Compassion-focused therapy is a therapeutic modality that works to address your self-criticism and works to increase your ability to cope with adversity and act compassionately towards yourself and others. This theory was originally developed by Dr. Paul Gilbert and draws from neuroscience, as well as evolutionary, social, developmental, and Buddhist psychology.

Main Components

CFT as a therapeutic modality teaches that for some individuals who experience self-criticism or shame, it can be difficult to access their emotion regulation system of compassion which offers reassurance, safeness, and warmth. Instead, some individuals that experience high levels of self-criticism or shame may find they are stuck in ‘threat detection’ or ‘drive’ emotion regulation systems. CFT aims to help you achieve a balance between these systems and to use the compassion or ‘soothing’ system to regulate the ‘threat detection and ‘drive’ systems.


CFT has been shown to be effective in decreasing self-criticism and increasing self-compassion and has been shown to be helpful for a variety of mental health difficulties such as anxiety, depression, anger, trauma, eating disorders, self-harm, and low self-esteem.

Possible exercises/techniques:

  • Mindfulness
  • Compassion-focused imagery or meditation
  • Addressing self-criticism
  • Cultivating self-compassion and compassion for others
  • Breathing techniques


Some CFT interventions involve the use of imagery or guided meditations which may be difficult for some individuals. CFT may also be challenging for individuals who are afraid of compassion or being self-compassionate, or for individuals who do not feel they are worthy of receiving support.


The goal of CFT is to promote self-compassion, understand and address self-critical thoughts, and develop experiences of inner warmth, safeness, and soothing through self-compassion.