About CATT: What Is It & How Did It Develop?

CATT, or Children’s Accelerated Trauma Technique, is a specialist child trauma therapy.

Developed specifically for children and young people from 4 years of age upwards, CATT speaks to young people’s intrinsic communicative techniques of play and creativity. It enables children and young people to give a voice to their PTSD and complex trauma memories in order to resolve them, and it works. Fast.

Wondering how CATT came about? Here’s the story…

What Is CATT?

CATT is one of the only trauma therapies in a mental health professional’s toolbox developed specifically for children and adolescents from the ground up. It is different because it takes into account the fact that young people don’t rely on verbal communication alone; they use other expressive methods like play to get what’s on the inside, out. 

Designed as a holistic therapy that holds client autonomy and informed consent at its heart, alongside including caregivers and supportive adults in the child’s network where appropriate . CATT was borne from a diverse range of children and young people’s voices across the UK regarding how they would like their mental health care delivered. This experience and insight mean that CATT is a flexible therapy that accounts for diversity and differences among children and young people while respecting their need for creative opportunities to begin their healing journey to overcome PTSD and complex trauma. 

Key Concepts And Principles

At its core, CATT…

  • Is a holistic therapeutic approach
  • Allows children to process and resolve traumatic memories through arts and  play
  • Combines CBT techniques and theory with creative arts practices
  • Embodies children’s rights principles

A Brief History Of PTSD Diagnosis

Historically, PTSD wasn’t diagnosed in children since its first concept was linked to adult soldiers returning from combat. It was thought that children couldn’t develop PTSD. However, research debunked that and showed the contrary. Children can also suffer from the debilitating effects of  of PTSD and complex trauma.

Furthermore, despite strong advocacy from clinicians, it took years for the official recognition and inclusion of complex PTSD (C-PTSD) to be added to diagnostic manuals.

In 2014, the World Health Organization initiated a research review which clarified the classification of complex trauma. This review added complex PTSD (C-PTSD) as a diagnostic category, which has vastly improved how PTSD and C-PTSD is identified and treated in adults, children and young people.

Previously, without being able to formally diagnose C-PTSD in children, professionals may have had to circumvent the issue by using alternative diagnoses to access treatment. Treatment would often be mismatched to the client’s presenting needs, and therefore their trauma difficulties often remained despite intervention. 

Some mental health professionals use psychological formulation alongside diagnosis, while others prefer a person-centred narrative to discern a person’s strengths and challenges. Irrespective of a clinician’s approach, the inclusion of C-PTSD as a diagnostic category means evidence-based interventions can now be offered to clients presenting with complex trauma symptoms.  

The Development Of CATT

CATT was developed using a combination of psychological theory,clinical observation and practice.

The notion of CATT began with Dr Carlotta Raby and what we’ll refer to as ‘Project X’. It was the learning garnered from this project that was foundational to the development of CATT.

Project X came about when, in the late 90s, there was a push for local authorities in England to provide services and support for children who were ‘socially excluded’ from school. One particular London local authority initiated a project to develop the social and emotional skills of children who were excluded from mainstream services due to emotional and behavioural difficulties.

The team leading the project had no formal intervention framework at the time, just a strong desire to attempt a new approach of child-centred, unstructured play to provide social modelling opportunities. They began running programmes for parents, offering mentoring and respite services and providing a day-care provision, among other initiatives, as a comprehensive approach towards positive change.

As Project X continued, it became apparent that many of the attendees, aged between 4 and 11, fell under two categories (broadly speaking): social care and mental health. Social care related to the environment a child was in – usually socio-economic issues such as inconsistent mealtimes, subpar housing, etc. Mental health related to emotional and behavioural symptoms a child would display – anxiety, trauma, disruptive behaviour. It became apparent that many of the children with emotional and behavioural difficulties were experiencing psychological trauma. 

Meeting the needs of these children was a challenge, thanks in part to systemic and social issues. This dilemma was the catalyst to CATT’s birth; the team could either proceed with creating a protocol to facilitate overcoming child trauma symptoms in the face of all the issues or leave things as they were – completely ineffective.

CATT In Practice

Established in 1997 but developed substantially into a training programme later on, the CATT model is now being used worldwide to help children and young people overcome PTSD and C-PTSD. It is compliant with both UK NICE guidance and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance on treating children with PTSD and C-PTSD.

CATT is also offered to frontline mental health practitioners working in areas of ongoing conflict, war and natural disaster and is overseen through Carlotta’s charity Action for Child Trauma.

About The CATT Training

Trauma Psychology Training is a consultancy  that delivers high-quality, comprehensive CATT training to mental health professionals and organisations worldwide looking for an effective and established trauma therapy to support children and young people overcome PTSD and complex trauma.

Mental health professionals can train in CATT training through Trauma Psychology Training to enhance and extend their CPD therapy skillls By learning this evidence-based trauma-focused therapy, practitioners are far better positioned to support children and young people struggling with the pain of complex trauma and PTSD. 

Trauma Psychology Training offers a 2-day course in CATT that delivers experiential supervised practice. Mental health professionals that undertake a CATT course leave fully qualified to practice the 12 stages of CATT confidently, knowing that the therapy techniques they have learnt are grounded in current trauma science knowledge.

CATT Works Quickly To Help Young People Heal

CATT is a highly regarded trauma therapy technique rooted in decades of research and practice, and mental health professionals undertaking the training are able to gain trust and bring their young clients on board fast. 

Children and young people engage with CATT because it has been designed to reach them in a way language alone cannot. 

Do you want to learn how best to help children and young people with PTSD and complex trauma? See our website for more details about CATT and the training we offer. 

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Julie Shipton
Julie Shipton
Amazing course. Very informative and well delivered. Would recommend this to anyone working with children who have experienced trauma.
Nicole Asghar
Nicole Asghar
The CATT training was excellent. The trainers had thought through everyone's different learning styles to ensure we would all get the most out of the content, something which was really appreciated. The trainers were attentive, knowledgeable and clear in their explanations of quite a complex topic. I came away feeling confident and well-equipped to bring CATT into my work. Thank you!
Claire Fraser-tytler
Claire Fraser-tytler
a really well delivered and useful training
Jo McQuillan
Jo McQuillan
Fantastic training, great delivery and good mix of learning and practical use of new skills.
Lucy Wainwright
Lucy Wainwright
Really enjoyable course. Depth and breadth of information and plenty of pactice time.
Emily B
Emily B
My colleagues and I were so pleased to be able to attend the excellent training on CATT. The training was extremely engaging and inspiring and we are looking forward to working with our patients using the CATT techniques.
A Hearn
A Hearn
Really brilliant course, it's a full 2 days but very very good The course theory is backed up throughout with demonstration videos which really solidifies your learning. The tutors are so knowledgeable. I am really looking forward to adding this new tool to my toolkit, am so glad I did it.
Inspiring training delivered professionally on line. Enjoyed the break-out rooms and met some really interesting people. Can definitely recommend this two day training.
Gina Gomez
Gina Gomez
I was delighted to attend the CATT online training course after having seen the wonderful impact of CATT on children during one of my clinical psychology training placements. I am extremely interested in the value of play in therapeutic approaches, so CATT fits the bill perfectly. It is a child-centred, non-stigmatising and effective approach. The training I attended was thoughtful, professional and experiential and the trainers were approachable and knowledgeable. I would highly recommend this course.
Sharon Twigg
Sharon Twigg
The CATT training we excellent! Great resource booklet, fabulous tuition on the theory and practice as well as group work. The pace and level of teaching was perfect. I felt really enabled to try the method out safely online with other colleagues on the course. I have used the method successfully now with young people and teenagers in CAMHS who could not tolerate EMDR or TF-CBT due to the intensity of their symptoms. It has also worked well with kids with Autism, using toy figures or Lego. This method is now one of my top 3 go-to tools for trauma. Thank you :)

We provide training and consultation in Children’s Accelerated Trauma Technique (CATT) worldwide to mental health practitioners and organisations

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About CATT: What Is It & How Did It Develop?

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