Practising what you preach

A note on pausing







We have been overwhelmed and delighted by the positive response to us sharing our vision around the Centre for Psychology at Work. Since launching peer inquiries in January we have connected with so many wonderful and passionate individuals. We are truly grateful for your support.

The past year has been so challenging for each and every one of us and we recognise that there is an appetite for the centre, particularly in the midst of all of this chaos. As a group we have struggled to find time to connect with one another – we all have jobs, families and many other responsibilities that we are juggling and we have reflected that this has taken its toll.

You may have seen that Beth posted an amazing piece about ‘pausing’, and Ingrid will soon be sharing a fantastic blog on kindness. In the spirit of these core values and practising authenticity we have decided as a centre to pause and show some kindness to ourselves. We are going to reflect and reconnect with our purpose, to ensure that when we formally launch in the future, we do so with renewed vigour, passion and fun which brought us together in the first place.

Please feel free to tag the centre, or us individually in things you feel may be interesting – we are still here, but having a spring hibernation to renew and refresh. We will be in touch again and are excited to be on this journey with you all….

20th April 2021

Centre for Psychology at Work

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The Road Less Travelled

Reflecting on the 2021 Division of Occupational Psychology conference

2021 marks my third year of attendance at the British Psychological Society (BPS) Division of Occupational Psychology (DOP) Annual Conference and it was, by far, the most unusual format I have experienced. That said, the Conference chairs, and organisers extraordinaire, Ian and Simon did an incredible job of arranging two full days of insightful, useful, and refreshing sessions. This year’s conference, while smaller and with only a single stream of presentations and events, was refreshing. I was buoyed by topics covered in the conference, as I had expected it to be more COVID-centric than it was. The presence of the personal stories from no less than ten members that were woven throughout the first day were also very welcome. When I began my MSc in 2016, I was hell-bent on following the path to the golden chalice of Chartership, because that was what was expected of me. Whether I simply did not have access to wider information or was surrounded by the ‘old school’ contingent, remains to be seen but, in my mind, it was a case of completing my course and then trying to find some way of showing my competence in all areas in order to gain Chartership. What occurred to me some time later, which is the point that I promise I am trying to reach, is that so many people using and applying psychology at work, are doing so via so many different routes, and that is ok.


As a career-changer, I have found that opportunities for my own development following the completion of my Masters’ have been few and far between. Not least because the industry is geared up for those straight out of university who have little to no commitments, as opposed to the mature student needing to factor in day jobs, families, and financial & logistical constraints, meaning that disappearing off for a low-paid or free internship away from home simply is not an option. With the advent of the Professional Doctorate in Occupational Psychology, there is an alternative option that provides the holder with the ability to have their mail addressed to them as ‘Dr’ as well achieving the requirements of Chartership, though this incurs the same lofty costs as the traditional chartership route, and still requires the demonstration of knowledge across the breadth of occupational psychology topics.


Within the Conference, both routes were discussed with Rachel Lewis extolling the virtues of the Prof Doc, while Gail Steptoe-Warren and Claire Keogh gave information on the latest iteration (2019 route) for the Stage 2 Qualification in Occupational Psychology. However, the two sessions that preceded these were of incredible interest. Vicki Elsey’s presentation on professional identification in occupational psychology was most useful, and outlined the five pillars of identification, the last of which looks at professional recognition and authenticity, serving as a timely reminder that if status and recognition are your bag, great, but that if simply doing good work floats your boat, then so be it. It is about what is important to you as an individual rather than what others expect.


The panel discussion that followed Vicki’s session asked the question “Is Occupational Psychology an elitist profession” and was eye-opening to say the least. Leaving aside the obvious issues of how the panel of four was comprised – one ‘Dr’/Chartered psychologist, one ‘Dr’, one Chartered Psychologist, and one supposed lay person (forgive me, Pavneet Khurana) – it was an interesting debate, albeit one-sided in favour of the absolute need for the highest level of education even to the exclusion of all others. Panel discussion aside, what was probably the most enlightening part of the session was the participant chat that was taking place alongside. Many comments were around the obvious barriers of the expense associated with studying, and the lazy comparisons of Occ Psychs with other professions and their need for standards, plus the changes in chartership pathways across the last couple of decades. Would, for example, those chartered psychologists be able to become chartered in today’s landscape and still practice ethically, or would they struggle to demonstrate their competence and meet all the requirements? Certainly, for me, my biggest concern is what happens when the current breed of chartered OPs dies out. Do those coming through behind them have the same or right opportunities afforded to them? If we really are as precious about our profession as we say we are, should we not be doing everything in our power to encourage and enable our future pipeline psychologists in an open and inclusive way rather than closing ranks and essentially telling them they aren’t good enough?

The afternoon saw the introduction of two independent groups – Psychology at Work, the self-declared home of emerging Occ Psychs, and Centre for Psychology at Work, purveyors of peer inquiries. The former, established by DOP stalwarts Nikita Mikhailov, David Biggs, and Hardeep Virdi, provide, amongst other things, a mentoring programme to support pipeline professionals and help to expand their knowledge and network. CentPsychWork, co-founded by a core group of seven - of which I am one; conflict of interest now declared - meanwhile aim to provide a nurturing presence and professional home, cultivating talent across the spectrum of pathways into applying psychology in the workplace. What is so encouraging to see with these enterprises is that they will both help to fortify and unite the profession albeit in different ways. And that they were actively invited by the DOP to speak at such a wide and far-reaching event as the Conference, is truly exciting.

I feel hopeful that the tide is changing and that all those using psychology will have an equal opportunity to do meaningful work in the way that is important to them; that we are all working towards the same, ultimate goal of improving workplaces across the country and around the world, and that no story or pathway is pointless. By actively encouraging people to join our profession and eliminating barriers to access, we will create a multi-faceted and diverse industry without competition or suppression, and maybe even without elitism.

6th March 2021

Musing from Joh Foster, Co-founder Centre for Psychology at Work