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The British Psychological Society (BPS) is a representative body for psychologists and psychology in the United Kingdom.


It was founded on 24 October 1901 at University College London (UCL) as The Psychological Society, the organisation initially admitted only recognised teachers in the field of psychology. The ten founder members were:[1][2][3]

Its current name of The British Psychological Society was taken in 1906 to avoid confusion with another group named The Psychological Society. Under the guidance of Charles Myers, membership was opened up to members of the medical profession in 1919. In 1941 the society was incorporated.[3]


The Society aims to raise standards of training and practice in psychology, raise public awareness of psychology, and increase the influence of psychology practice in society. Specifically it has a number of key aims, as described below.

  • Setting standards of training for psychologists at graduate and undergraduate levels.
  • Providing information about psychology to the public.
  • Providing support to its members via its membership networks and mandatory continuing professional development.
  • Hosting conferences and events.
  • Preparing policy statements.
  • Publishing books, journals, the monthly magazine The Psychologist, the Research Digest [67] blog, including a free fortnightly research update, and various other publications (see below).
  • Setting standards for psychological testing.
  • Maintaining a History of Psychology Centre [68] .


Its current President for 2019-2020 is David Murphy, a Clinical Psychologist, Educator & Researcher. The Society holds its Annual Conference, usually in May, in a different town or city each year. In recent years it has been held in Dublin (2008), Brighton (2009), Stratford-upon-Avon (2010), Glasgow (2011), London (2012), Harrogate (2013), Birmingham (2014), Liverpool (2015) and Nottingham (2016), Brighton, (2017), Nottingham (2018), and for 2019, will be in Harrogate.

The BPS is also a Registered Charity and, along with advantages, this also imposes certain constraints on what the Society can and cannot do. For example, it cannot campaign on issues which are seen as party political. The BPS is not the statutory regulation body for Practitioner Psychologists in the UK which is the Health and Care Professions Council.

In 2012 the BPS had 49,678 members and subscribers, in all fields of psychology, 18,342 of whom were Chartered Members. The Society publishes details of its membership size through its Annual Reports and Annual Review. According to the Annual Review of 2017, total membership stands at over 70,000,[4] and according to the Annual Report, 'Membership and subscribership has continued to grow in 2017, with an overall increase of 8,407 (13.6 per cent). Growth in Graduate and Chartered membership is less at 1,689 (3.9 per cent).'[5]


Following the receipt of a royal charter in 1965, the society became the keeper of the Register of Chartered Psychologists. The register was the means by which the Society could regulate the professional practice of psychology. Regulation included the awarding of practising certificates and the conduct of disciplinary proceedings. The register ceased to be when statutory regulation of psychologists began on 1 July 2009. The profession is now regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.

A member of the British Psychological Society (MBPS) who has achieved chartered status has the right to the letters "C.Psychol." after his or her name. The BPS is also licensed by the Science Council[6] to award Chartered Scientist[7] status. The highest designation the Society can bestow is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (FBPsS), showing a significant contribution to and understanding of the discipline.


Honorary members and fellows

The following persons have been honorary members of the society:[10]

In 1946 all surviving honorary members were made honorary fellows.

The following persons are or have been honorary fellows of the society:[11]

Society publications

The BPS publishes 11 journals:[13]

Special Group in Coaching Psychology publications:

  • International Coaching Psychology Review[14]
  • The Coaching Psychologist[15]

The Psychologist[16] is a members monthly magazine that has been going since 1988, superseding the BPS Bulletin.

Since 2003 the BPS has published reports on new psychology research in the form of a free fortnightly email, and since 2005, also in the form of an online blog – both are referred to as the BPS Research Digest. As of 2014, the BPS states that the email has over 32,000 subscribers and the Digest blog attracts hundreds of thousands of page views a month. In 2010 the Research Digest blog won "best psychology blog" in the inaugural Research Blogging Awards. The Research Digest has been written and edited by psychologist Christian Jarrett since its inception [1] [69] [2] [70]

Member networks: Sections, divisions, branches and groups

The British Psychological Society currently has ten divisions and nineteen sections. Divisions and sections differ in that the former are open to practitioners in a certain field of psychology, so professional and qualified psychologists only will be entitled to full membership of a division, whereas the latter are interest groups comprising members of the BPS who are interested in a particular academic aspect of psychology.

The divisions include:

  • Division of Academics, Researchers and Teachers in Psychology [71]
  • Division of Clinical Psychology [72]
  • Division of Counselling Psychology [73]
  • Division of Educational and Child Psychology [74]
  • Division of Forensic Psychology [75]
  • Division of Health Psychology [76]
  • Division of Neuropsychology [77]
  • Division of Occupational Psychology [78]
  • Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology [79]
  • Scottish Division of Educational Psychology [80]

The Division of Clinical Psychology is the largest division within the BPS – it is subdivided into thirteen faculties:[17]

  • Addiction [81]
  • Children, Young People and their Families [82]
  • Clinical Health Psychology [83]
  • Eating Disorders [84]
  • Forensic Clinical Psychology [85]
  • HIV and Sexual Health [86]
  • Holistic Psychology [87]
  • Leadership and Management [88]
  • Intellectual Disabilities [89]
  • Oncology and Palliative Care [90]
  • Perinatal Psychology [91]
  • Psychosis and Complex Mental Health [92]
  • Psychology of Older People [93]

The Sections [94] currently include:

Note: The term 'division' in the American Psychological Association does not have the same meaning as it does in the British Psychological Society, coming closer to what the British Psychological Society refers to as 'sections'. Branches are for members in the same geographical region.

BPS currently has the following special groups to provide a forum for members working in particular specialist fields, with a particular focus on training, practice, and professional development[34]

Statutory regulation

BPS has been concerned with the question of statutory registration of psychologists since the 1930s.[35] It received its charter in 1965 and an amendment in 1987 which allowed it to maintain a register of psychologists. The UK government announced its intention to widen statutory regulation, to include inter alia psychologists, following a number of scandals arising in the 1990s in the psychotherapy field. The BPS was in favour of statutory regulation, but opposed the proposed regulator, the Health Professions Council (HPC), preferring the idea of a new Psychological Professions Council which would map quite closely onto its own responsibilities. The government resisted this, however, and in June 2009, under the Health Care and Associated Professions (Miscellaneous Amendments) Order, regulation of most of the psychology professions passed to the HCPC, the renamed Health and Care Professions Council.

Society offices

The Society's main office is currently in Leicester in the United Kingdom. According to BPS HR department, as of April 2019 there are 113 staff members at the Leicester office, 9 in London. There are also smaller regional offices in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow. The archives are deposited at the Wellcome Library in the Euston Road, London.[36]


The British Psychological Society's logo is an image of the Greek mythical figure Psyche, personification of the soul, holding a Victorian oil lamp. The use of her image is a reference to the origins of the word psychology. The lamp symbolises learning and is also a reference to the story of Psyche. Eros was in love with Psyche and would visit her at night, but had forbidden her from finding out his identity. She was persuaded by her jealous sisters to discover his identity by holding a lamp to his face as he slept. Psyche accidentally burnt him with oil from the lamp, and he awoke and flew away.[37]

See also

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