Society 'loses the plot' over garden

May 7, 2004

A plan to create a psychological garden at next year's Chelsea Flower Show has sown seeds of discontent within the psychology profession's national body.

The British Psychological Society's project, designed to raise public awareness, has prompted a withering response from clinical psychologists.

Many are astonished that at a time when practitioners are facing increasing pressures within hospitals and institutions, the BPS wants to plant flowers.

Michael Wang, professor of clinical psychology at Hull University and vice-chair of the BPS clinical psychology division, said there were other priorities.

He complained to The Psychologist , the society's journal, that the plans threw into sharp relief the division between "hard-pressed professional practitioners and those in some other quarters of the society".

He conceded that a BPS garden would promote the society, but added: "It would also promote the fact that we had lost any sense of professionalism, lost contact with our role as psychologists, lost track of our purpose and philosophy, lost any sense of our chartered and corporate responsibilities - in short, lost the plot."

The society believes up to 13 million people could receive a positive message about the science through a design that explores the psychological benefits of gardens as well as the affect of extracts from particular plants on wellbeing.

Graham Powell, BPS president-elect, and Pam Maras, chair of the BPS publications and communications board, rejected the criticism. They said:

"Far from losing the plot and being at variance with our royal charter, the Chelsea Garden proposal explicitly fits our charter objective to advance and diffuse knowledge of the discipline."

Grants will meet most of the £30,000 cost of the garden, to be put together by award-winning designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin.

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