Compassion Focused Therapy

What is CFT?

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is a ‘third-wave’ cognitive behavioural therapy which recognises self-criticism, shame, self-loathing, and trauma as common factors underpinning a variety of mental health conditions.  It was developed by Prof Paul Gilbert in the UK, prompted by his identifying a proportion of clients who could engage intellectually with standard CBT but struggled to feel any better – what is referred to as a ‘head-heart’ lag.  The scientific roots of the therapy span cognitive behavioural therapies, evolutionary psychology, affective neuroscience, attachment and mindfulness practices. There is an expanding evidence base which indicates that CFT is effective as a therapeutic approach for a variety of presentations including depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders, trauma, and personality difficulties.

How does CFT work?

While we may think of compassion as meaning different things, CFT understands it as ‘a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and prevent it’ (Dalai Lama, 2001). CFT involves learning how evolution and social factors have shaped our minds and how this can lead us to become caught in patterns of emotional suffering which are not our fault.  The therapy then teaches us how to notice and engage with emotional pain and use compassion practices to help reduce suffering, including building skills in imagery, behaviour, attention and cognition.

Treatment Format

At CPC we offer CFT in both group and individual therapy formats.  Research has indicated CFT to be effective in a group format, and previous participants of CFT groups have often identified the experience of connecting with other group members as one of the most significant factors in stimulating positive change. CFT may also be offered in an individual format, either with a pure focus on CFT or through integrating CFT with other evidence-based therapies.

Resources

There are some excellent web pages available which offer further reading, audio and video resources for those interested in learning more about CFT.  Ones we recommend which have helpful ‘resources’ sections to explore include:

The Centre for Compassion Focused Therapy

The Compassionate Mind Foundation

Compassionate Mind Australia