Coastal Child and Adult Therapeutic Services

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Coastal Child and Adult Therapeutic Services are pleased to be holding a free Workshop event: Vicarious Trauma: Supporting Practitioners who work with traumatised clients. The workshop will take place at our Poulton office on Tuesday 19th November. Registration will be at 9:30am for a 10:00am start. The workshop will finish at 2:00pm.

This one day workshop is designed for practitioners who work with people who have experienced trauma, or for anyone who has an interest in this area.

The workshop will be delivered by Sam Keeley, a Forensic Psychologist in Training based at CCATS. Sam works with child, adolescent and adult clients in community services, providing therapeutic intervention and assessment. He also provides consultancy and support services for the residential care sector. He has experience delivering training in this and other areas. He is also an EMDR practitioner.

Coastal Child and Adult Therapeutic Services (CCATS) has been named as a leader in how they support their people to do their best work and go home feeling happier, healthier and stronger.

Being shortlisted in the Employer of the Year: Silver (up to 49 people) category in The Investors in People Awards 2019 is a fantastic achievement and something everyone at Coastal Child and Adult Therapeutic Services (CCATS) is really proud of.

Looking after your people is something that matters to all of us, and that’s why these awards are so special. These are the companies really getting it right. The ones we’re all learning from. The ones with new ideas.

Julie Kershaw, Service Manager at CCATS, commented: “We are really pleased that we have reached the finals, along with only eleven other companies! This achievement is totally about the CCATS team as a whole, the way everyone works together and supports each other and, as always, we can’t thank everyone enough for all their hard work and commitment to CCATS.”

Tickets to the awards ceremony are publicly available on the Investors in People website from the 12th September 2019. The full shortlist and more information about Investors in People can be found on that website.

We are pleased to announce that CCATS are holding a one day training workshop on child sexual exploitation at CCATS offices on Thursday 27 June from 9:30am to 4:00pm.

The event is designed for practitioners who work with children and adolescents, or for anyone who has an interest in the area. The workshop will be delivered by Dr. Kirsty Alderson, a Chartered and Registered Forensic Psychologist based at CCATS. Kirsty is undertaking a PhD and has published in the area of child sexual exploitation. Her PhD findings were presented to the Home Office.

The cost of this one-day event is £60 (excluding VAT). To book on to the workshop, please contact Richard Noble at

Members of the CCATS team receive the award. Photo courtesy of Mel Jones Photography Ltd.

We are delighted to announce that CCATS have won “Employer of the Year” at the Wyre Business Awards 2018!

The celebration event was attended by over 280 business people from across the Wyre area. The judging panel included Steve Newsham, Reginal Director at The Regenda Group, and Scott Carswell, Site Director at NPL Group Hillhouse Technology Enterprise Zone.

This award is a testament to what we have accomplished as a service over the years, and the entire team are extremely proud of this achievement!

Further details can be found on the Wyre Council website.

The CCATS Conference “Excellence Driven” was held on 28 September 2018 to showcase some of the excellent work that is being undertaken by the team. A summary of the talks are presented below.

Kirsty Alderson introduced the work of CCATS as a therapeutic service and outlined some of the provision and support on offer to children and adults. This was followed by a talk on her PhD research around child sexual exploitation and the implications for working with young people. The talk discussed the gaps in current knowledge around vulnerability and protective factors relating to child sexual exploitation, as well as how the literature could be utilised to provide quality assessment and interventions for those who are vulnerable, or those who have experienced sexual exploitation.

Dr. Carol Ireland presented on both risk assessment and staff exposure to trauma. The first talk discussed the expectations that should be met when completing risk assessment/psychologically informed reports, and the importance of evidence-based formulation to inform later therapeutic engagement. Dr. Ireland’s second presentation covered the findings of a systematic review into staff exposure to trauma when working with young people in care. It identified five main themes: (1) Lack of organisational support; (2) Lack of health work-life balance; (3) Lack of appropriate training; (4) Failure to use self-care techniques; and (5) Staff failure to share when they are experiencing symptoms.

Sam Keeley provided an overview of radicalisation based on the latest available evidence. It covered definitions and the nature and development of radicalisation, signs of potential radicalisation, and suggested courses for action.

Suzanne Bowden’s presentation focused upon the core components of the Life Minus Violence – Enhanced (Aggression and Harmful Sexual Behaviour) programme, an evidence based therapeutic intervention for adolescents and adults.  An overview of each module was presented and attention given to the theoretical underpinnings along with key components of the therapeutic approach.

The day was well-received and demonstrated the wide range of work that CCATS undertake with both children and adults.

We are pleased to announce that one of our Forensic Psychologists, Dr. Carol Ireland, has released her new book, “The Routledge International Handbook of Forensic Psychology in Secure Settings”.

The book, by Dr. Ireland and colleagues, includes international contributions from authors in the UK, US, Australia and Canada, and covers key psychological issues facing secure prisons and forensic hospitals. Topics covered include:

  • Forensic populations and wider issues relevant to offending populations;
  • Treatment options for a variety of offending populations, such as sex offenders, fire setters, domestic violence programmes and those with personality disorders,
  • Staff and workplace issues, including supervision and psychological effects of working in secure environments;
  • Contemporary issues facing forensic populations, such as terrorism, crisis negotiation and gang membership.
  • The book combines theory and practical applications throughout, which makes it an essential read for any student, researcher or practitioner in forensic psychology or criminology, as well as those involved in social care and policy.

To order a copy and for more information, visit the publisher Routledge’s website. A 20% discount is available using FLR40 at the checkout.

Over the summer, OFSTED completed inspections in three specialist homes where CCATS provides therapeutic support for young people with harmful sexual behaviour. It was encouraging to note that our therapeutic role was viewed very positively in all three reports. Broadly, OFSTED found that:

“In-house clinical therapy… supports young people in their journey to becoming increasingly safe within the wider community, and enables them to benefit from improved emotional well-being and happiness.”

The collaborative approach that CCATS and other colleagues in the home adopt was praised in the reports. OFSTED noted:

“Cohesive and effective working relationships between care staff, education staff and clinicians ensure that young people receive an individual and holistic package of support to address their identified needs. This high level of care and positive multi-agency working ensures that young people make progress from their individual starting points.”

CCATS, along with the residential homes, adopt an individualised approach to manage risk and bring about positive change in the young people. OFSTED found our therapy to be flexible, in that work with young people is consistently reviewed to ensure progress is being made at an achievable pace, any immediate concerns are addressed, and interventions evaluated in terms of their effectiveness. Young people were found to engage positively with CCATS sessions:

“Children engage meaningfully in their sessions to explore emotionally challenging past experiences, and build healthier strategies to help regulate their emotions and increase their resilience.”

Furthermore, OFSTED commended CCATS therapy in meeting young people’s areas of risk and need within their individualised therapeutic programme:

“Therapists work with the children and staff to develop strategies to support safe progress towards their goals. The highly effective planning and proactive safeguarding practice contributes to a significant reduction in risk and, consequently, to children’s sense of safety and stability.”

In particular, OFSTED provided one example where staff and therapists worked together to prepare a young person for family contact:

“Staff are willing to ‘go above and beyond’ to support children to enjoy positive contact with their families. Some exemplary work was in progress at the time of the inspection to prepare a child to attend a family celebration. Staff and therapists had worked with the child to develop cue cards so that he can discreetly seek help if circumstances become challenging.”

CCATS prides itself on evidence-informed practice, and we are keen to apply and integrate our knowledge to improve outcomes for young people. This was recognised in the OFSTED reports, which noted that our therapy was “integrated into the planning of the positive behaviour support model used in the home’s practice.” This supportive model builds young people’s sense of self-esteem and identity, recognising areas of strength and celebrating achievement.

It would not be possible for CCATS to receive such favourable comments from OFSTED without the support of our dedicated and professional team. Moving forward, we will endeavour to maintain these high standards in our work within the residential homes.

On 30 November 2017, CCATS held its fourth conference “Moving Forward – Working with young people: Research and innovation” in Manchester. The event showcased the research of the CCATS team to practitioners working with young people and reflected their evidence-based approach towards the application of knowledge in clinical practice. This can have real impact for the people we support.

During the event, presentations covered a range of topics that reflected the diversity of interests and skills in the CCATS team, including secondary trauma, child sexual exploitation, aggression, institutional abuse, self-injury and posttraumatic growth. All presentations addressed areas of research that are lacking in the wider literature, thus demonstrating innovation and promoting the latest knowledge.

Dr. Carol Ireland presented her systematic review on secondary trauma in professionals working with traumatised children, co-authored with intern Sonia Huxley, which has now been accepted for publication in the Journal of Forensic Practice (congratulations!) This review draws attention to the idea that working with traumatised children can be potentially traumatising to professionals, an area often overlooked. The presentation identified key themes of the secondary trauma experience, and made recommendations to support professionals in their practice.
Kirsty Alderson discussed her PhD research on child sexual exploitation. She identified factors that should be considered when assessing the impact of CSE on a young person’s development. An individualised needs assessment was key to supporting young people, which considers both risk and resilience factors.

In her presentation, Professor Jane Ireland provided an introduction to the aggression literature. There was a need to acknowledge the motivations for aggressive behaviours, including assessing a range of emotions, thoughts and beliefs, environmental factors and instances of non-aggression, rather than focusing on typologies. Together, these could be combined to provide a more holistic formulation of behaviour.

The afternoon presentations began with a talk from Rebecca Ozanne on institutional abuse. Currently in the early stages of her PhD, Rebecca outlined the results of her systematic review on factors that promoted negative symptoms and strength among those who have experienced in-care or institutional abuse. There was a need to dispel myths that all people who are institutionally abused go on to abuse others, and to help individuals to recognise strengths and talents, thereby enhancing well-being.

Charlotte Caton, who is in the latter stages of her PhD, presented her research on self-injury. Charlotte presented her own model of self-injury to help understand the reasons why people engage in self-injurious behaviour. She encouraged practitioners working with young people who self-injure to focus on their strengths and consider the various reasons why people may engage in this behaviour.

Finally, Matt Brooks (University of Central Lancashire), who is in the final stages of his PhD, presented his research on posttraumatic growth. He introduced the idea some people can also report positive changes following traumatic experiences, shifting the sole focus away from the negative symptoms. Matt discussed the impact of childhood trauma on adults and the PTG research on children. The presentation recommended practitioners focus on promoting positive thought processes and the social environment to encourage growth in young traumatised children.

The event was well-received. Here are some comments from attendees:

“Presentations were thorough and well-presented, demonstrating key knowledge and experience.”

“Good overview of the varied specialisms within CCATS.”

“There was a clear application to practice.”

“I was able to relate to behaviours displayed by young people within my care, and have new ideas on how to challenge and manage these more effectively.”

All that is left to be said is a big thank you to all of the speakers and CCATS staff involved in putting this event together and making it a success!

Vulnerability. It is a universal term increasingly adopted by practitioners and academics in clinical work and literature, often associated with risk, contrasted with resilience, or serving as a justification for intervention and support. Yet in doing so, we have perhaps never fully considered what ‘vulnerability’ actually means, or encapsulates. Consider a victim of repeated sexual abuse from a caregiver, an offender with a traumatic upbringing and a lack of appropriate coping strategies, or a household in which domestic violence occurs. Does vulnerability lie with the victim, the offender, or the situation? This was the interesting question posed at a recent conference.

If we take a step back, the whole notion of vulnerability is rather complex. Various definitions of vulnerability emerged: “risk factors”, “situations that expose people to high or elevated risk”, “reasons why the same people are constantly revictimised”, “we should instead consider needs, not vulnerabilities”, “everyone is vulnerable, but it is the exploitation of that vulnerability that is criminalised”.

Given the diversity of views, it is tempting to consider whether vulnerability can add anything to our understanding of a person, as the term can miss marginalised groups and people with multiple vulnerabilities. A number of statistics were presented: 61% of children who are in care are so due to abuse and neglect. In addition, 68% of all adverse events are suffered by repeat victims. The debate is often centred on who is vulnerable, and in doing so, we end up placing victims into subgroups according to their gender, age, ethnicity and so on – which is not always helpful.

Perhaps we should focus less on which particular demographic is vulnerable, and instead consider the situation in which individuals find themselves in. More broadly, wider structures such as the criminal justice or residential child care systems can also unintentionally maintain vulnerability. In these environments, decisions are often made for or on behalf of ‘vulnerable’ individuals, such as those with mental health needs or young people. This can be challenging, as some may argue this takes away the autonomy of the individual.

The focus then shifts as to how we can intervene or mitigate the impact of situations that make individuals vulnerable. This may involve steps to reduce harm against a person, changing situations that generate vulnerability by identifying underlying causes for the behaviour, and reforming systems in society to promote greater autonomy.

Clearly, there is a need to refine our perceptions of vulnerability. This will not be an easy task, but it has the potential for a major shift in our understanding of this vitally important topic, with implications for both theory and clinical practice.

The following is a reflection of thoughts on the ‘Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation & Abuse’ conference by Lancashire Constabulary on 9 November 2016. This was a well-attended conference, with representatives from the police, local authorities, practitioners, support services and academia.

Three main themes quickly became apparent. First, the prevalence of child sexual exploitation (CSE) is greater than originally thought. In one 48-hour period, one police force received four reports of arson, six reports of theft, and 16 reports of CSE. This is just one example of the growing problem of CSE and the challenges it presents to professionals working in this area.

The most moving presentation came from a survivor of significant abuse and CSE in childhood. Her personal talk gave an outline of the mental health difficulties she continues to experience to this day as a result of her early experiences. Very often, procedures put in place to protect survivors from themselves (such as detention or arrest and transport to hospital for assessment) only served to reignite traumatic memories of the initial abuse.

Throughout the conference, there was a clear message that professionals should appreciate circumstances from the survivor’s perspective to really understand their thoughts and behaviours. In essence, the voice of the victim should be heard in the criminal justice system, from reporting, assessment and possible treatment by secondary services. Clearly, a trauma-informed approach is needed from professionals when dealing with those exposed to CSE and other traumatic events.

The second major focus of the conference addressed diversity issues in CSE. It was clear that there was a real gap in the literature in respect of the experiences of boys exposed to CSE, as many studies to date have framed CSE as a female victim and male perpetrator issue. There is also a general lack of knowledge as to how CSE is experienced by children in BME communities and in those with learning disabilities. Individuals may respond differently to CSE, shaped by their understanding of the world and wider social and cultural context. Again, these voices need to be heard through research and engagement.

The presentations contained many interesting debates that warrant consideration. Notably, victim services questioned whether there had been appropriate attempts to reach specific populations traditionally regarded as ‘hard to reach’ (such as BME communities and children with learning needs), in order to fully engage with CSE survivors from these backgrounds. Another service called for further research into how CSE can be appropriately recognised and risk assessed, given that these factors vary considerably from person to person and some CSE survivors may not display any typical signs of exploitation at all. That said, even with limited findings in these populations, it is important to recognise these individuals as children, first and foremost, in the way we approach this sensitive issue.

The conference was extremely informative and outlined current initiatives to deal with CSE. It is encouraging that awareness of CSE is increasing, which will promote more child-centred, holistic and innovate ways to support and engage with survivors. When the voice of the victim is heard, it can only have a positive effect on outcomes for survivors of CSE moving forward.

Coastal Child and Adult Therapeutic Services (CCATS) has extensive experience and a successful track record of providing psychological assessment and treatment services for children, young people, adults and families. We work throughout the north of England, covering a wide area including Lancashire, Manchester, Cheshire, Yorkshire and beyond. We work in partnership with many organisations including the NHS, social care, Youth Offending Teams, GPs and schools. Specialist services for looked after children are provided in partnership with carefully selected children’s residential care providers. We work with legal practices, acting in accordance with instructions from the Courts. Self-referrals are also accepted.