CAT Personal Reformulation

Therapy & Coaching

CAT Personal Reformulation for Personal and Professional Development


Catalyse offers Personal Reformulation sessions to professionals who are training as clinical psychologists, those engaged in CAT Skills Case Management training,  and in Foundation level training.  The link here explains more about ACAT’s requirements for personal development or therapy at different levels of training in cognitive analytic therapy.

A Personal Reformulation involves meeting with a therapist over two or more sessions in order to map out relevant personal patterns of relating with an emphasis on their impact on work roles. These were formerly known as mini-therapies.

More information is provided below.  Clive Turpin, previously co-ordinated provision of Personal Reformulation offered by Catalyse Associates, also shared a blog answering frequently asked questions .  Read Clive’s blog here.

Personal Reformulation has particular value for those who want to see the bigger picture of how they might be pulled into limiting or self-defeating patterns of interaction, and the coping strategies which they use.

CAT’s brief structured approach to psychotherapy with an emphasis on active, collaborative and early written and diagrammatic reformulation (mapping) lends itself to a foreshortened, mapping-focussed reformulation experience. This has developed into a distinctive approach which is being increasingly used in a multitude of contexts and with differing professions.

Personal Reformulations (PR’s) are offered in slightly different formats due to varying funding arrangements, however a general standard is an initial session of two hours and a one hour follow up approximately a month later.

How were PRs developed?

The use of an extended single session grew from the need to provide an experience of CAT therapy for visiting Australian CAT trainees.

The value of a ‘reformulate and go’ approach to very brief therapy was echoed by experience in using CAT in student counselling settings where clients might attend for crisis help but have good underlying mental health.  In these circumstances the client can make rapid psychological use of a collaborative reformulation to step out of their difficulties and recover a healthy empathic stance towards themselves and their situation.

The format of a one off session was also appended as an element of personal development within an intensive CAT skills training week for Community Mental Health Teams in Sheffield, as developed by Ian Kerr. Subsequently it has been used by visiting therapists to provide a personal reformulation in Australia and New Zealand.

What is a PR?

A PR is an opportunity to meet with a therapist and use the relational approach of Cognitive Analytic Therapy to identify and explore the relational patterns that you might get drawn into. The focus will be a collaborative negotiation but develop from the basis of exploring your work role with patients, colleagues and peers.  This can naturally overlap with more personal ground. If this does occur the therapist will be thoughtful with you about the time limits of the session and what can be safely explored. Or you and the therapist may decide this is something that you might want to return to in the future, whether in follow up sessions or in contemplating undertaking therapy.

What happens in the initial session?

The beginning of the first session will look at the boundaries of confidentiality and some reflections on your thoughts and feelings about the sessions. The therapist will have a collaborative approach when exploring any goals you might have for the sessions and how you might work together towards these.

The CAT approach of mapping will be used to track the conversation to establish reciprocal/relational roles, the feelings that occur and how these are managed. The map (and we all have one) helps with recognition and supports change through establishing exits.  The map will be yours to take away and there is an expectation that you will return to following sessions with this as a working tool to review and develop.

At the end of the sessions the therapist will reflect with you on the experience and what might be helpful to take away and work on, specifically listing these if helpful.

What goes on in the follow up session(s)?

A follow up session provides a valuable space to review the initial session and is a useful way of consolidating the initial experience.  It provides an opportunity to consider how the map might have been used to aid recognition and support exits. Any goals that were established at the end of the initial session can be reviewed and additional exits added. It is also an opportunity to gain additional understanding.

What happens at the end?

The therapist will reflect with you on the whole process and how you might continue to use the map and new understandings. It might be an opportunity to consider whether having any further sessions would be helpful.

The therapist will pass on your email to the Catalyse administrator who will send you a feedback questionnaire.  When you have completed and returned the questionnaire, it will be anonymised.

Catalyse welcomes all feedback, which we regularly review to see if any changes can be made to improve the sessions or information that you receive about the PRs.

Why is my PR different from my colleague’s PR?

Although we have a standardised approach to the sessions, each is different and focused on the needs and wishes of the individual and this will explain some of the reasons why you will have different experiences of the PR sessions. However you can be assured that all the listed therapists are taking the same approach and hold the same values towards the sessions.

How do I organise a PR session?

Follow this link to the list of PR therapists who work on behalf of Catalyse. This includes a brief summary of each therapist, their work location and contact details.

Who can arrange a Personal Reformulation?

PRs can be used by anyone who is interested in getting a better understanding of their relational roles and how these might impact on them at work or in general life.

Currently Catalyse have agreements to provide Personal Reformulations to trainee clinical psychologists completing Doctorate training in Clinical Psychology with the Universities of Lancaster and Liverpool.  Details of arrangements for each can be viewed below.  D Clin Psych trainees from the University of Manchester are also accessing PRs on a self-funding basis.

The cost of a standard Personal Reformulation (two hours plus one hour follow up) provided through Catalyse is £225.

Catalyse are keen to offer this approach to other Universities and services where a need for the approach is highlighted as being valued and beneficial.  If you wish to pursue this further or have any enquiries, please contact us to discuss.


D Clin Psych: University of Lancaster

Trainees are advised to have the initial two-hour PR session and a one-hour follow up, but can access further sessions, up to a total of 7 hours.

This provides trainees with more time, if they wish to take this up, which gives the opportunity for extended reflection and understanding of the initial work covered in the extended session.

Negotiation of the time frame takes place prior the initial session to get a sense of whether trainees want to have the initial two hour session plus a single follow up; the 2 hour session plus five one-hour sessions; or three two-hour sessions. The agreement made by each trainee will help inform how the sessions are best approached and contained.

D Clin Psych: University of Liverpool

Funding available for an initial two-hour session plus a one-hour follow up. Trainees are asked to pay for the Personal Reformulation direct, but can then claim back the full fee from Liverpool upon presentation of their receipt.

D Clin Psych: University of Manchester

At present we do not have a contract or agreement with Manchester, but trainees are able to access PRs on a self-funding basis.

CAT Skills Training Course

Personal Reformulation has been incorporated into the six-month CAT Skills training courses, to provide participants with additional personal development.  Each trainee is entitled to a two-and-a-half hour PR.

Other uses of PRs:

Liverpool, Two Day Skills Training: Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, Liverpool, funded this skills training to psychological therapists in their Trust and built in the opportunity for participants to have a personal reformulation session of a single two hour session.

Liverpool, Eating Disorders Service, Liverpool:  Personal reformulation has been used as part of a group programme within the Eating Disorders Service. This involves a brief introduction to relevant ideas of mapping and tracking patterns of relating to self and others in the first two meetings of the group, followed by an individual personal reformulation session to develop a life map.  The aims of this includes both teaching mapping skills further, and sharing a fuller understanding. This two and half hour session is followed by further group meetings in which the map is jointly explored with peers.  This helps to highlight strategies for recognising and revising problem patterns of relating and coping.

Lincolnshire Psychological Services:  The Psychological Services funded some introductory training in CAT, which included a personal reformulation (a two and half hour session combined with a one hour follow up). This was followed by group coaching sessions in applying the personal CAT diagram, with an emphasis on personal and professional development.