An introduction to compassion focused therapy
Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) was developed by Professor Paul Gilbert to work with people with severe and enduring mental health problems, many of whom had high levels of shame and self-criticism.
Research has highlighted that shame and self-criticism are transdiagnostic (e.g. higher levels are found in people with depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, personality disorders, PTSD) and can accentuate and maintain these disorders. Moreover, high levels of self-criticism have also been found to limit the effectiveness of standard therapies. One reason for such difficulties is that people may not have developed abilities to experience certain affiliative positive emotions such as safeness, reassurance and compassion. These individuals often come from abusive/bullying, neglectful and/or critical backgrounds. Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) was developed with, and for, people from such backgrounds who find it difficult to stimulate certain types of positive emotion.
Participants will learn about the model underpinning CFT, rooted in evolutionary understanding of the development of mind, neuroscience, neurophysiological and attachment research helping to understanding the nature of our three basic emotions regulation systems, and our understanding the development and function of shame and self-criticism. We will also explore various definitions and components of compassion, and how by developing a 'compassionate mind', we may help people to work with their shame and self-criticism.
Participants will learn about the key skills and approaches used in CFT to develop a 'compassionate mind', including compassion based imagery, including the development of a compassionate self, and how compassion may be 'put to work' to engage in distress and suffering.
Workshop approaches will include:
- Didactic teaching
- Small and large group discussion
- Individual experiential practice
- Pair/group experiential, role play and skills practice
- Video clips
At the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:
- Explain how evolutionary concepts can be used to help us understand psychopathology and psychotherapy processes
- Distinguish different types of positive emotions (e.g. activating versus soothing emotional experiences)
- Describe the importance of the attachment system and its link to the experience of vulnerability
- Explain the complexities of threat processing, and our “multiple selves"
- Distinguish internal shame from external shame and guilt
- Understand different forms and functions that self-criticism can take
- Discriminate the two psychologies of compassion: engagement and alleviation
- Work in the affiliative soothing system by utilising compassion focused imagery and process (different 'flows' of compasison)
- Explore how the fears, blocks and resistances to compassion can be an important part of working in a CFT perspective
- Utilise compassion focusing in a variety of common therapeutic interventions
Dr Chris Irons, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist, and Director at Balanced Minds (www.balancedminds.com), an independent psychology practice in London set up to bring compassion focused approaches to individuals and organisations in London and the UK. In his clinical work, he uses Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT; Gilbert, 2009; Gilbert & Irons, 2005) in working with people suffering from a variety of mental health problems, including persistent depression, PTSD, OCD, bipolar affective disorder, eating disorders and schizophrenia, along with a variety of personality disorders. Alongside Professor Paul Gilbert and other colleagues, Chris has been interested in the theoretical and clinical developments and adaptations of CFT as a science based psychotherapeutic approach.
Chris also works with the Compassionate Mind Foundation, a charitable organisation aiming to: “Promote wellbeing through the scientific understanding and application of compassion”. He regularly presents to academic, professional and lay audiences on CFT and more broadly, the science of compassion. He is the author of the forthcoming book “The Compassionate Mind Workbook” and is currently writing two other books on the Compassion Focused Therapy.
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