Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a type of therapy developed by British psychologist Paul Gilbert that, in Gilbert’s words, uses "compassionate mind training to help people develop and work with experiences of inner warmth, safeness and soothing, via compassion and self-compassion."
Issues That CFT Can Help With
CFT has been research-proven to help with conditions including:
* Self-criticism and shamed-based difficulties
* Personality disorders
* Mood disorders
* Eating disorders
* Anger-management disorders
It’s also been used to help build compassion-based management systems in organizations. In education, CFT has been used to help students develop a compassionate view of the world.
The core of CFT is compassionate mind training, which teaches the skills and attributes of compassion. As compassion is developed, participants learn to transform negative thoughts and emotional coping mechanisms related to anxiety, anger, shame, and self-criticism.
CFT is rooted in theories of biological evolution. Humans have three core systems for emotional regulation:
* The threat response system, designed to protect us, which includes anger, anxiety, and disgust
* The drive system, which encourages us to pay attention to the world around us, seek resources, and rewards us with pleasure when we set and achieve goals
* The soothing system, which allows us to relax, repair, and rest
Ideally, in a healthy person, these three systems are in balance, and we respond to the outside world with appropriate and effective emotional responses. Too often, though, these systems are out of balance, and people respond to challenges with anger, shame, or self-criticism.
CFT helps people learn to better manage their emotions by being more compassionate. Practicing compassion and self-compassion allows people to let go of anger, shame and over-reactivity, and experience safety and warmth around other people and themselves. By calming the threat response system and enhancing the soothing system, CFT creates more space for the drive system to flourish, thereby helping people set and reach healthy goals.
If you are interested in exploring CFT, the Compassionate Mind Foundation-USA maintains a list of CFT trained therapists.
Now that we’ve looked at ways to become more compassionate, next time, we’ll explore how to overcome compassion fatigue.
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