What is compassion-focused therapy?

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) presents self-compassion as the main goal of treatment. It encourages clients to focus on understanding and feeling compassion for themselves, rather than having negative thoughts about themselves. It can be suitable for people with a high degree of shame, self-criticism and difficulty in feeling warmth and being kind to themselves and others. Therapists who use compassion therapy are involved in developing people’s self-compassion, and compassion for others, especially in response to adversity and threatening situations.

Compassionate therapists develop a variety of interventions to help people develop balanced thinking and devote a lot of time to teaching alternative thoughts that are helpful and kind to all. CFT is particularly helpful for people who find it difficult to express, understand, and feel compassion. Therapy can be a safe place to discover the reasons for this and to explore methods for positive change.

Compassion focused therapy

CFT teaches compassion toward yourself and others

Compassionate mind training (CMT) refers to strategies that help people experience compassion by advocating different aspects of compassion for themselves and others. Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) aims to help clients acquire the key competencies required to develop the main aspects and attributes of compassion, care for well-being, tolerance, empathy and non-judgment. The compassion-focused therapy aims to help listeners to (i) perceive their threat-based dominant and subordinate motivational systems as they emerge, (ii) understand their function in the context of their lives and (iii) shift to other motivational patterns geared toward safety and compassion.

The tools used in CFT include working with chronic shame and self-criticism, working through a series of experiential exercises, and one can also observe compassion images and meditation practices from within to learn how to apply them to practice with exposure and behavioural activation. People who undergo CFT are taught to understand compassion in the third person (i.e. “what would a good friend say/do in this situation?”) and to apply these thought processes to themselves.