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Interesting, engaging, curious minded people?

With our joint Catalyse/ACAT conference Encouraging-to-Engaged in CAT Research now less than two weeks away, CAT practictioner Rhona Brown reflects on the backdrop to the day and conversations with some of those involved in making it happen.

Since qualifying as a CAT practitioner I’ve had several opportunities to hear colleagues presenting on research at ACAT conferences and through other local CAT networks. I’m always impressed by both the rigour and commitment of researchers and the favourable results emerging from recent work. I tend to leave with a more optimistic and energised state of mind in relation to the idea of research. Sadly in the wake of other demands, must-do’s, and familiar patterns of clinical working, this dissipates fairly quickly. I return to another annual conference back at my familiar starting point, ready to be impressed and energised again. But what changes?

I suspect I’m not alone in this somewhat tame and occasional aspirational state. Within CAT there’s great enthusiasm for the model and a subjective and anecdotal sense that it’s an approach which can help both therapists and those seeking therapy to become unstuck and move on. Experience suggests that this is particularly the case where there’s a level of complexity in presenting difficulties, often where other more manualised and less relational approaches have yielded fewer benefits.

While the lived experience of both parties in the therapeutic endeavour can be favourable in CAT, we know that in terms of an evidence base, its “emerging” status  can lead to it being excluded as a recommended therapy within the majority of formal guidelines. Most recently, the updated NICE guidelines for eating disorders dropped CAT, despite a jointly produced submission by ACAT on the various RCTs which have demonstrated its value with this presenting difficulty.

So how can this change? The research meeting at the joint ACAT and ICATA 2017 conference in Nottingham brought together a small critical mass of research champions within ACAT’s membership. They updated each other on current work, generated ideas for future funding possibilities, and considered how we could collectively generate a list of manageable projects which could be picked up by those on D Clin Psych training. This meeting dovetailed with Alison Jenaway’s election as ACAT Chair.  Alison admits to being a “bright ideas” type of leader, generating new plans and possibilities, and “pushing where it moves” in a system to enable change.

At a time of much internal and external change, it’s a bonus that ACAT can benefit from this energy in relation to refreshing its research strategy. Outgoing chair Jason Hepple continues to hold a steady space for ACAT’s research committee.  Alison’s ideas for refreshing a research strategy stimulated northern-based research allies and Catalyse associates Glenys Parry and Stephen Kellett to put their networking and persuasive powers together. They have engaged a range of researchers with differing experience and stories to tell about how they have planned, conducted and reported on CAT research.  Glenys, Stephen and Alison will be joined by another six research-active colleagues on 13th April in Manchester to help deliver the first in what’s hoped to be a series of research-focussed events for the CAT community and other stakeholders who want to be involved.

So far the event’s attracted applications from a substantial group of enthusiastic CATs plus one or two others more new to CAT but keen to think alongside CAT community members about researching application of the model in their own fields. There’s a reduced bursary fee for people keen to attend but for whatever reason unable to cover the whole cost of the day.

Stephen Kellett, active in generating or supporting much of CAT’s recent evidence base, is characteristically optimistic about what might be covered. He considers that the evidence for CAT as an intervention with people with complex difficulties attracting a diagnosis of “personality disorder” is “looking good” to the extent that CAT can be considered an evidence based treatment according to the NICE bar for entry. Catch him on a day when he’s not too busy researching to share more ideas and he’ll tell you that the building evidence around CAT’s versatility enables us to “cut [our] cloth accordingly in terms of session contracting…..it’s useful to use 8 session CAT for common mental health problems or focal problems and extend to 16 and 24 for more complex presentations”. His recent work on the impact of reformulation letters demonstrates that “narrative reformulation is helpful for complexity, while less so for common mental health problems”. He goes on to highlight how the Personality Structure Questionnaire (PSQ) “is now a CAT specific outcome measure with really good psychometrics”. Get him onto evidence for CAT consultancy and he’ll enthuse that it “doesn’t really have a peer”.

When I asked Stephen what helped him get started (and keep going) in practice-based research, he shared that this has been possible through “thinking up clinically relevant questions whilst working with clients, matching an appropriate method to [them] and working with interesting, engaging and curious minded people”.

I expect that the research conference will be an opportunity for those assembled to distill and refine such questions based on their own clinical setting, and weigh up best methodologies alongside these key research guides. They’ve walked these paths before, know a whole lot more about the terrain than I do, and I hope that their insights and tips, combined with shared reflections from the larger group, can help make my research journey one which might actually get underway. Another hope is that the day will provide a stronger sense of those relational supports and networks which can keep momentum going between April and the next opportunity to hear the research component at an annual conference.

If you might be one of Stephen’s “interesting, engaging and curious minded people”, open to hitching a ride on Alison Jenaway’s energy for building CAT’s evidence base by starting or completing a research journey yourself, then please consider joining us in Manchester.

To book a last minute place at the conference, visit this page.  You can follow tweets about the day on the hashtag #CATres18

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Embodiment Event Now Open to Bookings

Tim Sheard’s two day workshop on Embodiment, Relational Space and Working with Trauma to the Sense of Self is now open for bookings.  The workshop, which takes place on 30th and 31st May, builds on previous training he’s delivered elsewhere in the UK and Finland.  In it he aims to provide an embodied and theoretical exploration of our relational selves, narcissistic wounding to the sense of self, and how embodiment may reduce what he refers to as therapist burdening.  This can take the form of stress, tiredness, exhaustion, burnout and vicarious trauma.

Tim offers understanding of these as embodied manifestations of a “hidden but powerful type of collusive reciprocation”, often occuring in a context of complex developmental trauma. He notes “the therapeutic relationship takes place in an embodied relational field, not simply between two reflective “minds”……embodiment skills may render it more tangible”.   His position is that developing such awareness “may help clarify the kind of relational presence we offer as therapists” to people who have experienced significant early trauma.  He believes that learning and practising embodiment skills can help to support the development of therapist self care via “healthy self-to-self reciprocal roles to resource us in the therapy room”, with potential benefits for both therapist and client.

His article in the Summer 2017 issue of Reformulation provides a more detailed account of how his experiential workshops, involving over 200 therapists to date, have evolved over the last seven years.  It also provides more information about the kinds of areas he’s likely to cover over the two days.

He welcomes applications from CAT therapists at any level of pre- or post-qualification.  Other therapists working relationally with people who have experienced complex developmental trauma, and who are well-versed in key CAT concepts such as reciprocal roles, are also welcome to attend.

This event takes place in Manchester in the leafy surroundings of Chancellor’s Hotel, and we hope that a more typical spring will have arrived by the end of May so that participants can enjoy the grounds.  It is offered on a non-residential basis so those attending will need to arrange their own accommodation.  Tim wishes to keep the event quite small so that participants can gain the most from it.  If you’re keen to take advantage of his trip to the north, then we encourage you to book soon.   Full details are at the event page at this link.

To book on to this event please click here.  The hashtag for the workshop is #CATerst18

First States Day Fully Booked

The first run of the CPD day offered by Sarah Littlejohn and Dawn Bennett on States, Self-states & State Shifts on 19th March has proved very popular and is now fully booked.  If there’s sufficient interest it may be possible to run the day again at a later stage.  Contact us if you’d like to be added to a waiting list for a repeat of the event.

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Café CAT: The Story So Far

As the third Café CAT meeting approaches on 25th April, Clive Turpin reflects on the first two meetings and possibilities for future directions it might take.

Café CAT was inspired by the established approach of Café Psychologique that presents a topic for an open conversation. Café Psychologique meetings in various locations have included mortality, loneliness, music, amongst many many others.  It was a priority for Catalyse to promote and support an alternative informal CPD opportunity to those interested in and working with cognitive analytic therapy that also served to bring people together with a shared curiosity and interest.

So far Café CAT has met on October and January 2017 and the next is planned for 25th April 2018.  I’m really pleased that we have a new voice for this one, Suzanne Riddell, who wants to explore the topic of similarities and differences between NHS and private therapy work. Do they each carry particular impressions and expectations? What’s the view from “inside” or “outside” of one or the other? What are our experiences and where does the reality lie?

The maiden Café CAT’s title was “What state are we in?” which focused on how we think about, approach and integrate states into our work. To get the Café underway I presented the first two topics with the hope that we could encourage others to get involved.  At the first event I took a slightly more active approach in leading the session to get things going.  It was great to get two new voices of Vikki and Lucinda to put a blog together sharing their experience of the evening.

Next up was “Exploring the tools of CAT and what’s kept post training” in January this year.  After introducing the topic we quickly moved into a more conversational approach, which was the original aim of the Café.  We were also in a cosier room which no doubt impacted on the feel as we were all sat around a double table arrangement, compared to the large open space before. The conversation went in all kinds of directions and opened up new ideas, highlighted some differences and left us all with new some things to consider.

One of the things that I find most exciting about these open conversations is that you don’t know where it’s going to go and what you’ll encounter. Each event has left me with a lot to reflect on and influenced my practice thereafter.  In addition to this I’m getting to meet new people and those that I haven’t seen for a while.  It’s like a social win, a professional practice win, and a general brain/mind win and obviously a great way to connect with others.

I’m really keen to promote and keep new voices active within the Café.  I’ve got lots of ideas myself, however a variety of voices and differing views are so enriching. So as well as a summary on the Café so far this is also an active invite to bring something that you feel passionate or curious about or interested in and want to sound out an idea or experience with others. This would be greatly welcomed to keep Café CAT open and diverse, so if you have an idea get in touch and we’ll see if we can get it into the Café schedule.

We’re also interested in this developing in other areas, such as Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool, (as well as other areas of Manchester) where there are large CAT communities.

Here are a few ideas for some future Café CAT meetings:

  • Research in CAT: challenging myths and reflecting on what we might have to contribute
  • Storytelling: How we tell them, the importance of them, who they’re meant for
  • Social media: the impact and how this comes into or bumps against therapy
  • Experiences of learning and teaching CAT: trainees, practitioners, psychotherapists
  • Attending to and working with feelings in CAT
  • Creativity, play and playfulness in CAT
  • Adapting CAT for different client groups (eg children, people with learning disabilities)

Contact Clive for more information or to share ideas about future Cafe CAT meetings.  You can follow him on Twitter at  @Clive_Turpin.  You can also follow tweets about the Café through its hashtag #CafeCatalyse.  Otherwise join Suzanne Riddell and other northern CAT colleagues by coming along to the next meeting.

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