compassion + self-compassion

Finding support from a therapist or counsellor is an implicit act of self-compassion, of taking your wellbeing seriously.

Closely aligned with mindfulness, compassion-based approaches explicitly nurture our capacity to be more consciously open to being compassionate – bringing kindness both to ourselves and to others, as well as to receiving kindness.

As with secular mindfulness, compassion-based approaches can be integrated into one-to-one talking therapy. Introduced by a suitably trained and experienced psychotherapist or counsellor, these can be highly effective in response to emotional pain, trauma and other forms of acute distress, and in offering ways of managing day-to-day stress, physical pain, fatigue and chronic illness.

When the approach is subtly interwoven into psychotherapy and counselling, you are enabled to develop kindness towards yourself organically. Where appropriate, it may also involve simple exercises, practised between sessions, which steadily reinforce more helpful patterns of body and mind, deepen compassion and kindness towards yourself and others.

And as with mindfulness, compassion-based training can also be offered in structured programmes for small groups.

compassion-based therapies: including cmt (compassionate mind training) cft (compassion-focused therapy), msc (mindful self-compassion) + mbcl (mindfulness-based compassionate living)

Developed in the 21st century, compassion-based therapies are rooted in age-old Buddhist philosophies and practices which include mindfulness. When adapted to clinical settings, these draw on neuroscientific research and understanding; developmental psychology; and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Leading researchers and developers in the field include Kirsten Neff and Christopher Germer (MSC), Erik van den Brink (MBCL), and Paul Gilbert (CFT).

Grounded in an understanding of the emotion regulation systems, these approaches have been shown to increase positive emotions and a sense of purpose in life and social support. They have also been found to reduce stress-linked immune responses and may help decrease illness symptoms.

As with mindfulness, compassion-based modalities draw on long-established secular and ancient spiritual philosophies, combined with and explained by contemporary scientific research. Amalgamating cognitive with intuitive, experiential modalities, compassion-based approaches promote compassionate motivation, sympathy, sensitivity, and distress tolerance. They may follow specific training programmes which include guided exercises designed to reinforce non-judging and non-condemning qualities. They may also take a more fluid form when incorporated into one-to-one therapy or counselling.