What to Know About Compassion-Focused Therapy? (2022)

What Is Compassion-Focused Therapy?

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT), or Compassion Mind Training (CMF), is the concept of incorporating compassion training techniques into psychotherapy to induce kinder thinking habits.

This type of therapy emphasizes the importance of compassion and self-compassion in interactions with the world and the self. CFT stems from Buddhist values that stress the influence compassion has on others’ happiness as well as your own.

In CFT clients will develop skills that enable them to experience kindness towards themselves and consideration to others through the use of mindfulness-based strategies. CFT is similar to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) but implements techniques that help establish traits like acceptance and self-respect, to enhance self-assurance and positive emotion. CFT is beneficial to those experiencing destructive thoughts, depression, or anxiety to combat feelings of shame and self-criticism.

Techniques of Compassion-Focused Therapy

CFT techniques include exercises and tasks, such as those discussed below, along with homework, diary entries, and mindfulness/meditation practices.

(Video) Compassion Focused Therapy Overview | Counseling Techniques

Compassion Images

A collection of exercises that include compassion images to help clients gather an understanding of their image of compassion.

Individuals will be asked to express what their ideal depiction of compassion from another would be. They may be asked what compassion may look or sound like via facial expressions and tone of voice. They also have to associate words that connect to this image they created, such as warm or strong.

The person may also be advised to play the role of a deeply compassionate person and project that image through facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, and words. Clients are asked to picture compassionate images during moments they may usually be self-critical.

Compassion Behavior Tasks

This is a form of exposure therapy. The client is exposed to the new behaviors that are being learned in therapy. They are directed to practice encouraging and sensitive expressions to themselves during fearful or awkward situations. This can help individuals learn to be kind to themselves during difficult situations.

(Video) Introduction to Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)

These types of tasks are also important for clients to accept positive emotions. If an individual has become prone to feelings of guilt or fear during enjoyable moments, they can begin to practice more positive feelings at these times.

What Compassion-Focused Therapy Helps With

CFT helps an individual develop kinder approaches in how to view themselves and interact with others, void of blame and criticism.

CFT can be beneficial for those seeking support with the following conditions and concerns:

  • Self-esteem
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Relationships
  • Shame
  • Fear
  • Body Image
  • Mood Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Addiction

Benefits of Compassion-Focused Therapy

CFT strategically trains an individual to develop skills that strengthen compassionate thinking, which enhances feelings of self-validation and empathy.

(Video) What is Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)

Compassion is considered caring about the suffering of others, but it also means self-compassion, which is being kind to yourself. According to self-compassion expert psychologist, Kristen Neff, self-compassion is actually correlated with compassion for others and overall well-being.

Compassion for others and oneself is associated with greater mental and physical health benefits and enhances the overall quality of life. It enables positive thinking habits, promotes emotional regulation, reduces stress and improves relationship quality. Compassion is also linked to less anxiety, depression, and self-criticism. Additionally, compassion can produce healthier immune responses and helps maintain blood pressure and cortisol levels.

Effectiveness

CFT was founded by psychologist Paul Gilbert to help people establish a more compassionate“inner voice,” especially those experiencing a lot of shame. Gilbert’s emphasis is on the importance of learning to engage in “self-soothing” behaviors and “warm” thoughts towards oneself.He conducted a 12-week group session of compassion mind training, in which participants displayed drastic advances in self-compassion that involved being more self-assured and less critical or shameful to oneself. They also exhibited a decrease in depression and anxiety, while displaying more self-soothing and less submissive behaviors.

CFT integrates different fields of psychology such as developmental psychology, evolutionary psychology, Buddhist psychology, and neuropsychology models of compassion. All of these examine the biological, environmental, and motivational contributions that innately drive us to engage in certain emotional and behavioral motives.

(Video) Compassion Focused Therapy with Dr Paul Gilbert

Compassion is associated with neurology; specific areas of the brain are activated in response to the suffering of others and emotional stimuli. Researchers believe that compassion training techniques can possibly enhance feelings of empathy and kindness. Experiencing more feelings of compassion can help initiate self-soothing thoughts as opposed to fearful ones.

CFT has been scientifically supported by empirical literature to be effective within psychotherapy or as a mindfulness training program. A recent systematic review including a collection of various CFT studies validated its benefits towards certain treatment topics, such as depression, trauma, self-esteem, etc. Researchers found CFT to be beneficial in helping with depression, anxiety, feelings of shame, self-criticism, and interacting with others. However, more research within this area is necessary before it can be determined as an official evidence-based practice and to fully understand how effective it is for a variety of conditions.

Things to Consider

Here is what might be helpful for you to consider before you begin CFT:

  • Prepare to talk about you. With this type of therapy, the focus is on you. This is true for most therapies, but with CFT there is an even greater concentration on the self. The goal of compassion training is to help develop habits that reduce self-criticism and shame to enable a kinder viewpoint of yourself and others. In order to strengthen these abilities, one must first get to the root of self-destructive thinking and behaviors.
  • Be ready to put in work. CFT involves learning about the mind and emotions while implementing what is learned in exercises and homework. It also includes discovering new things about yourself that may feel overwhelming at times. Reducing habits that may be difficult to break may also be a challenging process, but the counselor will work to produce a pace best suited for you.
  • Don’t expect instant change. Be patient with yourself and the counselor. You may not notice improvements right away. It will take some time because you are learning and breaking habits all at once.

How to Get Started

If you think the CFT may be beneficial to you, follow the steps below:

(Video) An Introduction to Compassion Focused Therapy – Dr Chris Irons, PhD

  1. Make the decision. It is up to you to take that first step in deciding to begin therapy. If you feel that you are ready to journey on this path, then you must determine if this specific therapy is the route you want to take.
  2. Begin your search. Look for a therapist that specializes in compassion-focused therapy or find a training program that may be offered online. If you already have a therapist, discuss incorporating compassion training into your sessions.
  3. Make an effort. Once you begin CFT, try to put your best foot forward and gain all that you can from this experience. Compassionate thinking is something that can generate better well-being and a happier you. If both the counselor and yourself are investing the time, why not make an effort to do the work.
  4. Don’t be too tough on yourself. All you can do is try your best in therapy. There will be times that you resort back to old habits, don't get too frustrated with yourself. The main point of compassion therapy is to grow in your thinking and produce kinder approaches to how you communicate with yourself and the world. Accept that this has happened and continue to progress in your training.

How Self-Compassion Helps You Cope With the Ups and Downs of Life

FAQs

What type of therapy is compassion focused therapy? ›

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a relatively novel form of psychotherapy that was developed for people who have mental health problems primarily linked to high shame and self-criticism.

Is compassion focused therapy effective? ›

Conclusion: Compassion focused therapy appears to be an effective group intervention for a range of mental health difficulties. The positive impact of the CFT model with a transdiagnostic group emphasizes the value of addressing underlying psychological process, rather than symptoms alone.

What is the role of compassion within compassion focused therapy? ›

CFT teaches clients to cultivate the skills of self-compassion and other-oriented compassion, which are thought to help regulate mood and lead to feelings of safety, self-acceptance, and comfort.

How long is compassion focused therapy? ›

However as a guide, if you are having CFT as a stand-alone intervention or blended with clinical hypnotherapy, you can expect to have between 4-6 weekly sessions. If instead, CFT is being provided as a blended approach alongside either CBT or counselling, you can expect to have between 6-15 sessions.

Is CFT evidence based? ›

CFT's evidence basis is expansive, prompting researchers to compose a review of its benefits for different populations and presenting problems (e.g., psychotic-spectrum disorders, people wanting to quit smoking). Researchers called for large-scale and high-quality trials having larger samples to further evaluate CFT.

Is CFT a third wave CBT? ›

Third Wave Therapies/Third Wave CBT

These therapies include acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), mindfulness, and compassion focused therapy (CFT).

Is CFT a form of CBT? ›

What is Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)? Compassion Focused Therapy is a form of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that draws upon evolutionary psychology and the neuroscience of emotion to help clients work with emotional difficulties.

What is a CFT model? ›

Compassion focused therapy (CFT) was developed to work with issues of shame and self-criticism. The CFT model complements and expands the traditional cognitive behavioral approach to human thought, emotion, and behavior. This information handout describes some key principles of the compassionate mind approach.

What is cat therapy used for? ›

Cognitive Analytic Therapy, or CAT, is a focussed, time- limited psychological therapy designed for NHS patients suffering from a wide range of mental health problems, as well as patients with disabilities and physical health problems.

How can I strengthen my soothe system? ›

10 ways to strengthen your soothing system

Moment of relaxation-breathing in warmth, contentment. Half smile. Imagining time when someone soothed you/you felt warmth for someone. Imagine ideal compassionate person/self as ideal compassionate person.

How do I activate a soothing system? ›

To activate your soothing system is to consciously slow down, and there are many ways you can do this: Focus on your breathing and bring yourself back into the present moment (mindfulness) Embrace slow tech and switch off from your devices for a period of time.

What is compassion fatigue? ›

What is compassion fatigue? Compassion fatigue Opens in a new window is the cost of caring for others or for their emotional pain, resulting from the desire to help relieve the suffering of others. It is also known as vicarious or secondary trauma, referencing the way that other people's trauma can become their own.

Are we born with compassion? ›

The answer is definitively yes, compassion is both innate and can be learned and enhanced. Advances in neuroscience have shown us that the human brain has neural networks that are hard-wired with the ability to share the experiences of others, including emotions and sensations.

What does CFT stand for in mental health? ›

The Child and Family Team (CFT) is a defined group of people which may include the child, DCS Specialist and his/her caregiver, a behavioral health representative and any individuals important in the child's life identified and invited to participate by the child and family.

What is self-compassion therapy? ›

Self-compassion has been shown in neuroscience research to strengthen the parts of the brain that make you happier, more resilient, and more attuned to others. It can comfort negative emotions in the present, permanently heal painful memories from the past, and change negative core beliefs.

What are compassion based interventions? ›

Thus, compassion-based interventions focus on activating affiliative processing systems (e.g., parasympathetic system) to promote better health. In so doing, compassion-based interventions can be viewed as a transdiagnostic process.

What is the soothing system? ›

The Soothing System (Safeness, Caring, Contentment)

Often, the Soothing System operates naturally when there are no threats to defend against and no goals that must be pursued. This system taps into feel good neurochemicals such as oxytocin, endorphins, and opiates.

What is culturally sensitive therapy? ›

Culturally sensitive therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes the therapist's understanding of a client's background and belief system as it relates to their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or other important elements that make up someone's culture and/or identity.

What is the difference between CBT and CFT? ›

While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is primarily focused on thinking and behaviour change, Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) looks at the emotion behind people's thoughts.

What type of therapy is best suited to treat a phobia? ›

The best treatment for specific phobias is a form of psychotherapy called exposure therapy. Sometimes your doctor may also recommend other therapies or medication. Understanding the cause of a phobia is actually less important than focusing on how to treat the avoidance behavior that has developed over time.

What are the 3 waves of therapy? ›

In the evolution of CBT as the most empirically validated form of psychotherapy, each of its three waves (behavioural therapy, cognitive therapy and acceptance-based therapies) has brought unique contributions to improve its effectiveness.

Is compassion focused therapy a third wave? ›

CFT is part of the “third wave” of behavioural therapies - those that focus less on the content of your thoughts and feelings than on how you respond to them, and that often incorporate mindfulness.

What is compassion Gilbert? ›

The British clinical psychologist Paul Gilbert is founder of compassion focused therapy (CFT), a system of psychotherapy that helps people develop and work with experiences of inner warmth, safeness and soothing through compassion and self-compassion.

What is cognitive functional therapy? ›

Cognitive Functional Therapy (CFT) is a behavioral intervention that addresses multiple aspects of low back pain. This approach focuses on changing the patient's beliefs, confronting their fears, educating them about pain mechanisms, increasing mental strength, and control of their body.

What are the three motivational systems that relate to emotion regulation? ›

According to Paul Gilbert, PhD, we have three types of emotion regulation systems – we've got the Threat System, the Drive System, and the Soothing System. Now when a client is stuck in a painful cycle of self-criticism and shame, it's often because these three systems are out of balance.

What is soothing rhythm breathing? ›

Soothing rhythm breathing is a breathing exercise designed to soothe body and mind. There are other breathing exercises where you can just allow the breath to be as it is, but this technique is about discovering a breathing rhythm that is supportive and calming for you.

What is compassion training? ›

Compassion training can be adopted at any age and involves training the mind to develop specific skills in order to relate to others and to ourselves, and making a conscious effort to think and act in a compassionate manner.

Who is suitable for CAT therapy? ›

CAT offers a safe and clinically effective therapy intervention for people who wish to work through these underlying issues. Sometimes, people who have symptoms of, for example, anxiety or depression, have a history of abuse, trauma or neglect underlying their symptoms.

Is CAT therapy any good? ›

CAT is a safe, widely used therapy that is often used with people: living with depression, anxiety or eating problems. who self harm. with personal or relationship problems.

How do cats help with depression? ›

Pets have a relaxing effect. Petting or stroking an animal can improve your mood. "Touch helps increase oxytocin levels and reduces cortisol, the infamous stress-related hormone," Wiercyski says. Even the sound of a cat purring can be soothing.

What is unhealthy self-soothing? ›

“Unhealthy self-soothing has an acting outwards energy and direction away from 'self'. Healthy self-soothing has an exploration inwards direction towards 'self'”

How do you self soothe after trauma? ›

10 Examples of Self-Soothing Behaviors
  1. Change the environment. If possible, just change the environment for a few minutes. ...
  2. Stretch for five minutes to move any blocked energy. ...
  3. Take a warm shower or bath. ...
  4. Soothing imagery. ...
  5. Soothing music. ...
  6. Soothing smells. ...
  7. Self-compassion. ...
  8. Focused breathing.
21 Jan 2022

What are self-soothing techniques? ›

These exercises can help promote good feelings that may help the negative feelings fade or seem less overwhelming.
  • Picture the Voice or Face of Someone You Love. ...
  • Practice Self-Kindness. ...
  • Sit with Your Pet. ...
  • List Favorites. ...
  • Visualize Your Favorite Place. ...
  • Plan an Activity. ...
  • Touch Something Comforting. ...
  • List Positive Things.
24 Apr 2020

How do I calm my amygdala? ›

Calm Down and Release the Amygdala - YouTube

How do you develop compassion? ›

Six Habits of Highly Compassionate People
  1. Bringing attention or awareness to recognizing that there is suffering (cognitive)
  2. Feeling emotionally moved by that suffering (affective)
  3. Wishing there to be relief from that suffering (intentional)
  4. A readiness to take action to relieve that suffering (motivational)
24 Apr 2018

Who suffers most from compassion fatigue? ›

Now Allespach and other psychologists are worried that psychologists are facing increased risks of compassion fatigue as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on. Compassion fatigue occurs when psychologists or others take on the suffering of patients who have experienced extreme stress or trauma, explains Charles R.

What causes loss of compassion? ›

Parents, teachers, peers, society, and culture affect how people feel about kindness, empathy, compassion, and helping behaviors. Some conditions may play a role in a lack of empathy such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder (BPD).

Which 3 part of our brains light up when we are being compassionate? ›

Helping others triggered activity in the caudate nucleus and anterior cingulate, portions of the brain that turn on when people receive rewards or experience pleasure. This is a rather remarkable finding: helping others brings the same pleasure we get from the gratification of personal desire.

Can compassion be taught? ›

Compassion can indeed be taught, but neither by the example of a few, isolated physicians nor by creation of Departments of Compassion. In replying to one standard objection to teaching compassion, it is emphasised that scientific competence and compassion aren't mutually exclusive.

Is compassion a skill or attribute? ›

Compassion is caring about others and behaving toward them with affection, generosity, and concern. As opposed to empathy (which is putting yourself in someone else's shoes), compassion means having genuine feelings for other people's struggles. Compassion is a soft skill with practical benefits.

When was CFT created? ›

CFT was founded by Paul Gilbert (2000) in response to the observation that many people, in particular those high in shame and self-criticism, were experiencing difficulties generating kind and self-supporting inner voices when engaging in traditional therapy.

What is CFT production? ›

The most simple definition of cross-functional teams (or CFTs) is groups that are made up of people from different functional areas within a company—marketing, engineering, sales, and human resources, for example.

How does interpersonal therapy work? ›

IPT is a short-term treatment option that typically consists of 12 to 16 one-hour weekly sessions. The therapist focuses on identifiable problems in how an individual interacts with or doesn't interact with others. When those problems are addressed, the patient realizes a benefit in their experience of symptoms.

What are the 3 qualities of self-compassion and compassion? ›

Below are the three elements of self-compassion:
  • Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment. ...
  • Common humanity vs. Isolation. ...
  • Mindfulness vs. Over-identification.

What are the 3 strategies for more self-compassion? ›

strategies for increasing self-compassion
  • strategy 1: talk to yourself like someone you love. ...
  • strategy 2: catch and replace judgmental thoughts. ...
  • strategy 3: use validation to increase self-compassion. ...
  • putting self-compassion into practice with loving kindness/metta meditation.
16 Oct 2021

Is compassion focused therapy evidence based? ›

CFT's evidence basis is expansive, prompting researchers to compose a review of its benefits for different populations and presenting problems (e.g., psychotic-spectrum disorders, people wanting to quit smoking). Researchers called for large-scale and high-quality trials having larger samples to further evaluate CFT.

Is compassion focused therapy CBT? ›

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a system of psychotherapy developed by Paul Gilbert that integrates techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy with concepts from evolutionary psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, Buddhist psychology, and neuroscience.

Is CFT a form of CBT? ›

What is Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)? Compassion Focused Therapy is a form of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that draws upon evolutionary psychology and the neuroscience of emotion to help clients work with emotional difficulties.

What type of therapy is narrative therapy? ›

Narrative therapy (or Narrative Practice) is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to help patients identify their values and the skills associated with them. It provides the patient with knowledge of their ability to live these values so they can effectively confront current and future problems.

What is narrative therapy in Counselling? ›

Narrative therapy is a form of therapy that aims to separate the individual from the problem, allowing the individual to externalize their issues rather than internalize them. It relies on the individual's own skills and sense of purpose to guide them through difficult times (Narrative Therapy, 2017).

What is the difference between CBT and CFT? ›

While Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is primarily focused on thinking and behaviour change, Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) looks at the emotion behind people's thoughts.

What is a CFT model? ›

Compassion focused therapy (CFT) was developed to work with issues of shame and self-criticism. The CFT model complements and expands the traditional cognitive behavioral approach to human thought, emotion, and behavior. This information handout describes some key principles of the compassionate mind approach.

What does CFT stand for in psychology? ›

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a form of psychotherapy developed by Paul Gilbert for people struggling with shame and self-criticism.

Is compassion focused therapy a third wave? ›

CFT is part of the “third wave” of behavioural therapies - those that focus less on the content of your thoughts and feelings than on how you respond to them, and that often incorporate mindfulness.

What is self-compassion therapy? ›

Self-compassion has been shown in neuroscience research to strengthen the parts of the brain that make you happier, more resilient, and more attuned to others. It can comfort negative emotions in the present, permanently heal painful memories from the past, and change negative core beliefs.

What is schema therapy used for? ›

Schema Therapy is designed to address unmet needs and to help clients break these patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving, which are often tenacious, and to develop healthier alternatives to replace them.

Who should not use narrative therapy? ›

One of the major cons of Narrative Therapy is that it is not helpful for those with intellectual disabilities or language issues.

What are the disadvantages of narrative therapy? ›

Cons of Narrative Therapy

Some professionals also critique the assumption that there are no absolute truths in life. It's not for everyone. Your unique needs are different from anyone else's. If trauma limits your cognitive, intellectual, or language skills, you may not be ready for narrative therapy.

How long should narrative therapy last? ›

STAIR narrative therapy, which combines narrative therapy and skills training, usually lasts around 16 weeks.

How many sessions does narrative therapy take? ›

Often, small groups of people receive four to 10 sessions of NET together, although it can be provided individually as well. It is understood that the story a person tells himself or herself about their life influences how the person perceives their experiences and wellbeing.

Who does narrative therapy work best for? ›

Narrative therapy allows people to not only find their voice but to use their voice for good, helping them to become experts in their own lives and to live in a way that reflects their goals and values. It can be beneficial for individuals, couples, and families.

Which is the correct order of stages in narrative therapy? ›

In this video Steve Madigan describes the three stages of narrative therapy:
  • Deconstructing problematic dominant stories. Naming the problem. ...
  • Re-authoring problematic dominant stories. ...
  • Remembering conversations.

Videos

1. Compassion Focused Therapy for Body Shame
(UQ Health)
2. Compassion Focused Therapy: An Introduction
(The Weekend University)
3. Major therapeutic interventions in mental health, 5: Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)
(The Association for Psychological Therapies (APT))
4. What is Compassion-Focused Therapy?
(Leading Edge Seminars)
5. Developing a Compassionate Mind
(balancedminds)
6. CBT Geeks: What is Compassion Focused Therapy?
(Psychology on Demand)

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