Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) - Learn to nurture yourself and to feel calm. Build your resilience and your strength to take on life's challenges.
What is CFT?
Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is based on an evolutionary model of the brain and mind and focuses on the development of self-compassion. It draws heavily from Western psychology and psychotherapy, including CBT, as well as the Buddhist practices of Mindfulness and Compassion.
In CFT, we look at three emotional regulation systems; threat, drive and soothing, and the way that these affect our thinking, feelings and behaviour. As members of the animal Kingdom, we are naturally pre-programmed to take a “safety first” approach to life. This means that we are always on the lookout for threats. This is useful if you are a gazelle on the lookout for lions (or even a person stuck in the African bush on the lookout for lions!) but can sometimes become unhelpful when the threats we face are less immediate, or are prolonged.
To complicate things further, we have an additional bit of brain, commonly called the “new brain”, which is less developed in other species (and is perhaps a little less developed in humans than we like to think it is.)
The new brain is the imaginative, creative bit which allows us to invent amazing machines like aeroplanes, plan and think through the consequences of our actions and appreciate films and books. However, it's also the bit which can imagine lots of different ways in which things can go wrong, can dwell on the past or can imagine the terrible things that other people are probably thinking about us.
We all do it... They're tricky things brains!
What DOES CFT INVOLVE?
CFT focuses on the development of self-soothing, self-supportiveness and nurturance. We use specific exercises, such as mindfulness, the use of compassionate mental imagery and experiential exercises, to develop compassion for ourselves and others, and deal with the devil on our shoulders. Research has shown that, over time, this actually leads to changes in the brain which strengthen our soothing system.
CFT is commonly integrated with other therapies, such as CBT or EMDR. Your therapist will take time to help you to understand how your problems work through a model known as a 'formulation'. This will help to make sense of the way your problems have developed over the course of your life, and how they keep themselves going. In particular, you will learn to spot when your threat system kicks in and to recognise the unhelpful ways in which you respond to this. The focus is always on finding self-compassionate ways to respond to these difficult situations.
What can CFT help with?
Compassion Focused Therapy has been shown to be helpful with problems related to shame and self-criticism. The scope of problems which can benefit from this approach is constantly expanding as more research is undertaken, with CFT being used to good effect with trauma, anger, worry, pain and depression. In reality though, we could all do with learning to be a bit kinder to ourselves!
How long does it take?
As with all therapies, the amount of sessions needed will depend on the nature of the problem, but 8 to 20 sessions is generally sufficient for most problems.
Compassionate Mind Training (CMT)
CFT is commonly delivered via a group approach called Compassionate Mind Training (CMT). CMT is commonly delivered in groups over 8 to 16 sessions. As the name suggests, involves a training type approach, learning and practicing the practical exercises described above which builds and strengthens the Soothing system and focuses on developing Self-Compassion. There are many benefits of working in group formats and CMT has been shown to be a very effective approach.
Graeme is more than happy to hear from Organisations or groups interested in CMT groups.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?
For more information on Compassion, go to the Compassionate Mind Foundation website at: compassionatemind.co.uk
Think CFT might be helpful?
Get in touch with Graeme to find out more and to arrange a free initial consultation.