CAT and CBT
CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) has become a well-known form of therapy in the UK, because it is now widely used in the NHS. The provision of this particular type of talking therapy has been expanded over the last few years following a government decision to fund an initiative called ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’ (IAPT). As there was a commitment to provide therapy that has good evidence of being effective, IAPT services have focused on offering CBT, because research has demonstrated that it can produce good results with common mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
However, part of the reason for its strong ‘evidence base’ is that it is a form of therapy that is easier to standardize and so easier to use in research trials, compared to other types of therapy. And this is what has helped CBT to attract more research funding, and so build up more apparent evidence of effectiveness.
So while CBT is without doubt an effective form of therapy for some problems, many clinicians and therapists feel that its importance has been over-exaggerated, due to this distorted reading of the research findings that are available.
CBT tends to concentrate on the thoughts and beliefs of the person seeking help, and while this is often enough to create beneficial change, this method has also been criticized for paying insufficient attention to relationship issues and to the original causal factors that gave rise to the problem; CBT can be seen as more concerned with symptoms than causes.
As outlined in the What is CAT? page, Cognitive Analytic Therapy aims to go further and deeper into understanding how emotional problems and relationship difficulties have developed. This however is not about raking over the past unnecessarily, or stirring up painful memories for no reason. Rather it is because the experience of CAT therapists over many years has shown that really effective help for people in distress is based on:
- Establishing a new understanding of what has caused continued emotional pain
- A recognition of how the person has tried (and still tries) to avoid, deny or otherwise cope with this
- A shared exploration with a skilled therapist of what new strategies might replace old coping patterns that often seem to backfire
- Carried out in the context of a supportive and collaborative professional relationship.
And Cognitive Analytic Therapy has itself a good deal of research evidence demonstrating how effective it can be. Further information is available on the website for the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy: www.acat.me.uk
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