Taking a stand on social issues (letter)

Cooke, A. (2016) Taking a stand on social issues (letter). Psychologist, 29. pp. 400-409. ISSN 0952-8229.

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Reading the June issue of The Psychologist was an unusually emotional experience. Some contributions confirmed powerfully for me just how much our discipline and profession have to offer society, and made me feel proud to be a psychologist. David Harper (‘Beyond individual therapy’), for example, demonstrated clearly just how much we know about the psychological effects of the events and circumstances of people’s lives, and argued persuasively for our duty to intervene at a social level and to ‘speak truth to power’ about the likely psychological impact of policies. Jamie Hacker Hughes’s practical suggestion that media training should form part of all applied postgraduate psychology programmes would be a great start.

Jamie has also said that the place he spent most time as BPS President was Westminster. That strikes me as fitting if our discipline is going to fulfil the mission we espouse on our website, namely to ‘apply psychology for the public good’. Similarly, I was hugely encouraged (as are many others, judging by social media) that our new President, Peter Kinderman, is committed to ensuring that psychology ‘does something useful’ and improves the wellbeing of citizens. Surely that is the ultimate point of all our endeavours, both academic and applied.

I was also heartened to see him promoting a truly psychological approach to human distress rather than, as some have done in the past, ‘jumping ship’ (Harper et al., 2007) to a medicalised understanding or to the somewhat strange notion of ‘abnormal psychology’. Surely the findings of psychology are the findings of psychology, however distressing our experiences. I was therefore somewhat surprised and disheartened to see him criticised for this, for mentioning politics and for (God forbid!) ‘taking an active approach to influencing social issues and policy’. Surely if we believe that psychology has useful insights (and why are we in this business if we don’t?), then we owe it to our fellow citizens to share that knowledge, to do what it says on our tin and ‘apply psychology for the public good’.

Anne Cooke
Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology
Canterbury Christ Church University

Harper, D., Cromby, J., Reavey, P. et al. (2007). Don’t jump ship! New approaches in teaching mental health to undergraduates. The Psychologist, 20, 302–304.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology > Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology
Depositing User: Anne Cooke
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2018 11:40
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2018 14:49
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/17036

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00