Accessing Talking Therapy in the NHS

How can I be referred for CAT in the NHS?

Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) is one of several talking therapies offered in the NHS.  Therapists offering CAT work in many different services in both mental and physical health, across a wide range of ages.  Some work in services for people with learning and other disabilities.

CAT is not always available directly from referral by your GP.  Most areas in England now have a first line Talking Therapies for common mental health problems like anxiety and depression.  Some Talking Therapies services do offer CAT, or CAT-informed therapy, but at the moment the majority do not.  It is worth asking your local provider whether or not CAT is included in their offer.

Some recent research showed that people offered an 8-session CAT therapy in an IAPT service had outcomes that were just as good as people who’d had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).  CAT seemed to be more acceptable to clients in the study, who were more likely to complete the course of therapy than those having CBT.

You can refer yourself directly to many Talking Therapies services in England.  This can be through a  phone call, or online through this NHS link. Sometimes you have to see your GP or another health professional in order to access psychological therapy.  This is always an option if you would prefer to talk through options with someone.  You can find out which Talking Therapies services are in your area by visiting the NHS Direct website – click here to find the search page for Talking Therapies in your area.

It may be more likely that you can access CAT once you have had an assessment through Taling Therapies services or completed a different initial therapy.   Sometimes that is a first step on a pathway of accessing a different “tier” of psychological therapy.  For example  you may be referred on to a psychotherapy service, or into a community mental health team.   Cognitive analytic therapy may be on offer through services like these.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, access to talking therapies may be different.  We suggest you discuss referral with your GP.

You can read a list of NHS services we’re aware of which offer CAT, by clicking on this link.

What if I’m not sure how to start a conversation about my mental health with my GP?

Not everyone finds it easy to speak about issues and problems which make you interested in having talking therapy.  Sometimes it is useful to prepare something before seeing your GP, to help you raise what is concerning you.   You could make a written list of things that are troubling you.

The website DocReady provides an online resource to help people create a list of concerns to help prepare for GP conversations about mental health.  It can be accessed at

What else will help me get clear about the sort of therapy I want?

Another resource you might find useful is the C-NIP Inventory.  This is a questionnaire that can help you consider the sort of therapy that you would prefer to have.  You can find out more about the C-NIP by clicking on this link.

What if my GP, psychiatrist or other referring doctor doesn’t know about CAT?

If the person referring you for therapy is not aware of Cognitive Analytic Therapy, you can tell them about this website and ACAT’s main website at

It may be helpful to direct them to the 7 minute video about CAT which was produced by CAT therapists and advocates at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, in conjunction with Health Education England.  It was published on Youtube in May 2018.

View it at this link –

What if I need help urgently, now?

If you are in need of urgent help,  are at risk of harming yourself or want to end your life, then you can seek urgent support through your local emergency services by calling 111

You can read more about option for urgent mental health support at this page.

Accessing Talking Therapy in the NHS by ACAT Public Engagement Team
CC BY-SA 4.0