Category Archives: Training

Training trainers –Talking Mats accredited trainer course

accredited trainer may 16 Donna , Alison ,Liz , Tracey , Clare and Emma

Our next train the trainer course is in 2 weeks and we’re  looking forward to welcoming people from a range of professions and a range of places-  New Zealand, Japan, England and Fife!

Becoming a trainer for Talking Mats means the staff member can offer Foundation training within their organisation or partnership.  This ensures that the standard of the communication and thinking tool is maintained and sustainability of its use is supported.  It is  a positive investment  for organisations in person -centred practise.

The trainers are provided with resources for delivering the Foundation course and their licence is renewed annually .

Comments from people who attend include:

Practical approach to training made it easy to try out and learn from ‘doing’

A wonderful inspiring course- really looking forward to continuing to work as part of the TM team

Really enjoyed the training.  Learnt a lot not just about my use of TM but also just about myself as a presenter and communication

If you’ve attended a Foundation course and would like to become a trainer, our next course is in June. You can find out more details on our webiste or on this link  20180621 Accredited Training flier Jun 2018

Thinking Ahead: supporting people to plan for the future


This new resource has been developed by Strathcarron Hospice and Talking Mats to help people with advanced illness or long term conditions to think ahead and plan for the future.

It consists of a booklet and 3 topic symbol sets: Affairs; Care/treatment; Personal values

3 topics
It can be used to help people have conversations about:
• the extent to which their personal affairs are sorted;
• what they would or would not consider about future treatments and care;
• what is going well/not going well in relation to their personal values

It is widely recognised that having discussions about end of life issues can enable people to remain in control for longer and help them to identify the care and support they need and want as they approach death. In spite of this, in Scotland:

  • 74% of people have not discussed what their wishes would be if they did not have long to live
  • 79% of people don’t have any written plans for their end of life care, financial wishes or funeral plans
  • Only 35% of people have written a Will

It can sometimes be difficult for people to start conversations about planning for end of life and people this is exacerbated if people have specific difficulties communicating their thoughts and feelings because of symptoms, fatigue and emotional factors. Before initiating this type of conversation it can be helpful to check the extent of a person’s understanding of their illness and whether or not they want to talk about the future.

The importance of having conversations and making plans for end of life has been highlighted as being relevant for people in the early stages of life limiting illness as well as for those nearing the end of life. There is evidence that people who have Advance or Anticipatory Care Plans in place are more likely to receive the care that they want and treatment can be less invasive. ACP is a process rather than a one-off conversation. It is acknowledged that ACP discussions should take place in appropriate settings with sufficient time to enable to people to consider and weigh up different options. ACP should also be developed in line with peoples’ personal values and goals (Sinuff Tasnim, et al.(2015) “Improving end-of-life communication and decision making: the development of a conceptual framework and quality indicators.” Journal of pain and symptom management 49.6 2015): 1070-1080).

Perhaps we should think about planning ahead whether or not we have advanced illness or long term conditions??


To get the most out of the resource we are running half day advanced training courses which will include the Thinking Ahead Resource. This course will be relevant to you if you:

  •  have attended a Talking Mats foundation training and are experienced in using Talking Mats with adults
  • want to extend your use of Talking Mats and consider its role and application to advance care planning
  • want to discuss sensitive topics around end of life care

The cost of the course, which includes the resource,  is £80.00 (excl VAT)? Courses are being run in both Stirling and London

Click here for the Stirling course
20181017 ACP Advanced course 2018 Stirling
Click here for the London course
20181031 ACP Advanced course 2018 London

Please contact us at 01786 479511 for any further information

Do you need training to use Talking Mats?


Talking Mats is an effective but deceptively simple tool so a question we are often asked is do you need training to use it.  Communication and supporting people with communication difficulties is a complex process and Talking Mats is based on a number of research projects which examined who could use Talking Mats, and how best to use it in different situations. It is therefore important that the integrity of the Talking Mats model is maintained and that Talking Mats training teaches the principles developed from our evidence base.

Some of these principles include:

  • Understanding who can and who cannot benefit from using Talking Mats
  • Asking open questions
  • Handing over control
  • Pacing
  • Maintaining neutrality
  • Interpreting additional information including both non-verbal and verbal information
  • Matching the top scale to the question or view being explored
  • Presenting the options in an order that maximises the individuals ability to respond by using our model which focuses on concrete to abstract symbols
  • Monitoring language complexity and topic sensitivity

All our training courses include hands-on practice and video examples as well as reflection on all these aspects of using Talking Mats

The techniques used in Talking Mats accord with best practice guidance in semi –structured interview techniques including:

  • being clear in what you want to find out and using open questions
  • enabling elaboration in whatever form is appropriate
  • planning in advance but in a context that is flexible and can respond to the dynamics of the conversation
  • being cognisant of the influence of the environment
  • taking time to establish engagement and rapport
  • being non-judgemental
  • supportive of periods of silence
  • ensuring there is a summary at the end so that both parties agree on what was said .

So whilst Talking Mats may seem simple, it is not simplistic. The listener is creating a space that enables the thinker to think and express themselves. Training gives the listener time to reflect on the components of an effective Talking Mats conversation and identify which ones they are already skilled in and which ones they need to develop further. There are no short cuts to reflective practice training and we know Talking Mats foundation training has impact. Time and time again people who thought they knew about Talking Mats reflect and say things like ‘I got so much more from this training than I expected’ or ‘ I now see I  can use Talking Mats for so many different conversations not just ’ I like’ , ‘I don’t like’ ‘or ‘I have been using Talking Mats but now feel much more confident to use it and to make my own submats’


This is why we put so much emphasis on training.  We have developed our successful “Train the trainer” scheme to ensure that quality is maintained and reflective practice maintained.  If Talking Mats is passed by word of mouth then key aspects of the framework are missed and/or misinterpreted which in turn lessens its effectiveness and impact.

People who come on training are often excited, want to tell colleagues and share it with others. Demonstration and sharing is fine, but it is important to be aware of the difference between sharing and training.

Sharing can often be appropriate especially when there is a team of people supporting the person or  parents are keen to see how it works. You can show someone how to use a Talking Mat about a specific conversation. We call this a ‘demonstrating model’. It is helpful to give the listener the words to say to go with it. That way you are enabling other colleagues or family members to have an effective but specific conversation only.

If they then want to use it for other conversations we would strongly recommend they go on to attend the training. Attending a foundation course will enable them:

  • to get more out of the technique
  • to understand more about their own communication
  • to become creative in their use of Talking Mats whilst still adhering to the research principles
  • to be able to create their own mats or explore a topic in more depth using submats

So do you need training to use Talking Mats ? The answer is a resounding  yes . Training supports you to be an effective Talking Mats listener and get the most out of this versatile communication framework. So if you have not attended a course check out our course opportunities There are lots of way you can access this training e.g. through the train the trainer network, through core training run frequently in the UK and Australia or through our online course.

Talking Mats & ASD – developing social communication.


Talking Mats and Autism- Have you sometimes tried it and it didn’t work?

There is a growing interest in teaching TM to people with ASD. We know that some important adaptations might be required to make this a meaningful experience, and are keen to share our learning so far.

Being asked for thoughts or views can be difficult for some people with communication difficulties.  In particular, there is a group of people with autism where some of the core principles of Talking Mats have to be taught in stages.   Some thinkers will just ‘get it’ and find it a valuable tool for sharing their thoughts and for supporting decision making.  For others there may have to be adaptations and /or  specific teaching e.g. the vocabulary of the top scale.  We heard recently of a student in a specialist centre who couldn’t use Talking Mats.  However the staff would include him in groups where it was used and make sure he was around others doing Mats.  After a few years, he did learn the principles and go on to use it effectively.

We have gathered ideas and knowledge from practitioners working in the field of autism and included these on our web-site under Free Stuff on Communication Disability.  ASD guidelines  It’s important that these guidelines grow and adapt as we learn more about using TM with an even wider range of people.

We’ve arranged a twilight session here at Stirling on the 1st of February 2018  to bring together practitioners working in the field of autism to extend our knowledge and encourage a staged approach to effective use of Talking Mats.
We’re delighted that Ruth Chalmers, Principal Teacher for Autism Spectrum Info and Support Team (ASIST) in Fife will be joining us to talk about developing social communication skills using Talking Mats. There will be time for small group chat so bring along a case you want to discuss.
Please share the attached flier 201802 AsD seminar with your network and we hope you can join us

Please come along and   If you are interested in attending this twilight session 4.00pm to 6.00 pm (cost £20.00),  please notify us at

Talking Mats Co-Trainer

lynnette 2

Thanks to the Action Group  in Edinburgh for their great blog about their co-trainer Lynnette Linton .

In 2016, a number of people with learning disabilities attended a Talking Mats training  designed to build their communication skills and confidence so they could  use  to interview others about their community participation, in regard to Charter for Involvement goals. One of those trained was Lynnette Linton, the National Involvement Network Chairperson, and a Service User of The Action Group in Edinburgh.

Lynnette interviewed several fellow service users using Talking Mats, and was supporting in the role of ‘Listener’ by Liz Taylor, an Action Group Training Officer, who as a consequence of this work requested to become an Accredited TM Trainer. The Charter highlights that support organisations should involve Service Users in training their staff, so it then seemed natural for Liz and Lynnette to deliver TM training to Action Group staff together, with Lynnette in the role of volunteer co-trainer.

Lynnette has since been a core part of training over 50 employees (including those at Senior levels) in Foundation Talking Mats training with the Keeping Safe add-on. Liz says, it helps that Lynnette is “naturally gifted at speaking to people, and ably demonstrates the significance of TM as a means of having your say on the service you wish to receive”.

Lynnette and Liz do a demonstration Mat together, and then when trainees are doing their own Mat or showing their videos, Lynnette points out where they are applying the key TM principles (Lynnette enjoys issuing certificates to those who successfully complete the course). She also shares anonymised stories from her experience of interviewing ‘Thinkers’, which help get across what Action Group Users “want to change and improve about their service”.

Liz says, “Our first experience of demonstrating a Mat together didn’t quite go to plan, as Lynnette became unexpectedly upset when discussing her views of a football team, when she was reminded of a close friend who had died who had been a fan”. As difficult as this was for both Lynnette and Liz at the time, it was a powerful example of how TM helps us express emotions we may not even have been ourselves aware are ‘under the surface’, and sparked real interest in TM as a communicative tool.

The Action Group started gathering feedback specifically for Lynnette in her role as co-trainer, as part of the training evaluation and trainees have said that “she is exceptionally welcoming and puts everyone at ease; her passion for the topic is very evident, and it is very beneficial to hear real life examples, and how TM helps in her own life”. This includes how Lynnette benefits from the Keeping Safe pack, as a means of raising more ‘difficult’ issues.

Lynnette says, “As a service user, I also now see myself as an important, valued co-trainer. [Training] is something I see myself doing more of in the future. My confidence has shot right up. It makes me feel proud, and my parents get to hear about it at my Review.

Staff also see the real importance of acting on the actions from each person’s Mat. Lynnette acknowledges that co-delivering has sometimes “been difficult, because I know some of the people we’re training. But I’ve been able to speak up about what I want from my support, my environment.”  Recently she trained her own Service Development Manager and Team Manager, and although she felt it was harder to be honest, she had a captive audience, and her Managers then followed through on actions from her demonstration mats:  “It’s made a difference to me, after doing a Mat with my DM about my home. I put ‘safety’ in the ‘Thumbs Down’, because I get frightened, and now I’ve got a security chain and a peephole on the door”. 

“I never thought I would be training the staff.  Now we’re booked up!”

Click for  information  about the Accredited training and or the Keeping Safe resource mentioned in the blog