Academic and Applied NOT Academic or Applied Psychology

1st June, 2018

There are many definitions of Psychology but all place theory as central to psychological research and professional practice. The relationship between these two ways in which professional psychologists work is clearly an important one but its reciprocity is not always emphasised as much as you’d expect and as a practitioner psychologist who also engaged in PhD research for over a decade I find this disappointing.

I have been an active member of the British Psychological Society throughout my career as a Practitioner Psychologist. I’ve been on the Committee of The Division of Educational and Child Psychology, serving a term as Chair and also contributed to various other aspects such as government consultations, the Media and Ethics interdisciplinary group and the Professional Practice Board. The reason I’m writing about this is to make it clear that much as I value my learned society, see it as an important source of information and a support for my professional identity I am aware of the schism that exists between practitioners like myself and the academics rather than the reciprocal and mutually beneficial professional regard, value and respect that I wish was more evident.  If you look at the publication rate, awards and sheer volume of voice to say nothing of the representation of applied and academic psychologists within the Society’s structures my point is more than made.

So what is the so what of this piece? It’s this: The work of applied psychologists needs to be given more of a platform, their voices should be more evident to the public and within the various professional bodies that exist at all levels, not just within committees and groups but also in leadership positions. And whilst I am having my say it is not good enough to count those university staff who occupy teaching positions within the various training courses to be considered as representative of ‘on the ground’ practitioners like myself.

I’m sure I’m not alone as a Practitioner Psychologist, in saying I spend a lot of time attending continuing professional development events, read research daily and have carried out individual case-based research, i.e. assessments for many years.  Theory is central to this and all of these activities are academic.  As it happens, I have recently ceased to offer assessment services. There are a host of reasons for my decision but one is that I have this urge to use my learning to have my say and to communicate more effectively to a wider audience. There we are then; I’ve had my say and in order to communicate more clearly on this occasion I haven’t included one academic reference even though countless theoretical ideas inform this piece. That, my learned friends and colleagues would say, weakens or even invalidates my argument. I obviously think differently.

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