Saturday, August 19, 2017

The British Psychological Society and the UK Association of Clinical Psychologists

I’ve recently become a grandfather for the second time. Sophia has joined my family. And my family is better and stronger and happier for her arrival.

Over recent months, UK clinical psychologists have come to the conclusion that the time has come – in order better to promote the principles they value, the best interests of the NHS, their clients and their profession – to establish a new professional body, the ‘Association of Clinical Psychologists’. In my view, this is a positive move. There are many reasons to hope that such a new organisation will l be successful. And I strongly believe that the British Psychological Society should actively work with this new group; actively negotiating a division of responsibilities and discussing robust mechanisms of joint working.

My position, outlined in writing and presented at an Extraordinary General Meeting of the Division of Clinical Psychology in York on 5th June, is that there was a powerful argument for the establishment of a new body. I argued that the BPS as it is currently constituted is too big and disparate to be cohesive and effective, and clinical psychology needs either very radical, very rapid reform of the Society (which now seems highly unlikely) or its own organisation. I likened this to the birth of a granddaughter; a new and welcome member of a family, rather than a rival or alternative. I suggested that the birth of a new professional body for clinical psychologists, working with, but independent of, the existing BPS, was rather like the relationship between the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Physicians (or indeed the British Medical Association). I pointed out that, if the activities demanded by the clinical psychologists was indeed the remit of the British Psychological Society, then we should simply get on with business, but that has proved difficult for many years, and I am sadly not optimistic. Alternatively, if these activities (as we have repeatedly been told) lie outside (‘ultra vires’) the Society’s responsibilities, then both parties should logically be happy for a new organisation to take on these duties.

Now that a decision to establish a new organization for clinical psychologists has been taken, I repeat my position that I think the BPS should work with it, even actively negotiate a division of responsibilities. Unfortunately, my colleagues on the British Psychological Society Board of Trustees disagreed. Their collective position was that the Society needed to press forwards with one message; that the Society (and only the Society) was the natural home for psychology and psychologists. This ‘one Society’ message was, and is, in significant contrast to my message of ‘we need to discuss respective areas of responsibility’. Hence, my position as a Trustee became untenable.

My position has really not changed. I am more than proud of the work I have done with and for the Society over the years. We have had major successes, and I think we have worked hard and effectively to take forwards the promotion of the effectiveness and utility of the science and practice of psychology and psychologists, pure and applied.

I remain proud to remain a Member of the British Psychological Society, and I am confident that we will continue to be successful in promoting the Society’s charitable objects. I do now, however, think that the time has come for a new, more dynamic, professional body for clinical psychologists. I very strongly hope – and believe – that the existing BPS and any new body will rapidly learn to work together on issues of mutual interest and learn to divide up areas of responsibility rather than compete fruitlessly. I shall work actively to that end… just not as a Trustee of the British Psychological Society.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Seeing yourself as (while) others see you....

It’s always slightly odd to hear yourself on an audio recording; your voice doesn’t sound quite as you expect. Watching yourself on video is even worse. Last Wednesday, I had the even more distinctly odd experience of watching a professional actor portray me on stage, voicing my own words.

I was at a performance of “The Invisible Condition” by the Last Word Theatre at the Bread and Roses theatre in Camden. It’s a documentary theatre piece about the conditions in NHS mental health care and the obstacles facing those of us with mental health problems and seeking help. The script – by the director, Stephen Bailey – is derived verbatim from interviews with service users, professionals, researchers and journalists. And in that capacity, both I and Professor Sir Simon Wessely, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists were interviewed. And therefore appeared on stage.

It’s a very odd experience to hear yourself on radio or to see yourself on TV. It’s weirder still to witness your words voiced on stage. And, for me, very strange indeed to hear and see myself speaking and acting in the person of a flame-haired female actor.

Lookalikes (apologies to Private Eye)

Anna Demetriou; Actor          Peter Kinderman; Professor

In my judgment, the play is excellent. Not, perhaps, easy viewing, and certainly not a light-hearted evening’s comedy. The play features relatively little of my tedious dialogue, as it relies primarily on the testimony of people who have struggled to access mental health services and have struggled to reconcile the services on offer with their needs. It also uses the experiences of mental health nurses; caught in the middle of professionals with contrasting views, people in dire need of help, inadequate services and increasing demands.

Stephen Bailey, the director, has woven together a number of different voices, recorded separately, to give a narrative which – in my opinion – tells a powerful story about confusion and political neglect. It speaks to the dilemmas that many of us struggle with every day; the issues of access to services, our reliance on diagnosis and on medication (and the inadequacies of these approaches), the effects of seeing our struggles with our mental health as merely the symptoms of illness and the consequent reliance on ‘treatment’, and on the impact of the living out of these controversies on the day-to-day work of mental health staff, principally nurses. I was impressed as to how the different voices (mine, which I recognised, and Simon’s, which I could also clearly hear) were re-structured to tell a convincing and, in my opinion, true story.

There’s an obligation on artists; script-writers and directors, on journalists and film-makers. The un-edited streams of consciousness of those millions of us involved in mental health care, from all perspectives, cannot tell much except chaos without editing. And that process of editing can tell falsehoods or truths. Even verbatim theatre (where the material is the words of the contributors, as originally spoken) relies on editing, as material is selected and organised in sequence to tell a story. We, the audience, rely on the artists to tell an honest story through that process.  

I would encourage colleagues and friends to go and catch “The Invisible Condition”. It’s in matinee at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre ( from 9th August.

In all truth, I was able to anticipate the ending. But I still ended up in tears. And, given the context of my involvement in the show, that was remarkable.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Letter endorsing the recent UN Special Rapporteur's report on Mental Health

As Akiko Hart recently posted on Facebook, Mental Health Europe and the British Psychological Society are looking for signatories to a letter endorsing the recent and ground breaking United Nations Special Rapporteur's report on mental health - to raise awareness of it among the media, policy makers and the mental health sector.

The report calls for a shift away from isolating mental health services which are coercive and inappropriately medicalised to ones that are recovery and community-based & promote social inclusion.

You can find the report here:
You can find our letter here:

Some quotes from the report:
-"The history of psychiatry and mental health care is marked by egregious rights violations"
- "We have been sold a myth that the best solutions for addressing mental health challenges are medications and other biomedical interventions".
- "Conventional wisdom based on a reductionist biomedical interpretation of complex mental health-related issues dominates mental health policies and services, even when not supported by research".
- "For decades now, an evidence base informed by experiential and scientific research has been accumulating in support of psychosocial, recovery-oriented services and support and non-coercive alternatives to existing services".

A number of organisations from the UK, Europe and beyond have signed. 
If you or your organisation would be interested in signing, please contact or email, and we’ll add your name.