Compassion Focused Therapy (A complete guide)

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This blog aims to give you details on compassion focused therapy. Compassion focused therapy is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes being compassionate with others.

Compassion focused therapy helps individuals to heal developmentally and emotionally by encouraging them to be compassionate with themselves and others.

Compassion is regarded as a very significant and necessary aspect of wellbeing.

The development of compassion help individuals promotes mental and emotional health.

Being compassionate to self and others improve the mental well being of an individual.

Compassion is such an important aspect that it has its own therapy named compassion focused therapy which emphasizes the importance of compassion and its development for the well-being of self and others.

One must be compassionate with himself, his family members, relatives, and even strangers to lead a happy, healthy, and satisfying life.

Let’s throw light on the history of compassion focused therapy to better understand the origin of this therapy.

Compassion Focused Therapy (A complete guide)

History of Compassion Focused Therapy

Compassion focused therapy was developed in the first half of the 21st Century by Paul Gilbert.

This therapy is formed by a combination of various theories, principles, and techniques derived from different schools of psychology, therapeutic interventions, and religion.

Some essential elements of compassion focused therapy the concepts of: 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Developmental psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Buddhist philosophy

Compassion focused therapy focuses on the understanding of basic emotion regulation systems including the threat and self-protection system, the drive and excitement system, and the contentment and social safeness system.

Interventions based on compassion-focused therapy throws light on the association between the systems, thoughts, and behavior of individuals.

Compassion focused therapy aims to work on balancing these three systems.

Gilbert established the Compassionate Mind Foundation in Derby, in the United Kingdom in 2006.

In 2010, he published a book titled ‘The Compassionate Mind: A New Approach to Life’s Challenges’.

Due to his this contribution in the field of mental well-being, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the year 2011.

Compassion Focused Therapy (A complete guide)

3 Distinctive Features of CFT

Let’s have a look at how compassion focused therapy differs from other therapies.

Other than applying similar interventions for focusing on issues and working on similar goals, some pictures that make compassion focused therapy distinct from other therapies are as follows. 

  • As a result of a combination of Western and Eastern philosophies on compassion-focused therapy, therapy relates to a range of disciplines which include evolutionary psychology, biology, neuroscience, and Buddhist thought. Unlike compassion focused therapy, the majority of the other therapies focus on just a single discipline. 
  • Unlike other therapies, compassion focused therapy takes interplay and compensatory view of the mind (Gilbert, 2010). According to this view, the mind is structured in such a way that some mindsets can be ignored while some can be developed or take control, that harmful or dysfunctioning links can be created. On the other hand, improving the mindset for making new links can leave a significant effect on others.
  • Compassion-focused therapy focuses on the idea of social mentalities (Gilbert, 2010). Gilbert identified and highlighted a set of social mentalities that help individuals to identify and perform types of relationships including sexual, tribal, subordinate – dominant, and so forth.

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When It’s Used

Compassion focused therapy is found to be very effective in treating long-lived emotional problems such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders, hoarding disorders and psychosis by dealing with issues of shame and self-criticism that led to the development of these mental disorders.

Empirical evidence has shown that human beings suggest at least three different emotion regulation systems including threat and self-protection system, drive at excitement system, and soothing and social safety system. 

A threat and self-protection system develops feelings of anger, fear, discussed in order to protect individuals. 

A drive and excitement system encourages individuals to find out resources that would provide them enjoyment and fulfill their urges.

These resources include mates, food, and status. 

Last but not least, a soothing and social safety system is the one that is activated when an individual feels no need to see outside resources for feeling comfortable or peaceful.

When these three systems loose equilibrium, mental illness is expected.

It is difficult for the individual with shame and self-criticism issues to activate their soothing system earlier in their lives.

Moreover, their threat system is activated more than the other systems due to which they make efforts for being kind and strive to seek kindness from others.

This case is a bit severe from real or perceived criticism or rejection. Compassion focused therapy help balance these three systems in the individual to enable them to regulate their emotions effectively.

How It Works

Compassion focused therapy was introduced with the aim of helping individuals deal with their shame and self-criticism issues with the help of a combination of different disciplines including evolutionary, social, developmental and Buddhist psychology, and neuroscience.

People experience shame and self-criticism as a result of bullying, abuse, or ignorance.

Furthermore, people who had experienced severe trauma in their childhood often seals endangered and threatened.

According to Gilbert, feeling self-rebuked from inside and experiencing a fear of rejection from outside can become so serious that ” literally harass” people depression and anxiety.

Compassion focused therapy merges different approaches to help individuals deal with traumas by focusing on early memories, negative thought patterns, and correct misperceptions.

This is very effective for all kinds of individuals except for those who experience shame and self-criticism.

The latter needs to be taught how to be compassionate with self and others to help them deal with their traumas and feel better.

Compassion focused therapy emphasizes replacing the feelings of insecurity and endangeredness with those of compassion and understanding to help clients soothe themselves, seek kindness from others, and feel secure as well as happy.

Who is Compassion-focused therapy suitable for?

Compassion focused therapy is very effective for the people who: 

  • Experience feelings of shame 
  • Experience self-criticism 
  • Has a history of abuse, harassment or neglect 
  • Feel difficulty in being time to themselves 
  • Feel insecure about the world 
  • Experience anxiety and panic attacks due to the feeling of being threatened 
  • Have trust issues

Compassion focus theory also offers an effective treatment plan for individuals with mental illnesses such as: 

  • Self-esteem issues 
  • Chronic depression 
  • Anxiety or panic attacks 
  • Eating disorders

The following is a list of some of the best books and Amazon tools on compassion focused therapy.

These books and tools are a very effective source of increasing your knowledge about compassion focused therapy and learning ways in which compassion can be developed.

Just click the book you wish to study and you will be redirected to the page from where you can access it.

All the books and tools are easily accessible on the Amazon Store.

Is compassion focused therapy evidence-based?

Yes, compassion focused therapy is an evidence-based therapy.

According to the Compassionate Mind Foundation, Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is “an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that draws upon our evolved capacity for compassion to facilitate the alleviation of human suffering” (CMF-USA)

When was compassion focused therapy developed?

Compassion focused therapy was introduced by Paul Gilbert in the 2000s with the aim of helping individuals deal with their shame and self-criticism issues (which are said to arise as a result of neglect abuse or bullying ) with the help of a combination of a number of disciplines including evolutionary, social, developmental, and Buddhist psychology and neuroscience.

What is the contribution of Paul Gilbert in compassion?

Paul Gilbert explored the concept of compassion in detail and analyzed how this can be used to lead a happy life for ourselves and the people around us.

This talk was filmed at an Action for Happiness event in London on 18 April 2017.

What is self-compassion therapy?

Self-compassion is the ability of an individual to understand, accept, and love himself. Self- compassion is a very effective skill for relieving mental health concerns such as the issues of anxiety and insecurity.

Compassion focused therapists, as well as other therapists, help their clients develop compassion for themselves and others to ensure mental well-being.

What is compassion focused therapy used for?

Compassion focused therapy has various uses.

It is a very effective source of promoting mental and emotional health by encouraging people to become compassionate towards themselves and the people around them.

Compassion towards inwards and outwards is considered a very essential aspect of well-being.

What is compassionate mind training?

Compassionate mind training is one technique used in compassion-focused therapy.

It teaches individuals the skills and attributes of compassion and enables them to use compassion to deal with their adversities, regulate their emotions such as anxiety and anger, and manage feelings of self-criticism and shame.

This blog provided you a detailed note of compassion focused therapy. The blog explained compassion focused therapy in detail.

It mentioned the uses and implications of compassion focused therapy.

Some good books and Amazon tools were also mentioned in this blog to help you acknowledge sources that you can use to increase your knowledge about compassion focused therapy.

If you have any queries or questions regarding this blog, let us know your comments. We will be glad to assist you with this regard.


Compassion–Focused Therapy – GoodTherapy

16 Compassion Focused Therapy training Exercises and  Worksheets by Courtney E. Ackerman (2019)

Compassion-Focused Therapy | Psychology Today

What is Compassion-Focused Therapy? by Sheri Jacobson (2014) 

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