Therapy which emphasizes self-compassion (as well as compassion for others), not inappropriately called COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY (CFT), has become increasingly utilized for the treatment of the effects of childhood trauma over the last decade or so. It is based on 3 main components :
- being mindful of one’s own suffering.
- being kind to oneself (with positive internal ‘self-talk’, for example). and non-self-critical
- being open about own suffering and communicating it without feelings of shame or weakness.
CFT is a particularly useful and effective therapy for those of us who tend to be ashamed of our internal emotional state, prone to severe self-criticism and come from an abusive and neglectful background (ie suffered such an environment during our childhood).
CFT motivates and helps individuals to develop a compassionate self-view as well as a compassionate view of others. Research suggests that many of us who suffered disturbed childhoods are fearful of giving compassion to ourselves or receiving it from others.
Neuroscience (the scientific study of the brain) has shown that giving oneself compassion or being self-critical (i.e. where compassion or criticism is INTERNALLY GENERATED) has very similar biochemical effects upon the brain as would be generated by EXTERNAL STIMULI (ie others showing us compassion or criticizing us). For more about this very interesting area of research, it is well worth reading the study on EMPATHY AND MIRROR NEURONS by Decety and Jackson (2004).
Because CFT is based on a similar theory to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) it focuses on reasoning, rumination, behaviors, emotions, and motives in a similar way to how CBT does.
EVIDENCE FOR THE EFFECTIVENESS OF COMPASSION FOCUSED THERAPY :
– A study carried out by Lutz et al (2008) demonstrated that showing compassion towards others led to beneficial changes in the PREFRONTAL CORTEX (a specific brain region) and a much-increased sense of personal well-being.
-A study by Fredrickson et al (2008) demonstrated that 6, one-hour COMPASSION FOCUSED MEDITATION sessions per week increased POSITIVE EMOTIONS, MINDFULNESS, and FEELINGS OF PURPOSE.
A study by Gilbert and Proctor (2006) focused on individuals with long-term mental health problems and found that COMPASSION TRAINING significantly reduced their feelings of shame, depression, and anxiety; it also greatly reduced their previously pronounced tendency towards self-criticism.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).