Compassion Centered Therapy


Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a therapy modality developed by Paul Gilbert aimed at generating compassionate motivation and caring emotions in patients, as well as developing some kind of emotional balance.

In this article you will learn about the main characteristics of this form of psychotherapeutic intervention.

What is compassion-centered therapy?

In the Buddhist tradition, it is said that the bird of wisdom has two wings, one of them is mindfulness and the other is compassion.

It is interesting to clarify that compassion as it is understood in the field of Mindfulness and psychotherapy has nothing to do with pity or superiority, but is linked to openness and sensitivity to suffering (own and others, and by our own we also understand that of psychologists) and motivation to reduce or prevent it.

According to Paul Gilbert, there are two aspects that follow from the definition we have seen. On the one hand, the courage to approach suffering, to accept those we do not like , accept our reactions ... On the other, the ability to try to alleviate and prevent suffering (this also includes the acquisition of wisdom and skills necessary to it).

This model draws on several sources: evolutionary psychology, attachment theory, affective neuroscience, Mindfulness and deep psychology, and is aimed at people with high levels of shame and self-criticism. These two aspects are at the base of the suffering of the vast majority of people who go to therapy.

The phases of this form of intervention

The scheme that guides the therapy is a 4-layer model, taken from Russell L. Kolts, in which the phases of therapy are staggered.

1. Therapeutic relationship

The challenge at this stage is to provide a warm and safe environment in which the person attending therapy can recognize and experience the therapist as a person committed to their well-being.

2. Compassionate understanding

In this phase we will focus on helping clients begin to understand their emotions and life events in a compassionate and blameless way. Here we will see how evolution has played a very important role in shaping our emotions, as well as our mind and our lives.

3. Mindfulness

In this third stage we will develop the awareness of the experience in its different planes (physical, emotional, cognitive) as well as the cultivation of acceptance and non-judgment.

4. Compassion practices

In this phase, it will be possible for the patient to change his self-criticism for a kinder voice, the compassionate ego will develop, that is, a wise, kind and brave version of himself that serves as a reference to gather enough courage to face the things that we they terrify.

Emotional regulation systems

An aspect that is very important in therapy and that can help patients / clients understand many of their reactions is the emotional regulation systems, understood as different families of emotions that act in each one of us. There would be three types of emotional regulation systems .

1. Based on threat

When this system is activated, our way of relating to the world is based on fear and alarm, and our responses are based on flight, fight or paralysis ... The emotions belonging to this system are anger, anxiety or disgust ... His motto is "better safe than sorry".

2. Based on achievement

This system is the one that has to do when we place ourselves in the mentality of seeking resources and activates the reward system in us, through the logic of the more successful I am, the better I feel. His motto would be: "let's get it done".

3. Based on calm and satisfaction

This system allows us to bring a certain calm and balance to each one of us. It has to do with the feeling of tranquility and security, and it is an easy system to identify when a child is in the company of loved ones. Self-care, meditation, and being with people we appreciate make this system solid.

Work in therapy

The challenge is to introduce balance between the three systems that we have seen. Each of them has its function, but what happens in this type of society in which we live is that there is a predominance of the achievement system linked to the threat system : if we do not achieve what we want, we get frustrated ...

The ultimate goal of this therapy is none other than to get patients away from threat-centered ways of being in the world and closer to a kind, wise, and trusting perspective.

CFT compassion-focused therapy has been applied to a growing list of problems, including depression, psychosis, compulsive eating, anxiety, anger, trauma, social anxiety, and personality disorders.

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