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Using CAT to understand yourself and your relationships

Cognitive Analytic Therapy

Feel something’s not quite right, but can’t put your finger on it?

While many clients reach out to us during the height of stressful times, or because they feel their lives are falling apart, it’s interesting to know that we have just as many clients who come to us because they simply sense that something isn’t quite right. Perhaps they’re living materially successful lives, or they are largely content with how family life is unfolding around them. But during the quiet moments, perhaps when the kids are at school, or when gazing out the office window, these progressive individuals want to dig deeper – and experience the inner riches that one can reap from going within.

In this article, we’ll explore how it’s possible to do this through Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT), which can very quickly give any seeker in life an overview of the build of their psyche, and how to continue to improve and prosper moving forward.

Who can benefit from this first-line therapy model

When clients approach us to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, and how their past has shaped them, very often CAT is the right approach – especially if they are new to therapy and want to get a feel for how it works.

While it offers a great place to start, it’s by no means flimsy – we do examine behavioural patterns in depth, and explore how a person’s psyche was built and conditioned by the people around them as they were growing up. We’ll explore how this very conditioning is still influencing them today and how to let go of, or exit, behaviours that are holding them back.

For example, single women and men who lead successful lives in every sense, sometimes want to know why they haven’t been able to make a relationship last. Sometimes people who are in successful relationships come to us wanting to gain a deeper understanding of why they haven’t been able to take their business or career to the next level. Perhaps a person wants to explore mild phobias, like why they aren’t able to talk in front of large crowds. Then there are also women who are trying to conceive through IVF and want psychological support, perhaps to face the possibility of not being able to conceive at all. And finally, it can of course be used to assist with a wide range of typical mental health challenges like depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

It helps you achieve a lot in a short space of time

CAT usually runs anywhere from 16 to 24 sessions. In the first few sessions (usually about four sessions), you’ll be exploring your early childhood and working out how important events, relationships and situations have impacted and shaped your entire life. Your therapist will ask lots of questions to gain an understanding of your life and will often point you to key areas that you need to think about. Session by session, more information will come up in your psyche as you think about those key areas and you’ll be able to provide your therapist with plenty of information that provides a clear picture of your life.

All this information helps your therapist create a ‘reformulation letter’. Your therapist will read this letter to you during the fifth session, which feeds back an understanding of what you want to work on and why – the letter forms the basis of future work that you’ll do together in the next 12 or so sessions. Your therapist will also create a map, detailing how patterns and cycles operate within your life.

Working out how to exit patterns or cycles

Now that you have your life mapped out on paper, it’s easy to see what on-going work needs to be done in order to make significant positive changes. However, doing the daily work of being more mindful and implementing exit strategies, can be really hard. Over the remaining sessions, your therapist will coach you through the challenges, and continue to provide you with refining techniques, skills, ideas, tools and guidance to help you truly create the major shifts that you seek.

Part of this model focuses on creating a good ending as well, and how to become comfortable with endings, exiting and letting go. People might have psychological difficulties with endings, which might be why certain unhelpful patterns, keep repeating throughout their life.

Just before the final session, your therapist will write a ‘goodbye letter’ and you’ll be invited to do the same. You’ll be encouraged to be your authentic self as you write, acknowledging any real feelings that come up, whether they are the positive feelings of gratitude, through to feelings of sadness, anger, fear or regret.

Part of this exercise is for you to experience the honouring of true feelings and their cathartic release. You’ll also benefit from the feeling of being held by the safe presence of your therapist, who is there for you throughout the entire process.

We’ve helped countless individuals benefit from Cognitive Analytic Therapy. If you would like to discuss how we can help, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.