So, if you are interested in becoming a CAT Practitioner, what do you need in terms of knowledge, experience and ability?
The criteria for application for a practitioner training in CAT, as outlined in the course information are based on three areas of competency, all of which are necessary:
These competencies are necessary because practitioner training is a post-graduate level training. In addition, the clinical supervised practice associated with most courses take place within the NHS and so NHS requirements for clinical governance (ensuring quality of treatment delivery and patient safety) need to be met.
Adequate knowledge and experience of working in the area of mental health
You would normally be required to have a core mental health professional training and to have a minimum of two years post-qualification clinical experience in a mental health setting. Core mental health trainings include medicine, counselling and clinical psychology, social work, mental health nursing and occupational therapy.
Adequate knowledge and experience of psychotherapy or counselling
You would normally be required to have completed a basic counselling or psychotherapy training course which has included elements of both theoretical input and clinical experience in which you would have treated patients in a formal therapy / counselling structure under regular expert clinical supervision. Such a training course will usually have been of at least one year's duration.
Evidence of ability to complete the academic requirements of the course
You would normally be required to have completed previous courses of a similar academic level as a post-graduate diploma or above, which have included having prepared and written essays or similar academic texts.
The above criteria are set in order to ensure that the trainees who are accepted onto the course start at a sufficient level of knowledge, expertise and ability to be able to deliver clinical work in an NHS mental health setting. A CV and other supporting information is used to initially assess the above criteria and form the basis for offering an interview. The interview provides a setting in which these criteria can be assessed more fully, and as a composite whole.
While some courses will interpret the formal criteria in a strict way, other courses may have flexibility in assessing and interpreting the criteria. Many Practitioner training courses are sited within NHS Trusts which have policies and rules that bind the course within certain limits, for example some NHS Trusts do not recognise counselling or psychotherapy qualifications as a core profession and so will not grant honorary clinical contracts to people having such a qualification alone even if it has been a substantial 2 or 4 year training. Course Directors have to stay within the bounds of their local settings, which may differ from each other in subtle but important ways around the country. However, most Course Directors are both open to and able to apply some flexibility at their own discretion. Candidates who do not strictly meet the entry criteria may therefore wish to contact the Course Director and discuss their own situation.
Some examples are given below, although this is obviously not an exhaustive list.
1. One applicant who was concerned that they did not have a core mental health profession. They had been a secondary school English teacher originally, and then had completed a 4 year psychodynamic psychotherapeutic counselling training and subsequently gained BACP accreditation. They had then worked full-time as a school counsellor for 8 years, for the last 4 of those also volunteering as a 'responsible adult' for minors or vulnerable adults who were taken to the local police custody suite for Mental Health Act assessment. Decision: this applicant had a first class honours degree in English, had completed a good quality counselling training and had considerable clinical experience with children and adolescents. They therefore stood up well against the second and third criteria. The concern was that they did not have a core mental health profession and may not therefore have sufficient knowledge of and experience with adult mental health problems of a degree commonly seen in secondary NHS settings. However, their role as ‘responsible adult’ may have provided them with sufficient exposure to and experience of mentally ill people, including adults. They were therefore offered an interview. At interview, it was discovered that their training to be a ‘responsible adult’ had been delivered by the local NHS mental health Trust and was quite extensive. The applicant presented well at interview in all areas and was offered a place on the Practitioner Training.
2. An applicant for the Practitioner Training included in their application form that they held a degree in nursing and 12 years experience of psychiatric nursing with adults. They had completed a counselling course 4 years ago and offered an interview. When seen, it became clear that whilst the applicant had extensive psychiatric experience and came across as a warm, engaging person who dearly wanted to change career within the mental health field, their counselling qualification was a three month evening course which had consisted of theoretical teaching and role play with other students only, and they had never been in a formal psychological therapy situation. The applicant argued that they used counselling skills every day in their job, but on enquiry it transpired that they worked on an in-patient unit and had ad hoc opportunities to talk to patients only, usually for a few minutes at a time and rarely in a controlled, set-up, private environment and so regular meetings which could follow-on from each other were practically impossible. The interviewers looked for compensatory areas, but the applicant was unable to talk with much psychological depth about any patient; they did not have experience in any counselling type voluntary setting such as the Samaritans; and nor had they had any personal therapy experiences. The applicant was not offered a place on the Practitioner Training Course on the grounds that they would have felt out of their depth at the starting level of the course and in relation to fellow students, but they were offered advice on how to obtain basic counselling experience and invited to apply again in the future.
Revised December 2017