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Are you in need of a short-term therapy, but also want to explore your past and relationships in depth? You might be a good candidate for cognitive analytic therapy (CAT). 

Cognitive analytic therapy: what is it?

As its name implies, cognitive analytic therapy combines cognitive and psychoanalytic elements. As with CBT, CAT focuses on troubleshooting unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. Furthermore, it examines how these patterns were formed in the first place by looking at your past.

The cognitive analytic approach focuses on the influence relationships have on the way you feel, think, and act. It takes into account not only your relationship with your loved ones, but also your relationship with your friends.  When you were a child, what habits did you use to cope that now hold you back as an adult? 

How does cognitive analytic therapy work?

CAT stands for Cognitive Analytic Therapy; a collaborative approach that explores how a person thinks, feels, and acts, as well as the events and relationships that underlie them (often from childhood). It combines ideas and understandings from different therapies into one user-friendly and effective therapy.

A person’s individual needs and manageable goals are taken into account when designing a therapy program. Therapy typically lasts 16 weeks, but can last up to 24 weeks. In many parts of the NHS, it is available. Private CAT therapists are also available in the UK and abroad.

It is based on empathic relationships between client and therapist within therapeutic boundaries, the purpose of which is to help the client make sense of their situation and make positive changes.

CAT’s origins can be traced back to what?

At Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, Dr Anthony Ryle developed CAT in the early 1980s. CAT was developed as a public health response to mental health needs in an inner-city area of London, and it remains a model centered on access and equity. 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. 

Working together with your therapist to explore your difficulties by building a trusting relationship

The purpose of CAT is to:

  • Building a trusting relationship with your therapist that allows you to work together to resolve your problems
  • Analyzing your current problems and how they affect your life and wellbeing
  • Analyzing your earlier life and relationships for underlying causes of these problems
  • By relating to others and yourself in particular ways, you learned to cope with sometimes intense and unmanageable emotions
  • Understanding how these patterns may now be holding you back
  • Making your life better for you and those close to you by finding ways of doing things differently (‘exits’)
  • Continually moving forward after therapy

What makes it different from other talk therapies? 

A stronger emphasis is placed on patterns that relate to one another. As with other forms of talk therapy, cognitive analytic therapy aims to be more collaborative and flexible. You are your therapist’s driving force in how your therapy moves forward, and he or she works hard to make sure it’s progressing according to your needs.

The relationship between you and your therapist is also emphasized as a tool for change.  As you learn new ways of interacting in a safe and friendly environment, you will develop new self-awareness about how you relate to others. 

When I attend CAT therapy sessions, what results can I expect? 

Attending cognitive analytical therapy can have the following benefits:  

  • Get to know yourself and others better by learning to trust them
  • Enhance your relationship skills
  • Get to the bottom of your issues and why they exist
  • Recognize your limiting patterns and behaviors
  • Discover how your past shaped who you are today by understanding it
  • You will feel better about yourself and recognize your strengths as a result
  • Make positive choices in life by learning to make them.  

How does it help with issues? 

Both eating disorders and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are recommended for CAT by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Addictions, anger management issues, anxiety and depression, feeling stuck in life, low self-esteem, and of course relationship issues can all be treated with cognitive analytic counseling. 

Expert Therapy London can help you find a cognitive analytic therapist

Your Expert Therapy CAT therapist will have completed their training at a top UK institution, and have at least five years of postgraduate experience helping people just like you. For you to set new life goals and finally move forward, they provide a warm and trusting environment. 

CAT sessions are available on Expert Therapy Street. Contact us today to reserve your first consultation and CAT session. 


Related topics

  • What is cognitive analytic therapy?
  • What kind of therapy helps to find a relationship?
  • The cognitive approach – what therapies use it, and how does it help?

Frequently asked questions


Is CAT a form of CBT?

The answer is no, it isn’t. It is important to note that although both therapies are influenced by the ‘cognitive approach’, meaning they examine how your thoughts affect your behavior, they are very different in nature. 

Is CAT psychodynamic?

Psychiatry is influenced by psychodynamics, which believes that a solution to a present-day problem can be found in the past. The difference between CAT and CBT lies in this aspect. Both CAT and CBT use a cognitive approach to troubleshoot how your thinking affects your behavior, but CAT looks at the past whereas CBT generally doesn’t. 

How many sessions of CAT therapy will I need?

The duration of cognitive analytic therapy is limited. You and your therapist will discuss your issues in your first appointment, and then decide how many sessions you will need, which usually ranges from 16 to 24.