In this guest blog, Ellie McNeil , Chief Executive of YMCA Liverpool and Sefton, shares reflections on the journey both she and her organisation have taken in developing a CAT-informed approach over the last few years. She offers an opportunity to shape the development of a new residential rehabilitation programme where CAT will be embedded throughout.
The use of CAT in YMCA Liverpool and Sefton has been and continues to be a journey of reflection, challenge, hope and change. Working with Dr Karen Shannon, we initially brought in the CAT approach to enable the delivery of a project supporting people with multiple and complex needs. Disenfranchised, excluded, rejected and frightened manifested as aggressive, disengaged, self sabotaging, and rejecting. We knew we needed a different approach, not only to elicit change with service users but more so to support the staff in their roles.
The team were trained in CAT Case Management, and we started to use reflective practice. Over the subsequent years we tweaked and changed our way of working. With the support of Karen, we had created a framework to work within. We’d developed a shared understanding of why the people we supported behaved the way they did and what we could do to change our response so that we could support them more effectively.
From our current use of CAT I could see the breadth of application that the approach could give Liverpool YMCA as an organisation. It helped us understand the perspectives of our service users, staff, processes and policies, and the wider impact of the system. I was particularly interested in how CAT could help us in note the pulls and pushes of the outside world, including relationships with commissioners, funders, policy makers and influencers.
I myself embarked on the CAT Case Management course to gain a fuller understanding of this. The learning I have gained has helped me feel that change is possible. Through making changes to myself I can begin to ensure the organisation and the people in it have the best possible chance of change too.
Following a significant journey of reflection together, through some challenges and hurdles, we now have a strong leadership reflective practice group. This provides a safe space for us to work towards bettering the organisation for the staff and service users. I am incredibly proud of where we are as a team and believe we have got to this place because of the shared understanding, language and framework that CAT gives us. Working in a CAT informed way helps me to ensure the organisation can be a positive place for service users and staff members now and in the future.
In partnership with two other organisations, we have recently been successful in tendering for a range of recovery services in Liverpool. We will be delivering the accommodation based rehabilitation service. This is a 12 week treatment programme supporting people to understand and move on from their substance use. Our model for the residential rehabilitation service sets out a Relational Approach to Recovery (RAR) using CAT.
At the heart of this approach is a commitment to be collaborative and flexible. We will get alongside and ‘do with’ our service users in providing support and rehabilitation, not ‘do to/for’ them. Our service delivery will build further on the genuine psychologically informed approach we take in our other services, building and fostering hope and working alongside people to achieve sustainable recovery. We’re currently inviting expressions of interest in a Cognitive Analytic Therapist role to help progress this work.
We will work with our partners, ensuring good planning, co-operation and collaboration across organisations. We intend to agree and jointly own procedures for all stages of the interaction between service users and agencies. This includes the journey from referral to assessment, information sharing to planning, transitions, service provision to funding and review. We will hold operational and strategic reflective practice groups across the partnership. Both groups will be facilitated by Dr Karen Shannon. The recovery pathway across Liverpool will be dynamic and groundbreaking, providing a service that is therapeutically rich and provides the best possible opportunities for change.
The future of YMCA Liverpool and Sefton feels bright and vibrant. We are an organisation that genuinely reflects. We commit to noting challenges, and learning and growing from them as well as celebrating successes. Our staff team across our services are outstanding. Their resilience, commitment and kindness makes me so proud. Ultimately, however, we are here to serve the people that need us. Every person using our services shows bravery, courage and the ability to change when they step through the door. Through our understanding and use of CAT we are now able to get alongside them and support them to a brighter, sustainable future.
You can read more about how CAT has been used as an organisational framework at Liverpool YMCA in the following two Reformulation articles from 2016 and 2017 (full details are listed on Karen Shannon’s profile page):
For more details and downloads about the CAT Therapist post with YMCA Liverpool & Sefton, click on this link. Expressions of Interest are invited prior to an open evening on 20 March 2019.