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Compassion Focused Therapy

Compassion Focused Therapy

Compassion Focused Therapy by a Psychologist

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) has developed from evolutionary, neurological and psychological science. It is a third wave CBT therapy emphasizing issues such as mindfulness, emotions, acceptance, the relationship, values, goals, and meta‐cognition. Although rooted in modern science, CFT also draws on Buddhist philosophy. This is similar to other recent developments in cognitive behaviour therapy such as Mindfulness.

CFT is useful for overcoming distress, trauma, depression, anxiety, eating difficulties, pain and psychosis. Evidence of the effectiveness of CFT continues to grow.

The therapy was developed by Professor Paul Gilbert, OBE, as a way of addressing the shame and self-criticism that contributes to many psychological problems.

Paul believes that people are affected in particular by three different emotional regulation systems that are designed to keep us in balance.

  • The first is a ‘threat protection’ system which detects and deals with threats. It invokes feelings such as anger, anxiety and disgust. The ‘threat protection’ system is designed to protect us in times of conflict. It is responsible for the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response to threat.
  • The second ‘drive’ system is an ‘achieving and activating’ system which helps to motivate us to satisfy needs for food, sex, friendship and helps us to achieve goals. This ‘achievement or drive’ system is associated with feelings of pleasure.
  • The third system is the ‘contentment and soothing’ system, where we develop our sense of connection to others and feelings of compassion. This system helps us to regulate the other two systems and experience a sense of contentment. Often this system is underdeveloped.

In CFT, together with a psychologist, you will develop an understanding of what may have influenced internal and external fears and threats and the strategies you use to stay safe. You will also look at the unintended consequences of these safety strategies, which may contribute to distress and keep difficulties going. If you decide to influence these, you may want to develop Compassionate Mind Training.

Compassionate Mind Training is the practical aspect of developing techniques for self-soothing and compassion for self and others. Developing compassion for oneself is not a ‘soft’ option that somehow gets us off the hook. Instead, it is accepting responsibility for difficulties but approaching them with courage and compassion, which helps to address the painful feelings that may exist. There are a range of practical strategies that you may use in therapy to develop this including visual imagery, writing and rehearsing other ways of compassionate attention, behaviour, thoughts and feelings.


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