Reflections on the Second International CAT Conference Maynooth, Ireland 15 - 17 June 2006

Donald Bermingham, 2006. Reflections on the Second International CAT Conference Maynooth, Ireland 15 - 17 June 2006. Reformulation, Winter, p.22.


An opportunity to spend four days in Ireland during a summer heat wave was not one to be missed and so I headed for Maynooth with an expectation of spending a few days in a pleasant setting, making contact with old friends from CAT and particularly from CAT Ireland. I admit that I did not have any particular expectations of the educational value of the conference, but I was in for a pleasant surprise.

With contributions from Ireland, U.K, Spain, Greece, Finland and Australia, the conference was truly international. We were promised a theme that would explore the impact of childhood trauma, abuse and neglect, on the narrative across the lifespan and we got that and more.

I enjoyed everything I went to but was particularly struck by the standard of presentation from trainees. It seems to me that CAT is in safe hands.

I particularly enjoyed Karen Shannon’s talk on Male Violence, “Using CAT to address the narcissistic and borderline process involved in male violence”. She very neatly translated the old concepts of psychopath and inadequate personality disorder into modern CAT language with the use of metaphor in a classic way that helps to internalise the content in much the same way as the use of metaphor does in CAT therapy.

I also very much enjoyed Michelle Hammell’s piece on the “Impact of the Written Reformulation”, a very neat piece of work, although I admit to bias as Michelle is from the University of East Anglia.

The conference was liberally sprinkled with presentations from non CAT Therapists but it was nice to see how easily their views and approach sat a longside CAT.

Nor was I likely to forget meeting Christine Buckley, and even those who were not aware of her profile in Ireland and her experiences in an industrial school were struck by her courage and sharp wit. We would do well to heed her advice that we do not try and grade abusive experiences, for instance by assuming that sexual abuse is more damaging than physical or emotional abuse. As Christine reminded us, abuse is abuse.

The more experienced wing of CAT conducted itself with great credit. I particularly enjoyed Laura Sutton and Steve Potter’s workshop on the dialogic approach in CAT and their explanation and elucidation of Baktin’s concepts of the role of the heroic and the novel were very helpful.

I enjoyed Jason Hepple’s talk on “The Witness and the Judge”. Indeed there was much to be enjoyed everywhere.

A letter from Tony Ryle promised us that we would be in safe hands and we were. A great vote of thanks is owed to Angela Mohan and her colleagues in CAT Ireland and also her charming daughters, who encouraged our learned helplessness by being able to solve any problem we came up with.

The setting of the North Campus at the National University at Maynooth was a good one and I think the assembled delegates had a sense of togetherness and it did not take long for the informal networking to get going. For my part, much of this centred on the sunlit seating area outside the local pub, where I met old friends and new and where it seemed to me our local beverage improved our fluency in CAT.

Unfortunately I missed some of the evening entertainment laid on by CAT Ireland, but I understand that the Ceilidh was a success and you will have gathered from all this that I felt the conference itself was a tremendous success.

Congratulations to CAT Ireland and indeed CAT UK and all our colleagues. When is the next conference? Where is it going to be? Book soon to avoid disappointment.

Donald Bermingham

Full Reference

Donald Bermingham, 2006. Reflections on the Second International CAT Conference Maynooth, Ireland 15 - 17 June 2006. Reformulation, Winter, p.22.

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