail.

The Board of Trustees is the Society’s executive and is meant to ensure conformity to the terms of the Royal Charter and status under law as a charitable body. It has the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the Society’s objectives are met and for the financial transactions of the Society. It consists of two Officers of the Society (of which more later), the Presidential team (the President Elect, the President and the Vice President), the Chairs of the (currently) four Boards of the Society, and between two and five members co-opted via the Representative Council.

The Representative Council consists of the Trustees, representatives of all the Society’s Member Networks, and co-opted members.
It advises the Board of Trustees. In recent years it has met annually in the format of a General Assembly, which acts as a very welcome forum for finding out what has been going on in our very diverse Society, providing a framework for the sharing of information and ideas. There are lots of exciting developments going on, which members are not always aware of, and the opportunity to meet others from within our Society is very useful and at times eye-opening.

The Society has a number of Member Networks, including the Branches, which are geographically based (and are not currently operational everywhere); the Divisions, which exist to support and to develop psychology as a profession and as a body of knowledge and skills; the Sections, which aim to develop the specialised scientific interests of members through research, publications and meetings; and Special Groups, which are helping the development of psychology as a profession.

The four Boards of the Society currently focus on Education, Professional Practice, Membership and Research, and include in one way or another all the Member Networks with the exception of the Branches, which had previously met in a ‘Branches Forum’, and which has to some extent has been recently revived in the General Assembly.

Alongside these various member volunteer-filled parts of the Society there is of course the very important operational side, which is mainly located in our Leicester office. This is very ably currently headed by our Chief Executive Professor Ann Colley who was our President way back in 1993; this role is a relatively new one, dating back some 12 years, and is a post that is in charge of the total management of the organisation. Note that the term Chief Executive is often seen as being the same as the term Managing Director, but this does not apply in Ann’s case.

The ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of the charity and to ensure that it is solvent, well run and delivering its charitable outcomes rests with the Trustees. So we are responsible for the direction of the Society, to ensure that our Royal Charter, strategic objectives and strategic plan are being followed, and providing appropriate leadership. Amongst other things we are personally liable for breach of duties under charity law, operational liabilities and failure to comply with relevant statutory requirements (including financial liability). At times I know members see the Trustees as being very slow in reaching decisions, so this might be a reason for this. I do realise that at times the reasons why certain decisions have been reached could be clearer to members, and this is currently being worked on in a variety of ways.

I did promise to return to the other important Officers of the Society; these are the Honorary General Secretary (who helps with the administration) and the Honorary Treasurer (who advises on financial matters), voluntary and elected posts filled by Members. I would draw members’ attention to the vacancies that currently exist for both the President for 2014/15 and the Honorary Treasurer for 2013/16, which were advertised in the December edition of The Psychologist with a closing date of 14 January 2013. These are vital roles that need to be filled.


The psychological well-being of serving military personnel and veterans

The Wessex Branch organised this one-day conference, at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in November, on key psychological applications and interventions used to support the well-being of military personnel and veterans.

The day was designed to integrate cross psychological disciplines. This was illustrated by Dr Gail Walker-Smith and Dr Rachel Norris, psychologists with the Ministry of Defence, and two sports psychology delegates, demonstrating the overlap and complementary nature of occupational, clinical and sport psychology. The programme focused on three major well-being themes. Theme leaders (Fiona Butcher – Training and Workplace Support; Professor Jamie Hacker-Hughes – Serving Military Personnel; and Martina Mueller, Consultant Clinical Psychologist – Veterans) guided the presenters and conference through the day.

Cohesion, encouraged over decades in various ways, was a predominant theme, enabling both a sense of well-being and effectiveness particularly whilst on operations. Alcohol usage is now deemed to be as much of a problem as PTSD. A dilemma occurs when a military unit bonds socially to aid cohesion. Traditionally, alcohol has been used to have fun, overcome the fears of war, de-stress from work pressures and obliterate unwanted memories; now its increase in use is of concern and a focal point for cultural change. That was the message from several speakers: Colonel Peter McAllister, the Army's Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry; Professor Simon Wessely, Director of King’s Centre for Military Health Research; and Dr Neil Verrall, a Principal Psychologist within the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory based at Porton Down. Paul Cawkill, a Visiting Researcher with King's College London, highlighted similar issues within military chaplains, whose lack of time and job overstretch leads to burn-out.

Cohesion was further identified in the poignant presentation
by Dr Margaret Evison, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist who witnessed, through the death of her son Mark in Afghanistan, the impact that this has on the operational unit both during and post deployment. Margaret reiterated the need for psychological tools for military personnel to draw on. Cohesion enables the strength needed to effect military tasks.  Where this is fractured, through the death of a comrade or leader, there are not always the psychological tools needed to deal with this loss. In part this is addressed by Trauma Risk Management – outlined here by Major Cameron March – during operations, but not necessarily afterwards. Fractures to cohesion can vary. Communication from home and family, a source of reassurance, can also enable domestic stresses to be bounced into theatre.

The loss of cohesion is a factor amongst early leavers from the military, reservists and veterans. Paradoxically the shorter the time spent in the military (typically four years) the greater the probability of experiencing mental health issues including PTSD. Those serving longer, have more time, resources and support to adjust to change. Reservists experience intermittent cohesion and hence have a greater vulnerability to a loss of psychological well-being. Withi the veteran community, issues that were masked in service become apparent. The average time between discharge and contact with Combat Stress is 13 years, according to Dr Imogen Sturgeon-Clegg, who has worked with veterans throughout her career as a Counselling Psychologist. This was reiterated in findings from the Veterans Outreach Service by Robin Kent.

Two hundred delegates representing military, public, charitable, academic and independent consultancy sectors shared a better understanding about our roles towards serving and veteran military personnel to support their well-being. More information and a selection of downloads can be found at conference has been a first step in integrating different disciplines and sectors. The November 2013 conference will focus on reservists and military families.

Roberts and Kathryn Fielden
Conference Organising Committee


Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity

The Society’s Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunit is given to a member of the Society, from any field and at any point in their career, who has demonstrated a commitment to the welfare of others and has, through their practice, gone beyond what is normally expected in challenging discrimination and promoting equal treatment. Two awards have been made for 2012, to Professor Mark Burton and Dr Martin Milton.

After qualifying as a clinical psychologist in the late 1970s, Professor Burton spent a year lecturing in Australia before returning to the UK as a research fellow. From 1982 he worked in community support and as a principal grade clinical psychologist in the North Manchester Health Authority. From the mid-1980s, his work was primarily focused on the development of services for those with learning disabilities, and Burton managed these services first for the Central Manchester Healthcare NHS Trust, and then became Head of Development and Clinical Services, Manchester Learning Disability Partnership from 1994. In 2004 he was both appointed as Head of Manchester Learning Disability Partnership (Manchester City Council and Manchester Primary Care Trust/Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust) and as Visiting Professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. He held the former post until his retirement in March 2012.

Nominating Professor Burton, Dr Jacqueline Akhurst wrote: ‘Mark Burton has had a long commitment to the question of equality and it is this that took him to work with one of the most excluded and oppressed minorities, people who are intellectually disabled (learning disabled in UK terminology). To make a contribution to their well-being he has long emphasised the need for systemic change and his career has been spent mostly in senior managerial roles leading health and social care services. His sustained commitment has been to the people of the city of Manchester, parts of which experience some of the highest levels of social deprivation in the country. That social deprivation has compounded the exclusion of intellectually disabled people and their families.

Dr David Towell, Director of the Centre for Inclusive Futures, added: ‘Mark Burton is close to being unique in his generation of clinical psychologists. He has managed to combine over the last 30 years both high-quality leadership for an exemplary service system, dedicated to ensuring a large population of people with learning disabilities get the opportunities and support to live as (more) equal citizens, with a senior academic appointment through which he has continually strived to develop a perspective on psychology which is grounded in a wider understanding of the structural forces which shape the human condition.’

Professor Burton told us: ‘I was pleasantly surprised to be nominated for this prestigious award and feel very honoured to receive it. For many years I have worked on two broad but apparently unrelated questions: inclusion of intellectually disabled people and alternative community and liberation perspectives in psychology. Receiving this award perhaps demonstrates how they are linked, reminding us of the importance of the experience and voice of the excluded and oppressed in grounding our efforts to construct a psychology that is truly ethical and also effective.’
Dr Martin Milton is currently a senior lecturer in counselling psychology at Surrey University, where he specialises in teaching and publishing material likely to promote equality in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. He is also in private practice where many of his clients are LGBT. He has a vast track record of speaking out, teaching and publishing on LGBT issues.

Dr Milton said: ‘Like most people, my own background has influenced the way I think about interpersonal relations – whether at the intimate, family or more community and political level. Having grown up in South Africa in the apartheid era, witnessing such structural and lived awfulness, experiencing a variation of rejection due to our migrant status and my own struggles to be authentic in a conservative and heterosexist environment, have all informed my view that as well as understanding diversity and oppression, there are times we need to act upon our understandings. Since joining the profession, I have worked to increase awareness of in/equality and the implications thereof in admissions, teaching, research, writing and practice. This has become key to all my work and forms the bedrock of my work as a counselling psychologist.

Supporting Dr Milton’s nomination, Professor Emmy Van Durzen said: ‘Dr Milton has, often quite against the stream of established views and accepted standards of practice, highlighted the need for a much more broadly based approach in counselling psychology, which is inclusive of minority groups' needs and interests. His books Therapy and Beyond and Diagnosis and Beyond are a vivid illustration of the attitude change he has been dedicated to achieve in our field. His work
in BPS committees has similarly represented the interests and existential predicaments of the LGBT community, and he has inspired many practitioners to take the equal opportunities agenda seriously. It seems important to acknowledge his initiatives and his long-term dedication to this cause, which has enabled our profession to be much more aware of issues of unfair discrimination and to have a policy of positive affirmation and recognition of the contribution the LGBT community makes by actively challenging psychological assumptions and encouraging us to be more forward looking thus continuously stretching counselling psychology to encompass a wider range of human experience.’


Honouring psychology in the workplace

Some of Britain’s leading occupational psychologists were honoured last week by the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP). The DOP’s awards ceremony was held at the British Medical Association’s London headquarters on Thursday 15 November.
Three awards were presented:
I    Practitioner of the Year: Kate Bonsall-Clarke
I    Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr Pat Lindley
I    Academic Contribution to Practice Award: Professor Michael West

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

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