Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) is a time-limited therapy that marries together the ideas from analytic psychology and cognitive therapy. It looks at past events and experiences and aims to understand why a person feels, thinks, and behaves the way they do, and then helps them to problem solve and develop new ways of coping. The therapist works together with the client to recognise ineffective patterns and support them to adjust and change.
CAT is considered a highly active therapy type, and one in which the client ultimately has control. It invites the client to observe your life from an objective viewpoint and to take part in identifying what needs to change. It works by identifying any learned behaviours or beliefs from the client’s past and investigating whether they are contributing to current difficulties.
The foundations of CAT rely on an empathic relationship between the client and the therapist to help the client be more about what the way they feel during sessions.
CAT is particularly helpful for clients to recognise relationship patterns that continue throughout life and are difficult to change without help. Features specific to CAT include the therapist writing a reformulation letter to the client early in therapy, which is the working hypothesis for the therapy and helps promote change. The therapy is usually 16-20 sessions with the ending identified from the start.
CAT is different from CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in its focus. Where CBT is particularly concerned with the link between actions, thoughts, and feelings in the here and now, CAT delves into the past. This allows the therapist to help the client focus on what their problems and challenges are, how they started, and especially how they are relational.
Cognitive Analytic Therapy can often help with issues such as addictions, anxiety, depression, disordered eating, obsessions and compulsions, phobias, relationship issues, self-harm, and stress.