Zoom detail of complex threads (for CAT Skills Training)

CAT Skills Training: One Graduate’s Perspective

We are grateful to David Harvey, clinical psychologist and current CAT Practitioner course trainee, for this guest blog looking back on his experience of completing the six month CAT Skills Case Management Training course led by Dr Marisol Cavieres and Dr Karen Shannon.

I decided to apply for the CAT skills training course two years ago because I worked in a service that was part of the Offender Personality Disorder pathway. I spent a lot of time trying to understand, and help others understand, the challenges and complexities of working with men and women who posed a risk to others. Many of those we worked with also had complex needs and ways of relating to professionals and services. I had already done the two day ACAT introduction to CAT which was a good way to get my head around and refresh some of the foundations of using CAT.

My experience of the application process (and the whole administration of the course) was that it was very well organised and informal. Everyone I had contact with were warm, friendly and supportive. Although I had to do a telephone interview, this felt very much like a two way conversation and I was put at ease quickly. It definitely felt that they were more interested in me and my reasons for thinking about doing the course than trying to catch me out with any tricky or technical questions!

I found the teaching was of a very high quality – either Marisol and Karen were always present on each the teaching days which meant that there was consistency and no unhelpful repetition. There were also guest speakers so there was some diversity within the continuity. All the facilitators were clearly knowledgeable and experienced. Although there was a wide range of experience and skill in our group, my sense was that we were all catered for.

I think the focus on risk and complexity, and using CAT not just directly with clients, but with other professionals in teams and wider systems, really made the teaching unique. As a result it was applicable to work in a wide range of settings with people who may pose risks to others, for example prisons, probation, hospitals, mental health teams and community settings.

The way that CAT concepts were introduced and then linked throughout the course to understanding risk and complexity was extremely helpful. I learnt a huge amount about CAT-informed approaches to conceptualising risk, and this included wider psychological concepts and tools beyond CAT. A focus on enhancing risk assessment, management and intervention provided great insights for me to take back into my day to day work. As an example, CAT helped me in my work with people struggling to acknowledge their roles in offending and risky behaviour. CAT allowed us to speak about wider relational dynamics involving harmful ways of acting towards others, albeit in much less serious ways. Over time, these shared understandings eventually helped to open up conversations about how more serious risk to others might be posed, through reciprocal roles named together in earlier sessions.

Weekly supervision was arranged by telephone conference call and included four of us with a mix of backgrounds in psychology, psychiatry and probation. This provided specific space for each of us to to have guidance in applying the concepts in our workplace. This meant that the training was directly applied to our day to day work with structured support from the facilitators from the outset. I found this to be of great benefit in that it started to directly develop my practice and enhance my work from the very beginning, with weekly support. Likewise, there was plenty of support for the two pieces of academic work required by the course. Feedback was detailed, tailored and really helpful in thinking not only about the academic aspects of my work but also the client or team work that was the focus of the essay.

The course did demand certain things: time and commitment for the weekly supervision, academic work and attendance (and engagement) in the teaching. For me it was wholly worth it. As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed the course and felt very impressed by the quality of the teaching and supervision. Having completed this course I was able to take the concepts and tools back into my place of work and decided to apply for the CAT practitioner training to continue to develop my skill and knowledge using CAT with this and other groups.

I really would recommend the CAT Skills course to others working with people who challenge services because of the complexity of their needs or the possible risks they may pose to others. Either as a stand-alone piece of CPD, or as the start of a journey on to further training and development in CAT, it is well worth the outlay and investment in time and effort for the framework and clarity it can help provide in working with complex needs.

You can find David on Twitter at @dawahar

Catalyse is hosting the next national CAT Case Management Skills Training which starts in January 2018 (hashtag #CATskills18).

Full details are available here and the deadline for applications is 24th November 2017.

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