What is the British Psychological Society?


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

Brief History

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:

  • Robert Armstrong-Jones.
  • Sophie Bryant.
  • W.R. Boyce Gibson.
  • Frank Noel Hales.
  • William McDougall.
  • Frederick Walker Mott.
  • William Halse Rivers Rivers.
  • Alexander Faulkner Shand.
  • William George Smith.
  • James Sully.

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.


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 blog, including a free fortnightly research update, and various other publications (see below).
  • Setting standards for psychological testing.
  • Maintaining a History of Psychology Centre.


The Society is both a learned and a professional body. As such it provides support and advice on research and practice issues. It is also a Registered Charity which imposes certain constraints on what it 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.

The Society has a large number of specialist and regional branches throughout the United Kingdom. It holds its Annual Conference, usually in May, in a different town or city each year. In addition, each of the sub-sections hold their own conferences and there is also a range of specialist meetings convened to consider relevant issues.

The Society is also a publishing body publishing a range of specialist journals, books and reports.

Membership Grades and Post-Nominals

In 2019 the BPS had 60,604 members and subscribers, in all fields of psychology, 20,243 of whom were Chartered Members. There are a number of grades of members:

  • Student: (no post-nominal) The grade for students of psychology who do not meet the requirements for the following grades.
  • MBPsS: Member of the British Psychological Society – Awarded to graduates of an undergraduate degree accredited by the society, or have completed an accredited conversion course.
  • AFBPsS: Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society – Associate Fellowship may be awarded to nominees who have satisfied one of the following conditions since first becoming eligible for graduate membership:
    • i) achieved eligibility for full membership of one of the society’s divisions and been successfully engaged in the professional application of a specialised knowledge of psychology for an aggregate of at least two calendar years full-time (or its part-time equivalent); or
    • ii) possess a research qualification in psychology and been engaged in the application, discovery, development or dissemination of psychological knowledge or practice for an aggregate of at least four years full time (or its part time equivalent); or
    • iii) published psychological works or exercised specialised psychological knowledge of a standard not less than in 1 or 2 above.
  • FBPsS: Fellow of the British Psychological Society – Fellowship may be awarded to nominees who have made an outstanding contribution to psychology by satisfying the following criteria:
    • i) been engaged in work of a psychological nature (other than undergraduate training) for a total period of at least 10 years; and
    • ii) possess an advanced knowledge of psychology in at least one of its fields; and
    • iii) made an outstanding contribution to the advancement or dissemination of psychological knowledge or practice either by your own research, teaching, publications or public service, or by organising and developing the work of others.
  • HonFBPsS: Honorary Fellows of the British Psychological Society – Honorary Fellowship is awarded for distinguished service in the field of psychology.

Professional Qualifications

  • CPsychol: Chartered Psychologist – 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 01 July 2009.
    • The profession is now regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council.
    • A member of the British Psychological Society (MBPsS) who has achieved chartered status has the right to the letters “CPsychol” after his or her name.
  • CSci: Chartered Scientist – The Society is licensed by the Science Council for the registration of Chartered Scientists.
  • EuroPsy: European Psychologist – The Society is a member of the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA), and can award this designation to Chartered Psychologists.

Society Publications


  • The BPS publishes the following journals:
    • British Journal of Clinical Psychology.
    • British Journal of Developmental Psychology.
    • British Journal of Educational Psychology.
    • British Journal of Health Psychology.
    • British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology.
    • British Journal of Psychology.
    • British Journal of Social Psychology.
    • Journal of Neuropsychology.
    • Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology.
    • Legal and Criminological Psychology.
    • Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.
    • Counselling Psychology Review.
  • Special Group in Coaching Psychology publications:
    • International Coaching Psychology Review.
    • The Coaching Psychologist.

The Psychologist

The Psychologist is a members’ monthly magazine that has been published since 1988, superseding the BPS Bulletin.

The Research Digest

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.


The Society publishes a series of textbooks in collaboration with Wiley-Blackwell. These cover most of the core areas of psychology.

Member Networks

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.
  • Division of Clinical Psychology.
  • Division of Counselling Psychology.
  • Division of Educational and Child Psychology.
  • Division of Forensic Psychology.
  • Division of Health Psychology.
  • Division of Neuropsychology.
  • Division of Occupational Psychology.
  • Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology.
  • Scottish Division of Educational Psychology.

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

  • Addiction.
  • Children, Young People and their Families.
  • Clinical Health Psychology.
  • Eating Disorders.
  • Forensic Clinical Psychology.
  • HIV and Sexual Health.
  • Holistic Psychology.
  • Leadership and Management.
  • Intellectual Disabilities.
  • Oncology and Palliative Care.
  • Perinatal Psychology.
  • Psychosis and Complex Mental Health.
  • Psychology of Older People.

Statutory Regulation

BPS has been concerned with the question of statutory registration of psychologists since the 1930s. 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 were 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.

Logo and YouTube

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.

The Society has its own YouTube channel.

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On This Day … 25 December

People (Births)

  • 1875 – Francis Aveling, Canadian psychologist and priest (d. 1941).

People (Deaths)

  • 1925 – Karl Abraham, German psychoanalyst and author (b. 1877).

Francis Aveling

Francis Arthur Powell Aveling DD DSc PhD DLit MC ComC (25 December 1875 to 6 March 1941) was a Canadian psychologist and Catholic priest. He married Ethel Dancy of Steyning, Sussex in 1925.


Francis Aveling was born at St. Catharines, Ontario 25 December 1875. He went to Bishop Ridley College in Ontario and McGill University before studying at Keble College at the Oxford University, England. Aveling was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father Luke Rivington in 1896 and entered the Pontificio Collegio Canadese in Rome. There he earned his doctor of divinity degree. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1899, and served as a curate in Tottenham, before becoming first rector of Westminster Cathedral Choir School. He was also a chaplain at the Cathedral, and to St. Wilfrid’s Convent, Chelsea.

In 1910, Aveling obtained a doctor of philosophy degree at the age of 35 from the University of Louvain (his advisor was Albert Michotte), and in 1912 he was recipient of a doctor of science degree from the University of London, and received the Carpenter Medal following his work On the Consciousness of the Universal and the Individual: A Contribution to the Phenomenology of the Thought Process. Subsequently, Aveling received his doctor of letters degree from the University of London.


Aveling taught at University College, London from 1912 as a Lecturer (Assistant Professor), under the leadership of Charles Spearman, until the First World War. During that war he served in France as a chaplain in the British Army, after which he returned to the University of London. In 1922, he transferred to King’s College, London where he was promoted to reader (associate professor), and later to professor of psychology. He was an extern examiner in philosophy at the National University of Ireland; and a lecturer in pedagogical methods for the London County Council.

Aveling authored several books. He was the doctoral advisor of Raymond Cattell From 1926 until 1929, Aveling was also a president of the British Psychological Society. Aveling was a member of the Council of the International Congresses, of the Aristotelian Society, of the council and advisory board of the National Institute of Industrial Psychology, of the council of the British Institute of Philosophical Studies and of the Child Guidance Council.

He was a contributor to the Dublin Review, The American Catholic Quarterly Review, Catholic World, The nineteenth Century, The Journal of Psychology, and the Catholic Encyclopaedia.

Karl Abraham

Karl Abraham 03 May 1877 to 25 December 1925) was an influential German psychoanalyst, and a collaborator of Sigmund Freud, who called him his ‘best pupil’.


Abraham was born in Bremen, Germany. His parents were Nathan Abraham, a Jewish religion teacher (1842-1915) and his wife (and cousin) Ida (1847-1929). His studies in medicine enabled him to take a position at the Burghölzli Swiss Mental Hospital, where Eugen Bleuler practiced. The setting of this hospital initially introduced him to the psychoanalysis of Carl Gustav Jung.


In 1907, he had his first contact with Sigmund Freud, with whom he developed a lifetime relationship. Returning to Germany, he founded the Berliner Society of Psychoanalysis in 1910. He was the president of the International Psychoanalytical Association from 1914 to 1918 and again in 1925.

Karl Abraham collaborated with Freud on the understanding of manic-depressive illness, leading to Freud’s paper on ‘Mourning and Melancholia’ in 1917. He was the analyst of Melanie Klein during 1924–1925, and of a number of other British psychoanalysts, including Edward Glover, James Glover, and Alix Strachey. He was a mentor for an influential group of German analysts, including Karen Horney, Helene Deutsch, and Franz Alexander.

Karl Abraham studied the role of infant sexuality in character development and mental illness and, like Freud, suggested that if psychosexual development is fixated at some point, mental disorders will likely emerge. He described the personality traits and psychopathology that result from the oral and anal stages of development (1921). Abraham observed his only daughter Hilda Abraham reporting on her reaction to enemas and infantile masturbation by her brother. He asked that secrets be shared with him but he was careful to respect her privacy and some reports were not published until after Hilda.s death. Hilda was later to become a psychoanalyst.

In the oral stage of development, the first relationships children have with objects (caretakers) determine their subsequent relationship to reality. Oral satisfaction can result in self-assurance and optimism, whereas oral fixation can lead to pessimism and depression. Moreover, a person with an oral fixation will present a disinclination to take care of him/herself and will require others to look after him/her. This may be expressed through extreme passivity (corresponding to the oral benign suckling substage) or through a highly active oral-sadistic behaviour (corresponding to the later sadistic biting substage).

In the anal stage, when the training in cleanliness starts too early, conflicts may result between a conscious attitude of obedience and an unconscious desire for resistance. This can lead to traits such as frugality, orderliness and obstinacy, as well as to obsessional neurosis as a result of anal fixation (Abraham, 1921). In addition, Abraham based his understanding of manic-depressive illness on the study of the painter Segantini: an actual event of loss is not itself sufficient to bring the psychological disturbance involved in melancholic depression. This disturbance is linked with disappointing incidents of early childhood; in the case of men always with the mother (Abraham, 1911). This concept of the prooedipal “bad” mother was a new development in contrast to Freud’s oedipal mother and paved the way for the theories of Melanie Klein (May-Tolzmann, 1997).

Another important contribution is his work “A short study of the Development of the Libido”, where he elaborated on Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” (1917) and demonstrated the vicissitudes of normal and pathological object relations and reactions to object loss.

Moreover, Abraham investigated child sexual trauma and, like Freud, proposed that sexual abuse was common among psychotic and neurotic patients. Furthermore, he argued (1907) that dementia praecox is associated with child sexual trauma, based on the relationship between hysteria and child sexual trauma demonstrated by Freud.

Abraham (1920) also showed interest in cultural issues. He analysed various myths suggesting their relation to dreams (1909) and wrote an interpretation of the spiritual activities of the Egyptian monotheistic Pharaoh Amenhotep IV (1912).


Abraham died prematurely on 25 December 1925 from complications of a lung infection and may have suffered from lung cancer.