What is Compassion Focused therapy?
Compassion-Focused Therapy is commonly referred to as CFT. It is a talking therapy which has been found to be particularly helpful for individuals whose difficulties are underpinned by feelings of shame and self-criticism. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, panic, perfectionism and depression by using skills which focus on improving feelings of safety and self-acceptance.
CFT focuses on helping people to understand how self-criticism developed in the context of their lives, and what keeps this unhelpful pattern of relating to oneself and others going. It also focusses on understanding the importance of balance in our three emotion regulation systems (drive/excitement, threat/survival and soothing/safety systems). Often when people are distressed they can find themselves stuck in their threat system even when the threatening event has passed (e.g. difficult childhood experiences, a difficult interaction, a trauma), and it can be difficult to generate feelings of safety from the soothing system when stuck in threat mode. These three emotion regulation systems will influence what you think, do, and feel. CFT helps you to recognise what system you may be stuck in, and how to bring healthy balance to your regulation systems so that you can respond appropriately to the situations you encounter in your daily life.
CFT can be helpful for people who may have tried other therapies and have not found them helpful or have become "stuck" with their distress. Similarly, it can be helpful for people who are highly driven and expect a lot of themselves and are therefore, perhaps, pushing themselves too hard in work, or other parts of life. Research has shown that an increase in self-compassion is linked to resilience for difficult life events and is protective for burnout. Self- compassion is also associated with increased feelings of self-confidence, gratitude and optimism.
The main techniques in CFT include learning: Compassion-focused imagery, mindfulness, distress tolerance, how to respond to yourself and others with more compassion in how you think and what you do.
Some of the benefits of CFT include:
- Learning to understand how you have come to relate to yourself with self-criticism and what triggers these thoughts and feelings.
- Learning how to step back from self-criticism and anxiety and how to focus on accepting and showing kindness to yourself.