Compassion Focused Therapy

Why has the word compassion taken such a negative connotation as pity, when its etymology means something else entirely? In fact, from the Latin cum - together, patior - to suffer, that is to suffer with, to be with the suffering of others or one's own.

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), is a recently spread psychotherapeutic approach that is part of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy.

CFT was developed by Paul Gilbert (2005), professor of psychology at the University of Derby in the United Kingdom. For years, he worked in scientific research on guilt, shame and self-criticism, which he considered central elements of many psychological disorders.

Gilbert uses neurophysiological studies in which three systems of emotional regulation are described.

  1. Threat System consisting of “negative” emotions, functional to protect us from a threat (anxiety, anger, disgust, for example), which when activated triggers a series of changes at a cognitive, behavioral and neurovegetative level.

In addition to this there are the two systems responsible for "good" emotions, much less developed in patients;

  1. Drive system, aims to guide behavior towards the search for rewards and therefore activating emotions (for example, excitement, vitality);
  2. Soothing System, the real target of CFT, oriented to the recovery of psychophysical energies, it is characterized by emotions linked to calm, empathy, a sense of security and harmony with others and with oneself.

The purpose of CFT is to rebalance the three emotional systems by increasing the activity of the soothing system.

It is important to clarify that in the CFT perspective compassion is not pity or commiseration, but the feeling of participation in the pain of others and one's own, combined with the desire to alleviate it.

This new way of understanding compassion borrows many cues from Buddhist teachings, but at the same time it is based on evolutionary approach, neuroscience and social psychological, connected to psychology and neurophysiology of the caregiving behavior.

Currently, CFT is successfully used for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, psychoses, mood disorders, eating disorders and chronic pain.