Compassion Focused Therapy not just warm and fuzzy!

31st August 2022
Compassion Focused Therapy not just warm and fuzzy!

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) can sometimes sound all a bit too warm and fuzzy for a "real” therapeutic approach to help people gain better mental health. Yet the truth is that cultivating compassion can have profoundly positive effects on mental health. CFT is an evolutionary-based approach to psychotherapy that is both practical and powerful. Its founder, Professor Paul Gilbert, describes cultivating inner compassion as a way to organise our human ‘tricky brain’ in prosocial and mentally healthy ways. Its contribution to clinical and counselling psychology is substantial and growing every year.

In the words of clinical psychologist Dr Stan Steindl:

"There is wonderful evidence emerging about the benefits of cultivating compassion and self-compassion across various approaches, such as mindful self-compassion, compassion cultivation training, and loving kindness and compassion meditations, among a number of others. It’s exciting times in the science of compassion, self-compassion and certainly CFT. Compassion is considered to flow in three directions: compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and compassion for oneself, or self-compassion. Certain fears, blocks and resistances to compassion can be present across the three flows, and a big part of CFT is working with these fears to allow compassion to be naturally expressed and received.”

Lots of studies on CFT are underway around the world. But the evidence base already is very persuasive. Here are just 5 evidence-based benefits of CFT delivered individually or as a group:

1. It helps reduce self-criticism, worry and rumination.

2. It helps improve depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems.

3. It helps reduce shame.

4. It helps reduce body-weight shame.

5. It helps reduce trauma or posttraumatic stress.

So how can we go about learning and using CFT?

Stan Steindl has written The Gifts of Compassion: How to understand and overcome suffering and the Gifts of Compassion Personal Practice Workbook to explain how compassion evolved as a vital part of our nature and thought and how we can use it to achieve better mental health. Together these books provide the opportunity to think and reflect on life experiences and put into practice various strategies to enhance the cultivation of a compassionate mind. Activities to work through, such as Exploring your fears, blocks and resistances or Getting to know your shame, allow you to tap into your intrinsic wisdom, build inner strength with each turn of the page, and arrive at committed actions to live a more compassionate life.

With personal vignettes illustrating the therapeutic benefits of compassion focused therapy, practical exercises that use mindfulness and imagery to help us develop attention to the present moment, and a wealth of guidance on self-criticism, shame and forgiveness, these books can change a life.