What is Cognitive Analytic therapy (CAT)?
Is CAT right for me?
Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) is a collaborative and structured therapy designed to help you and the therapist work effectively together to build a joint understanding of what’s going on for you (and why). This understanding guides the way to make changes as quickly as possible that bring positive lasting results. CAT brings together evidence-based approaches including cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and psychoanalytic approaches into one integrated and effective therapy (ACAT leaflet 2020). People generally experience CAT as clear, straight forward and user-friendly. CAT is a short-term therapy with most people having between 16 and 24 sessions.
CAT is about understanding how early experiences shaped our development including the lessons we had about the world, ourselves and other people. These experiences informed our development through early life and beyond including influencing us to develop patterns that we use to manage day to day. These patterns were developed to help us repeat positive experiences and survive difficult, traumatic or unfulfilling experiences. CAT involves understanding how the patterns have a big impact on our daily lives and some of these patterns can hold us back or restrict our life.
CAT is a relational model both in its view of human development and in the practice of psychotherapy (ACAT Leaflet, 2020). At the core of CAT is a compassionate, respectful, meaning-making relationship between the client and therapist within therapeutic boundaries (or professional rules). CAT is tailored to each person’s individual needs, so it is not a “one size fits all” approach, nor does CAT follow a protocol or script (as some approaches do).
CAT therapy involves a few stages:
Firstly, building a joint psychological understanding of what’s happening and why which is summarised in a letter from the therapist to the client and represented on a map. The map helps guide the next stage of therapy which is called the recognition phase. This stage involves learning how to recognise the patterns day to day. When you notice patterns early on then you can begin to predict and change future patterns. This awareness builds a strong foundation for successful lasting change. The exit (or revision) stage is where you make decisions with the support of the therapist about the kinds of changes to make guided by what’s been learned so far. These exits from the patterns are practiced with the support of the therapist. The next stage is the ending stage of therapy and discovering how to continue the progress following the end of the sessions with the therapist. Most clients also take up the opportunity for follow up sessions after the ending to consolidate progress.
CAT could be right for you if you:
- Want to experience a collaborative and structured therapy that makes sense
- Want to experience an approach that is tailored for you
- Want to develop an equal, respectful and trusting working relationship with a therapist
- Want to better understand what’s going on for you (and why)
- Are ready and willing to commit to an active process focussed on achieving your goals
- Want to make changes as quickly as possible that bring positive lasting results
- Want to be able to continue to progress independently following on from therapy