Compassion Focussed Therapy

Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT) is a third wave therapy developed by Paul Gilbert. This therapy derives from the Buddhist principles of mindfulness and compassion but severes compassion from mindfulness training. Gilbert sees there are different cognitive results from mindfulness and compasion and as such they should be used individually so different psychological states can be measured.

Paul Gilbert defines compassion in a mindfulness context as tuning in to the nature of suffering. He  expands this by confirming compassion involves investigating what causes unhealthy thoughts/feelings for oneself and others so they can be resolved.  Paul Gilbert does, however, believe that mindfulness is not possible without compassion because a big part of mindfulness training is centred around acceptance. Without a compassionate holding acceptance becomes hard. Shame is one of the biggest impediments to acceptance because there is a critical voice blocking the progress we try to make.

However, Buddhists believe that mindfulness is not possible without compassion because a big part of mindfulness training is centred around acceptance. Without a compassionate holding acceptance becomes hard.  Gilbert says that the reason CFT is so succeful is that CFT addresses shame. Shame is one of the biggest impediments to acceptance because there is a critical voice blocking the progress we try to make. Mindfulness can be transformative if it encompasses compassion because compassion goes to the root causes of psychological trauma. In CFT, compassion is used to help a person let go of the critical voice that undermines their efforts to work through their problems. Despite the risks involved, a person should be guided towards these high-­intensity areas of threat because they lie at the root of what disconnects them from themselves. If these areas remain unaddressed then a person will remain disconnected to the real issues within themselves. There is now strong evidence that a lot of mental health difficulties are linked to what is called emotional avoidance. This means avoiding or suppressing feelings, fantasies or memories because they can be overwhelming. For some people they may not be ready to address these deeper issues. For them, mindfulness courses are a useful way to control this turmoil, but the risk is that they do this by learning to avoid the underlying causes. Interestingly, recent studies have been undertaken to support the use of CFT alongside mindfulness therapies to address the issue of emotional avoidance. These studies showed the participants found CFT to be helpful in overcoming chronic trauma and, importantly, did not feel harmed by turning towards their pain as previously had been thought.

Finally, there is more mindfulness research needed into using compassion. Interestingly, there is little research into combining mindfulness, movement and compassion which is seen in practices like yoga. There is a touch of irony to the holistic route the research is going down as mindfulness approaches founded upon compassion is where mindfulness originally started with yoga and Buddhism. Sometimes we must go full circle to see the truth that was always staring us in the face.