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What is Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT)?

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is a relatively new psychotherapy approach which was originally developed to work with shame and self-loathing (self-criticism). CFT helps in promoting wellbeing and healing by encouraging people to be compassionate towards themselves and others. As a result, clients learn to manage their moods. Compassion, both toward the self and toward others, is an emotional response believed by many to be an essential aspect of well-being. Its development may often have the benefit of improved mental and emotional health.

 CFT is an integrative approach that uses research and tools not just from psychology, but also from the evolutionary theory, neuroscience and Buddhism. The CFT approach is rooted in three emotion regulation systems: Threat and self-protection, Drive and excitement and Soothing and social safety.

How long is the duration of therapy?

The number of sessions of therapy that you have will depend on your particular problem and its complexity. However as a guide, if you are having CFT as a stand-alone intervention or blended with clinical hypnotherapy, you can expect to have between 4-6 weekly sessions.

If instead, CFT is being provided as a blended approach alongside either CBT or counselling, you can expect to have between 6-15 sessions.


How does CFT help?

According to CFT the three emotional regulation systems (threat and self-protection, drive and excitement and soothing and social safety) are connected and always active. Firstly, they affect our feelings, actions and thoughts. Secondly, our environments determine how we use these systems. CFT aims to balance the first two, which can sometimes take control and negatively affect our health. In addition, CFT strives to increase the soothing and safety system, which maty often be neglected.

CFT helps an individual in generating emotions like compassion that can help change their thought patterns. CFT replaces the feelings of hostility and insecurity toward oneself with compassion and understanding, so that clients can begin to soothe themselves, accept soothing from others and generate feelings of contentment and safety.

  1. What can I expect from CFT therapy?

CFT can be practiced in individual or group sessions, with the goal of cultivating compassion for the self and others. The therapist will teach the client about the evolution of the brain, the construction of the self, and the systems that regulate emotions. A CFT therapist creates environment that is safe, kind and accepting. Then they work to help you learn the skills of compassion.

There is no ‘one’ set way of CFT session must go. Instead, there are a large range of tools and techniques your therapist might draw from, some of which are also used in other types of therapy which includes:

🔵 Appreciation based exercises (encouraging you to relish in the things you like doing)

🔵 Mindfulness (teaching you how to be more in the moment in a non-judgemental and neutral way)

🔵 Relaxation techniques (learning breathing exercises and body scans)

🔵 Compassion focused imagery (imagining scenarios to stimulate the soothing system and develop care and empathy)

Clients also receive homework to practice these skills on days without sessions.


  1. Which mental health disorders does CFT help with?

CFT is particularly helpful for those who have the following: deep feelings of shame or guilt, a history of bullying, a history of physical or emotional abuse, an unrelenting inner critic, difficulties trusting, difficulties or an inability to feel kind towards themselves.

It can therefore be helpful for those with the following mental health challenges:

🔵 Anxiety (including panic attacks)

🔵 Depression

🔵 Self-esteem issues

🔵 Eating disorders

🔵 Self-criticism

🔵 Anger

🔵 Self-harm


  1. How is CFT different from other therapies?

It’s true that CFT utilises tools and techniques that other forms of therapy do, such as monitoring your thoughts and feelings and looking at your past. But Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) puts a greater focus on consciously developing your ability to feel and act compassionately and kindly towards yourself and others. It was developed to help create positive emotional responses that other therapies didn’t in those who suffered with a low sense of worth.



  • How to get the most of therapy?


  • Be honest with your therapist. Open up about your traumas, negative feelings, and habits that make you feel ashamed. Remember that your therapist must be the guide, but you carry the responsibility of opening up about the difficult aspects of your life.
  • You can keep a therapy journal. By keeping therapy notes, you are more likely to make progress on your goals, and to apply what you learn in therapy to your life.
  • Implement the tools you have learned in therapy in your day-to-day life. It is the best way to see your personal growth.



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