President's Letter, October 2016

The latest from Professor Peter Kinderman.

Students embarking on a career in psychology have made a wise choice. On a purely practical level, the study of psychology gives us tangible transferable skills. The scientific method is, of course, a huge advantage in a world of conflicting claims, misleading messages and complex decisions… despite some politicians’ recent, and regrettable, scepticism of experts. Because human behaviour is subject to multiple interacting influences, we need to use mathematical, statistical, methods to tease out the relationships, and these numerical skills are hugely valuable. Academic scholarship, learning from the wisdom of earlier generations, is a key skill. And I would argue that psychologists tend to develop significant skills in balancing and comparing differing opinions on human behaviour, because of the variety of approaches available. We also have to write, in intelligible prose, to explain our findings. This combination of scientific, numerate, literate skills gives our students a fantastic start.

But psychology is also attractive because of its humanism and day-to-day relevance. Our subject matter is the stuff of life. It is inherently interesting. And this is reflected in my role as President of the British Psychological Society. My in-tray for this month includes all the predictable regular business (including our relationship with the statutory regulator, the Health and Care Professions Council), as well as preparation for the forthcoming political party conferences (the BPS, like many charities, takes the opportunity to discuss issues of science, education and professional activity with our politicians at their annual conferences). This year, we are preparing a briefing paper on psychological aspects of decision making under conditions of stress and uncertainty. We are also beginning what will no doubt be a long series of meetings with colleagues about the consequences of our exit from the European Union. I am particularly pleased that the BPS is on the Consortium Board of the National Guidelines Alliance, responsible for clinical guideline development in healthcare. Similarly, I am delighted that BPS colleagues are working closely with colleagues in other professional bodies and with Health Education England to promote the use of multi-professional, co-produced, formulation in our professional practice, as well as to develop clear standards of proficiency in this skill.

By now, people may have some feel for my views on these matters. But it’s really important to me to get an impression as to whether the stance of the Society in respect to these issues reflects the views of members. I need to know what you think about our relationship with HCPC and the forthcoming government consultation on healthcare regulation. What should we be saying to our politicians – and more specifically, what can psychological research contribute to their work? What should we be lobbying for in regards to the clinical guidelines that are so important for commissioning and delivering healthcare? What do members think about the diagnosis of so-called ‘personality disorder’? Are we confident that ‘formulation’ as practised by psychologists is a distinctive and valuable contribution? On all these issues and more, please get in touch via my blog or e-mail [email protected].

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