Letter from the Chair of ACAT

Hepple, J., 2012. Letter from the Chair of ACAT. Reformulation, Winter, p.5.


Welcome to the winter edition of Reformulation.  My thanks, as usual, to the editors Julie Lloyd and Rachel Pollard, who put in many hours of work in dialogue with the contributors to really make the most of our journal.  At this time of austerity it is important to stay in touch with each other and to share experiences of problems and creative solutions to obstacles to our work.  You will have seen that this is the theme of the ACAT Conference 2013, which is to be held at Wakefield Park, near Reading, on 22nd and 23rd March next year.

It was Tony Ryle who inspired the strap-line: ‘Maintaining our professionalism and humanity’ in response to an observation that CAT, even in these difficult times, not only continues to survive but also creates enthusiasm and hope that psychological therapies can indeed be professional and humane in the face of what Glenys Parry has called: ‘The industrialisation of psychotherapy’.  Professional practice allows the therapist to tailor the therapy to the needs of the particular client they are working with using their clinical judgement and experience.  Humane practice, (and CAT is a humanistic therapy) makes the meaning – making therapy relationship central to the work in progress, irrespective of diagnostic labels, symptom rating scores and all the other ‘factory-driven’ imperatives that define the context within which many CAT therapists have to work.  As Glenys pointed out in Manchester this year, once the conveyor belt is up and running there are only two drivers to change.: a reduction in cost-per-item and increased throughput.

This is not so say that CAT cannot be part of the current environment.  CAT was designed to be an affordable, brief, focussed psychotherapy deliverable in public health settings.  A CAT therapy is quite able to deliver results and to measure them; CAT was designed to be amenable to research.  For CAT, the science is on the outside; the epiphenomena.  On the inside is the relational heart of CAT; the exploration of the uncertain, unfinalisable, unique dialogic encounter.  These two things are not all incompatible, in my view, but without a heart a therapy turns into a technique that could be delivered by any interchangeable therapist.  Without the science CAT cannot survive in the current environment in the NHS.  We need to feed the demands of the science while staying true to the dialogic heart.  This is the challenge!

I was talking recently to Barney Dunn from Exeter University about an exciting piece of research involving CAT that he and Paul Moran are thinking about.  Although we went to the same college, we have turned out quite different in the way we contribute to psychotherapy.  Barney is a serious scientist whose job it is to sort the wheat from the well-meaning chaff.  I realised how much CAT needs this scrutiny but started to realise that without its heart, CAT would probably be just well-meaning chaff.  And where did the heart come from?  Not really from science, as far as I can see, but from a creative act more akin to art than science.  The crafting of a form based on subjective perception and experience by someone with an intuitive vision.  CAT needs to continue with its artistic development, as people take forward the core and structure created by Tony using their experience and intuition, but it also needs to be refined and validated by science and scientists.  Luckily for ACAT we have both sorts of people and it is in a respectful dialogue around our differences and shared aims that CAT can show itself as the flexible, complex, measurable and humane therapy it always set out to be.

I look forward to seeing you at the conference if you are able to make it this time.  With the prospect of Tony speaking to the conference for the last time, I am sure it will be an emotional celebration that can send us back to the coal-face with renewed enthusiasm.  Alternatively just come and relax among friends.

Jason Hepple

Full Reference

Hepple, J., 2012. Letter from the Chair of ACAT. Reformulation, Winter, p.5.

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