What is Cognitive Analytical Therapy?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Looking for a shorter-term therapy? That is focused, friendly, proven to help, and designed to help you learn tools you can use immediately to reach goals and create change?

Cognitive analytical therapy, also called “CAT”, might be for you.

What is cognitive analytical therapy?

Cognitive analytical therapy (CAT) has been around since the 1980s, and was actually created here in the UK. The aim was to create a therapy that was short-term (16 to 24 sessions) and therefore affordable, but still managed to access deep past patterns.

CAT combines combines elements of more traditional psychoanalytical approaches that look to your past, with elements of newer cognitive approaches that focus on your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.

How is CAT different than other forms of talk therapy?

It’s short-term. Many other forms of talk therapy are long-term and open-ended.

It focuses heavily on your relationships. One of the main tenets of CAT is that relating problems are at the root of most of our issues in life. Some of us learned as children to relate in ways that helped us survive and cope, but these same ways of relating no longer serve us now we are adults. They hold us back and leave us with limiting beliefs.

The client-therapist relationship is one of the most important tools of CAT. In cognitive analytical therapy sessions you will use this relationship to see your current ways of interacting with others, as well as to try out new ways of connecting that might be more helpful.

It has structure, but aims to be more collaborative than other therapies. There is a framework your therapist will work within, but you’ll encouraged to make a lot of decisions in how the therapy will go. You explain your issues on your own terms, decide on what you want the goal of your time in therapy to be, and can decide to integrate things like art and movement.

What is cognitive analytical therapy helpful for?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends CAT for eating disorders and borderline personality disorder.

With its heavy focus on relating, so is also good for anyone who has relationship struggles.

It could also be worth trying for issues like:

Why would I choose cognitive analytical therapy?

1. You have borderline personality disorder or an eating disorder, and other therapies didn’t help.

2. It's important to you that a therapy is evidence-based (has been found effective by studies).

3. You like the idea of therapy being teamwork over a ‘client patient’ relationship.

4. Looking at the past intrigues you, but you are low commitment at the moment. So a shorter-term therapy that still dives deep sounds good to you.

5. You’d like a very trusting relationship with your therapist.

6. Improving the ways you relate to others and having better connections is one of the goals you have in mind for therapy.

Curious to give cognitive analytical therapy a try? Why not book a first session now using our easy booking tool?

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