Core principles and The Three Circles Model of Emotion: CFT

What Exactly is Compassionate Focused Therapy (CFT)?

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT), also known as Compassion Mind Training (CMF), is the notion of integrating compassion instructional strategies into psychotherapy to try to inculcate kinder thinking habits that seek to encourage emotional and psychological recovery by empowering individuals in therapies to be compassionate.

This style of treatment stresses the value of kindness and self-compassion in relationships with the outside world and with oneself. Compassion, not only for oneself but for others as well, is an emotional reaction that many people feel is necessary for happiness. Its growth may frequently result in increased mental and emotional wellness. CFT is based on Buddhist beliefs that emphasize the impact compassion has on the happiness of self and others.

Akin to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), CFT also uses approaches to assist develop attributes like acceptance and self-respect, as well as to boost positive emotions and self-assurance. CFT helps those who are struggling with negative thoughts, despair, or anxiety to overcome emotions of guilt and self-criticism. To assist and encourage patients receiving therapy who want to look into how to interact with themselves and others with more compassion, qualified psychotherapists may give CFT.

How are Compassion and Psychological Well-being Related?

Through acts of kindness and the expression and sharing of pleasant, safe sentiments, compassion controls negative impact. Numerous research has looked at the connections between well-being and self-compassion. Self-compassion is connected with symptomatology and standard of living, well-being,  family support, and family dynamics, according to survey studies utilizing self-compassion measures. Researchers have discovered a correlation between rising levels of self-compassion and declining levels of personality pathology, interpersonal issues, and psychiatric symptoms. These findings cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but they do reveal that the capacity for self-compassion is associated with psychological well-being. In fact, some studies suggest that self-compassion may be a more accurate indicator of clinical depression, stress, and anxiety than mindfulness.

The relation of compassion and well-being. To know more, enroll in our course: Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) Practioner Guide

History and Origin of CFT

The CFT approach, created by Paul Gilbert in the early twenty-first century, includes theories, concepts, and methods from several psychological schools, therapeutic modalities, and religious traditions.

The following are some of the approach’s key elements:

  • Behavioral and cognitive treatment
  • Psychological development
  • Developmental psychology
  • Evolution
  • Neuroscience
  • Buddhist doctrine

The danger and self-protection system, the drive and excitement system, and the contentment and social safeness system are the three primary emotion regulation systems upon which CFT is based. The relationship between all these processes and human cognition and behavior is highlighted during therapy sessions. The purpose of CFT is to balance these three effect systems.

Which Mental Health Conditions and Issues are Treated With CFT? 

People who struggle to comprehend, experience, or express compassion may benefit from CFT because treatment can provide a safe environment in which to identify the underlying causes of this struggle and investigate potential solutions. This style of treatment may be especially beneficial when addressing emotions related to self-attack, but it may also be successful in helping people manage stressful thoughts, actions, and emotions of any kind. 

Other issues addressed by CFT include:

  • Self-criticism
  • Self-injury
  • Psychosis
  • Self-esteem
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Relationships
  • Shame
  • Fear
  • Sense of self
  • Mood Issues
  • psychological disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Trauma
  • PTSD
  • Addiction

With neither blame nor judgment, CFT aids in the development of compassionate perspectives on oneself and interpersonal interactions.

Core Principles of CFT

The foundation of CFT is the assumption that the emergence of caring behavior serves important developmental and regulatory purposes. The main goal of CFT is to provide clients with the skills they need to deal with tough situations and emotions while also focusing on assisting them in doing so in a compassionate manner. CFT helps folks gain methods to interact with their fights in embracing and affirming ways, so assisting individuals to gain confidence about performing difficult activities and dealing with stressful situations.

This is made possible by:

  • Establishing a supportive therapeutic connection that makes it easier to face one’s issues and acquire the skills needed to handle them.
  • Creating compassionate, non-blaming comprehension of the essence of pain.
  • Gaining the capacity to feel and nurture compassion-related qualities.
  • Cultivating self-compassion, experiencing compassion for others, and being receptive to compassion from others.
Skills and attributes of compassion. To know more enroll in our course: Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) Practioner Guide

Drive, safety, and danger are the three categories of functional emotion-regulating systems identified through evolutionary analysis. The link and interplay among these systems serve as the foundation for CFT. Each system is there from birth, but how we use and maintain non-survival-based systems depends on our environment (drive and caregiving).

  • Adapted to alert and focus attention on identifying and addressing risks, the danger, the self-protection-focused system helps an individual to be alert. Threat-based emotions (anger, anxiety, disgust) and actions (fight/flight, freeze) are present in this system.
  • The drive, seeking, and the acquisition-focused system helps an individual to be aware of beneficial resources, feel driven to seek them out, and enjoy doing so (the positive system is activating).
  • When people are no longer concerned with dangers or looking for resources, they are in a calm state, which is enabled by the contentment, soothing, and affiliative systems.

While removing oneself from a threat-focused emotional regulation system, CFT strengthens the compassion-based calming mechanism. This will improve one’s capacity to act (drive) and pursue worthwhile objectives.

Course: To know more about CFT, enroll in our course: Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) Practioner Guide

What is The Three Circles Model of Emotion and How is it Related to CFT?

Paul Gilbert, the founder of CFT, created the three-circle model of emotion. He made an effort to blend the concept of human emotional systems with well-being and compassion through this approach. The three-model system further develops and reflects the fundamental ideas of CFT.

We benefit from the three emotional systems for our survival and well-being. The goal is to find equilibrium so that we can live full and rewarding lives. When we freely switch among the three systems in accordance with our circumstances and requirements, we feel resilient and at our best.

The Threat-Defence System, which protects our existence, is triggered when we detect a threat or danger. Although the purpose of the fight, flight, aversion, or freeze stress response is to protect us, it is frequently overstimulated and we overestimate the threat, which leads to increased feelings of worry, wrath, hate, despair, and insecurity. If we are unsure, we dread, attack, despise, or flee in a particular instance if it is not secure! This system is also responsible for triggering our inner critic, which leads us in the direction of dread, rage, or contempt.

The Drive System inspires and energizes us to seek out and interact with the environment in order to satisfy our cravings (lust, power, control, and greed) and values as well as our perceived needs and wants. It turns on our reward system and motivates us to take advantage of chances, face obstacles, succeed, and complete tasks. When we fulfill our aims or accomplish our objectives, we feel joy and excitement in this condition.

The Soothing System promotes sensations of peace, coziness, and fulfillment. It produces feelings of security, ease, and comfort. We take pleasure in the love and connection we have with one another, as well as the sense of belonging that comes from being welcomed, cared for, and respected by others. We may unwind in this place by being more tolerant and forgiving. This technique enables us to appreciate the good moments, to be thankful, to notice, and to see things from a wider angle. When Drive and Defense become excessively active, this strong system can balance them out.

The Three Circle model of emotion.

Techniques and Fxercises used in CFT

Compassionate mind training is the main treatment method used in CFT (CMT). CMT refers to the common methods for assisting people in feeling compassion and fostering various facets of compassion for oneself and others. Through the use of specialized training and supervised activities created to aid people in further developing non-judging and non-condemning qualities, CMT seeks to promote compassionate motivation, empathy, sensitivity, and suffering tolerance.

People in treatment may discover:

  • Exercises or activities highlighting what a person loves are called appreciation exercises. Compiling a list of preferences, pausing to appreciate the occasion when something nice is discovered, and other constructively rewarding activities are a few examples of these exercises.
  • Mindfulness techniques or the capacity to provide undivided attention to the present moment is one of the most effective techniques that is used under CFT and is proven to yield amazing results.

Read Blog: 14 effective mindfulness techniques

Watch our videos: We have created this playlist with effective guided mindfulness and meditation techniques to help you get started

  • Exposure treatment in the form of Compassion Behavior Tasks. The new behaviors that are being learned in treatment are presented to the client. When confronted with frightening or uncomfortable circumstances, they are instructed to use kind and encouraging words to themselves. This can teach people how to be compassionate to themselves in trying circumstances. These tasks are crucial for helping clients embrace good feelings. A person might start practicing more positive emotions in these circumstances if they have developed a tendency to feel guilty or afraid.
  • Exercises in compassionate imagery or guided recollections are used to activate the brain and body’s physiological processes. In order to assist clients to understand their perception of compassion, it contains a range of exercises that also feature compassion imagery. People are asked to describe their ideal example of another’s compassion, including what compassion might appear or sound like, using their voices and facial expressions. They must also tie adjectives, like warm or powerful, to the picture they painted. The client is taught to visualize compassionate pictures during times when they may typically be self-critical. The client may also be instructed to assume the persona of a truly caring person.
  • When people struggle with sentiments of self-attack, a therapist may help them by helping them investigate the purposes and potential causes of these assaults, as well as the reasons why people would agree with or succumb to them. Visualizing the self-attacking component of oneself as a person may be a part of this process. 
  • Questioning geared to assist people to examine and address any issues that may be inhibiting the display of compassion may be used with people who have trouble feeling and/or expressing compassion.

What are The Benefits of Compassion-Focused Therapy?

  • Neurological research links compassion to the activation of particular brain regions in response to emotional and other people’s suffering. Compassion training strategies, according to researchers, may improve kindness and empathy. Having greater compassion for oneself might encourage thoughts of self-soothing rather than frightening ones.
  • Less self-criticism, despair, and anxiety are also associated with more compassion. Compassion also promotes stronger immune responses and supports the maintenance of cortisol and blood pressure levels.
  • Greater advantages to one’s mental and physical health are linked to compassion for oneself and others, and it also improves one’s overall quality of life. It facilitates healthy thought patterns, encourages emotional control, lessens stress, and enhances interpersonal relationships.
  • CFT deliberately teaches people how to build their compassionate thinking, which heightens sentiments of self-validation and kindness. In addition to showing empathy for the pain of others, compassion also entails showing compassion for oneself.

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