Cognitive analytic therapy

What is cognitive analytic therapy?

Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) is psychological therapy with an individualised approach, designed for patients who suffer from a wide range of mental health problems, as well as patients with physical health problems and/or disabilities.

cognitive analytic therapy


Why is Cognitive analytic therapy done?

CAT has a particular value for complex emotional and relational difficulties (e.g. personality disorders).

CAT aims to help people to understand the origins of their distress, which are often be rooted in early experiences. Through CAT, it is determined how difficulties are maintained by the ways that they have learned to cope or to manage their feelings needs and problems.

What does cognitive analytic therapy involve?

  • Forming a trusting relationship with your therapist which allows you to work with one another to resolve any difficulties you face.
  • Identifying your current issues and how they affect your life and wellbeing.
  • Looking at the underlying causes of these issues in terms of your relationships and early life.
  • Understanding how you learned to survive sometimes unmanageable and intense feelings by relating to others and yourself in particular ways. Identifying how these patterns may not be benefiting your life.
  • Discovering choices and ways of doing things differently to make your life better for yourself and others who are close to you
  • Finding out how you can continue to improve after the therapy has ended.

CAT is usually offered in 16 or 24 sessions. It can be offered as a smaller or larger number of sessions depending on how complex the patient’s situation is and their ability to engage in psychological work.

What to expect from CAT sessions

Sessions 1-4: understanding problems and previous history.

Sessions 5-12: developing a formulation diagram. The use of formulation tools and diaries aid recognition of unhelpful patterns; and develop exits from these patterns. For example, coping strategies or new ways of relating to others.

Sessions 13-16: On-going work of therapy and also an explicit focus on ending therapy and loss; goodbye letters read aloud and exchanged.

A Follow-up session may take place 3 months afterwards for review.

How do you prepare for CAT?

You may decide on your own that you would like to try cognitive behavioural therapy. Or a friend or doctor may suggest therapy to you.

Here's how you should prepare for CAT:

Find a therapist. We have a range of leading psychologists.

Understand the costs. Talk to your therapist about fees and payment options and plan in advance how many sessions you will go ahead with.

Review your concerns. Before your first appointment, you may like to note down some areas of your life you would like to improve While you can work this out with your therapist, having some sense in advance may provide a starting point.

What are the benefits of cognitive analytic therapy?

CAT therapy helps

  • Increases psychological knowledge.
  • Offers space for reflection.
  • Allows for patients to have a better understanding of their difficulties and distress.
  • Helps patients feel more confident and motivated in their approach in life and less frustrated in the face of difficulties.
  • Patients become more aware of how to handle distress and their behaviour. They therefore, may become less likely to act (or be drawn into responding) in unintentionally unhelpful ways

What are some alternatives to cognitive analytic therapy?


Two other alternatives to cognitive analytic therapy include:

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