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Would the British Psychological Society Be Improved by Promoting Diversity of Views?

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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 the 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 three suggestions.’

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

Promote 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 (sex-related issues or domestic violence, for instance) 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 Power Threat Meaning Framework). Although these views about patriarchy (and other issues) might resonate with some male clients, I suspect they could alienate many others.

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 knows 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 differ 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.

‘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.


An earlier version of this article was published originally in Male Psychology Network.

Dr John Barry is a Chartered Psychologist and co-founder of the Male Psychology Network and Male Psychology Section of the British Psychological Society. 

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