Shaping policy – not for all in the house of psychology

Abby Moralee responds to an article in our June edition.

After attending the Division of Clinical Psychology Pre-Qual event about the Future of Clinical Psychology, I was greatly encouraged to read Walker, Speed and Taggart’s article on the role of psychologists in public policy (June 2018). There had been a strong emphasis at the DCP event on the call for the discipline of psychology to be heavily involved, if not utterly immersed, in politics and policy making.

Despite an appreciation of the need for many within the field of clinical psychology to undertake this role, and represent the views and experiences of the clinicians, researchers and practitioners for the benefit of ‘rational policy making’ (Sandra Nutley), I must admit I didn’t dream of becoming a psychologist when I was younger because I love policy. In fact, I would expect the vast majority of personal statements for budding psychology students speak of a fascination with people, how the mind works, how the brain works, what makes us tick, how we relate, and how we feel and how we process. Does it make me an unworthy psychologist to hope I spend more time with service users and undertaking direct clinical work, than in a boardroom with ‘policy makers’?

This was the question I was wrestling with when I came across Walker and colleagues’ article. To read that our time would be better spent focusing on the discipline of psychology and ‘getting our own house in order’, did a great deal to quell my rising concern.

It is acceptable to dedicate oneself to psychology without the primary focus being on shaping public policy. Moreover, it is commendable to focus on strengthening the house of psychology, with a realistic understanding of its role in the wider political context. Perhaps my time really could be spent working in direct support of service users, leaving the policy involvement to those who feel our capacity to impact policy is, in fact, underrated. However, one event and one article are hardly sufficient material for a nuanced understanding of psychology’s evolving role in influencing policy. I would be delighted to see more letters from fellow readers, student and psychologist alike, as to your thoughts on this topic.

Abby Moralee
Postgraduate student

Illustration: Tim Sanders

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