Cognitive Analytic Therapy is a time-limited form of psychotherapy that has been developed in Britain over the last 30 years. It is an integrative approach, which means that it incorporates aspects from different types of therapy. So for example, CAT is concerned with the effects of childhood experiences and relationships (like psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapy), but it combines this with an open, collaborative style that is time-limited and focused on agreed goals, in the same way as cognitive therapies like CBT. So in many ways it offers the best of both worlds.
What is also different about CAT is that it looks closely at relationship patterns. The theory behind it is based partly on the idea that we are in relationships with other people from the moment of birth. So we learn and absorb relationship patterns based on our experience of being with others, particularly parents and carers who bring us up.
CAT provides a structured way of coming to understand what relationship patterns have been problematic in a person’s development, and whether the coping strategies that have been adopted really are helping, or whether, as often happens, they have got caught in self-defeating vicious circles.
And CAT is a collaborative therapy. So the therapist and client work together to reach an understanding of the person’s difficulties; and work together to find new and constructive ways to manage negative emotions, and to replace repeated behaviour patterns that aren’t working with more positive actions.