Would the British Psychological Society (BPS) be improved by promoting a diversity of views?

By Dr John Barry

The past two days have seen some intense discussion on Twitter about the alleged obsession with social justice issues and left-leaning views in the BPS magazine, The Psychologist. I would like to add these thoughts to the discussion, based on answers I gave to a BPS survey a few weeks ago.

The survey asked: “… we would like to know what changes and additions you would prioritise and like to see in the BPS of the future. …Please give us your top 3 suggestions”.

These were my suggestions (edited a little for clarity):


1/ Promote a diversity of views on gender

Diversity is a good thing, but the BPS needs to think about how diverse it is in the gender ratio of members, especially among clinical psychologists, of whom around 80% are female.  At present men make up a minority of clients, and this might be in part related to preferring to talk about some issues (e.g. sex-related issues, or domestic violence) with a male therapist. But more important than the sex of the therapist, is the therapist’s outlook on gender issues. As a profession – men and women – we need to consider moving away from views such as the notion that patriarchy and traditional masculinity are a major cause of men’s mental health problems (for example, as shown in pages 124-8 of the long version of the PTMF ). Although these views about patriarchy etc might resonate with some male clients, I suspect they could alienate many others.


2/ Diversity of sociopolitical views

It is a fact that – generally speaking – psychologists lean to the left in terms of their sociopolitical views. To the degree that the general public know this – and I think many do – the BPS might consider the impact of this on the therapeutic alliance  and how likely clients with other views are likely to see a therapist if their views are likely to different strongly. I don’t offer a solution to this, except that the BPS might reflect on how this large trend to the left might be seen by the general public and potential therapy clients.


3/ ‘Hard to reach’ clients

We need more flexibility in thinking about how to reach ‘hard to reach’ clients, and the therapeutic approaches that are likely to work for them. My two previous points are relevant here.


About the author

Dr John A. Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Honorary Lecturer in Psychology at University College London, clinical hypnotherapist, and author of over 60 peer-reviewed publications on a variety of topics in psychology and medicine. John is a professional researcher and has taken an interest in improving the teaching of research methods and statistics. He has practiced clinical hypnosis for several years and is a member of the British Association of Clinical and Academic Hypnosis. His Ph.D. was awarded by City University London, on the topic of the Psychological Aspects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which is also the topic of his new book (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He is co-founder of both the Male Psychology Network and the Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society (BPS), lead organiser of the Male Psychology Conference, and co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Male Psychology and Mental Health (London: Palgrave Macmillan IBSN 978-3-030-04384-1   DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-04384-1).




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