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Cognitive-Analytic Therapy (CAT)


CAT assumes that our thought processes (cognitions) influence how we make sense of past experiences and consequently, how we manage new emotional difficulties. Sometimes, our responses to important experiences create distorted thoughts and subsequent maladaptive behaviours. This can add to, rather than ease the original problem. The CAT therapist and client use sequential diagrammatic reformulation (SDR) to create a diagram of the person's response to major events in their life. The therapy then seeks to recognise and modify maladaptive patterns that are repeating in the person's life. Other techniques such as letter writing and homework tasks are also used.

Who uses it?

CAT is used by CAT-trained psychotherapists and counsellors.

A Clinical Partner trained in CAT is Alan Bore.

Why would someone use it?

CAT is a more directive approach than some other therapies, such as person-centred therapy, or psychodynamic psychotherapy. This means the CAT therapist or counsellor, rather than the client, leads the treatment. This may suit some individual personalities and preferences more than others. Unlike some other brief therapies (CBT, MBCT), CAT examines emotional experiences from the past which can be potentially painful but equally helpful to the individual.

CAT is used to treat many issues, including relationship difficulties, anxiety disorders, self-harm, substance misuse, depression and eating disorders. Cognitive Analytic Therapy can be effective where other brief therapies have been less so.

Strengths of the approach:

CAT is a short-to medium-term treatment, typically lasting between 16 and 24 weeks, depending on the condition being treated. This treatment focuses on specific behaviour change and provides practical strategies for coping with current issues.

Depending on geographic location, this treatment may be available free on the NHS or it can be obtained privately through a psychotherapist or CAT-trained therapist.


CAT is one of the few brief therapies that examines emotional responses to past experiences, however, it may not be suitable for addressing deeper emotional issues or trauma, as it is a relatively brief therapy. Such issues may need more in-depth or long-term therapies - see Integrative, Psychodynamic, Psychoanalytic, Systemic, Transactional, Trauma Training

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