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Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)

What kind of therapy is it?

CFT is part of the “third wave” of behavioural therapies - those that focus less on the content of your thoughts and feelings than on how you respond to them, and that often incorporate mindfulness.

What problems can it help with?

CFT aims to be helpful for any problem but has a particular focus on self-criticism and feelings of shame. These often occur in the context of depression and anxiety.

How does it work? 

CFT draws on neuroscience and evolutionary theory to identify the main emotional systems in the human brain and to bring them into greater balance. In particular, it shows us how to cultivate feelings of emotional warmth, safety, and connection to self and others. These are feelings which are crucial to our health and wellbeing but which often get lost in our fast-paced, achievement-focused modern world. After explaining the science, CFT therapists will use a range of techniques to help you to develop greater compassion for yourself, such as mindfulness, compassionate self-talk, and imagery techniques.

What will a typical session be like?

CFT therapists are warm and approachable, and willing to show you that they too are human and make mistakes. In sessions you will talk about the neuroscience and evolutionary theory that underpins the therapy, learn techniques to cultivate compassion, and plan to practise them outside of sessions. As with all cognitive and behavioural therapies, the practice that you do outside sessions is crucial.

What is the evidence?

Although CFT is too new to have been the subject of much research, there is early evidence for effectiveness with a range of conditions, and especially for individuals who are very self-critical.

Further reading/watching:
YouTube - Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)
Good Therapy
The Compassionate Mind (Compassion Focused Therapy)Paperback

The Little Depression Workbook: Build the life you want with mindfulness, compassion and meaningful action - Paperback by by Dr. Michael Sinclair


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