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Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

What kind of therapy is it?

CAT brings together insights from cognitive therapies (such as CBT) and psychodynamic/psychoanalytic therapies. It is shorter and more practical than most psychodynamic therapies, and pays more attention to your early life and the origins of your problems than cognitive therapies.

What problems can it help with?

CAT aims to help with your immediate difficulties, but also to identify deeper patterns that lie behind them. 

How does it work?

CAT involves identifying “traps”, “dilemmas”, and “snags” in your life. Traps are the vicious cycles of thought, feeling and behaviour that we can get stuck in; dilemmas are the situations where we feel that we have to behave a certain way because we have no other choice; and snags are the factors in life that stop us from making the changes that we would like to. Once you have identified your traps, dilemmas, and snags, you can begin to find ways out of them.

What will a typical session be like?

In the first few sessions you will be encouraged to speak freely, to explore what is happening in your life now, and what has happened in the past. Then the therapist will help you to identify the traps, dilemmas, and snags in your life and to map them out on paper. You will then work together to build up your awareness of these as they appear both in and out of sessions, and to start to do something different. 

What is the evidence?

CAT has not been researched much, but the research that has been done on it suggests that it is highly effective for range of conditions. It is offered by a number of NHS services.

Further reading:
Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy
Change for the Better: Self Help Through Practical Psychotherapy Paperback



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