Does CATT Really Work? The Research Evidence

CATT_ What Does CATT Look Like In Practice (4)

If you’re considering training in CATT, you may be wondering where it came from. What led to the development of such a unique protocol? How did CATT originate? And more importantly, does it actually work?

CATT: A Brief Introduction

CATT, otherwise known as Children’s Accelerated Trauma Technique, is a specialist trauma therapy that has been developed specifically for children and young people.

Unlike adults, children aren’t able to rely on verbal communication alone, to fully express themselves. The CATT model is unique in addressing PTSD and complex trauma in children because it uses elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combined with play and creative arts to unlock familiar and, therefore, much more effective ways of communicating for young people aged from 4 upwards.

CATT is used all over the world to support children and young people struggling with PTSD and complex trauma and has demonstrated success time and time again. The gap CATT fills is so stark that the vast majority of mental health professionals who have undergone CATT training begin to incorporate it into their sessions immediately, to better help their young clients heal and recover from their trauma. 

When you undergo CATT training, you develop your skills as a mental health professional and learn an evidence-based trauma therapy that fully adheres to UK NICE and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance, and works fast to help young people heal from childhood trauma. 

What Is The Research?

We can tell you it works, but what research exists to demonstrate it?

Children’s Accelerated Trauma Technique has undergone 25 years of extensive research and development. Originally established in 1997 when its Creator, Dr Carlotta Raby, was part of a social outreach programme designed to support children and adolescents excluded from mainstream systems. CATT was later developed into a training programme in 2002 and continues to help young people overcome PTSD and C-PTSD in the UK and overseas. 

What Is The Evidence?

CATT works because it has been developed from the ground up, holding children and young people at its core. 

With proven success in different countries and numerous areas of high conflict, CATT works even in cases of extreme incidents leading to trauma, and provides children and adolescents with a much-needed,  highly flexible and adaptable intervention that enables them to process their traumatic memories in a safe and comfortable way. 

There are currently over 300 mental health professionals using CATT worldwide, and the number is growing year on year. 

Having been applied in a variety of countries for over two decades, an immense amount of learning has been accumulated, and the feedback from organisations on the frontline, practicing clinicians, and the young people and their families themselves across these diverse settings has headlined the continued development of our CATT training programmes. 

The Data: CATT In Rwanda

In 2002, the founder of CATT was invited to travel to Rwanda by a local Rwandan non-government organisation (NGO) that worked with communities affected by genocide. They were looking for a model of trauma treatment that was suitable for the children and adolescents affected by the recent events, as well as the adults. 

Delivering CATT training in this way was a catalyst for the formalisation of the 12-step holistic model that we see today. 

The experience of using CATT to help young people with trauma in Rwanda demonstrated that:

  • CATT worked well for cases of acute PTSD and reduced the intensity of the symptoms associated with the trauma 
  • CATT was extremely adaptable and flexible enough to treat young people from different cultures without any dip in effectiveness (Allard, Bates and Skaarbrevik 2016; Edwards 2011; Raby 2010; Raby and Edwards 2011; Rolington 2014)

The true success of using the CATT protocol in Rwanda led to the model being used in other areas of conflict, war or natural disaster. In 2008, a charitable organisation was established to enable the local organisations of communities experiencing extreme conflict and trauma to access training in CATT on a humanitarian basis; this charity is now called Action for Child Trauma International. You can read all about their work here.

The Data: CATT In Gaza

According to reports from international organisations, over 270,000 children in the Gaza Strip need psychological intervention. In 2019, ACT International partnered with, IMET 2000 and Firefly International to set up a child trauma clinic in Gaza.

An initial audit (Birch, 2021) showed that over the first 18 months of the clinic’s operation, 69 children were treated for PTSD using CATT. Pre and post-treatment data showed that all 69 children initially had clinically significant symptoms of PTSD (as indicated by the CRIES-8) pre-treatment, and following CATT treatment, all 69 children no longer had clinically significant symptoms of PTSD.

This shows that CATT significantly reduces the symptoms of acute traumatic stress, and some of these young people had lived with PTSD and complex trauma for over 4 years. Feedback from families and other adults involved in the children’s care showed progress in life skills and psychological adjustment as the children were taken through the 12-stage model.

Follow-up of a subset of children showed that at 6 months these treatment gains were maintained, despite these children continuing to live in Gaza’s harsh conditions, suggesting that CATT also improves a young person’s resilience to ongoing trauma.

CATT In Uganda

Over half of Uganda’s population is under 15 years old. The country has a long history of experiencing group conflicts. Many of the young people living in Uganda have witnessed extreme traumatic events, and there is a high rate of mental health difficulties among children and adolescents, as well as adults. 

CATT is an important part of the development and training of child mental health professionals in Uganda. The model has strengthened concepts of children’s human rights into mainstream practice. 

Before the introduction of CATT to Ugandan mental health services, there was only one psychiatrist specialising in child and adolescent mental health treatments. 

Now, Uganda has 160 counsellors trained in using CATT.

CATT Really Works – And There’s Plenty Of Evidence To Prove It

Over the past 20 years, CATT has been used all over the world to vastly improve the lives of young people and their families with PTSD and complex trauma; the model has produced numerous positive treatment outcomes that show that not only does it work, but it works quickly.

If you’d like to know more about CATT and what it looks like in practice, read our blog here, or to see when the next available training course is available, click here


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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 :)

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Does CATT Really Work? The Research Evidence

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