What is cognitive analytic therapy?

In life people learn to cope with things in different ways. These patterns of coping become familiar and habitual, and we can sometimes come to relay on them even when they are unhelpful or even damaging. In effect, our solutions actually become part of our problems. Cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) will help you identify and explore these patterns, and once you are aware of them you will be able to start making changes to the way you manage your life.

What happens in cognitive analytic therapy?


Your first few sessions with your therapist will be about discovering how you came to be the person you are today. Together you’ll look at key experiences and lessons you’ve learned in the past. This will help to form a picture of how you deal with life and the patterns of thinking and behaving that have developed. Your therapist will write your story, as they understand it, in the form of a letter to you, which you will be able to discuss together. You’ll also work together to map out a diagram of your coping patterns. This will help you to identify them more easily and give you a clearer picture of your life.


You’ll also learn how to find your way out of coping patterns that limit you or are unhelpful. Your therapist will support you in making those changes, using a variety of techniques. Towards the end of the treatment, you’ll focus on the lessons you’ve learned and the changes you have made as well as making an ending to the therapy.


The number of sessions we’ll set for you varies from person to person, and this will be decided in the first couple of months, but usually they’ll be between 16 and 24.


CAT is usually a challenging type of therapy. You will be looking back over your life and seeing how the hurts and struggles you have had often continue to influence the way you manage your thoughts, feelings and relationships. You will have the opportunity to pay attention to how some of your coping patterns can be seen reflecting in the therapeutic relationship in sessions. CAT is emotionally demanding but is part of what makes it an effective therapy.

What problems can CAT help with?


Cognitive analytic therapy can help treat a wide range of mental health problems, especially those where difficulties are more entrenched, or those that have not been helped by shorter forms of therapy.

Intensive Psychological Therapies Service (IPTS)