From the President, April 2021

The latest from Dr Hazel McLaughlin.

The ’cycles’ element of this month’s magazine is somewhat farsighted, as we all start to emerge from what has been one of the most challenging cycles in our lifetimes. As Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun, says: ‘Everything that ends is also the beginning of something else’.

We have experienced this pandemic in cycles, with individual ups and downs for people at different times. It is hard to remain resilient and focused. Yet psychology is a source of positivity with time to take stock, reflect and gain perspective. We recognise that there is validity in our emotional reactions and with the support of others, we can move on through to the next cycle.

Psychologists have shared best practice, and those directly involved with healthcare have come to the fore during the pandemic with their understanding of the link between psychology and physical health outcomes. Many applied psychologists have provided excellent support to frontline NHS workers and those who have been the most affected by the pandemic. Behavioural change has been important and social psychology has provided insights into our responses.

As we move through the next cycle of the pandemic, the wellbeing and mental health of the nation will be of paramount importance. Psychologists have a critical role in this arena. The BPS is liaising with policy makers and the government across the four nations to highlight the science and the evidence that can inform decision-making.

Furthermore, we are working internationally through the Global Psychology Alliance and with our European colleagues in EFPA to bring rigour and science from psychology to challenges post-pandemic. This will include sustainability, a focus on climate change and the challenges as the nation returns to workplaces. On this latter topic, occupational psychologists can make a significant contribution as organisations and employees adapt to the next cycle in this pandemic.

With international colleagues on the Global Alliance, I recently was encouraged by the presentation from Guy Kawasaki, the Chief Evangelist at the Apple Corporation. His focus was on how to energise others during change and transition. He highlighted the importance of Champions of Change who can clearly articulate the story and enable others to have a clear direction in which to move forward.

His context for change was in business, looking at products and services, but the core principles can be applied for us in psychology. Some of his core tips that were on target for me: plant many seeds as you do not know which ones will be the key; localise your efforts; we need to focus on what matters. Tell stories and gain commitment to your ideas, trust your judgement, and let others test drive the solutions. Provide a safe first step for people and ignore titles and pedigrees. Invert the pyramid, listen to people, and build a collective response. Together, we can make a difference. So, what will happen in our next cycle is yet to be decided, but we can shape the outcomes.

To quote Albert Einstein, ‘Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving’. This makes me think about the core values and purpose for psychology and about the direction, the BPS vision, and the importance of doing what really matters not only for psychology and psychologists, but for our local communities and for the nation.

- Dr Hazel McLaughlin is President of the British Psychological Society. Contact her at [email protected] 

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