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May 2014 by PCI College

Compassion Focused Therapy - Working with Shame & Self-Criticism

Shame and high levels of self-criticism occur in a variety of mental health problems, including depression, bipolar affective disorder, anxiety disorders, psychosis, eating disorders and personality difficulties. Research has highlighted that shame and self-criticism can accentuate and maintain these disorders, and can limit the effectiveness of standard therapies.

One reason for such difficulties is that people may not have developed abilities to experience certain types of positive affect linked to feelings of safeness, reassurance and soothing. These individuals often come from abusive/bullying, neglectful and/or critical backgrounds, or may not have had consistent experiences of affection and care in early life. This may lead to difficulties later in life with creating caring, supportive interpersonal relationships, and in particular, difficulties in being compassionate, caring and supportive of themselves.  Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) was developed with, and for, people from such backgrounds to address chronic problems associated with shame and self-criticism.
Orientating to our compassionate mind can help us engage with, understand, tolerate, and regulate the difficult feelings and troublesome loops associated with our threat-based minds (e.g. angry, anxious, self-critical). We can learn to be compassionate towards our feelings, rather than fighting them or trying to avoid them. Drawing upon a variety of science branches, including developmental and social psychology, evolutionary psychology and neuroscience, CFT uses a variety of interventions derived from Western psychotherapies such as CBT, but also Eastern traditions of mindfulness and breathing practices, to help people to cultivate more compassioantr ways of treating themselves and others.
During the past decade there has been an increasing interest in the role of compassion in mental health wellbeing. Research has suggested that like other skills, compassion can be trained and cultivated, and that develop greater compassion for themselves and others, tend to report lower levels of mental health problems, and improved interpersonal relationships, and greater motivation to engage in things they find difficult and challenging.

Dr. Chris Irons
Clinical Psychologist and academic working for the NHS in East London.

Dr. Irons is in PCI College, Dublin 2 facilitating a Compassion Focused Therapy Certificate from the 13th - 15th June. Find out more

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