Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)


CAT is a collaborative therapy which looks to compassionately understand the difficulties that brought you to seek help; typically patterns of thinking, acting and feeling. We use a questionnaire called ‘The Psychotherapy File’ to help us do this. Once we have understood why life is difficult for you now, we look to understand what has contributed to your difficulties, by exploring past events and patterns of relating. Often we discover that there are patterns that developed in childhood, that were understandable and useful strategies for the time, but are now no longer helpful or have become self-defeating. CAT helps you to find your own language for the patterns that are limiting your life as well as making sense of their context and exploring and setting manageable goals for bringing about change. Your therapist will write an explanation of this in a therapeutic letter. At the heart of CAT is the empathetic relationship within the therapeutic boundaries, which is considered to have an important role in helping you to change and develop new helpful patterns in relating to yourself and others. At the end of your agreed number of sessions, your therapist will write another letter which summarises your progress and makes suggestions for how the work will continue once the therapy is over. Usually one or more follow-ups are planned so that you have an opportunity to review how you are getting on and have the opportunity for some support if it is needed.

In brief, CAT is about:

  • Forming a trusting relationship with your therapist which allows you to work together to explore the difficulties you are facing
  • Identifying your current problems and how they affect your life and wellbeing
  • Looking at the underlying causes of these problems in terms of your earlier life and relationships
  • Understanding how you learned to survive sometimes intense and unmanageable feelings by relating to others and yourself in particular ways
  • Identifying how these patterns may now be holding you back
  • Discovering the choices and ways of doing things differently (‘exits’) that are available to you to make your life better for yourself and those close to you
  • Finding out how you can continue to move forward after the therapy has ended

Useful Link

ACAT – Association for Cognitive Analytic Therap