Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

What is CAT?

Cognitive Analytic Therapy is therapy in which client and therapist work together to understand, observe, and change habitual roles that may be causing the client problems at work and in relationships.  Questions like “Why does this always happen to me?” and “Why do I so often feel this way?” can start to be answered.

CAT is cognitive, which means it helps the client use and improve their ability to think about their beliefs, feelings, and actions and to see how these are inter-related.

CAT is analytic, which means it takes into account feelings and actions that the client is less aware of or tries not to admit.

How does it work?

Cognitive and analytic aspects of CAT come into play when the therapist re-presents the client’s story in a clear letter and flow-chart diagram(s).  These tools make it possible for the client to see how roles developed in childhood may cause problems now through beliefs and actions toward self and others.

After therapy ends, the client keeps the tools and uses them to continue the work of recognising and revising roles.  A follow-up session occurs after about three months.  Client and therapist discuss progress, periods of backsliding, and how best to move forward.  Sometimes more therapy or other methods of self-development (e.g., assertiveness training; Alexander Technique) are recommended.

How long does it take?

CAT is usually 16 weekly sessions, but sometimes it can be as short as 8 sessions or last for a longer agreed period, usually 24 or 32 sessions.  After therapy is over, clients continue to help themselves with the insights and written tools of CAT.  Applying CAT understanding becomes an exciting experiment and then a way of life.  Gradually clients become able to maintain the roles that are right for them, and they can stop full-blown re-enactments of old roles.  This reduces the effects and duration of anxiety, depression, rage, and shame.

How will I know if I need counselling or therapy?

The separation between counselling and therapy is not a rigid one.  Counselling is often shorter than therapy and may be very helpful if you need support for about 4 to 6 sessions.  If you think that talking through a specific problem to gain clarity and an empathic response will allow you to resolve a difficult situation or make a difficult decision, then counselling may be right for you.

If you see your problem as part of a recurring pattern of events and relating, then therapy may be more appropriate.  CAT is considered a short-term therapy at 16 sessions, but it provides enough time and technique to understand and begin to change unhelpful patterns that you may have had since childhood.  There is an opportunity in therapy to build a trusting and collaborative relationship with the therapist in order to discuss thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that you may never have been able to talk about before.  The specific focus of therapy is chosen from your story.  If you want to learn how to change some of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, then therapy may be for you.

How do I find out more about this therapy?

To find out more about CAT, visit ACATonline, the Official Website for Cognitive Analytic Therapy.  Or you could phone to arrange an informative 15 minute free interview with me.