About CAT

About Cognitive Analytic Therapy

Paul's Diagram

Cognitive analytic therapy combines a relational approach to cognitive and behavioural therapies with current aspects of psychodynamic thinking about personality problems, childhood development and the power of the helping relationship.

CAT offers a well-developed, user-friendly and collaborative system for assessment, reformulation, engaging in a therapeutic relationship and managing and structuring the focus, progress and ending of therapy.

It is a therapy which has proven popular with a wide range of professionals responding to the complex needs of hard to help clients whether in mental health or general health.

In recent years it has been used to teach enhanced communications and relationship skills in the context of therapy, medical and caring roles for multi-professional teams.

Newcomers Guide to Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

CAT developed as a form of individual therapy in the 1980s at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospitals in London.  It was a pragmatic and collaborative response to the psychological needs of people in distress with personality or mental health problems.

The founder of the model Dr Anthony Ryle offered a common language for joining up the understanding derived from psychoanalytic ideas of how we develop personality and cope with trauma to cognitive and behavioural ideas about how we get fixed into patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.

The model was popular with clinicians working with complex needs and who wanted to understand how the helper and the systems of help such a community or inpatient team were pushed and pulled into unhelpful responses.  In particular CAT has developed as a method of working with the influence of relationships on beliefs and behaviour and the interaction between the helping relationship and the past and present relationships that shape the client’s world.

Much use is made of collaborative mapping out and tracking of patterns of interaction and of shared writing as well as the immediate experience of the therapeutic and educational aspects of the helping relationship.  The CAT approach has been popular with multi-professional groups and psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers have all been attracted to the training which is now carried out in twelve centres around the country.

Training in CAT is currently only available to people already with a core mental health profession.  However introductory courses and workshops and training in applying CAT’s methods of making personal and problem solving maps by looking at their relational origins are increasingly available.  CAT has proven to be a good integrative and common approach for work between professional groups and is being used to train in-patient and community based teams as well as individuals.

CAT is attracting interest internationally and has established or emerging CAT networks and trainings in several other countries.  The international association ICATA supports these developments.

In the UK the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy has 900 members and supports and accredits a variety of training programmes.