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Power, Interest and Psychology: developing David Smail’s ideas

Thursday 12th November 2015 - Friday 13th November 2015 at Novotel Birmingham Centre

This exciting interdisciplinary event will appeal to anyone wanting to understand the connections between psychology and disciplines such as sociology, epidemiology, philosophy and cultural studies. Whilst it is inspired by David Smail’s work, the conference is much more than a celebration of his achievements. More vitally, it is a demonstration of the continuing relevance of his ideas and of the traditions upon which they draw. Our expert speakers will inform, enthuse and inspire, pointing the way to a sophisticated psychological understanding of clinical distress that is fit for the many challenges facing us today.

What does ‘austerity’ have to do with poor mental health? When psychotherapy is offered, just what is occurring, and how does it work?
How can we understand and work with the meanings of clinical distress across the age range? And how might psychology contribute to efforts to improve the everyday lives of us all?

This two-day conference will explore questions such as these with reference to the important writings of David Smail (1938-2014). A series of eminent speakers from psychology and related disciplines will explore some of the issues and concerns raised in David’s work. Their talks will show how his work points to difficult challenges, but also to exciting opportunities. Their contributions will demonstrate the significance of David’s work, in psychology and beyond, whilst also showing how psychology can be greatly enriched by knowledge from other fields.

From outside of psychology, high-profile speakers include Professor Richard Wilkinson (author with Kate Pickett of The Spirit Level); Professor Kate Morris and Professor Brid Featherstone (authors with Susan White of ‘Re-Imagining Child Protection); Dr. Mark Fisher (author, Capitalist Realism); and Dr. Lisa McKenzie (author, Getting By: estates, class and culture in austerity Britain). And from within psychology, well-known speakers include Professor Dave Pilgrim, Professor Mary Boyle, Dr. Lucy Johnstone and Dr. Dave Harper. The list of speakers and presentations has now been finalised, and can be accessed from the links at the bottom of this page.

One of the conference sessions is also a free public lecture, open to all. At 4:30 on Thursday 12th November Professor David Pilgrim of the University of Liverpool will talk about what he calls 'necessary ambivalence' in the work of David Smail. Using ideas drawn from critical realist philosophy, Professor Pilgrim will explore how David Smail's ideas about psychological therapy changed over time, and then argue that these changes are in fact reflective of a wider dilemma facing all who work in mental health. Professor Pilgrim is both an accomplished speaker and the author of many highly regarded books and papers, including "Understanding Mental Health: a critical realist exploration" (2014).

David Smail’s last book, ‘Power, Interest and Psychology’, was published in 2005. His other books include ‘How To Survive Without Psychotherapy’ (1996), ‘The Origins of Unhappiness’ (1993), ‘Taking Care’ (1987) and ‘Illusion and Reality: the meaning of anxiety’ (1984). David was appointed head of clinical psychology services in Nottingham in 1969, a post he held until his retirement in 1998. He was also Special Professor in Clinical Psychology at the University of Nottingham.

In addition to his influential, books David authored more than 50 journal articles and book chapters. His writings, which were consistently informed by his clinical practice, place distress firmly in its material context and recognise how feelings, thoughts and behaviour are shaped by economic and social circumstances. David proposed that to understand why we are unhappy, rather than insight, we must cultivate ‘outsight’ into the world around us. This perspective - which encourages personal modesty, appreciation of luck, compassion, and recognition of our common humanity – is today more relevant than ever.

This conference is generously supported by the BPS Division of Clinical Psychology. It will be of value to clinical psychology trainees, clinical psychology practitioners, and anyone with an interest in mental health and psychological well-being.

There will be an informal evening buffet meal after the first day of the conference on Thursday at the hotel. The cost for this will be £20.00 and should be booked in advance.

Please note, this event is credit/debit card payment only at the time of booking. If you need an invoice, please submit your booking form and contact us.

Please note, registration for this event closed at 9.00am on Monday 9th November 2015

Registration fees can be found on the booking form. If you have any queries please contact us via the event hotline on 01332 224505.


Thursday 12th November 2015

09:30Welcome & Introduction to David's work
10:00Prof Richard Wilkinson, Inequality: the enemy between us
10:45Refreshment Break
11:15Symposia plus Questions and Discussion (details can be downloaded below)
14:00Psychologists against austerity
14:05Midlands Psychology Group, Interest, Austerity and Psychological Therapy
14:50Symposia plus Questions and Discussion (details can be downloaded below)
16:00Refreshment Break
16:30Prof Dave Pilgrim, Necessary ambivalence in the work of David Smail: a critical realist reflection
16:30Please Note ** The above is an open lecture event which members of the public can attend at no charge**

Friday 13th November 2015

09:30Profs Kate Morris & Brid Featherstone: Supporting Families: towards a social model of child protection
10:15Symposia plus Questions and Discussion (details can be downloaded below)
10:45Refreshment Break
11:15Prof Mary Boyle, The Continuing Dangers of Vulnerability
14:00Dr Lucy Johnstone, Speaking Our Minds as Clinical Psychologists
14:45Refreshment Break
15:10Andre Brühka, Relational Commons: de-commodifying the power of relationships
15:40Prof Craig Newnes, What Then Must We Do?


Novotel Birmingham Centre

70 Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2HT •  Website•  Directions

Additional Information

Click here to download further information.

PDFBPS Booking Terms and Conditions
PDFFull Conference Agenda including symposia
PDFTitles And Abstracts - Both Days