Cognitive Analytical Therapy is a type of talking therapy that can be used in the treatment of a few different mental health conditions. It has become increasingly popular in recent years.

As with all other mental health treatments, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with CAT, as we cover in this article.

There are many advantages and disadvantages associated with Cognitive Analytical Therapy

What is Cognitive Analytical Therapy?

Cognitive Analytical Therapy (CAT): Cognitive Analytical Therapy provides a form of therapy that combines cognitive and psychoanalytic approaches to mental health. The aim is to instil techniques into an individual that should help improve the symptoms of their condition. There is a very strong focus on the relationship between therapist and client in this type of therapy.

Advantages of Cognitive Analytical Therapy

  • CAT is short in duration: For those that are looking for a type of therapy that can provide quick fixes in a short period of time – then CAT can be perfect. CAT is usually recommended to last around 6-12 hours, representing a short time span.
  • Brings together both cognitive and analytical theories: One of the best things about CAT is that it combines two major schools of thought in mental health – cognition and analytical thinking. By combining these areas, CAT is able to combine both to form one therapy.
  • Can be used for multiple conditions: Another great feature of CAT is how it can be used in the treatment of many different mental health conditions. For example, CAT can be used for Depression and some Personality Disorders.
  • Helps to break up sequences: CAT works on the idea that harmful sequences – made up of thoughts, behaviours, feelings and emotions – cause problems and destructive actions like self-harm or suicidal feelings. By using a range of techniques, a therapist will attempt to break up these sequences – resulting in a much improved mental state.
  • Evidence is impressive: The evidence for CAT is strong! Numerous studies into CAT have been completed, most of which have produced positive results. The biggest study looked at 30 years of existing research into CAT [1]. The studies collectively suggested that a strong increase in mental health arose for most people treated by CAT [1].
  • Useful for when other treatments haven’t worked: CAT is rarely a first-line form of talking therapy. Instead, most people try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Interpersonal Therapy. Therefore, as CAT brings together multiple areas, it can offer a more comprehensive form of treatment.

Disadvantages of Cognitive Analytical Therapy

  • Requires strong therapist-patient bond: One of the most important aspects of CAT is the need for there to be a strong bond between the therapist and patient. While in many cases this will pose no problem at all, some people find it very difficult to connect with a therapist. If this is the case – CAT probably won’t work for them.
  • Only looks in the past slightly: The main focus in CAT is on the present day. While events that shaped the present are looked at, traumas typically aren’t tackled. For those with traumatic memories, CAT therefore may not be suitable.
  • Complex problems may need more sessions: Following on from the above, there will be some people that need longer to see an improvement in their symptoms. Because of CAT’s structure and nature, patients are expected to only require a few sessions.
  • CAT isn’t very intensive: For those looking for an intensive form of therapy, CAT is probably not suitable. While CAT doesn’t go at a gentle pace, there is the feeling that there is no need to rush – and therefore there isn’t much intensity. For those who want a more intensive therapy – they may need to try something else.
  • Requires active commitment: In order to get the most out of therapy, the patient will need to be fully committed to getting better. They will be expected to actively implement what they have talked about between sessions. For those struggling with their mental health, this can sometimes be challenging.
  • Not offered everywhere: Despite its similarities to the widely-offered Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it is quite difficult to find somewhere to complete CAT. While it is offered by the NHS in some locations, it isn’t always available. Therefore, even if you want to do CAT, it isn’t always possible.

See Also


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[1] Ryle, A., Kellett, S., Hepple, J., & Calvert, R. (2014). Cognitive analytic therapy at 30. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 20 (4): p258-268.