What is Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT)?

What is Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT)?


Our new rehabilitation service for women, Field House, offers a unique model that combines Positive Behavioural Support (PBS) with Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT).


PBS enables service users to understand the function of their behaviours and adds the ability to share that with others in their lives, thus reducing maladaptive coping mechanisms and the likelihood of potential incidents.  But what is CFT?


“Compassion focused therapy (CFT) was developed by Paul Gilbert, (1997, 2000, 2007, 2009) for people who are high in shame and self-criticism and who typically come from harsh backgrounds. These individuals have problems with emotion regulation, they can easily perceive others to be critical and rejecting, (hostile external world), and can in turn become self-disliking and self-critical, (hostile internal world). Under these two types of experienced hostility patients find it extremely difficult to find ways to soothe themselves other than through the use of drugs, self-harm, dissociation etc. These individuals are likely to say, ‘I can understand the point of your therapy or your cognitive or behavioural interventions, but I can’t feel it. Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) at Field House, Alfreton


CFT suggests that in order to feel reassured, to have a sense of safeness or be able to soothe oneself when negative emotions are highly aroused, one needs the appropriate affect system to be accessible. This affect system evolved in mammals via caring. For the first days of life infants are calmed down through the receipt of care. Caring behaviour calms the threat system. It is this system which many of our patients struggle to access because it’s been poorly developed or patients can be frightened of feelings of warmth and soothing. In addition, change often requires courage and the ability to tolerate negative emotions and painful memories. Such skills are easier to achieve in the context of an experience of internal and external kindness and support.


Hence, the main thrust of CFT is to develop the capacity for self-compassion and self-kindness, which stimulates a particular evolved affect and relationship system. Therapy involves clear psychoeducation about evolved motivational and affect regulation systems, and a series of practices and exercises focussed on developing compassionate attention, compassionate thinking, compassionate behaviour and compassionate feeling.


Because CFT helps people with shame and self-criticism to engage with various therapy processes – across diagnostic categories. Hence, for example, various cognitive or behavioural or emotion focussed interventions may be utilised, but with compassion development as the focus.”


Field House is a specialist rehabilitation service for a maximum of eight women with a Mental Illness and/or Personality Disorder and a history of trauma and/or attachment disorders. For more information about this service please contact Caroline Carnell on 07795 651 683 or email caroline.carnell@elysiumhealthcare.co.uk