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Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Paul Gilbert that integrates elements from cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), evolutionary psychology, and Buddhist psychology. CFT is specifically designed to help individuals develop and cultivate compassion, both towards others and, crucially, towards themselves. The therapy focuses on addressing issues related to shame, self-criticism, and low self-esteem.

Key components of Compassion-Focused Therapy include:

  1. Three Systems Model: CFT utilizes a "Three Systems Model" to understand human emotions and behaviors. This model distinguishes between the threat system (related to fight-flight responses), the drive system (associated with pursuing resources and goals), and the soothing system (related to calmness, contentment, and social affiliation). CFT emphasizes the importance of balancing these systems for emotional well-being.

  2. Compassionate Mind: The concept of the "compassionate mind" is central to CFT. This involves developing an inner attitude of warmth, understanding, and kindness toward oneself and others. The therapist helps the individual nurture and strengthen their compassionate mind.

  3. Mindfulness and Mindful Self-Compassion: CFT incorporates mindfulness techniques to help individuals become aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Mindful self-compassion involves being present with one's experiences and responding with self-kindness rather than self-criticism.

  4. Compassionate Imagery and Visualization: CFT often involves the use of guided imagery and visualization exercises to evoke feelings of compassion. This may include imagining a compassionate figure or mentor who provides support and encouragement.

  5. Understanding and Addressing Shame: CFT places a strong emphasis on understanding and addressing shame and self-criticism. Through exploration and understanding, individuals learn to respond to shame with self-compassion rather than self-judgment.

  6. Compassionate Behavior: CFT encourages individuals to engage in compassionate behaviors, both towards themselves and others. This may involve acts of kindness, empathy, and understanding.

  7. Group and Individual Formats: Compassion-Focused Therapy can be delivered in individual or group formats. Group therapy provides an opportunity for individuals to share their experiences, learn from others, and practice compassionate interactions.

  8. Cultivating Positive Emotions: CFT aims to cultivate positive emotions such as compassion, gratitude, and joy. Focusing on these positive emotions can counterbalance the impact of negative emotions and contribute to emotional well-being.


Compassion-Focused Therapy has been applied to various mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, trauma, and eating disorders. It is particularly beneficial for individuals struggling with high levels of self-criticism and shame.

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