Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT)

In a nutshell

CAT aims to improve your coping skills and changes harmful coping habits so that any future problems are easier to deal with.

Recommended for treating

Anorexia but may also be used for other problems.

How it works

CAT is based on the theory that mental health problems such as anorexia are caused by unhealthy patterns of behaviour and thinking, which you will usually have developed in your childhood. Therapy looks at what may have happened in your past and what stops you from moving on with your future. It helps you to look at patterns of behaviour you may repeat and coping strategies you may use which don’t work for you. You may talk about your childhood and how your problems began but then focus on the here-and-now and learning new ways of coping.

Anorexia example:

For example, for someone with anorexia CAT may focus on how the restriction of food is a way of dealing with emotional difficulties and helps the person recognise, challenge and change old patterns of behaviour that do not work well. The overall CAT approach is based on three phases:

  • Reformulation – discovering the events in your past which contribute to the way you think about food. E.g. did restricting food help you feel in control during a stressful time in your life?

  • Recognition – you are then able to recognise how these events have contributed to your anorexia

  • Revision – you work to create new strategies to overcome these unhealthy thinking patterns and coping strategies

How to get it

CAT is available in the NHS and is recommended as part of treatment for Anorexia.

  • To find a qualified, private therapist registered by the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy, go to www.acat.me.uk.

  • This type of therapy is normally delivered over 16-24 sessions but you will agree the length of time with your therapist.