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Ho Law

I am writng in response to the member’s enquiry about the use of the Society’s SGCP membership description. According to Charter Guide No. 3 (April, 1988) the amendments to The Royal Charter (which was amended in October, 1995), it must be emphasised that the Code of Conduct refers to all Members and Contributors (including Affiliates) of the Society. Statute 31(2) reads as follows:

‘No Member or Contributor shall use any description indicating Membership or Contributorship in a personal notice inserted as an advertisement in the press or elsewhere.’

Statute 31(3) adds:

‘No Ordinary Member or Graduate Member shall use the description ‘(Member) (Graduate Member) of the British Psychological Society’ (as the case may be) in any context, professional or otherwise, whatsoever, except in such circumstances as may be determined by the Board of Trustees.’

The prohibitions of Statutes 31(2) and 31(3) apply with equal force to Contributors [affiliates] as they do to Graduate Members. Statute 30 (3) states

‘… no Foreign Affiliate, Affiliate or Student Subscriber shall use the description ‘[Foreign Affiliate] [Affiliate] [Student Subscriber] of the British Psychological Society’ (as the case may be) in any context professional or otherwise, whatsoever, except in such circumstances as may be determined by the Board of Trustees.’

The Society prevents Graduate Members and Affiliates from referring to their membership of the Society, as this may be misleading to the public, as they may believe that the Society regards these members as fit to practise psychology. Interpreting the above Statutes within the context of SGCP, it means that the same applies to these grades of members referring to membership of Special Groups. This does not apply to Chartered Psychologists and they may refer to their membership of the Society and/or to a Special Group of the Society. In other words:

With the exception of chartered psychologists, no reference to SGCP membership should appear in any public document, list of staff, advertisement, on a letter heading or in any other place where it could be construed to imply a qualification in psychology or authority to practise as a coaching psychologist.

By insisting upon this principle, SGCP is not asking members to sell themselves short. Indeed, many competent coaches are able to draw on their knowledge of psychology to enhance their skills and effectiveness. This is what SGCP encourages members to do. There is no intention of asking members to deny the value and practical relevance of psychology in coaching. The danger we are seeking to avoid is simply that reference to SGCP membership in any public context is misleading. To the uninformed member of the public it implies a professional qualification to practise as a coaching psychologist. The latter claim should be made only by Chartered Psychologists. The letters after the name of a non-Chartered Member should never be used in any context.

We are also aware that many non-Chartered members in SGCP may be fully qualified members of other professions (e.g. AC, CIPD, CMI, the Science Council, etc.) or in practice, for example, as business or life coaches, management consultants, counsellors or psychotherapists. In these situations it is still important that they do not imply they are practising as psychologists by making reference to their membership, even though they will undoubtedly be using their knowledge of psychology to enhance their practice of coaching or other profession.

SGCP is an inclusive group. We welcome people who are interested in coaching and coaching psychology to join the group including those who do not hold any formal qualification of psychology (e.g. psychology degrees, diploma, Chartership, etc.) via the Society’s affiliate membership route. The principal purpose of being an affiliate member to the Society is to gain access to various membership concessions from the Society itself (e.g. to join SGCP; to get journals at reduced member rates or to pay the reduced member registration fees for conferences, etc.). However, as explained above, any references to SGCP membership would be misleading (e.g. on a business card, or on a letterheading, in a list of staff or in an advertisement) as it might be construed to imply an additional qualification beyond that of a first degree in psychology on which it is normally based or an authority to practise psychology without supervision (also see the Society’s 1987 Guidelines on advertising the services).

Apart from receiving the SGCP journals, paying the reduced member registration fees for our conferences and gaining support from other members, there may be other benefits to being a SGCP member. For example, when applying for certain courses or jobs, it may be advantageous to indicate an interest in psychology. You can list your membership of the Society if it comes under a heading such as ‘membership of the following professional organisations’… in your CV when applying for jobs, courses, etc. In these contexts it is right to point out that you are Members of the Society and subject to its Code of Conduct.

Dr Ho Law
Empsy Ltd,
PO Box 696,
Peterborough PE2 9YQ.
E-mail: ho.law@empsy.com


British Psychological Society (1987). Guidelines on advertising the services offered by psychologists. Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 40, 172-173.

British Psychological Society (1988). The amendments to The Royal Charter. Charter Guide No. 3, April. Using your membership title ethically


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