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Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)


Here is a description of Compassion-Focused Therapy by Elysium Healthcare:

“Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) was developed by Paul Gilbert, (1997, 2000, 2007, 2009) for people who are high in shame and self-criticism and who typically come from harsh backgrounds. These individuals have problems with emotion regulation, they can easily perceive others to be critical and rejecting, (hostile external world), and can, in turn, become self-disliking and self-critical, (hostile internal world). Under these two types of experienced hostility, patients find it extremely difficult to find ways to soothe themselves other than through the use of drugs, self-harm, dissociation, etc. These individuals are likely to say, ‘I can understand the point of your therapy or your cognitive, or behavioural, interventions but I can’t feel it.


CFT suggests that in order to feel reassured, have a sense of safety, or be able to soothe oneself when negative emotions are highly aroused, one needs the appropriate affect system to be accessible. This effect system evolved in mammals via caring. For the first days of life, infants are calmed down through the receipt of care. Caring behaviour calms the threat system. It is this system that many of our patients struggle to access because it’s been poorly developed or patients can be frightened of feelings of warmth and soothing. In addition, change often requires courage and the ability to tolerate negative emotions and painful memories. Such skills are easier to achieve in the context of an experience of internal and external kindness and support.


Hence, the main thrust of CFT is to develop the capacity for self-compassion and self-kindness, which stimulates a particular evolved emotion and relationship system. Therapy involves clear psychoeducation about evolved motivational and affect regulation systems, and a series of practices and exercises focused on developing compassionate attention, compassionate thinking, compassionate behaviour, and compassionate feeling.


Because CFT helps people with shame and self-criticism to engage with various therapy processes – across diagnostic categories. Hence, for example, various cognitive or behavioural or emotion focussed interventions may be utilised, but with compassion development as the focus.”

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