by Dr. Becky Spelman on 09/11/2016
What is Compassion Focused Therapy?
Compassion Focused Therapy brings together elements of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and insights from a range of fields, including neuroscience, Buddhist psychology and evolutionary psychology to help patients to train their minds in compassion. In the process, they acquire the ability to feel compassion towards themselves, and to self-soothe when times are difficult.
Why Does Compassion Matter?
When we see the world, and ourselves, through a lens of compassion we can become enabled to change difficult behavioural patterns relating to negative thoughts and feelings into more positive ones. Negative thoughts and feelings can include a sense of shame, anger, or the tendency to be critical of oneself. When we tell ourselves that we are “stupid” or “lazy” when we do not achieve our goals as easily or as quickly as we like, we are reinforcing a negative world view that impacts on our ability to change our lives for the better. People who lack compassion for themselves frequently also struggle to feel compassion for others, often with profound repercussions for their ability to form and maintain healthy relationships.
Understanding the Human Mind
An understanding of how the human mind evolved, and how it still functions today, is at the root of Compassion Focused Therapy. Our brains have three distinct, basic ways to regulate our emotions:
- Threat or protection
- Drive or resource-seeking
By understanding the role of each of these functions, which evolved over time to help us to survive an often very hostile environment, and how each interacts with the others, we acquire a more detailed understanding of how and why we react to stressors in the environment the way we do. For example, because we evolved in a risky environment, our brains are highly attuned to anything perceived as “risky” in our contemporary setting. This can sometimes result in us focusing excessively on encounters or events experienced as negative or upsetting. Your therapist can work with you to help you to understand how these systems impact on your behaviour, and how you can use a range of techniques to modulate your response to the things you see and experience.
How Does Compassion Focused Therapy Work?
Your therapist will use special training techniques and exercises, as well as mindfulness techniques, that will help you to develop the skills you need to feel compassion, such as the ability to tolerate distress and experience sympathy and sensitivity towards yourself and others. Over time, you will become enabled to step away from judgement and condemnation and to embrace more useful attitudes. By learning how to focus more on our positive experiences, we can learn how to see and appreciate compassion in the world around us. Steadily, we can learn how to recognise positivity more, giving us a brighter outlook as we face the challenges of everyday life.
Who is Compassion Focused Therapy For?
While Compassion Focused Therapy has a wide range of applications, it is especially useful for people who tend to be very self-critical and to experience feelings of shame and anger. These people often struggle to feel and demonstrate compassion to either themselves or others, frequently because of a personal history of being neglected, bullied, or not experiencing a lot of affection in their family of origin. By learning how their minds work and the origins of their negative feelings, they can learn about compassion, and start to experience feelings of compassion towards others, and towards themselves.
Get in Touch to Discuss Compassion Focused Therapy
If you would like to talk to someone about Compassion Focused Therapy, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 3882 0684