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A Starting State for Cafe CAT


On October 11th 2017 a gathering of the northern CAT community took place at Z Arts  in Hulme, Manchester, for the first of our new Cafe CAT evening meetings. We are pleased that a couple of those attending kindly took up the invitation to write a blog on the event. We therefore welcome some new voices to our blog: those of Vikki Aadahl and Lucinda Bolger.

For the Café CAT debut a warm welcome was received at the Z-arts centre in Hulme. Young people noisily occupied in an art group and later a choir provided an engaging backdrop for a creative discussion under the title of, ‘what state are we in?’.  Clive Turpin, CAT psychotherapist, greeted group members as they arrived with old and new colleagues re-connecting as everyone took their seats. Clive set the tone for the group as an open opportunity to come together to discuss, debate, share ideas and reflections on a particular CAT related theme. No presentation or teaching more a space and time for sharing thoughts, reflections and ideas.

Kicking us off was the question of, ‘what state are we in?’ What do we even mean when we start talking about states – state of mind? A state of being? A state of an organisation like the NHS? Or even the state of the world? When writing down some common states the majority of group members wanted this to be encircled:

enraged    omnipotent    elated    child-like    sadness

Where had the urge to circle states come from? Teaching? Reading? There was a felt sense of wanting to contain the visual representation of states with a visual circle. Is this paralleled with therapist’s desire to contain states? And/or are the people engaging in CAT wanting states to be contained? Do states feel uncontained?

Most group members had an understanding of states as parts of the self. So it was considered how people move between these different parts of self.  What happens relationally to create a state shift? How aware are people of state shifts and the contributing factors to this shift? Members shared a common experience of individuals feeling like state shifts happen without awareness/warning.

If visually representing states on a map it was suggested that reciprocal roles can be included within the state. Some had chosen to develop understanding of a state by giving it a name – ‘zombie’, ‘hulk’,  ‘behind glass.’  And naming the physical experience of the state – what happens in the body in this state? Further detail of a state was developed by thinking about what mood is generally felt in each state? Do some states give greater access to moods/emotions/feelings? Thinking relationally, can some states be more likely to lead to a rupture in the therapeutic relationship? Should this be discussed early in therapy to help prevent a rupture? Hilary Beard’s self-states form was passed around as a potential tool to facilitate these discussions. Consideration of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) was highlighted in the same way it would be with any other part of CAT therapy. For some it can be hard to name/discuss/acknowledge some states. Also shared was the potential of including a hopeful/functioning/positive state on someone’s map.  Can this be represented as a ‘safe place?’ Others used the term ‘healthy island.’

The bar at the Z-arts centre was open for the break providing some sustenance to keep energy going for the second hour. In individual groups we took the state ‘helpless’ to consider sharing ideas for understanding the state. We considered the see saw between helpless and hopeful/rescue/striving state. We thought about the potential history of the state, the contributing factors, the responses of others, the potential functions of the state, feelings connected with it, potential exits or helpful responses and so on. Within a 10 minute exercise we were surprised to have generated lots of ideas.

Drawing the time to a close Clive invited suggestions for future topics for Café CAT. He invited others to host and facilitate future groups if they would want to, being open to the evolvement of the group to suit the needs of group members. An engaging start to what hopes to be a successful future for Café CAT!

Vikki Aadahl @vikkiharry

I attended the inaugural Cafe CAT meeting last week, so as to re-immerse myself into the CAT world. Sometimes an integrative way of working can feel like it risks diluting the best bits, and it is refreshing to surround myself with other people who see the world through CAT eyes.

It was helpful to have a structure (scaffolding?) which on this occasion was ‘states’, and to be given the opportunity to explore what that meant to us. After our discussions we had an opportunity to make sense of a ‘helpless’ state by drawing it out in small groups.

I would really encourage those with an interest in CAT to attend the next meeting in January.

Lucinda Bolger

The next Café CAT is titled ‘Exploring CAT tools: what’s kept post training’ and will be held on Wednesday 24th January 2018 from 18.15 to 20.15. We look forward to seeing you then. If you’d like to lead a future Café CAT meeting, or have any ideas or suggestions for topics, then please contact us.

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