Compassion focused therapy (CFT)
Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)
The objective of Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is to promote mental and emotional healing by promoting people in treatment to be compassionate toward themselves and other people. Compassion, directed toward the self and toward others, is an emotional response which is an essential aspect of well-being. The development of compassion might often have the benefit of improved mental and emotional health.
What to expect?
As per CFT theory, the threat, drive, and contentment systems has evolved throughout human history in order to aid survival. Early humans were interested to avoid or overcome threats, seek important resources such as food or intimacy, and relish the benefits of being part of a social community. Proponents of CFT propose these systems are still active and affect human actions, emotions, and beliefs today. If a threatening stimulus is perceived, for instance, a person may exhibit various behaviors experience different feelings, and develop certain cognitive biases.
How does it work?
The basic therapeutic technique of CFT is compassionate mind training (CMT). CMT directs to the strategies typically used to assist individuals experience compassion and foster different aspects of compassion towards the self and others. CMT aims to form compassionate motivation, sensitivity, sympathy, and distress tolerance through the employment of specific training and guided exercises designed to provide assistance to individuals to further develop non-judging and non-condemning attributes.
People taking the therapy may learn:
- Mindfulness, or the ability to pay attention to the current moment in a non-judgmental manner.
- Appreciation exercises, or activities emphasizing the things that the individual enjoys. These exercises might include making a list of likes, taking out time to savor the moment when something enjoyable is noticed, and other positive rewarding behaviors.
- Compassion-focused imagery exercises, or the utilization of guided memories and fantasies to first induce the mind and then the physiological systems. The aim of compassion-focused imagery exercises are the production of a relational image that induce the soothing system.
When people go through difficulty related to feelings of self-attack, the therapist can help them in exploring the functions and possible origins of these attacks, as well as possible reasons individuals might agree with or submit to them. This process sometimes involve visualization of the self-attacking aspect as a person. People in therapy can be asked to delineate what the "person" looks like and any feelings it evokes in order to better interpret the self-criticism.
When is it used?
CFT can be useful to people who find it challenging to understand, feel, or express compassion, as therapy can be a safe corner to discover any reasons behind this difficulty and look for methods of positive change. This type of therapy have been found effective at helping people manage distressing thoughts, feelings and behaviors of any kind but is particularly helpful while dealing with feelings associated with self-attack.
Role of the Therapist:
Trained mental health professionals can offer CFT to help and support individuals in treatment who wish to look for ways to relate to themselves and others with greater compassion.
Gilbert, Paul. (2009). Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15(3), 199-208. DOI: 10.1192/apt.bp.107.005264.
Goss, K. & Allan, S. (2014). The development and application of compassion-focused therapy for eating disorders. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53, 62-77.
Gilbert, Paul. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53(1), 6-41. DOI: 10.1111/bjc.12043
Braehler, C., Gumley, A., Harper, J., Wallace, S., Norrie, J. & Gilbert, P. (2013). Exploring change processes in compassion focused therapy in psychosis: Results of a feasibility randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 52, 199-214.