Compassion Focused Therapy is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy that draws on compassion to facilitate in the service of alleviating suffering. Compassion Focused Therapy was developed to help those with mental health issues that are maintained by feelings of self-blame, shame or self-criticism.
What is the difference between empathy and compassion? Empathy is a sensitivity to and understanding of the emotions of others. Compassion differs in that the empathy is specifically the suffering of the self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate and/or prevent it. Self-compassion involves the empathy turned inwards, particularly when dealing with painful emotions or self-criticism. Research shows that self-compassion is associated with reduced anxiety and depression and with greater emotional coping skills, feelings of social connectedness, life satisfaction, health related behaviours and enhanced relationships.
Evolution has ensured we developed smart ways to survive. Specifically, we developed a threat system, which identifies dangers to us, and a drive system that motivates us to achieve the things we want and need - food, shelter, comfort, territory and social position. We are all born with these two systems in place, but our environment impacts whether we develop and use non-survival based systems which are drive and care-giving. Many mental health problems are related to an overuse of the threat system and the drive system. There is no peace between these two systems unless their use is balanced with the care-giving system.
The care-giving system is associated with feelings of safety, peace and calm. Most of the time this system operates naturally when there are no threats or goals to be pursued. Unfortunately, for many people this system is either completely blocked or misunderstood due to past events such as childhood experiences of shame, bullying, rejection or poor attachment.
The biggest barrier to developing self-compassion is our own inner critic, that believes we do not deserve it. In Compassion Focused Therapy attention training, mindfulness, and compassionate refocusing and imagery are all used to create compassionate states of mind and to develop an inner compassionate sense of self. This inner compassionate self can create a safe base when painful thoughts, feelings and memories arise. More information on Compassion Focused Therapy can be found here and here.
Compassion is something that many of us could do with more of in our lives, so the psychologists at Bridge Street Psychology incorporate many aspects of this approach into their work with clients presenting with a variety of mental health and wellbeing issues. To find out which our psychologists would be the best match for you call our friendly support team on 9876 1800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org