Saturday, October 26, 2019

How medical psychology became psychotherapy

A post on the British Psychological Society (BPS) History of Psychology Centre blog marks 100 years since the first BPS Member Networks were formed. The Medical Section was one of the first of the three sections formed in 1919 (the others being Educational and Industrial) and I've posted previously on 'The roots of medical psychology’. The Medical Section is now the Psychotherapy Section - name changed in 1988, having previously changed to Section of Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy in 1976 (see BPS history timeline). I'm not sure if the Psychotherapy Section is aware of this history.

Incorporation of the Society in October 1941 reflected the safeguarding of the professional interests of trained psychologists and instituted different classes of membership (Edgell, 1947). Membership had been opened in 1919 to anyone ‘interested in psychology’, not just recognised scholars or teachers. This deprofesionalisation led to an increase in membership from 98 at the end of 1918 to 427 at the close of 1919. A large proportion of these new members were in the Medical Section. Charles Myers used his First World War medical contacts (some treating shell shock; Myers probably being the first to recognise the essentially psychological nature of shell shock) to persuade them to join the Society (Jackson, 2019).

I'm sure there is a need to protect professional psychological expertise, but there are also advantages in extending general interest in psychology. Professional separation of medicine and psychology is not always helpful.

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