The Development of BABCP

Howard Lomas

By Howard Lomas

(This article was first printed in Behavioural Psychotherapy in 1985 and was updated 27/10/08)

On a cold and dull Autumn Friday in 1972, I was among hordes of Behaviour Changers/Modifiers/Engineers/Therapists (all to become Psychotherapists) making their way from the four corners of Britain to the Middlesex Hospital in London.

We were all going to a meeting to discuss the setting up of a National Association for those interested in Behavioural .....whatever.

When I arrived, I was refused entry unless I paid £3 annual membership fee to the very smartly dressed bouncer on the door who claimed to be the Treasurer.

“But I thought the meeting was to decide if we are going to form an Association and, if so, to elect the officers!” My protests were in vain, as would have been my 460 mile day trip if I had not parted with my £3 – I have never really mastered contingency management!

The Association was inaugurated on that day, 10 November 1972, but only after a lengthy debate about what it should be called. The troublesome word was (and possibly still is) “Psychotherapy”.

In the end Isaac Marks won the vote and the British Association for Behavioural Psychotherapy (BABP) was born.

Officers of an Executive Committee were elected with Vic Meyer (London) as Founder President, Gwynne Jones (Leeds) as Chairman, Isaac Marks (London) as Vice-Chairman, Laurence Burns (Manchester) as Secretary, Robert Sharpe (London) as Treasurer and two Ordinary Members, John Bancroft (Oxford) and Derek Jehu (Leicester).

At the inaugural meeting papers on current behaviour research were given by Isaac Marks, Keith Turner, Andrew Mathews, James Hogg, Harry McAllister and Iain Burnside.

By the end of 1972 several more people had paid their £3 to the now official Treasurer of the formally constituted BABP and the founder membership numbered 196. Who were these people and where did they come from?

Psychology and Psychiatry accounted for 94% of the membership with Clinical Psychologists (33%), Psychiatrists (26%), Academics (20%), Researchers (8%) and Educational Psychologists (7%).

Only five members were from Social Work, with just one each from Nursing, Occupational Therapy and General Medicine.

Geographically, members were mainly from the areas where interest groups already existed as reflected also in the location of the first Executive Committee members. London dominated with 40% but there were also significant numbers in Yorkshire (8%), North West (9%), West Midlands (10%) and Oxford (8%). The remaining 25% were scattered around England and South Wales with four from Ireland, only one from North Wales and no founder members from Scotland.

Initially, BABP was a national organisation only and existing local groups continued independently, but in 1973 they were invited to form the first Local Branches. The first such branches formed on the 1st October 1973 were in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford and London. They did not have representation on the Executive Committee, so an “FPC” was formed, with representatives from each branch.

This “FPC”, with Dorothy Fielding as secretary, appeared on the BABP notepaper to the curiosity of many people – No, it was not the Family Planning Clinic! It was, in fact, the Forward Planning Committee, which made recommendations to the Executive Committee on the future development of the Association. Among the first recommendations back in 1974 were: that a more substantial “Newsletter” be developed; that BABP provide basic training courses; and that part-time secretarial assistance and permanent premises may be required.

During the first eighteen months, the BABP was very active with nine meetings of the Executive Committee; five meetings of workshops and a conference; publication of a Newsletter, Research Register, Conference Abstracts, Directory of Behaviour Therapy Units and a collection of papers The Psychiatric Nurse as Therapist. Working Parties were set up to consider the “Role of Psychologists in the Health Services”, “Ethical Considerations in Behaviour Modification” and “Statutory Registration of Psychotherapists”. BABP was already actively involved in links with organisations in Europe and in July 1974 hosted the 4th European Conference at Heathrow, London. Reduced rate journals were on offer to members and a European student exchange was being developed.

By the first Annual General Meeting held in May 1974, the membership numbered 300 and the Association was well established. The election of officers at that meeting presented one of those rare occasions when a post is contested. On this occasion, it was for Treasurer and when the votes were counted Dr. Robert Sharpe had the same number of votes as Dr. John Marzillier. Rather than use his casting vote, the Chairman, Professor Gwynne Jones, maintained his peace loving reputation by persuading Bob Sharpe to continue as Treasurer and co-opting John Marzillier onto the Executive Committee.

Two of the Forward Planning Committee recommendations, for basic training courses and a permanent BABP office, only emerged sixteen years later, but the Newsletter recommendation was immediately acted upon. In 1975, the single sheet edited by Iain Burnside and Francis Lillie became a more substantial quarterly publication, the BABP Bulletin edited by Ray Hodgson and William Yule. This provided an opportunity for the important issues of the time to be aired by members. The pages of the early editions contained lively debate about cognitions, behaviourism and psychotherapy– some things don’t change! The Bulletin, however, did change and emerged as Behavioural Psychotherapy, a 20 page academic journal in 1978. In 1981 the Journal took a further big step forward when Academic Press started publishing and marketing it.

As the Association expanded with a membership of 421 at the end of 1975 and with the addition of Cardiff, North Wales and Winchester to give a total of eight Local Branches, there was a need for fuller Branch involvement in the running of BABP. In 1976, therefore, the Executive Committee combined with the Forward Planning Committee and a full Committee resembling the present structure emerged, with nationally elected officers, an elected representative from each Branch and the cooption of a Membership Secretary and Workshop Co-ordinator.

New Branches continued to be formed, with the West of Scotland in 1976, the East of Scotland and South West England Branches in 1979, Ireland and North East of England Branches in 1981. With thirteen branches, consideration had to be given to limiting the number of representatives on an ever-expanding National Committee by dividing into fifteen Regions, each with a representative. Three Committee members divided Britain and Ireland up during a very stormy crossing of the Irish Sea in November 1982, while travelling to the BABP Autumn workshops near Dublin. All is now revealed to those members who have puzzled over the strange regional boundaries! Only two of the regions were without Branches and this changed in 1983 with the formation of the East Midlands and the Northern Branches.

By the 1980s the membership was not only widespread throughout Britain and Ireland but also much more multidisciplinary with Nursing and Social Work accounting for 25% of the membership compared with 3% in 1972. Other professional groups with little or no representation in 1972 were much more evident – Occupational Therapy, General Medicine, Counselling, Students, Assistant Psychologists, Miscellaneous Psychologists and various other smaller groups accounting for 7% of the membership. Unfortunately, during the 1980s this multidisciplinary expansion reversed a little. The smaller groups and Social Work reduced in proportion to Psychology and Nursing. However, during the 1990s there has been a great expansion in Counselling, Psychiatrists and Occupational Therapists.

Conferences and Workshops have been a major feature of the Association since the start and by 1975 the Annual Conference had become established as a regular July Jamboree, as also were Workshops in Spring and Summer. Autumn Workshops were attempted but rarely successfully. These events have continued at venues throughout Britain and Ireland until 1989 when a full-time workshop administrator was established in a permanent BABP London office to assist in the organisation of monthly workshops. This did not prove a very successful venture and had to be abandoned within a couple of years as the substantial increase in membership fees to pay for it caused a drop in membership which took 5 years to recover.

Some changes took place in the 1990's. A major one was in 1992 when BABP became BABCP reflecting the increasing influence of Cognitive Therapy in Behaviour Therapy. The following year the Journal (published by Wisepress since 1991) also changed its name to Behavioural an Cognitive Psychotherapy (Vol 21 No 3 1993). The Association continued to be run on an entirely voluntary basis but there was a major change to the Committee structure. Many branches seemed to have become inactive and so there were very few branch representatives attending committee meetings. Sub groups and committees seemed to be emerging as Training, Accreditation & Registration, Workshops and Conferences became increasingly active. Many of the main National Committee seemed to be appointed or coopted. While continuity was important, so were democracy and opportunities for new members to take part in the running of the Association. The present structure emerged in the mid 1990s with 11 elected members of the National Committee - President, President-Elect, Past President, Secretary, Treasurer and 6 ordinary members. Since these elected members are only allowed to serve three years maximum, there is opportunity always for new members to take part. Continuity is provided by about 10 appointed and co-opted members who have specialised roles on the Committee and sometimes may stay in their posts for many years.

By the 25th anniversary year (1997) the membership had expanded to 2,000, Cambridge University Press had taken over publishing the Journal and the administration on a continuing voluntary spare time basis was becoming too much. There was a significant rise in enquiries for membership. Accreditation and Registration of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapists had been under way for 3 years. There was increasing demand from the public for information about CBT and where to find a therapist. Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures were in place. Conference were being attended by much greater numbers of members and non-members. I became Executive Officer in May 1997, becoming Finance Officer in late 2008 when Jenny Riggs became Company secretary. Membership has risen to almost 7,000 in 2008. Enquiries pour into the office via email, post and telephone at an average of 100 per day. BABCP has now moved into new offices in Bury, Lancs and continues to expand.

Finally, BABCP has always had strong international links and played an active part in the setting up and continuation of the European Association for Behaviour Therapy. This also has now added the word Cognitive and become EABCT. Annual Congresses of EABCT have been held in some seventeen different countries with a further one is already planned in the Czech Republic in 2003. BABCP members have always made major contributions to these events and hosted the annual conferences in London in 1974 and 1993. BABCP will be hosting the European Conference again in Manchester in 2004. 1980 saw the first World Congress held in Jerusalem, followed three years later by one in Washington, USA. A climax for BABP was the hosting of the third World Congress in Edinburgh in 1988, when international behavioural relationships reached new heights. Further World Congresses have been in Brisbane, Copenhagen, Acapulco and Vancouver and the venue in 2004 is Kobe, Japan. The international meetings always produce a wealth of anecdotes, like the Congress in Vienna in 1978; a British group of well known behaviourists, immediately upon arrival in the city, made straight for the house of Sigmund Freud as their first priority!