Compassion Focused Therapy

Find out more about Compassion-focused therapy (CFT)

You can learn more about Compassion-focused therapy on this blog. Devised by Paul Gilbert, Compassion-focused therapy is a new type of psychotherapy to treat people with serious and long-term mental health issues who have a lot of humiliation and self-criticism. To address complicated mental issues that were resistant to traditional treatments, CFT was developed.  It is founded on neuroscience principles. 

For people who are extremely self-critical or ashamed of something inconsequential or uncontrollable, Compassion-focused therapy is incredibly beneficial. For people who have a hard time having compassion for others or themselves, this is also good therapy. Patients learn to show greater love, compassion, and empathy in social environments and toward themselves by using the concepts of compassion-focused therapy.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy approaches are combined withsocial psychology, Buddhism, evolutionary psychology, developmental psychology, and neuroscience themes in CFT. The capacity to show compassion and use it effectively to enhance one’s psychological health is recognized as an important trait in reshaping troublesome cognitive patterns and emotional responses (such as anxiety, anger, and shame) into more constructive feelings and thoughts that perform a constructive role in an individuals life. 

While also assisting people in learning the essential skills needed to develop self-compassion and compassion for others, CFT’s purpose is to provide warmth, safety, and a tranquil environment. Empathy, distress tolerance, care, sensitivity, and non-judgment are among these abilities. Other psychological interventions may become more effective in an environment where systems of positive emotional regulation are engaged, so CFT can be utilized as a framework within which to focus them.

How Does CFT Work?

What is compassion-focused therapy?

It is based on current knowledge of the three major emotional regulation systems that influence behavior and emotional well-being, which is Compassion-focused therapy (CFT). 

The system of drive and excitement 

Positive emotions are regulated by wholly distinct regulation systems, which play an important role in how perceived dangers are managed and in a general sense of wellbeing. This is something that other forms of therapy don’t always notice. The activating and thrill-seeking features of positive feeling are portrayed by the drive and excitement system, which would be linked to competitive behavior and the acquisition of assets and social standing that is thought to be advantageous.

The system of threat and self-protection

This is the system that senses danger and responds correctly, and it is regarded as the major emotional control system by many psychologists. And it is where you’ll find unpleasant feelings like contempt, dread, and anger. Culminating in overpowering sensations of fear and anxiety, the danger and self-protection systems are frequently activated in those seeking counseling. Negative feelings can either activate (like the fight or flight response) or deactivate activation reflexes  (leading to feelings of helplessness, paralysis, despair, and defeat). 

CFT aims to better match the threat and self-protection systems with the other emotional regulation systems that deal with more positive feelings. It can help to mitigate the entire detrimental effects of unpleasant feelings.

The system of contentment and social safeness

Positive emotions like restfulness, calm, and contentment must be “deactivated” in order to keep one’s mental health in excellent shape. In times of calmness, it corresponds to the capacity to feel safety and contentment rather than anxiety. These good feelings are intentionally fostered in the clinical environment by CFT, which sees them as more than just the “absence of threat.”

For example, when parents label relaxation as “laziness” or feelings of happiness as “dropping one’s guard”,  aversion to positive emotional regulation systems can be developed as early as childhood. Rejection of happy feelings plays a key part in the maintenance of mental illnesses, as a result. 

Compassion-focused therapy seeks to uncover the link between ingrained cognitive processes and the three emotional regulatory systems. CBT, group compassion training, and meditation are some of the strategies used to accomplish this. It becomes easier to manage one’s reactions when one of these systems is engaged once one understands how they work. 

One might learn to lessen the impact of the “warning” system and instead appeal to the “contentment and safeness” system by using compassion-focused counseling methods. In any particular situation, CFT approaches also make it simpler to identify which of the emotional regulatory systems is engaged.

According to CFT, one can assess one’s own emotional state more objectively by learning to “bypass” the motivation and warning systems when appropriate. Individuals learn to be open to fresh ideas and to view their emotional responses with less judgment and more understanding as a result of this. 

Compassion-focused therapy 

CFT therapy is focused on compassion’s evolutionary function in our developmental psychology and capacity to self-regulate. A paradigm for CFT is a parent’s care for a newborn and the impact of such care on our developmental psychology. Compassion-based therapy entails encouraging participants to develop compassion for others, self-compassion, and openness to receiving compassion from others, especially in the face of hardship or dangerous conditions, according to the therapist.

The client learns how to deal with emotions in a nonjudgmental manner by approaching them constructively and with interest, t.hroughout the trip. People who receive compassion-focused therapy find it simpler to face the obstacles and possible problems they encounter, as well as to discover solutions to current issues. Rather than immediately treating possible life difficulties, the main focus is on creating the instruments and mental practices that can enable people in finding answers to their problems.

CFT focuses on cultivating a compassionate interaction with others, which makes it simpler for the person to analyze obstacles and discover customized solutions to life’s challenges. The individual must assume an understanding and accepting state of mind and learn to have empathy for hardship and its emotional impact as part of this process. People are less inclined to blame themselves for their perceived flaws, allowing them to be free of the emotional baggage that comes with severe self-criticism, as a result. It also makes identifying and evaluating potential solutions to psychological and relationship issues much easier.

Compassion focused therapy exercises 

The major purpose of compassion-focused treatment, which is a combination of Western and Eastern philosophies of wellbeing, is to engage an individual’s emotional-response systems to produce pleasant feelings via compassion towards oneself and others. Individuals are encouraged to acquire awareness for the troubles of others and to manage their own psychological issues by building self-tolerance and compassion using training and guided exercises. 

The ability to enter a non-judgmental frame of mind is improved by CFT exercises. The following are some of the most popular compassion focused therapy exercises:

  • Exercises that help you become more aware. Mindfulness is the ability to concentrate on and be aware of one’s own thoughts. Also, it’s crucial to keep the responses to what you’re thinking about to a minimum. 
  • Appreciation and acceptance exercises are included. Creating lists of positive traits about yourself or others, or intentionally trying to uncover positive aspects in oneself, are examples. Compassionate letter-writing, wherein you compose a letter to oneself from the point of view of somebody who loves you completely, is frequently utilized in therapeutic settings. 
  • Guided thinking exercises activate the calming system and build compassion by having the patient’s mind createshapes and images. Guided visualizations or body scan exercises are examples of this type of exercise.

A visualization is a useful tool for assisting those who are overly critical of themselves. In order to surrender to them without becoming overwhelmed, patients are advised to articulate their feelings as fully as possible with the help of a therapist. To create revolutionary self-acceptance, the method entails compassion for one’s own feeling states and the implications of one’s upbringing. 

Research on CFT

Research has demonstrated that it is an effective treatment strategy for a variety of psychological problems, despite the fact that compassion-focused therapy is a relatively new type of psychotherapy. This is due to the fact that CFT is designed to addressself-criticism and feelings of shame, which are issues that underpin a variety of psychological disorders. High degrees of humiliation and self-criticism are frequently related to recuperating from psychosis or suffering from mood disorders. CFT has been demonstrated to be more successful than other forms of treatment in the treatment of depression.

Compassion may be learned and taught through training, according to CFT research, and fear of compassion can be lessened in the clinical setting. CFT is based on studies that indicate a direct correlation between self-compassion and improved well-being and standards of living. Through caring behaviors, compassion reduces negative impact.

The impact of negative feelings is decreased by teaching people how to express and transmit feelings of warmth and safety. CFT is also based on studies that show meditation has beneficial effects. While also increasing good emotions, a sense of purpose in life, and social support, Meditation relieves stress as well. Healthy coping methods are also promoted by meditation. Compassion has been proven to diminish stress-related immunological responses, and studies on compassion-based exercises like letter-writing have demonstrated a decrease in depressive symptoms.

Because they increase the functioning of brain regions associated with emotional processing and empathy, these exercises work. Compassion-based strategies appear to lessen stress-related suffering and immunological response, according to neuroendocrine studies. In a relatively short period of time, Compassion-based training and therapy have also been shown in studies to have good benefits. 

Compassion-focused therapy is a promising treatment for eating disorders and conditions related to self-harming behaviors because it targets shame and self-criticism. CFT-E, a modified version of CFT, was created to address these issues. Patients’ self-critical ideas and negative emotions directed at themselves are confronted by CFT-E.

In conclusion, CFT 

Compassion, as defined by CFT, is a mental state in which people are driven to manage their emotions by empathizing with others. Psychotherapists can help patients struggling from excessive humiliation and self-criticism acquire abilities in spreading compassion to others and themselves by using compassionate mind training. CFT can help you cultivate compassion proactively. CFT can help people make beneficial cognitive and life changes in this way. 

Please contact Maudsley Health at (+971) 2 610 7777 to schedule an appointment if you or someone you care for requires compassion-focused therapy training and treatment. All personal information will be handled with the utmost discretion. We will call you as soon as possible after receiving your inquiry to set up an appointment with a member of the clinical team.

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