What is CAT?

CAT stands for Cognitive Analytic Therapy; a collaborative programme for looking at the way a person thinks, feels and acts, and the events and relationships that underlie these experiences (often from childhood or earlier in life). As its name suggests, it brings together ideas and understanding from different therapies into one user-friendly and effective therapy.

It is a programme of therapy that is tailored to a person’s individual needs and to his or her own manageable goals for change. It is a time-limited therapy - between 4 and 24 weeks, but typically 16. It is available in many parts of the NHS. There are also private CAT therapists across the UK and overseas.

At its heart is an empathic relationship between the client and therapist within the therapeutic boundaries, the purpose of which is to help the client make sense of their situation and to find ways of making changes for the better.

What are the origins of CAT?

CAT was developed in the early 1980’s by Dr Anthony Ryle at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London. CAT developed as a public health response to the mental health needs of a busy inner London area, and this concern with access and equity remains at the heart of the model. He felt it important to offer a short-term focused therapy for use in the health service; a therapy that integrated the best of different approaches to people’s problems and that could be researched and refined with the growing experience of clients and therapists. 

Forming a trusting relationship with your therapist which allows you to work together to explore the difficulties you are facing

CAT is about:

  • Forming a trusting relationship with your therapist which allows you to work together to explore the difficulties you are facing
  • Identifying your current problems and how they affect your life and wellbeing
  • Looking at the underlying causes of these problems in terms of your earlier life and relationships
  • Understanding how you learned to survive sometimes intense and unmanageable feelings by relating to others and yourself in particular ways
  • Identifying how these patterns may now be holding you back
  • Discovering the choices and ways of doing things differently (‘exits’) that are available to you to make your life better for yourself and those close to you
  • Finding out how you can continue to move forward after the therapy has ended
     

Follow the links in the column on the top right hand side of the page for more detailed information about Cognitive Analytic Therapy, with personal accounts and how to find a therapist.