'We need each other'

In her first address as BPS President Occupational Psychologist Dr Hazel McLaughlin outlined her vision for her presidential year as the Society, and the world, grapples with change. Ella Rhodes reports.

During her career, Hazel McLaughlin has worked with organisations as diverse as the NHS and L’Oréal. Something which emerges repeatedly, she said, is the importance of developing effective teams, change and creating the right kind of culture and purpose. Also a visiting lecturer at IOPPN, King’s College London, McLaughlin said it was also important to focus on developing people and enhancing capability. 

Moving onto Covid-19, McLaughlin said we needed to begin to consider the new normal. She pointed to data from the Sunday Times that demonstrated how much the world has changed since the start of the outbreak – in positive and negative ways. The environment has likely benefitted from lower rates of air pollution and reduced rates of energy use. However with monumental drops in GDP, millions of people on furlough in the UK alone, and measurably worse impacts on some of the most vulnerable in society, McLaughlin said we must learn lessons from this time. The first, she said, is that the world is uncertain and we should expect the unexpected; the second is that we are social beings and that community is essential.  

‘I think some of the lessons relate to the way we organise and structure ourselves as a psychology society, and where we put our emphasis. I think we need to be thinking about what we have in common, rather than what differentiates us. We have over 154 networks, but the world is changing all the time, and we need to be thinking about having networks that are fit for today's environment, like cyberpsychology.’

McLaughlin pointed to the work that the BPS has been doing on the Society’s ‘member journey’. She has been thinking about how to build this to the next stage, and enable the Society, from a psychologist’s perspective. Inspired by the positive psychology research she has developed a psychological capability framework. ‘I think we can apply this because positive psychology emphasizes  hope, optimism, self-efficacy, actually engaging with people, and I think that really is the essence of what we need at the moment as a society.’ McLaughlin introduced her vision of the ‘seven pillars’ of how that might work in practice, including a need for a bold vision and clear sense of focus and outlining the Society’s culture and values, as well as the importance of CPD, diversity and inclusion, and volunteers. 

McLaughlin ended with quotes, including one from Grace Lee Boggs: ‘You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it’; and another from the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, ‘Life doesn't make any sense without interdependence. We need each other and the sooner we learn that the better for us all’. McLaughlin added ‘I genuinely feel that's the case.’ 

- We met Dr McLaughlin in both the June and summer editions.

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