Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

CAT is a program of therapy that is tailored to a person’s individual needs and to his or her own manageable goals for change. It is a time-limited therapy - between 4 and 24 weeks, but typically 16.

At the heart of the therapy is the development of an empathic relationship between the client and therapist within the therapeutic boundaries, the purpose of which is to help the client make sense of their situation and to find ways of making changes for the better.

CAT was developed in the early 1980’s by Dr Anthony Ryle at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, UK. CAT developed as a public health response to the mental health needs of a busy inner London area. He felt it important to offer a short-term focused therapy for use in the health service; a therapy that integrated the best of different approaches to people’s problems and that could be researched and refined with the growing experience of clients and therapists.

The therapy:
Identifies your current problems and how they affect your life and wellbeing
Looks at the underlying causes of these problems in terms of your earlier life and relationships
Understands how you learned to survive sometimes intense and unmanageable feelings by relating to others and yourself in particular ways
Identifies how these patterns may now be holding you back
Discovers the choices and ways of doing things differently (‘exits’) that are available to you to make your life better for yourself and those close to you
Finds out how you can continue to move forward after the therapy has ended

CAT is a very active therapy, inviting you to be the observer of your own life and to make mindful choices in deciding what to change. The changes needed may be small, such as stopping being caught in a trap of avoiding things, or they may be larger, such as finding new ways of relating to other people. The first thing that happens with any human encounter is our reaction to the other person. If we feel warm and happy we are likely to feel accepted. Conversely, if we feel got at, criticized or humiliated we tend to feel hurt and misunderstood, we might respond by being angry and defensive or give up trying and so become depressed and isolated. Many of our automatic responses to other people stem from patterns of relating in early life.

For example, if you had learned in your childhood that you only received love and care by pleasing others you might have the belief: ‘Only if I always do what others want will I be liked’ which puts you in a trap of pleasing others, and can lead to you feeling used and abused. When you realize you have got used to being in this trap you can start to notice how often you get pulled into this trap, and can begin to change what you do and learn to find other more useful ways of standing up for yourself and relating to others. CAT shows you the way to change your learned attitudes and beliefs about yourself and others, and helps you focus on ways to make better choices.

The process of a CAT therapy is to help us look at patterns of relating, and the effect these patterns are having on our relationships, our work and the way we relate to ourselves. In the safety of the therapeutic relationship you will gradually develop an understanding of the ways in which you have learned to cope with what has happened in your life. Often people who have been through abuse, neglect or trauma feel bad about themselves and this can affect self-confidence. The active part of CAT helps you to take part in the process of change in your own way.

CAT is a very creative therapy and the process of understanding and self-discovery may involve art, writing, movement, self-reflection and learning to self-monitor through journal keeping.

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