Formulation in Professional Practice – What is the Story?

This interactive and practical workshop will help participants explore and hone their existing approaches to formulation. The overall aim of the workshop is to enable participants to devise a more effective approach to formulation, regardless of the theoretical approach used. The workshop will begin by summarising some of the challenges inherent in formulation and providing an up to date summary of the literature and the dilemmas to which this gives rise. We will introduce the PPP – Purpose, Perspective, Process – model. Examples of the application of this model will be provided to illustrate how it can be applied in different contexts. Participants will then be given opportunities to consider how they might apply the model to support, critique and enhance their own work.


09:30 Registration/Tea and Coffee
10:00 Workshop starts (there will be a 30min break for lunch)
16:30 Workshop ends


The workshop will be relevant to counselling psychologists at all stages of their careers, including those in the final stages of their pre-qualification training. It will be essential for participants to have gained experience of developing formulations of their clients’ presenting concerns in order to have a working knowledge of why formulation is deemed to be an important professional competence, how it can benefit practice and some of the challenges inherent in making sense of clients’ concerns.

Formulation (also termed case formulation and case conceptualisation) is deemed to be a cornerstone of skilled professional practice. However despite being widely acknowledged as an essential skill in the counselling psychologist’s armoury, the notion of formulation has proved contentious. Critics have argued that our theoretically-informed explanations represent the constructions of practitioners that can all too easily be imposed on clients rather than conjointly developed. As a result, when we develop a formulation we run the risk of ‘shoe-horning’ our clients’ stories into professional narratives that may serve our interests better than the needs of our clients.

A further conundrum is an emerging literature which appears to highlight how manualised interventions can be just as effective, if not more so, than interventions underpinned by individually-tailored formulations. The value of formulation, then, has come to be empirically questioned even while retaining its status as a vital professional competence.
Arguably, all practitioners face the challenge of attempting to understand their clients’ difficulties; in this sense the activity of formulation is inescapable. The only question is how we approach this task.

Formulation is one of the most complex tasks we undertake as practitioners, and yet it remains poorly understood. There is a lack of consensus as to what formulation involves, knowledge of how to attain this skill is lacking and there is a paucity of resources that can help practitioners hone their competence in this area. Equally, as psychological practice is offered to an increasingly diverse range of clients, the purpose of and processes by which practitioners formulate are also likely to diversify. Our work is complex and requires us to negotiate a wide range of challenges. A one size approach definitely does not fit all.

This workshop is concerned with developing an approach to formulation that can accommodate the challenges of making sense of our clients’ needs and the increasing complexity of the environments in which counselling psychologists work. It is based on ideas that Sarah Corrie and David Lane describe in their recent publication, Constructing Stories, Telling Tales: A Guide to Formulation in Applied Psychology (2010). In this workshop, the approach is described, examples are provided and participants will have the opportunity to explore the relevance of this model for their own practice. It will be useful for participants to bring along examples of case formulation from their practice, including examples of where formulations were developed easily and where they proved more challenging. This will provide a basis for reflecting on their preferred approaches and for applying the PPP model presented in the workshop.

Learning outcomes and objectives 

The overall aim of the workshop is to enable participants to devise a more effective approach to formulation, regardless of the theoretical approach used. Rather than organising the topic around the specifics of ‘how to do’ formulations, we instead build a framework that can inform the development of a robust and systematic approach which can be usefully adapted to individual circumstances and need.

By attending this workshop, participants will:

  • Understand the challenges inherent in constructing formulations of clients’ difficulties
  • Understand the value of developing a broad, over-arching framework for organising information and material from client sessions
  • Have new pathways for developing more effective approaches to formulation
  • Be able to adapt the model presented to their individual work context and client need
  • Be able to critique and refine their own approach to formulation (generally and with specific clients)

Facilitators: Dr Sarah Corrie CPsychol

Sarah Corrie is a therapist, trainer and consultant with extensive experience of both public and private sector services. She is Programme Director of the Postgraduate Diploma & MSc in Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy offered by Royal Holloway University of London and Central and North West London Foundation Trust, where her responsibilities include teaching and clinical supervision as well as on-going operational management and development of the Programme. Sarah is also a member of faculty of the Professional Development Foundation and a founder member of the Special Group in Coaching Psychology. She has published widely, with a particular emphasis on professional development and practitioner-led contributions. Her recent book, ‘Constructing Stories, Telling Tales’, co-authored with David Lane, provides a guide to formulation that aims to address the complexity of practitioner-client engagements in increasingly complex organisational settings.

Booking information


  • Concessions: £90 + VAT
  • DCoP Members: £105 + VAT
  • Society members: £130 + VAT
  • Society non-members: £195 + VAT

Persons eligible for concessionary rates are student members of the Society, graduate members registered under Rule 15.ii, Rule 21 members, and members who are unemployed. For evidence of unemployment, we will require a copy of your job seekers allowance book.

How to book:

Please note: online bookings will close 24 hours prior to the event. Please call +44 (0)116 2529512 for availability after this point.

Alternatively, to pay by cheque or request an invoice complete and return the registration form.

Please note that we are only able to accept invoice requests more than 6 weeks before the event date.

Thu, 03/05/2012 (All day)
Contact Information: 

BPS Learning Centre

Tel: +44 (0)116 2529925

Division of Counselling Psychology & BPS Learning Centre