What are the barriers to our profession, and how can we remove them?

The winners and runners up in our latest 'Voices In Psychology' programme.

That was the question for this year’s Voices in Psychology programme, which aims to identify and nurture new writing talent in Psychology. Here, we present the winning entries in full. Dotted throughout, we present brief extracts from runners up.

This is our third year of running the Voices in Psychology programme and we were, as ever, overwhelmed with the range of responses. Submissions covered everything from personal stories about barriers related to class, race, and gender, to more systemic-level commentaries on the purpose and function of our discipline. Taken together, they provide a fascinating insight into the various personal and professional barriers that can exist in the journey to and through psychology.

Importantly, each featured article also has a uniquely hopeful and positive tone to it, each providing useful suggestions to how we can come together to dismantle some of these pervasive barriers. The winning articles serve as a collective ‘call to arms’, each advocating in unique ways for values of inclusion, accessibility, and diversity of psychology. These ideas will crucially shape our agenda as we continue to reddress the barriers to our profession.

The next question is 'How can we flourish?' - deadline is 1 April, so get your skates on! Click here for more information.

Madeleine Pownall, Associate Editor, VIP
Dr Annie Brookman-Byrne, Deputy Editor

'I knew what it was like to interact with the world differently'

It was heart-breaking letters from the British Psychological Society that sparked my friendship with Helen, at a Deaf house party more than 20 years ago. We had just met, but while chatting realised that we were both psychology graduates and had both written to the BPS ask whether it would be possible for a deaf person to have a career in clinical psychology. The replies said we could not become clinicians because the ability to communicate was essential. The hurt on Helen’s face mirrored the sting that I had also felt on opening my BPS-logoed reply. Our rapport was kindled by knowing sighs. We didn’t have to explain, or edit ourselves. The moment was brief. It was a shrug passed between two people who knew what it is to live in a world designed for other people.

Unspoken in that moment, were our years of access struggles: the obstacles to taking part and accessing information that must be grappled with at every turn; the ignorant attitudes that must be carefully managed; the extra emotional energy spent convincing others that we were capable, or assuaging their discomfort around disability. We both understood the burden of what I call ‘access labour’ – days and hours spent persuading people of our right to take part, chasing funding for communication support, and all the additional admin that comes with living with a disability.

My psychology ambitions had hatched as a teenager while devouring Oliver Sacks’ written insights into the lives of people living with rare neurological conditions. I wanted to have conversations with those within the pages, who were living in a world that was not designed for their unusual brains. I wanted to know them, to understand them, to help them understand themselves, and to help them stoke enough fortitude to navigate the relentless barriers in society. I knew what it felt like to interact with the world differently, and to need greater stocks of resilience and determination, because every day is strewn with obstacles and prejudice.

Eventually, through sheer single-mindedness, I did become a clinical psychologist. The BPS’s response had come from a place of assumption and ignorance, which was common at that time. Of course deaf people can communicate. Deaf folk are often talented communicators, and as Bruno Kahn’s writing on this subject shows, we have much to teach those who can hear. I work in tandem with a BSL interpreter. It’s a mindful, conscious process and together we are more than the sum of our parts. Clients sometimes tell me that there is greater healing power in feeling heard, by not just one, but two people. It is a different way of working, that brings extra tools to the box, and can add to, rather than diminish, the therapeutic process.

Barriers to our profession are rooted in broader structural inequality. The BPS has a role in dismantling societal injustices, for example, the crisis in accessible education for children with disabilities. Obtaining a statement of educational needs is an uphill battle for many families and this needs to change. Provision is often woefully inadequate – tokenistic and poorly resourced, leading to underachievement. This is coupled with shockingly low expectations and a lack of visible disabled role-models. Children with disabilities may never see psychology as a potential career.

At university, a disabled student has to expend more energy just to level-peg. They may not be left with the time or mental resources needed for the ‘CV enhancing’ extra-curriculars that are deemed essential to get to the next rung on the psychology ladder. Disability support is not available for voluntary work or internships anyway – these opportunities are closed off.

Access to training is just the first hurdle. There are also hidden barriers to career progression, such as using time as a benchmark of competency. There is not only pressure to succeed, but to do so within a certain timeframe, and not enough recognition that some people may take longer because of barriers, not ability. The call for submissions to this very programme stated, ‘…we are mostly interested in identifying high potential amongst those starting their journey in psychology’. But showcasing your early career potential is probably a privilege not available to psychologists with disabilities, who need stamina to overcome prejudice and persuade people that they are employable.

So, what are the solutions? Simply, ask people what can be done to foster their inclusion. Find out. Ask questions. Have conversations. Be brave and step outside your comfort zone. Make it easier for people to self-disclose. Be curious about the impact on accessibility of the Covid-related shake up in working practices. The shift to Zoom meetings might be one person’s logistical nightmare but another’s revelation! Scrutinise professional competency frameworks for any criteria that may be indirectly discriminatory. Disabled people may have fewer choices so make sure that they are not penalised by part-time working, or less mobility between jobs, fields, or grades – when you find an accommodating workplace you tend to stay put. Recognise that disabled colleagues may not be able to travel for conferences or meetings. Ensure events are not arranged at short notice, as many need to plan their access in advance. Allocate accessibility budgets and seek out access requests. Make this the default rather than an afterthought.

My friend Helen never became a psychologist, to the detriment of our profession, our diversity and the Deaf community who need more therapists who can sign. Her experience begs questions: How many deaf or disabled pioneers were lost to our discipline? How many aspirations were short-circuited? The seismic forces of Covid and Black Lives Matter have shown how the world can turn quickly upon its heel. The disruption, although yet to settle, shows that change is possible. Members who have sat under the radar, perhaps waiting for this moment may, at last, feel able to bring their experiences to the table. Such voices should be encouraged so that we can work together to make our profession more inclusive.

- Dr Joanna Atkinson, clinical psychologist in community neurorehabilitation, UCL

Strength in diversity
I googled famous psychologists in the UK and looked at the pictures. Overwhelmingly, the depiction was of white women and men. I enjoyed reading so much about Bandura, Milgram, Tajfel, Skinner, Freud and many, many more. But many of you will be unaware of the Black psychologists that inspire me – Inez Beverly Prosser, Herman George Canady and Rosie Philips Bingham. During my A-levels, researching in the privacy of my room, I found a plethora of Black psychologists. But their research had been continuously aligned with Africa and African-American studies.

The lack of diversity is in part due to the attainment gap between students from ethnic minority groups and white students. The 2015 Higher Education Academy framework series investigated BME attainment at two universities with a vast BME population. It highlighted the need for a holistic approach, emphasising inclusive technologies and practice, as well as embedding a sense of belonging within the environment. Many people may feel too uncomfortable to have these conversations, slowing the process of identifying issues surrounding lack of diversity and promoting positive change.

There is strength in diversity. There is strength in numbers. Psychologists who are not recognised need to have their voices heard and more importantly, to be seen. Let us unite and remove barriers that limit change.

- Sarah Idowu, Welfare Officer in a girl’s secondary school and aspiring Educational Psychologist

Cracking the Psychenglish Enigma
Psychology shares a deep connection with language. It starts with etymology – that logos (‘word’, ‘discourse’) in its name, which allows us to distinguish it from psychiatry – and goes all the way down to the use of talking therapies, which again sets it apart from its medical cousin. And yet, during the seven years I have lived in this country, I have been under the constant impression that language currently represents one of the biggest barriers to the profession. In a way, I am no longer surprised that language, which plays such a pivotal role in the field, also shapes access to it.

However, when I first moved to the UK to start my PhD, it was a bit of a shock. Being fairly fluent in English and having already spent five years studying and working in psychology in Italy, I believed I could navigate the field with confidence. It only took me a few days to realise how wrong I was – specifically, when I first met the DClinPsy trainees. Based in the Medical School, I often had the opportunity to meet and chat with various cohorts of trainees in the corridors or communal kitchen. While the small talk didn’t present a problem, things changed dramatically as soon as the topic shifted to psychology: one moment I was there – excited to share opinions on brain injury, PTSD, or cognitive assessments – and the next I was holding my breath while floating in a verbal sea of ‘clients’, ‘formulations’, ‘self-reflections’, or ‘interventions’.

I had no idea what they were talking about. To my Italian psychologist ear, an ‘intervention’ was a surgical operation (intervento chirurgico), while a client was always called a ‘patient’ (paziente). Following those brief conversations, I wondered if my whole life was a lie and whether I had to curse my school English teacher. In time, however, it became clear that this only happened when I spoke with trainees: I had no issues talking with physicians or nurses, so why was I unable to speak with them?

Eventually, I realised that psychology in the UK doesn’t speak English. It speaks Psychenglish. Everything in it, from the lexicon to the syntax and the semantics, seems to be built around a specific set of rules shared within the profession. You have to sound scientific, but not too medical. Empathic, but not too emotional. And if you want to access the profession, you must abide.

During my PhD, that didn’t represent a major issue for me. Academia – more international and diverse than many clinical fields – almost acted like a filter for the language barrier. However, Psychenglish became a much bigger problem when, after graduating and working as a researcher for a while, I decided to apply for clinical training. It felt like those chats with the trainees: there I was, staring puzzled at the Clearing House application form, feeling as if I was in Bletchley Park and had to crack Enigma – the encryption machine adopted by the Germans during WWII. One wrong word, one misinterpreted sentence could have meant seeing my application getting blitzkrieged. I had no alternative: I needed help from a trainee or clinical psychologist – I needed a codebreaker, a Psychenglish interpreter.

Luckily, by that time I had the opportunity to turn to my former PhD supervisor (a brilliant clinical academic), as well as a number of great practitioners I had met during research. It is thanks to their advice, following multiple reviews and rehearsals of the correct attitudes and terminology to use in my application, that I eventually managed crack the code and get on a DClinPsy course. The experience eventually left me with a bitter question: was all that necessary? Why were applicants expected to speak like a psychologist before starting training?

I am writing these words on the last week of Year 1 of my DClinPsy. I believe I am finally beginning to understand. While I initially thought Psychenglish was an issue specifically related to me and the way I had been taught in Italy, the recent drive towards increasing diversity in the profession – including the generous mobilisation of over a hundred trainees and practitioners to review the applications of people from marginalised backgrounds – has revealed the systemic game of intersectionality.

If you are British, white, middle class, with no disability, you probably had the chance to pick up Psychenglish as you grew up, through your studies or work. Maybe you even had a psychologist in your family. But if you are BAME, LGBTQ+, working class, or disabled, then that language was unlikely part of your environment in your early years. And, by the time you tried to access the profession, Psychenglish was probably already an Enigma.

Reflecting on this has made me realise that I am privileged too. While I may not be British, I am white, middle class, with no disability – and I had the chance to obtain a PhD before applying. Most people from marginalised backgrounds don’t have that type of advantage. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know Psychenglish is here to stay. After all, that is the language of the profession. However, it’s the use of Psychenglish as a barrier – the Enigma machine during the application process – that we have target and dismantle.

Ultimately, if we continue to select candidates based on how well they can speak like psychologists before even starting their training journey, with no active effort to see the potential behind the language of people who had fewer opportunities, then we will continue to systemically prevent psychology from becoming the diverse and inclusive profession it should be.

- Dr Nicolò Zarotti, trainee clinical psychologist, University of East Anglia

Working around obstacles
I grew up as dyslexic in an era when dyslexia was not widely recognised. My experiences of early and middle education, my supportive parents, my love of being around children and my attitude of dyslexia as an obstacle that could be overcome, drove me towards a pathway to support and enable others. This pathway has been long. But today I am working in education and psychology. I understand my ‘obstacle’ and how to work with and around it.

We need diversity in the field to truly help each other, and the impact of being present and empathetic should not be overlooked in achieving this. While psychology teaches and encourages unconditional positive regard, perhaps it has forgotten to practise it towards potential aspirants to the field. Choosing to think about and discuss obstacles (that can be overcome) rather than barriers (that stop us), can give us hope and energy to move towards a fulfilled future.

- Amanda Owles, CEO of Pro-Tem Centre for Special Needs

Shaping our world
To engage people with our field we need to stress the enormity of our profession. During the second year of my undergraduate degree I almost left because I didn’t understand the complexity of psychology. The tide changed for me when I took a social psychology module and started to see the connections between psychology and everything else in the world.

Those in my cohort went on to be policy researchers, administrators, civil servants, marketing professionals, international aid workers, teachers, social workers, or, like me, researchers. Ensuring students understand the careers available to them before they apply will improve the diversity of our field in the future. We need to ensure we are not just attracting people to psychology as a clinical profession, but as a tool to better understand ourselves and the world we live in.

So, when I tell someone I’m a psychologist, I take a deep breath. Then, I tell them about how environmental psychologists shape the way we travel; how discursive psychologists can read conversations like books to draw out deeper meaning; how cognitive psychologists use statistical models to understand memory; how moral psychologists question how we know right from wrong; how organisational psychologists reshape workplaces; how social psychologists shape pandemic responses through norm signalling. Psychology is about shaping our world.

- Annayah M.B. Prosser, PhD Psychology student, University of Bath

Opening up work-based experience
Practical experience is often a pre-requisite for study beyond an undergraduate degree or paid work. Of the 478 BPS accredited undergraduate courses, 13 are available through online distance learning. But unlike many campus-based degrees, there are no placement opportunities. Those turning to distance learning may already be experiencing income or responsibility related barriers to accessing the profession, and no access to practical experience presents another barrier. This could mark the end of their first-choice career aspirations.

I propose that distance learning universities and the BPS could work together and utilise their extensive networks to offer a proportion of accredited distance learning undergraduate courses with a placement option. A certain amount of innovation would be necessary but lessons can be learnt from other institutions, such as the University of East Anglia’s online MA in crime fiction which includes residential experiences on campus. Universities are already working hard to ensure high quality online courses due to the pandemic, so now is the perfect time to consider the exclusively online learners and ensure that all psychology students have an equal chance at a psychology career.

Not all distant learners will want, or be in a position, to take up a placement but, the profession stands to access talent that might otherwise have been lost. When work-based experience is vital, all students should be empowered to succeed.

- Karina Webb, undergraduate student in forensic psychology at the Open University

Socio-politics on the radar
Somewhere along my journey into psychology, I inherited the view that to work and succeed in the profession you cannot be a socio-political activist. Pursuing a psychology career would therefore require denying myself involvement in activism. If my views and actions were less visible, then maybe I would do better in my career. I remained relatively silent about socio-political issues, and felt like my views were being sanitised. My involvement in campaigning dissolved. Feeling uncertain about the professional boundaries and being scared into doing nothing created a barrier that initially stopped me from engaging with the profession.

I adopt the term socio-political activist in this article to encompass social justice and politics, reaching beyond the level of government to the way power plays a part in all of our lives. I emphasise the activist part as this is perhaps what clashes most with being a psychologist. Being an activist goes beyond advocating to practicing and overtly campaigning. This can feel like a roadblock for those considering entering the profession.

Psychology tells us a lot about the social determinants of mental health and how social issues combine with powerful institutions to produce disadvantage. The theme of social justice and psychologists’ involvement in social issues has gained momentum in recent years (see Rahim & Cooke’s 2019 book chapter ‘Should psychologists be political?’ for an excellent overview). Psychology cannot be completely separated from socio-political issues. After all, lots of us work in the NHS which is heavily influenced by politics, and institutional issues in NHS services contribute to marginalisation. While many psychologists may feel confident advocating for social justice, working to advance the social justice agenda through activism is more of a grey area. There are many levels of influence psychologists can have, such as through knowledge and research, but what about the practicing activist?

Working in the profession comes with expectations and responsibilities, guided by core ethics. The BPS Code of Ethics and Conduct highlights the importance of maintaining professional and personal boundaries, providing accurate and unbiased views and avoiding conflicts of interest. There’s a risk that participating in socio-political activism could be seen as unprofessional and destructive, and some may view it as contentious given the positions of relative power psychologists can hold. There’s valid concern that involvement in activism could damage the objective and neutral stance that is valued by the profession.

I think psychologists are right to be concerned about the potential perils of openly participating in socio-political activism. It is difficult to provide reassurance when there is limited teaching and guidance around managing what could feel like conflicting identities. By continuing to leave these issues out of teaching and guidance, without agreeing upon how psychologists can be activists we only perpetuate these very real concerns and maintain barriers to the profession.

By teaching individualistic therapy models at all levels of the profession, socio-political ideas are easily seen as irrelevant. Individual models often don’t make room for more systemic ways of thinking and those who wish to consider going beyond individual approaches must proactively seek out further training. If formal psychology teaching included greater emphasis on social and political contexts, culture and history, then socio-politics could be seen as relevant and on the radar. Psychologists may in turn become more accustomed to taking a position on these issues.

A vital step in removing this barrier is the sharing of stories by those who have made the move to openly engage in activism. My writing of this article coincided with the August 2020 issue of Clinical Psychology Forum – a special edition focusing on the climate and environmental crisis, containing beautifully illustrated and honest examples of psychologists engaging in activism. Practicing psychologists who own and are open about their active involvement in socio-political issues give us reassurance that it is possible. Without being able to reflect on positive examples like the work of Community Psychology, Psychologists for Social Change and XR Psychologists, I would not be writing this article. We might not feel part of activism or we might think that someone else could do it better, but these stories demonstrated the contrary.

The BPS Practice Guidelines emphasise that psychologists should recognise their duty to actively promote equality and challenge conditions that contribute to trauma and distress. The recognition and obligation to engage with socio-political issues needs to be backed up with guidelines for how psychologists manage their professional identity while advancing the socio-political agenda. My own anxieties around openly advocating for socio-political justice and working out if I could balance an activist-psychologist identity led me to see the lack of guidance as a barrier to the profession. For those who make that personal choice, guidance could outline where psychologists stand in relation to being involved in activism.

Guidelines would tackle balancing the challenging and conflicting nature of this work, addressing the concerns and reservations psychologists may hold. This could be achieved by drawing on the experience of those in the profession who have managed this identity, acknowledging discomfort and considering structures and pressures from organisations that psychologists are part of. Taking steps to engage at the activism level of socio-politics may feel clumsy and imperfect at first. As more psychologists openly discuss and support social justice issues, taking a position on how psychologists channel their support through activism is a vital next step.

- Charlotte Leedale, Assistant Psychologist, Newcastle

We bring understanding
As an educational psychologist, I have been asked countless times to ‘check if a child has autism’. As a society we have become aligned to the medical model, wanting labels and quick fixes. Yes, we have guidelines. Yes, there are traits we look for. And yes, the label can be extremely helpful for some individuals. But, when our views need to be triangulated with those of other professionals before a diagnosis is received, not to mention the waiting lists, a diagnosis can be years away.

Despite the poor perceived credibility of psychology, and what I believe is the biggest barrier to our profession – that nobody knows what we do – our value is in the understanding that we bring to children and their families. We don’t need to provide a diagnosis to help our service users. We contextualise their difficulties, underpinned by theory, and offer them support to develop strategies and coping techniques. Individual psychologists will always vary in their approach, but perhaps the variability is where the strength of our profession lies.

So, next time someone asks you what your job is, proudly say that you are a psychologist – someone who doesn’t have a chaise longue, but who does have knowledge, skills and the expertise to critically analyse an individual’s presentation.

- Dr Kavita Solder, Educational Psychologist, Torbay

Finding similarities
Working on my Master’s thesis, I was looking for differences in behaviour between heterosexuals and homosexuals, and among homosexuals between females and males, and among male homosexuals between tops and bottoms. I was thrilled to have found significant differences in behaviour, but something wasn’t clicking… What about similarities? I had focused on differences, like lots of quantitative psychological research.

A major barrier, I suggest, is this emphasis on differences over similarities. By differentiating between in-groups and out-groups, we risk further breaking us apart. We have a responsibility to promote commonalities in society.

Perhaps my point of view is rooted in the Eastern culture of collectivism where I grew up… But wait, in a 2019 paper titled ‘A new way to look at the data: Similarities between groups of people are large and important’, Hanel, Maio and Manstead found more similarities than differences between East and West on the so-called collectivism-individualism dichotomy. More studies of this kind are welcome – we might be surprised by how similar we are.

For this Voices in Psychology programme we were asked to write to make a difference. Well, my answer is, let’s not make a difference… Let’s make similarities!

- Will Sham, psychological wellbeing practitioner, Hong Kong

Struggling in a rigged system
I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME and as a consequence I reluctantly had to give up on my dream of becoming a GP, after eight years as a qualified medical doctor. More specifically, the lack of adaptability in the medical system to accommodate the consequences of this illness led to this unfortunate outcome. I have decided to pursue a career in Psychology, a profession that I hope is more closely aligned with my interests and goals – providing a more holistic approach to helping people.

However, I’m discovering that the route to becoming a Chartered Psychologist appears littered with many of the familiar barriers that I experienced as a GP Speciality Trainee. I found Medicine, ironically perhaps, a rather hostile environment for a doctor with a disability and I am disheartened to discover, so is Psychology. The competitive application process for limited places on geographically dispersed doctorates means that trainees often have to move across the country to increase their chances of gaining a place.

This is disrupting for anyone, but with a disability it may be impossible due to local vital support services. Even with a course place, the structure is often rigid, with a pervasive cultural ‘go hard or go home’ attitude which, again, isn’t appropriate for anyone, but particularly for those with disability, whose daily existence is hard enough. I was encouraged by the possibility of flexible qualification routes. But my heart fell as I realised these routes involve the disabled person spending more of their already limited time and energy sorting out their own training – a common pitfall of adjustments. Those able to pursue more conventional routes have arrangements made for them.

There is also the financial barrier – particularly surprising to me as Postgraduate Training in Medicine is NHS-funded as standard. Since only Clinical Psychology currently benefits from funding, these courses are over-subscribed, and other routes incur huge financial costs and potential debt. While I completed a Conversion course, all my fellow students had a part-time job. This option isn’t available to those who have to put all their energy into their course and rest when they get home. I had to rely on the financial support of my spouse, but not all people with disabilities have access to such support.

Experiencing disability has made me doubt myself. The world is generally set up to imply that I’m not good enough, as I’m unable to do many of the things that I took for granted when well. Even with a chronic illness with no obvious outward sign that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with me, I feel the stigma and the shame. When taking the plunge into a new profession it’s harder to overcome the fear of trying something new. I have the added worry of how my health condition will affect my chances of success. I have to steel myself, not only for the challenges that are an inevitable part of learning and growing, but the additional systemic obstacles. Life is difficult enough with a disability. I’m all for hard work and effort, but I don’t agree with arbitrary standards and systems that are set up to exacerbate and enforce societal discrimination.

I don’t want to apologise for my health condition, especially when my lived experience actually made me a better, more empathic and understanding doctor. Similarly, in Psychology, our strengths stem from our humanity, not proving ourselves by jumping through unnecessary hoops. With qualification so arduous and expensive it takes on inflated significance, perceived as a ‘right of passage’, essential for conferring an elevated position relative to others. The system ends up selecting those who can survive, ensuring that the profession is left with those who best conform to the system – not necessarily the best people for the role. This is compounded by the system often being designed by those who have successfully passed through it, who have endured but overcome the various hardships. These people are personally invested in validating their experience by assuring themselves it held value, perpetuating the cycle. It’s only since stepping away from being a doctor that I can see the limitations of the medical system more clearly. The people who fall by the wayside don’t get to have their say.

Struggling in a rigged system is not a failure – it’s an inevitable consequence of trying to live in a world that wasn’t designed for everyone to thrive. The stereotypical view of disability represented by a person in a wheelchair tends to lead to adaptations focused on the physical – but disability comes in many forms. Our systems, as well as the physical environment, need to be re-designed. If disabled people are disadvantaged in the Psychology profession, their diverse voices aren’t going to be able to instigate the changes that will make a real difference. The solution lies in building a system that is suitable and flexible for all. Changes and adaptations that make the profession accessible for the disabled and disadvantaged will have the power to change the system for the benefit of all. The system should support and adapt to people, instead of the other way around. Ultimately, with a supportive and adaptive system, we will gain the wisdom of psychologists who reflect the populations that they serve.

- Fiona Gilton, recent MSc graduate who hopes to become a health psychologist

Ending ableism
As an aspiring clinical psychologist with a disability, one of the barriers that I have faced accessing the profession is ableism – discrimination in favour of non-disabled people. For years, those of us with disabilities have asked for reasonable adjustments such as working from home, but we were told it wasn’t possible. Overnight in March 2020, this was granted to everyone. These adjustments were only made because non-disabled people were affected. This is what ableism looks like.

Less than half of courses have signed up to the Disability Confident scheme. The scheme is set up to improve employment prospects for those with disabilities, and I believe that all courses should use this scheme as we are employed by the NHS, which is a Disability Confident organisation.

Some universities for the clinical psychology doctorate are starting to look at utilising contextual information as part of their shortlisting process. This is a great step forward to diversifying the profession; however, I worry this might cause further discrimination due to unconscious bias.

I call on the BPS to commission research into the experiences of aspiring, trainee, and qualified psychologists to understand and identify the different experiences of disabled and non-disabled psychologists. This will help us understand the extent of ableism in the profession and work towards addressing bias and discrimination.

- Angharad Jones, working in primary care mental health in the NHS

Reviewing peer review
Publication is considered a necessity for proving oneself as a respected or reputable academic psychologist, yet the current system looks to scupper attempts to publish at every opportunity. It is often viewed as a necessary evil. But there is no need for it to take on the ‘evil’ mantle and it is time that it was reviewed.  

The peer review process is so soul-destroying that only the hardiest of psychologists or trainees will emerge successful and intact. Repeated rejection inevitably leads to self-doubt. Surely an apparently caring profession can develop a more appropriate as well as efficient way to filter quality. Establishing a more trusting quality appraisal process would reduce the workload for reviewers, provide authors with clearer boundaries and speed up the publication process. Clarity would be particularly helpful for student authors and those starting out in the profession.

Perhaps online journals could have ratings of papers to indicate a wider peer review than the usual two or three reviewers. Academics would be trusted to research with integrity, to share findings with honesty, and to respect the work of others. We are failing to support those who strive to enter the profession in accessing this knowledge and sharing work with their peers. I believe we can and should do better.

- Elanor Cormack, trainee sport and exercise psychologist, Glasgow Caledonian University 

Illustration: Nick Ellwood

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