Teaching Sensitive Issues

Bentley, Evie
Haywards Heath Further Education College,
Association for the Teaching of Psychology,

Psychology is full of sensitive issues. So many topics and areas which we teach and our students study have very personal aspects or applications which can cause upset. Almost every topic area – social psychological, cognitive, abnormal, bio-psychological, developmental, behavioural - is likely to have a sensitive and personal slant for some students and teachers; the approaches or perspectives have similar possibilities for bringing up unhappy associations. This seminar discusses ways of coping with such topics and preparing ourselves and our students for them, and a procedure is outlined and shared as suggested good practice. The importance of preparation, and protection for both teachers and students, is emphasised.

The knowledge of and attitude towards such issues has changed dramatically in recent decades and it is suggested that these two factors are linked. Knowledge really can be freedom, and a greater and wider understanding of psychological matters can and will help to reduce fears and prejudice and outcomes. This can be shown to have happened in some areas already. To illustrate and support this view two new case studies of eating disorders are put forward, the recent one being an example of a successful prognosis due very largely to more and/or better attitudes, psychological knowledge and practice.