Compassion Focused Therapy at The Limes

The Limes is a specialist rehabilitation service for men with a mental illness and/or Personality Disorder. The aim of the service is to equip the service user with the skills needed for increased independence and community living. The service uses a unique Compassion Focused model and has focused its interventions on a recovery that is unique to each individual.

What is Compassion Focused Therapy?

CFT has a focus on nurturance and compassion and supports Service Users to become less critical and judgemental of themselves and others. The model was developed for individuals who experience high levels of shame and self-criticism.

CFT is a biological model and suggests that in order to feel reassured, to soothe yourself or have a sense of safety when experiencing high levels of distress, an individual needs to be able to access the appropriate system in the brain.

From the first day in life, infants are calmed through receiving care. Caring behaviour calms the threat system however some individuals find this very difficult to access because it has not been developed properly or because they are frightened of feelings of soothing and warmth.

How does it work? How is it different to other approaches?

CFT helps patients to understand the biological components to behaviours, as well as physiological and psychological responses. The model aims to help people develop the capacity for self-compassion and self-kindness which stimulates a particular evolved affect relationship system.

The biological element of the intervention helps to destigmatise a patient’s view of themselves and others and helps them to understand that we are all programmed with a survival instinct that can override our cognitive thoughts. Ultimately, this supports patients to become less judgemental and/or ashamed and reframe their thoughts.

What are the benefits for patients?
  • Improved ability to manage their emotions
  • Supports patient to soothe themselves without maladaptive coping mechanisms such as drugs, alcohol or self-harm
  • In reducing shame, blocks to therapy are reduced. In reducing blocks to therapy, we are able to address more issues relating to core beliefs and any offending
  • Shorter length of stay in services as using a CFT framework can help move forward the most ‘stuck’ and difficult to place patients
What does therapy involve?
  • Clear psychoeducation about evolved motivational and affect regulation systems
  • A series of exercises and practices focused on developing compassionate attentions
  • Compassionate thinking, feeling and behaviour skills

At The Limes, CFT is combined with Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). PBS enables patients to understand the function of their behaviours and enables patients to develop the ability to share that with others in their lives. The combination of the two models helps break down the internal threat system that often prevents people from moving on from services.

CFT works alongside a range of psychosocial interventions, offence related work and relapse prevention programmes provided at The Limes.

Expert’s view

Phil Coombes, Clinical Director says,

“CFT provides an alternative therapy for individuals who have tried other therapies but have not achieved successful outcomes. The model works well with the male patient population at The Limes, as historically, men have blocked or are closed to, emotions so using a biological model provides a language that is less threatening and more accessible. In using CFT, patients are able to access appropriate treatment at a level that is tailored to them as an individual”.

For more information about The Limes and Compassion Focused Therapy, please contact Caroline Carnell.



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