Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)

Compassion focused therapy (CFT) is a psychotherapy developed by Paul Gilbert that integrates techniques from cognitive behavioural therapy with concepts from evolutionary psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology, Buddhist psychology, and neuroscience. One of its key concerns is to use compassionate mind training to help people develop and work with experiences of inner warmth, safeness and soothing, via compassion and self-compassion.

The central therapeutic technique of CFT is compassionate mind training, which teaches the skills and attributes of compassion. Compassionate mind training helps transform problematic patterns of cognition and emotion related to anxiety, anger, shame and self-criticism.

Biological evolution forms the theoretical backbone of CFT. Humans have evolved with at least three primal types of emotion regulation system: the threat (protection) system, the drive (resource-seeking) system, and the soothing system. CFT emphasizes the links between cognitive patterns and these three emotion regulation systems. Through the use of techniques such as compassionate mind training and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), clients can learn to manage each system more effectively and respond more appropriately to situations. There is increasing research that demonstrate the importance of compassion as a way of directing behaviour to deal with threat and resolve conflict.

Compassion focused therapy is especially appropriate for people who have high levels of shame and self-criticism and who have difficulty in feeling warmth toward, and being kind to themselves or others. Such problems of shame and self-criticism are often rooted in a history of abuse, bullying, neglect, and/or lack of affection in the family. CFT can help such people learn to feel more safeness and warmth in their interactions with others and themselves.

Numerous methods are used in CFT to develop a person’s compassion. For example, people undergoing CFT are taught to understand compassion from the third person, before transferring these thought processes to themselves.

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