Category Archives: CPD

“Young people can sniff out inauthenticity a mile away”

We’re fortunate that Lee Crothers is running a CPD day with Catalyse while she is in the UK in June. Her day “A CAT Approach to Inclusive Practice With Young People” takes place on 9 June in Manchester. You can also join the day remotely, using the Zoom platform. Over the course of the day, Lee will share with UK cognitive analytic and other therapists her rich perspective and experience working with adolescents, young people and their families in the Australian context. Curiosity got the better of us, and we posed Lee a few questions in advance of the day.

How did you find CAT?  What was your journey into CAT?

I was fortunate to be part of Orygen youth health when we were offered training by a UK group including Ian Kerr that initially visited Australia in 2003. I was even luckier that Eva Burns Lundgren supervised me through phone conference (no zoom then!), supported by Louise McCutcheon. The three of us would huddle around the phone very early or very late in the day and fax our maps and reformulation letters.

What brought you into work with young people in particular and why do you like it?

I like the energy and hope young people bring to the room. Don’t tell my two teenagers but I like a bit of attitude too! Of course, you can have attitude and energy at any age but it is more common in young people who are finding their feet in the world. I also like how young people’s emerging perspectives of the world can challenge me and be challenged too. Young people are adaptable. They are often keen to try new things and haven’t got long histories of being stuck in relational patterns.

In your work with young people, is there a CAT tool or idea that tends to work particularly well or that you find yourself drawn to?

I am often drawn to mapping with young people. I like it when they take a photo of it on their phones and change it up with memes or phrases. Recently one of my clients told me the map needed a “glow up”. I use the visual of a target problem and maps do that well.

The idea of the target problem is one I value highly and use in my work with young people even if I am not doing traditional CAT. Establishing a shared sense of the problem is crucial; a must-do. Digging down to the real issue does bring relieved looks. I am often saying things like “it seems that what got you here was your parents being concerned about self-harm but the real issue seems to be that you feel like you don’t belong”. Writing or reformulating in a narrative way is fun to do through email exchange. Together we can put it together from bite sized pieces. It is how we take in information now – through small pieces. Putting it together with the young person is a useful process.

What is it about CAT that makes it so useful with your work with young people?

The collaborative, doing with style of CAT and the adaptable tools. I also like the direction but not the rigidity of CAT and how the ‘Three Rs’ are useful signposts. CAT has given me permission and confidence to use myself in the room in a relationally helpful way. And you can be transparent about it! Young people can sniff out inauthenticity a mile away.

While young people might lack life experience they often carry many strengths and resources to enable healing, recovery and growth. What have been the most useful ‘healthy islands’ or strengths you’ve seen in this client group over the years?

I think I may be repeating myself but the flexibility and openness of young people is a great resource. Young people today have access to so much information and I admire their energy and ability to synthesise and engage with it. They often want to help others with what they have learned. I feel hope about the world and its future working with young people. They have inherited a great climate burden and yet show such sensitivity and passion in change and shaking us up.

As well as your therapy practice you’ve done lots of work with headspace National and running CAT trainings via Orygen. What are you proudest of in this part of your work?

I feel proud and lucky that I have been part of new innovative ways of working with young people. Particularly at Orygen I’ve been part of early intervention services for young people seen as the most complex and at risk.

Recently I am proud of writing with headspace National and Orygen about a relational definition of complexity in young people. I am proud of the message that often the complexity is within the relationships between worker, system and young person rather than solely located within the young person. This became a practice principle for Orygen and headspace National that supports over 150 headspace centres in Australia. It worries me that young people take in this label of being “complex”. This work has sparked training called Relate and Reflect that teaches the relational formulation skills to headspace centres.

And….I am really proud of the book I am editing with Nick Barnes, Honorary Associate Professor at UCL. For this I’m writing a chapter with a young person, Mel, about a relational approach to working with young people with eating disorders. We had so much to say and we think we could fill a whole book. It’s a start to a working friendship that I hope continues.

In the UK there is much concern about the lack of available therapy services for people generally, and young people in particular.  Is there anything you think services here can learn from the Australian experience?

The headspace services have been a great initiative where young people aged 12 to 25 can access services without referral or cost. Professor Pat McGorry has been a tireless advocate for early intervention for youth. headspaces are youth friendly accessible services that don’t just offer counselling but things like vocational support. Often the referral pathways make access difficult for young people and there is a “no wrong door policy” with headspaces.

Because of the huge space of Australia and young people in rural and regional areas we are well prepared in offering ehealth and eheadspace is an exceptional service, well set up before lockdowns of COVID-19. Of course, we have the same difficulties of recruiting and retaining workforce. headspace National and many other CAMHS and CYMHS have early career programs or new graduate programs that perhaps UK have as well? The headspace National one supports hundreds of early career nurses, OT, social workers and psychologists over two years with extra training, supervision and clinical support.

If you’d like to hear more from Lee and build your own skills for working with young people, you can find full details and booking for her day at this link.

Painted wooden sign pointing to past and future

2022 Catalyse Round Up

And so the last days of January 2023 are here. Before the new year is much more behind us, and ahead of our AGM in early February, we’ve been looking back over 2022. It proved to be yet another busy year.


CAT Practitioner Training

A double cohort of 51 cognitive analytic therapist trainees began their first year of CAT Practitioner training in October 2022. We have been trying out new venues to accomodate these two sizeable groups. Our trainers are becoming accustomed to delivering the same material to each cohort, two weeks apart. It’s interesting to observe the relational and dialogical in action each time. Each group, with its unique composition, alongside the same trainers, connect with materials differently. The researchers amongst us might get excited about the potential for a naturally occuring experimental design. However we plan to keep the training as consistent as we can across the two groups.

The trainer team are grateful to all of you supporting CAT training in the North. Especially with an enhanced intake, which asks for redoubled efforts from all, we extend our thanks to all our visiting trainers, supervisors, seminar group facilitators, and markers.

The previous cohort of 24 who began their training in early 2021 remotely, in the context of the pandemic, managed to meet for in-person training days over 2022. They completed the taught component of the Practitioner training at the customary residential two days. For them this took place in November.

Again, as with each set of graduates, we feel enriched by the range and standard of written assignments. We’re excited to see some of their essays translating into blogs or articles in the future.

Catalyse Training Films

Several new courses (plus some returners and one or two individuals) subscribed to our original set of Training Films. We plan to repeat a survey for trainers & learners in early 2023 asking how they’ve supported learning. You can read the results of the previous survey at this link.

Our second set of Catalyse Training Films, featuring a range of fictional clinical scenarios & therapy dyads, has continued in post-production this year. A grant from Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust made it possible to commence this initiative. A host of volunteer therapist/actors helped bring fictional outlines to life in an intensive weekend of filming in late 2021. Since then, the post-production process overseen by Kathryn Pemberton along with Brickoven Media has been moving towards completion. We look forward to making these new films available to stream in 2023.


In Conversation With Annie Nehmad

2022’s CPD programme began in March with a new informal online format. The first ‘In Conversation With….” event featured Annie Nehmad on ‘CAT & the New Psychotherapies‘. This was well attended & valued by participants, and we are starting 2023’s programme with another ‘In Conversation With….” online event. This time it is led by Elizabeth Wilde McCormick on the topic of ‘Personal Reflections on CAT’s Early Days‘. It takes place on 16th February, and there are still places available. You can read more about this event and book via this link. We’re looking forward to hearing more from Liz about her work with Tony Ryle as CAT was starting to develop. Curiosity and questions from those attending will make this session a really fascinating interactive dialogue.

CAT as a Tool for Leadership

Next up in May 2022 was a face-to-face repeat of David Harvey‘s “CAT as a Tool for Leadership“. This has been a consistently well-received event whether delivered online or in person. We are considering running a further Leadership day in 2023. Keep an eye on our Forthcoming CPD page if you are interested in attending.

Last May’s event earned very glowing feedback from participants.

“David was a really engaging speaker who incorporated our examples & questions into the content really well. Relating leadership to working with traumatised teams was especially pertinent to my work & made the course very practically useful as well as being theoretically interesting. It was also a really useful opportunity to meet with others and not feel as isolated when hearing the experiences of others. Containing and inspiring.”

A Graceful CAT: Embedding the Social Graces in CAT Dialogue

Paddy Crossling and Rhona Brown led a smaller-scale, half-day, in-person event on ‘A Graceful CAT: Embedding the Social Graces in CAT Dialogue‘ in July 2022. This built on a workshop they presented at the 2019 25 Years of CAT Practitioner Training in the North conference. One of the participants went on to enlist a further session on Social Graces for a national network event. Tools that Paddy and Rhona started to develop as part of their work are being piloted in some clinical and training settings.

“I hadn’t come across ‘social graces’ before and I really liked the conceptualisation of diversity/a feeling of difference/not belonging. It was a great opportunity to explore this both in relation to ourselves and others, and to consider how we may apply this approach in our work settings. Weaving CAT into the ‘social graces’ was an extremely helpful way of stepping out of the theory into the practice.”

Creating a Tapestry: Weaving Together EMDR and CAT

In October 2022, Mark Walker and Alison Jenaway led a sell-out face-to-face day on ‘Weaving Together EMDR & CAT‘. This was very well-received by participants, many of whom are already integrating these two models.

“Rich discussions about integrating EMDR & CAT – having recently trained in EMDR, I really valued a chance to think more relationally with other CAT therapists. It was useful to talk through clinical dilemmas in processing work & to think more about bringing neurobiology-informed approach into CAT more.”

CAT Supervisor Training Workshop

A further sell-out event in November ended the 2022 CPD year via Mark Evans & Sarah Littlejohn‘s 2-day CAT supervisor training workshop.

“Time to think through issues, refresh and consolidate learning; exercises were well though through- speed supervision & mock group supervision – both facilitators were excellent – time with CAT community & peers.”

Given increases in training places locally, and the possibility of future HEE funded CAT training places nationally, we very much encourage eligible CAT therapists to consider qualifying as accredited supervisors. Availability of supervisors is pivotal in supporting the learning and development of therapists interested in CAT. For anyone considering this, ACAT provides a helpful pdf summary of the process; “New Modular Supervisor Training Programme”. You can download this from the ACAT site page at

Dawn Bennett has also just produced a further document for those attending our supervisor training. Her document aims to answer questions raised on the day, and ahead of the follow up session. It outlines the stages of supervisor training in a little more detail. The ACAT Supervisor Training Handbook describes all of this further.

Personal Reformulation

Our team of personal reformulation (PR) therapists completed a number of PRs with people seeking this brief CAT adaptation for personal and professional development. There is uptake from CAT Skills trainees, clinical psychology trainees & a range of others.

In 2023 we hope to offer PRs as part of other training and consultation, including initiatives around leadership. If you are interested in investing in a PR experience for yourself, or for staff or teams within your organisation, then do contact us. You can read more, with links and information on how to book a PR at this link.

Other Commissioned Projects, Consultation, Training and Research

In 2022 we completed an ACAT-accredited 6 month CAT Skills training with a range of staff from a local NHS trust. We delivered a number of reflective practice sessions, in addition to staff training & consultation initiatives. These included a series of one- and two-day introductory courses on CAT Skills for NHS teams. Similarly, but with content adapted for a non-professional audience, we also helped to scaffold CAT-informed work with staff of a third sector agency. A bespoke training on Five-Session Cognitive Analytic Consultancy ended additional offerings for 2022.

There is always a lot of possible work in the pipeline. We are lucky to have the support of various associates & colleagues around the North who help us deliver additional initiatives.

Staying involved with Catalyse

We’re always pleased to hear from CAT colleagues interested in working with us in one capacity or another. You can get involved in small contained ways to begin with. Roles can extend into more substantial involvement in Catalyse as an organisation. If you’re interested, then check out the information about possibilities for involvement with Catalyse at this link. Please do contact us to express your interest.

So it’s been a busy one! More ahead in 2023. Many thanks to all those who sought out our support with Cognitive Analytic Therapy related things over the last year. We really appreciate all of you working with us to deliver trainings, CPD, PR, consultation, research & other initiatives.

Save The Date: Two Day Supervisor Training Workshop in November 2022

Thinking of starting your journey as an ACAT-accredited CAT Supervisor? Mark Evans and Sarah Littlejohn are offering a face-to-face two day supervisor training workshop. This will take place on 17 and 18 November 2022 in Manchester. Mark and Sarah will follow the two days with a half day follow-up meeting, online, at a later date. Together these will constitute Part 1 of ACAT’s supervisor training pathway. We’ll post more details of this training shortly once booking is open. Do save the date if you’d like to sign up.

Update: more details and booking options for this event can now be found at this link: CAT Supervisor Training Workshop

Graceful Daisies in July

In this blog, Rhona Brown outlines her forthcoming half day workshop co-led by CAT and systemic family therapist Paddy Crossling.

There is a current push within ACAT for trainers, supervisors and therapists to develop skills and confidence in considering and addressing protected characteristics. Finding ways to more actively take such issues into account in therapy is recommended by UKCP’s HIPC EDI Guidance on teaching Equality, Diversity and Intersectionality in HIPC training organisations. These are shaping how ACAT-accredited training embeds aspects of equality, diversity and intersectionality throughout training and CPD. I’m involved in a working group thinking through how this can progress.

CAT has always been a model that situates the individual in their unique social context. The work of Vygotsky and Bakhtin underscored its radical social model of the self. Ryle and Kerr proposed that training therapies include ‘culture mapping’ to enable practitioners to recognise their own cultural influences and biases. However how realistic this is in each training therapy is another matter. And of course learning and personal development around these issues is life long, as we and the world continue to be fluid and unfinalised.

In contemplating tools to help us in this endeavour, a couple of years ago Paddy Crossling and I explored how we might adapt a systemic family therapy framework. The Social GGRRAAAACCEEESSSS was first proposed and shared by Alison Roper Hall and John Burnham. As a conceptual device they developed it to aid reflection on how aspects of identity impact on our relational exchanges. The letters in the mnemonic refer to Gender, Geography, Race, Religion, Age, Ability, Appearance, Accent, Class, Culture, Ethnicity, Employment, Education, Sexuality, Sexual orientation, and Spirituality. Most recent descriptions include a catch-all additional S for ‘something else’.

These hold some similarities to items included in CAT’s Psychosocial Checklist (PSC), first developed by Yvonne Harris and Janet Toye in 2004. Janet and Rachel Pollard went on to update it in 2006 but it has not been widely adopted in CAT. Like the Psychotherapy File (PF), it primarily centres the relational experience of the client. Neither of these CAT tools necessarily prompt reflection about the self of the therapist. In systemic thinking the lense is broadened to include the therapeutic system, whereby reflection gives way to reflexivity. This refers to the ability to reflect on action and use it to inform future action. The GGRRAAAACCEEESSSS help to scaffold therapist reflection in such a way that it brings to the fore what may be visible, invisible, voiced or unvoiced in our own personhood. This in turn can help us, in our actions, stay open to conversations about the interaction between client and therapist perceptions of our respective social selves.

Therapy, after all, is often about opening up conversations that are often not easy to have, in authentic ways. Inevitably this involves the complex and multifaceted personhood of both parties. Aspects of assumed, perceived and subjective identit(ies) can be powerful mediators of both the therapeutic alliance and rupture. The collaborative nature of CAT starts from a place of humility in its gradual co-construction of shared meaning. Yet understandings are seldom complete. And of course each of us brings a myriad of different life experiences and contextual positionings in the social world.

Finding our way through these can feel uncomfortable and challenging. Without some waymarks we can feel a bit lost. Often, strategies and procedures we employ to feel more safe or secure in our professional roles can powerfully influence the direction therapy takes. In order to hold space for respectful, curious conversations around aspects of identity, we need to feel at ease with uncertainties and discomforts that such exchanges can provoke. Moreover we need to be able to respond helpfully when our clients step into that space with us.

Paddy is on the cusp of retirement from the NHS, following a career spanning some fifty years. She brings much clinical wisdom as a jointly trained CAT therapist and supervisor, and systemic family therapist. Paddy also offers DBT in her busy role in an NHS psychotherapy service. Preparing for our ‘A Graceful CAT’ workshop in 2019 opened up a creative space from which emerged a ‘graceful’ daisy. In addition to the approaching season, this inspired the image we chose to advertise our forthcoming event. In our experiential workshop Paddy and I will provide an overview of these complementary frameworks and introduce this fledgling tool. There will be opportunities for both personal reflection and practice in pairs or small groups. We hope the workshop will provide a safe space for therapists feel more comfortable and confident in working reflexively with similarities, differences and power in the therapy room.

To find out more or book onto this half day in Manchester on the morning of 15th July, visit the “A Graceful CAT: Embedding Social Graces in CAT Dialogue” event page at this link.