What is Compassion Focused Therapy?
Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) helps those who struggle with the shame and self-criticism that can result from early experiences of abuse or neglect. CFT teaches patients to cultivate skills in compassion and self-compassion, which can help regulate mood and lead to feelings of safety, self-acceptance, and comfort.
The technique is similar to Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, which also instructs patients about the science behind the mind-body connection and how to practice mind and body awareness.
CFT has been shown to effectively treat long-term emotional problems including anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, hoarding disorder, and psychosis by addressing patterns of shame and self-criticism, which can significantly contribute to mental health issues.
Research suggests that humans have at least three different emotion regulation systems: a threat and self-protection system, which generates anger, disgust, or fear to protect us; a drive and excitement system, which motivates us to seek outside resources like mates, food, and status; and a soothing and social safety system, which is activated when we feel peaceful and content enough that we are no longer compelled to seek outside resources.
Mental illness can result, in part, from an imbalance between these three systems. People high in shame and self-criticism may not have had enough stimulation of their soothing system early in life, and too much stimulation of their threat system. As a result, they can struggle to be kind to themselves or feel kindness from others. They may be highly sensitive to criticism or rejection, whether real or perceived, and internalize that disapproval. The goal of CFT is to correct this imbalance in the emotion regulation systems.
- Source: Gilbert, Paul (2009) Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment;15(3):199-208. doi: 10.1192/apt.bp.107.005264