CAT developed from the interplay of two of the main interests of Dr Anthony Ryle during the 1980’s in the UK. These were: firstly the development of a common language for the psychotherapies and secondly, the identification, in plain language of a distinctive problematic pattern of interaction which client and therapist could jointly describe at the beginning of therapy and use to evaluate progress at the end of therapy. The first interest brought people from different traditions and different professions together under the Cognitive Analytic banner. The second interest gave rise to a rich, therapeutic mechanism of change resulting from the compassionate prose description (jointly read and shared with the client) of problematic patterns – called target problem procedures – their personal history and likely enactment in the therapy.
Ryle was an early exponent of psychotherapy research and developed the empirically derived conceptual tools of the reciprocal role and reciprocal role procedure from applying Kelly’s Grid and personal construct theory as a way of organising the client’s experience of making meaning in their lives. The ability of the idea of reciprocal role patterns to describe clearly some of the complexity of psychoanalytic, object relations theory and of the idea of the procedural sequence to describe the repetition of unhelpful, unconscious patterns of interaction led to the practical step of putting the two together in one model. Hence the more analytic way of seeing object relations together with the more cognitively psychological way of seeing problematic patterns being replayed, gave rise to a versatile form of therapeutic formulation and treatment that could help explain simultaneously: the inner workings, the history of clinical problems and also the relational dynamics of how they are perpetuated in the present in interactions with others.