How Do I Know My Therapist is Qualified to Deliver Cognitive Analytic Therapy?

What qualifications do CAT therapists have?

ACAT accredited CAT therapists usually only start their training in cognitive analytic therapy after they have already qualified and practiced in a different profession. Examples include psychologists, counsellors, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, music therapists, art therapists, drama therapists, nurses, social workers, GPs and CBT therapists. Most applicants have had considerable experience in talking therapies before courses consider them for CAT training. ACAT oversees and accredits all the training courses in CAT in the UK.

What levels of qualification are there in Cognitive Analytic Therapy?

There are two levels of accredited CAT therapist.

1) CAT Practitioner

This involves attending a training course over at least two years. The training includes lectures and workshops throughout that two year period. Trainees also have to provide full cognitive analytic therapy to a minimum of eight people. This takes place under close weekly supervision by a more experienced therapist. These supervisors have to have passed a qualification themselves in CAT supervision.

Trainees also discuss CAT theory and practice in small seminar groups which meet regularly. They have to submit and pass written assignments to show their understanding of CAT and their reflections on CAT therapy they have offered. Trainee CAT therapists also have to complete their own psychological therapy using a CAT approach. This means that everyone who has qualified as a CAT Practitioner has been in “the other chair”, receiving therapy themselves. Practitioner training courses assess and mark all aspects of the trainees’ learning. If they don’t feel that the trainee’s work is at an acceptable standard, then the trainee will not qualify.

2) CAT Psychotherapist

The CAT psychotherapy training involves a more intensive taught course over a further two year period. Trainee psychotherapists complete a further eight therapies under  the supervision of another CAT psychotherapist. Written work and assignments feature again and include a longer dissertation on an area of their choice. Trainee psychotherapists are expected to have their own psychotherapy over the two years of training. Again, the work is assessed and marked. Trainees can only qualify if they satisfy all the requirements to the expected standard.

What happens after training?

To stay accredited as a CAT therapist with ACAT, CAT practitioners and psychotherapists have to keep up a number of standards.

  • They must be in regular supervision for their work, with a CAT supervisor

  • They must work within ACAT’s Code of Ethics and Practice

  • They must have insurance for their clinical work

  • CAT therapists also have to undergo continuing professional development – that is, stay up to date with developments and continue learning. This may involve attending further courses and a range of other activities. We make sure of this by auditing members regularly.

So how can I check that my therapist is properly qualified and accredited with ACAT?

You can check your therapist’s name against our Register of Members. We update this every year.  It shows all CAT therapists who are up to date with their membership and fulfil all the requirements of accreditation.

What do I do if my CAT therapist’s name is not on that list?

You can ask your therapist about their qualifications and experience. You should expect any therapist to be open and honest about these, and happy to discuss them with you. 

A number of situations could mean that the therapist does have experience in cognitive analytic therapy but is not an accredited member of ACAT.  For example:

Trainee CAT practitioners

The names of therapists who are currently training as CAT practitioners do not appear on our list of members. However we would expect any trainee CAT therapist to be very clear with you at the start of therapy that they are working in this way under close supervision.

CAT Foundation Course graduates

Some therapists who have completed a one-year Foundation course training in CAT offer CAT under supervision, for example as part of IAPT high intensity therapy or counselling.

Non- accredited CAT therapists

Some therapists train in CAT but then don’t keep up the requirements of accreditation. For example their supervisor may not be CAT trained, or their ACAT membership may have lapsed. They are qualified to deliver cognitive analytic therapy but we can’t assure you that the meet all the other standards we set out.

Trainee psychologists or psychiatrists

Some therapists offer CAT under supervision as part of their own training. For example, trainee clinical psychologists and psychiatrists might practice CAT under the supervision of an accredited CAT therapist. In these cases, the therapy would be termed CAT-informed therapy.

So just to be clear, can you sum up who is definitely not qualified to provide CAT?

If your therapist:

  • has not completed any formal training in cognitive analytic therapy, and

  • is not being supervised by a qualified CAT therapist

then they are not providing cognitive analytic therapy.

This is the case even if they have attended CAT continuing professional development events, or completed an introductory course in CAT, or a 6 month ACAT accredited course in CAT Skills Case Management.

What do I do if I come across someone saying they provide CAT when according to this, they are not?

ACAT is unable to regulate and monitor the activity of therapists who are not our members. However if you have any concerns about the qualifications and practice of a therapist you are seeing, you can check with their professional body and/or the Health and Care Professions Council if their profession comes under their regulation.

How Do I Know My Therapist Is Qualified To Deliver Cognitive Analytic Therapy? by ACAT Public Engagement Team
CC BY-SA 4.0