An Introduction to CAT ~ 18/19 May 2023

Past Catalyse Event

An Introduction to Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

A two day workshop led by Sarah Littlejohn and Jo Coggins

Hashtag #CATintro23

Date: Thursday 18 and Friday 19 May 2023
Time: 9.30 am to 4.30 pm each day
Venue:  The Studio, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1FN
Fees:  £250.00

I really enjoyed the mixture of teaching, practice in pairs and groups, whole group discussions. The content was brilliant. The trainers are really experienced and knowledgeable.

participant, may 2023 – scroll down for more feedback

Overview of workshop

This two day workshop provided participants with an introduction to Cognitive Analytic Therapy.  Through a combination of brief theoretical presentations and activity-based learning, they had an opportunity to understand CAT concepts and practise using some of the key skills involved. 

The trainers, Sarah and Jo, helped participants explore different ways the CAT approach can support assessment, formulation and psychological therapy.  They modelled using CAT as a highly collaborative tool to help make sense of relational difficulties and common psychological symptoms, alongside working with problem patterns in the therapy relationship itself. Finally, Sarah and Jo also covered CAT’s approach to managing therapeutic endings in a thoughtful and constructive way. 

They used clinical examples and role play to help demonstrate use of CAT in action.  Throughout, participants had the chance to work with each other in pairs and small groups. 

Aims and learning outcomes

Over the two days, the trainers focussed on:

  • introducing Cognitive Analytic concepts and methods
  • demonstrating how to draw out or “map” diagrams of problematic, repeating relationship patterns. They used live examples and examples from participants’ own practice, and supported others to try this out technique
  • introducing the CAT tool of letter writing. Again, they shared examples to enable practice of ways of framing and summarising client narratives, histories, presenting problems and repeating problematic patterns through writing
  • aiding understanding of CAT’s theory of therapeutic change, and how to develop alternative relationship patterns and roles
  • exploring how CAT can be used to understand relational patterns in therapy, help predict issues associated with poor motivation and engagement, and work with endings

Who was it for?

This event was for anybody interested in learning more about cognitive analytic therapy.

Applicants to the Catalyse CAT Practitioner Training are required to have attended a two-day introductory course on CAT (or equivalent).  This course was ideal for those intending to apply in 2023. Working with Sarah and Jo, as two of the main trainers for Catalyse Practitioner Training, provided a taster of the teaching style on the course.


Sarah Littlejohn is a CAT psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer.  She originally trained as an integrative psychotherapist over 25 years ago and qualified as a CAT practitioner in 2001.  She’s  been a lead trainer for the Catalyse Practitioner Training for many years. In addition to her training role, Sarah also provides supervision for CAT practitioner and CAT psychotherapy level trainings. She’s been a past chair of ACAT’s Training Committee and is currently co-chair of the Catalyse Executive.  She’s  particularly interested in how CAT provides a framework for the early formulation of complexity, and uses of the therapeutic relationship.

Jo Coggins is an accredited CAT practitioner, supervisor and trainer with a professional background in clinical psychology.  She has over 15 years experience in the NHS. In her current NHS role she delivers CAT and other therapies in an Talking Therapies (previously IAPT) service setting.  Additionally Jo provides consultation and supervision to staff working with clients with complex needs. She is a core trainer and cohort tutor for the Catalyse CAT Practitioner training course.  Jo also provides introductory training in CAT Skills for third sector workers.


The Studio, 51 Lever Street, Manchester M1 1FN

Participant feedback on this event

We asked participants what they found “most useful, interesting or enjoyable” about the two days. Responses are listed below (shared with permission).

“Watching the video of enactments in a therapy session. Group role play activity to ask questions to the facilitator who was playing a client.”

I really enjoyed the mixture of teaching, practice in pairs and groups, whole group discussions. The content was brilliant. The trainers are really experienced and knowledgeable.

“The application of the model to the case example.”

I found both days really interesting and valuable. I feel like I have a much better understanding around CAT – this was a great introduction to the model.

“Mix of didactic learning and group work, discussions, pairs, video etc. Managing enactments.”

The repetition helped to embed the model. The group work and pairwork helped with self-reflection. The training videos were good. The self-reflection on our own procedures and how they impact the work. It was all really good, thank you.

“How to make my work with clients more structured. I really enjoyed hearing about cases and the practising of some of the theory. I have a greater understanding of reciprocal roles and how much they are present. I feel like I will be thinking about this during my sessions with clients.”

Putting theory into practice through the exercises.

“Group work. Use of real case to generate discussion. Explanation of how to generate reciprocal roles.”

Reflective discussion around the content and process. The facilitators were flexible and able to adapt to our questions and conversation points.

“I found the explanation and examples of SDR’s extremely useful as it allowed me to visualise the methodology and ‘show my working out’ which I believe will aid therapeutic rapport in the future.”

Thinking about my own cases and how to utilise the framework of CAT, helped make all the terminology and theory more understandable – we were given lots of opportunity to do this on the course.