(Linked to blog post dated August 28th 2020 in Critical Therapy Watch)
Why I no longer wish to be associated with the BPS
by Dr Kirsty Miller
In recent years I’ve become increasingly aware of the politicisation of the BPS, a shift that I feel is inappropriate for what is ultimately a governing body. When an organisation releases value statements (for example, after the recent BLM furore), it is speaking on behalf of members, and telling us what we should believe. There is no acknowledgement that some members do not subscribe to similar world-views, and it is certainly inconsistent with the BPS’s own statements regarding diversity within the organisation.
A further issue is it that the majority, if not all, of these statements are promoting a social justice agenda: an ideology that is ill-defined, subjective, and often far removed from reason or evidence . The concepts tend to be based on the notion that the way to address the historical suffering of certain groups is to give them preferential treatment in the here and now. This is presented as ‘justice’, however many would disagree that there is anything just or fair about giving preferential treatment to some and punishing others on the basis of immutable characteristics.
However, one of the biggest problems with the BPS subscribing to social justice principles, is that to do so, one largely has to abandon science and facts. This is a particular issue as the BPS is still trying to claim that psychology is in fact, a science. Furthermore, if we were to behave like scientists (i.e. using evidence to support our beliefs, and self-correcting in the face of conflicting evidence), we should have abandoned many of psychology’s pet outputs (such as microaggressions, implicit bias, inaccuracy of stereotypes, the notion that disparity equals discrimination etc.) a long time ago. However, despite evidence challenging these (and similar) notions, they are still presented uncritically and promoted by members, as well as the organisation as a whole.
Finally, and perhaps most concerningly, following a social justice agenda prevents us from achieving the goals that as psychologists, we should be striving towards. First, it actually promotes mental illness – encouraging individuals to look for, and hold on to slights, read in to others’ intentions, and assume the worst from others’ behaviour (all patterns of thinking that CBT practitioners warn against). Second, it prevents education, with professors (particularly those who are categorised as white and/or male) being increasingly unable to respond to, contradict, or ultimately educate those from other demographic groups.
Finally, the teachings create damaging divisions between groups. As a student, I began a ‘minorities and majorities class’ treating all human beings equally regardless of their demographics, and left it feeling obliged to avoid all interactions with minority groups lest I offend someone – one of the many known problems associated with such programs.
Should the BPS re-evaluate their values and decide to do their job of governing the organisation from an impartial and scientific standpoint, I would gladly pay my membership fees and re-join. Until then, I fear I shall continue to watch the downfall of our discipline – one that is due in large part to the complicity of those who were tasked with protecting it.
Yours faithfully, Dr. Kirsty Miller