Compassion Focused Therapy

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 Question mark: This treatment has not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.


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  • 3 smiliesThese treatments are very useful. They are strongly supported as effective by scientific evidence.
  • 2 smiliesThese treatments are useful. They are supported by scientific evidence as effective, but the evidence is not as strong.
  • 1 smileyThese treatments are promising and may be useful. They have some evidence to support them, but more evidence is needed to be sure they work.
  • No smiley On the available evidence, these treatments do not seem to be effective.
  • Question markThese treatments have not been properly researched. It is not possible to say whether they are useful or not.
  • Exclamation MarkSafety or other concerns have been raised for the use of these treatments.

What is it?

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).

How does it work?

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.  

Is it effective?

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.  

Are there any disadvantages?

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).

Where do you get it?

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.

Key references

  • Noorbala F, Borjali A, Ahmadian-Attari MM, Noorbala AA. Effectiveness of Compassionate Mind Training on Depression, Anxiety, and Self-Criticism in a Group of Iranian Depressed Patients. Iranian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013; 8(3): 113-7.

Last reviewed and updated: 1 November 2019