Compassion focused therapy (CFT) is a type of therapy which focuses on teaching people to be compassionate towards themselves and others. It also incorporates techniques from cognitive behaviour therapy (for more information see the entry on cognitive behaviour therapy).
Some people can be very critical towards themselves or others, which can lead to feelings of depression. People who are depressed may also have feelings of shame and may not be good at being kind to themselves. Compassion focused therapy aims to teach people how to view themselves and others with more compassion to reduce these negative thoughts of shame and criticism.
Compassion focused therapy is a newer type of therapy. There is very little scientific evidence on compassion focused therapy for the treatment of depression.
One study has looked at the use of CFT to treat women with clinical depression. Participants received either six weeks of CFT or no treatment. Those who received the CFT had fewer depression symptoms compared to the women who had no treatment, and these effects lasted for at least two months. The study only had a small number of participants, and more studies are needed to better understand the effectiveness of CFT.
Compassion focused therapy may involve seeing a therapist weekly for several months. It can be expensive, although in Australia Medicare provides rebates for visits to clinical psychologists, psychologists and other therapists (see below).
Compassion focused therapy is generally provided by therapists such as clinical psychologists, psychologists or counsellors who have been specially trained to provide this therapy (see Psychologists and other therapists). In Australia, Medicare provides rebates for visits to some therapists under the Better Access to Mental Health Care scheme. Compassion focused therapy may not be as widely available as other types of psychological therapy.
There is not enough good evidence at this stage to recommend compassion focused therapy as a treatment for depression.
Last reviewed and updated: 1 December 2016