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What is CFT (Compassion-Focused Therapy)?

Learning to be kinder to yourself

Most of us experience self-criticism and shame from time to time — it’s all part of being a person in the world. But for some people, self-criticism and shame are so intense that it can affect wellbeing, self-esteem and quality of life.

This is often due to stressful experiences in childhood, such as an abusive or unhappy home. As a result, it can feel as if both your external and internal worlds are deeply unsafe, with the former being full of judgement and the latter seeming full of self-judgement. Overall, you might just feel as if there is something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with you.

CFT (Compassion-Focused Therapy) can help you to manage these feelings. With CFT you can develop more compassion for yourself and others, while also learning how to cope with difficult emotions.

CFT draws upon neuroscience, evolution and cognitive psychology to help you better understand how the brain works. In essence, our brain has three key systems: the threat system, the drive system and the soothing/social safety system. The first protects us from harm, the second motivates us to achieve things, and the third brings us comfort in distress.

Ideally, these three systems should work in unison, yet for some of us they are out of balance. For instance, the threat system might be overdeveloped, causing fear and anxiety, while the soothing system might be undeveloped, meaning you can’t comfort yourself while feeling anxious. CFT can help you to bring these systems into harmony.

How does CFT work?

Typical CFT practises can include mindfulness, gratitude, journaling, relaxation and guided imagery. At its core, this approach teaches you three things: to be kinder to yourself, to be kinder to others and to accept kindness from others. This way you can learn to have better and more fulfilling relationships, including with yourself.

What can CFT help with?

Depression or low mood, trauma, anxiety, stress, eating issues, psychosis, self-esteem.

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