Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Journeying under Matariki and the Southern Cross: What Are Our Guiding Stars? A Comment and Reflection on Evans (2008)

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Journeying under Matariki and the Southern Cross: What Are Our Guiding Stars? A Comment and Reflection on Evans (2008)

Article excerpt

This response to and reflection on Ian Evan's 2006 Hunter Award address aims to generalise some of the issues and themes he identifies from a specific focus on the development of a distinctive clinical psychology to consider psychology in general in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I identify three sets of issues, namely local and international influences; ethics and knowledge; and science and practice; and reflect on how, within these areas, we might better navigate towards a distinctive psychology that is effective in meeting local challenges and improving human welfare.


   Simply by sailing in a new direction
   You could enlarge the world....
   Who navigates us towards what
   But not improbable provinces? Who
   A future down for us from the high
   Of spiritual daring?
   Alan Curnow.
   Landfall in Unknown Seas.

In Aotearoa/New Zealand we are all the descendants of voyagers. Whether our tupuna (ancestors) cae by waka (sailing canoe) about 1350, sailing ship in 1850, steam ship in 1950, or we arrived by jet plane yesterday, all journeys here required an ocean crossing. In contrast to the continental expansion that dispersed our restless species over and out of Africa and throughout most of the earth, where navigation skill may have assisted but was not generally essential, ocean voyages of migration need navigation, if one is to be confident of arrival or return. So navigation--that conscious use of reliable information to know where one has started from, where one is now, and whence one is going and how to get there and back--should be a potent metaphor for islanders such as we are. We recognise that, in both our Polynesian and our European heritages, navigation was developed to a high art. Hence the metaphor of navigation makes a stimulating frame for the questions Evans (2008) poses: Can we develop a clinical psychology that is specific to New Zealand and Australia? And why should we bother? (p 5). Or, to put it in the language of the poet, should we emulate our ancestors, sail in a new direction, and thereby enlarge our discipline?

These questions were posed in Ian Evan's 2006 Hunter Award address, so named (as he notes) to honour the founding Professor of Psychology in New Zealand (at Victoria University of Wellington; Taylor, 1979). The year 2006, was the 99th year from the founding of clinical psychology as a distinct sub-discipline within psychology, by Lightner Witmer, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania (McReynolds, 1997). There is a direct connection between Witmer and New Zealand, mediated, as it happens, by Hunter, who visited Witmer in 1907. That visit probably was influential in Hunter's setting up of the first New Zealand psychology clinic (in Wellington) in 1926 (Taylor, 1979). Furthermore, it has been claimed that Witmer's style of clinical psychology was not unlike cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT; McReynolds 1997), so it is possible that the earliest practice of clinical psychology in Aotearoa/New Zealand was a forerunner of CBT, now the dominant, empirically validated form of psychotherapy (Blampied, 1999). of course, this little bit of our history, with its national and international interplay, serves as a nice illustration and counterpoint to the very questions Evans poses!

In 2007, the centenary year of Witmer's innovation, the New Zealand Psychological Society (NZPsS) announced a new award, to join its suite of awards among which the Hunter Award is the most prestigious. The new award is the Ann Ballin Award for Clinical Psychology. Dame Ann Ballin, clinical psychologist, ardent and lifelong advocate for the disabled, first woman President of NZPsS, and influential social policy analyst, achieved higher national distinctions than those ever disposed on any other New Zealand psychologist. Awards such as the Hunter and the Ballin award serve multiple functions: they honour the memory of those who made significant contributions to our science and profession; they recognise the mana of these professional and intellectual tupuna; they express our esteem for the achievements of those upon whom they are bestowed; through mechanisms such as the award address they permit us all to benefit from the wisdom of the recipients; and--relevant to Evan's theme--in small but significant ways they mark unique bits of our history. …

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