What is Compassionate Focused Therapy

Shame, self-hate or self-criticism are often features of anxiety, depression, and psychosis which may have a strong link with childhood trauma. It can make us feel ‘stuck’ and unable to change. We may feel guilt about things in the past that we have done. Feeling shame may lead us to withdraw or isolate from others. It also leads us to self-criticise and to become our own best critics.

Compassionate-focused therapy is very useful in treating problems associated with shame and self-criticism. It can teach us to become more compassionate with ourselves which in turn leads us to have a calmer mind, less anxiety and depression and helps to increase our self-worth.

How can we be more compassionate with ourselves?

Incorporating a few minutes of meditation into our daily routines helps slow our minds down and reminds us to breathe. Everyone can spare as little as 5 minutes to practice mediation either at the start or end of their day.

It is important to remember to treat yourself the way you would treat significant others in your life. Look at how you talk to yourself. If a good friend was telling you these things what would you say to this friend?

Developing a compassionate image is helpful. The idea is to create an imaginary idea of compassion. It’s best to use an object or person (not a real person) and give them very specific qualities of compassion- forgiving, kindness, understanding, wise and accepting of everything that has happened
in your past. Slow your breathing down and visualise your image. What does it look like? Human, male, female, animal or object? How would they/it look at you to let you know that they are kind and understanding? How would their voice sound to communicate acceptance? What does your compassionate image want to say to you? Remember your compassionate image is your creation and is with you at all times to call upon when needed.

It can also be really helpful to write a compassionate letter to yourself where you express acceptance, understanding and care. Write the letter as if is written by someone who knows you and accepts you for who you are. Remember we are all fallible human beings who make mistakes! When written keep this letter safe so that when you are not having a particularly good day you can draw upon this. Increasing our self-care is also a really good step towards becoming more compassionate with ourselves.

Caring for yourself as you would someone you loved is really beneficial. It is important to eat healthy, get enough sleep, and try to rest regularly. It is vital to listen to your body and give it what it needs. If it is tired, rest, if feeling vulnerable or exposed wrapping yourself in a cosy blanket can help.

However, you decide to show compassion to yourself, do it non-judgementally. Be empathetic and gentle towards yourself. You are worthy of self-love!

Sinead Fahy