Compassion Focused Therapy

What is Compassion Focused Therapy?

This approach seeks to ameliorate problematic experiences through encouraging the client to practice compassion toward self and others. This approach is based on the belief that compassion is an essential aspect psychological wellbeing.

How does Compassion Focused Therapy work?

Compassion Focused Therapists believe that threat, drive and contentment systems have evolved in humans to facilitate survival.

Fundamental to this approach is compassionate mind training. Compassionate mind training involves learning strategies that are helpful individuals in the pursuit of experiencing compassion and foster fostering compassion for the self and others. Compassionate mind training aims to foster compassionate motivation, sympathy, sensitivity, and distress tolerance often through the use of particular exercises aimed developing non-judging and non-condemning attributes.

People in therapy clients might engage in appreciation exercises, or activities that emphasise the things an individual enjoys. These exercises may include making a list of likes, taking time to savour the moment when something enjoyable is noticed, and other positive rewarding behaviours. Mindfulness, or the ability to pay attention to the current moment in a non-judgmental manner is also valued in this approach. While compassion-focused imagery exercises, or the use of guided memories and fantasies to first stimulate the mind and then the physiological systems. The goal of compassion-focused imagery exercises is to achieve self-soothing.

When people experience difficulty related to feelings of self-attack, the therapist can assist them in exploring the functions and possible origins of these attacks, as well as possible reasons individuals may agree with or submit to them. This process may include visualization of the self-attacking aspect as a person.

What is Compassion Focused Therapy used for?

This approach is commonly applied to presenting problems such as shame, guilt, eating disorders, self-criticism, identity, depression and anger directed toward self and others.

What can I expect from Compassion Focused Therapy?

You can expect to be supported, soothed and experience a feeling of being cared for. It is not a confrontational therapy characterised by challenge.

What mental health issues is Compassion Focused Therapy used for?

This approach is commonly applied to presenting problems such as shame, guilt, eating disorders, self-criticism, identity, depression and anger directed toward self and others.

When doesn’t Compassion Focused Therapy work?

Some people are too angry to work on anger issues. Being cared for can be confronting if you are accustomed to self-punishment and criticism. It is important that difficulties encountered during therapy are not interpreted as evidence of failure.

Things to consider before choosing Compassion Focused Therapy?

Are you willing to be cared for through this nurturing approach? Being cared for can be confronting and paradoxically this approach may be the right one if you experience anxiety at the thought of being supported and not being judged.

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Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross - Psychologist at Counselling in Melbourne


This content has been researched, prepared and written by Counselling in Melbourne psychologist Dr Malcolm Winstanley-Cross.

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