EFPA congress in Moscow

International news
Coming to a country where you don’t speak the language, the alphabet is different and even the numbers don’t relate to anything you recognise can be a challenge. However the first shopping centre that you pass from the airport to the University is comforting.  Ikea and KFC seem to shout that there are some familiar reference points.  Small comfort, though when I ask the taxi driver if he speaks any English, French, German or even Italian he shakes his head.  Thankfully the Russian psychological association has worked hard to ensure that our journeys are without incident. We need our passports everywhere and are reminded what travel outside the EU is really like.

The visit  combines the meeting of the EFPA Standing Committee for Psychologists in Education (SCPiE) and the 2019 European Congress of Psychology in which we are presenting two seminars amongst the several hundred on offer.  I am most closely involved with a session looking at what we understand by the term “evidence” when we talk about “evidence based practice” (EBP).  There are three presentations.  One from the Czech Republic and Slovenia, a second from Spain and one from the UK.  They complement each other well and represent some of the challenges for professionals working with children in the different nations.

The Standing Committee group is collaborative and considers ways in which different national associations can support each other.  One example comes from Spain where educational psychology is less well developed than in some other countries.  Can the group assist with documenting functions of EPs in their situations?  Of course. We had previously contributed to generate a list of the numerous different activities that EPs undertake.  This led to a survey of Spanish EPs which looked at practitioners’ confidence in the different roles that they are required to undertake. The information can be used to indicate possible additional training needs which could be facilitated by the Spanish version of the DECP. Austria is looking at new approaches to assisting children as young as 3 who had witnessed traumatic events.  The representative described one child who had been lined up against a wall with her family by soldiers with guns.  They shot all the family, but missed the young child as she was so short.  The child was taken to Austria for safety where she is recovering from the trauma, but acting out the emotions in the early years unit.  Austria is looking for ways to help traumatised refugees to recognise the emotions involved and work through them. The range of psychological models available is impressive.

The meeting room is in the oldest psychological department in Russia.  There are displays on the wall of many names that are familiar to us, Pavlov, Vygotsky, Turneyef, Luria.  Although the signs use the Cyrillic alphabet, you can begin to translate after a while and our host is excellent with her explanations.

However it is the main conference which impresses most.  With over 2500 presentations available during the three days of the event, there is so much from which to choose.  Not all the themes are familiar.  A delegate from Lithuania is presenting on adolescents’ attitudes and knowledge about taxes: the more the better?  A Russian psychologist is presenting research on the social factors of student’s emotional well-being, whilst Turkey is offering the results of developing a child depressive symptoms scale.  For those interested, the ECP2019 website has the programme which can be downloaded.  It is a big document. The SCPiE had contributions from four different nations and were well attended.  The discussions ranged from the challenges of increased inclusion of all children and young people to the type of definitions that we use when defining children with additional needs.  

I will summarise more information gleaned from the Congress in the next International News, but what these few days has reminded me is the commonality of purpose that practitioners and researchers share across nations.  Delegates from each of the five continents come to these events and the cross fertilization is very apparent.  For me a factor analysis of EPs views of evidence based practice offers a fascinating insight into the anxieties that we have and ways in which we can support each other.  I have offered to distribute a short questionnaire to DECP members with a view to extending the research from the existing sample to a much wider one and hope that you can spare five minutes to complete the survey.   Whatever the future of the UK’s membership of organisations like the EU, I am convinced of the value of strengthening international links with psychologists doing similar work and would encourage DECP members to offer assistance to pursue this.  

Christopher Arnold July 2019 from Moscow.