It is important to be compassionate, not just to others but ourselves too, and in doing so we can begin to cultivate a healthy sense of self. A compassionate understanding of who we are, what we do, and what we are capable of, is necessary to ensuring that going forward we can enter all situations at peace with the knowledge of how we are interacting with the world. Many people misconstrue self-compassion and a healthy sense of self with being overly confident or cocky. This couldn’t be further from the truth. By understanding ourselves, and in turn others, through the lens of compassion, we can better understand the human condition as one which is at times messy, and awkward, and not often because of personal flaws or any ingrained, inbuilt faults. At Balanced Minds, our therapists in London and Edinburgh place a large emphasis on the worth of Compassion Focussed Therapy, or CFT, as a way in which to tackle sometimes complex issues by first ensuring that we can do so with an attitude for one’s inherent self-worth. CFT is gaining popularity globally and is proving fantastic when it comes to dealing with common life problems, distresses, and mental health problems. A healthy sense of self is important because it will allow you to appreciate your circumstances and life experiences for what they are, allowing you to grow from them and keep moving forward. Contact Us If you are interested in developing self-compassion, especially in relation to any issues you may have, contact us today on.
Compassion is a powerful tool for therapists as whole, but also people in general. Compassion can turn a bad day into a good day, a terrible week into one that looks better than the last. Compassion Focussed Therapy has proven to have powerful and lasting results for clients looking to treat the damage caused by their traumatic life experiences. Defining Trauma Extreme negative life experiences can sometimes result in one feeling traumatised. This trauma is often life-altering and lasting. Trauma is categorised as either Big T or Small t trauma, and whichever category your experience falls into relates to the nature of what you were subjected to. As a result, traumatic experiences can span from the death of a pet to sexual assault and serious injury. Trauma can commonly cause intense, unwarranted feelings of shame and self-criticism, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Compassion Focussed Therapy Based in London and Edinburgh, our therapists have years of experiencing treating people experiencing a range of difficulties, a lot of the time involving trauma of some degree or other. Compassion, in relation to Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT), is the act of being compassionate towards ourselves and others when it comes to the difficulties we experience, and in doing so learning how to alleviate the suffering that they cause, on whatever level that may be. Other Therapeutic Approaches Our therapists in Edinburg and London also have experience in cognitive-behavioural therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy, amongst more. This ensures that we are well-equipped to help tackle a plethora of complex issues. Balanced Minds Contact the team at Balanced Minds for more information by emailing email@example.com or use our self-referral form today.
In a world so readily available, so well connected, it is easy to neglect what it is that we actually need. Whilst many people are able to turn their compassion outwards, we tend to find it harder to giver ourselves the care and attention required in order to thrive. Paul Gilbert, one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, suggests two key parts: noticing and engaging in our distress, and taking wise action to reduce this. Possibly the most positive effect of self-compassion is on mental health and wellbeing. It can be difficult to allow oneself to feel self-compassion when it is often mistakenly linked to self-pity, especially after a traumatic experience. Therapists are, however, focussing more on this area, as the results speak for themselves. When self-compassion is present, it can be much easier to face and deal with unhappy or traumatic memories, as well as life circumstances. Exercises There are a number of practical steps you can take from your own home, such as self-exploration through writing, keeping a self-compassion journal, taking care of the caregiver, or embarking on a journey of recovery by referring yourself to Compassion Focussed Therapy (CFT). Balanced Minds, for example, offer therapy and counselling in London and Edinburgh. Booking a session with us is as easy as filling out our online booking form. We also offer a short, online evidenced based self-compassion course that can be access here. Self-compassion and self-kindness can positively impact on so many aspects of our life, helping us to manage difficulties that we face and improve our relationships with others. Separating the idea of self-compassion from common myths about it (e.g. that it’s selfish or like self-pity) can be an integral first step, acknowledging that regardless of feelings of guilt and shame, we can learn to change the type of relationship with ourselves in order to become our best self. Whether that starts in counselling out of our centres in Edinburgh and London, or through one of the other steps looked at above, give yourself the physical and mental room to be more compassionate to yourself.
Chris Irons has been one of the leading figures in the modern development of the CFT model. He’s becoming a regular for Brighton Therapy Partnership training, and kindly granted us the opportunity to interview him about his work and CFT.
1. How did you start out in counselling & psychotherapy? As a psychology undergraduate in Birmingham having lots of fun (otherwise known as partying and drinking too much!) I found myself, as part of my four year degree, having to find a year long work placement in my penultimate academic year. I was lucky that I was encouraged by a family friend to contact Professor Paul Gilbert, who at that time ran the Mental Health Research Unit in Derby, and enquire as to whether he would be willing to take me on as a volunteer for the year. Luckily Paul said yes, and I went on to have the most wonderful year working with him – and other colleagues at the unit. What struck me most was getting stuck in to seeing research – and psychological theory (e.g. attachment theory, social rank theory, etc.) – in an applied way, as part of my role involved spending time talking to and interviewing patients on inpatient mental health wards in Derby. I was fascinated both with applied research and theory development in this setting, but also in spending time learning about peoples’ difficulties, the things that had happened to them, and that many had no access to support – whether through friends or family, or more formally, a psychotherapist. After I graduated, I returned to Derby to complete a PhD with Paul. I increasingly spending time learning how the theories I was researching and developing could be used in the therapy process. Although I was tempted with a life in academia, I had an unshakeable desire to follow Paul’s career path in blending psychotherapy with academic study and theory development, and applied to train as a clinical psychologist. This ultimately led me to complete my doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Sheffield. 2. You’ve become known for your work on Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). What was the key moment that got you interested in this? Following on from the above, my work with Paul (which started almost 16 years ago) involved researching and developing the underpinnings of CFT, and CFT itself. This included developing ideas, questionnaires and interventions around shame, self-criticism and compassion. During this initial work, I was struck when spending time with patients just how easy (on the whole) they found it to be harsh and critical of themselves, and just how difficult it was for them to have more empathy, kindness and compassion for themselves. When we started exploring early memories of parental rearing, some clear patterns emerged linked to this (e.g. lack of affection, experiences of threat and shame). I was fascinated how this could be tied in to attachment theory, and really, from this stage I was hooked and wanted to spend my career developing research, theory and interventions around compassion. 3. Why is compassion so important? Isn’t it just another word for ‘empathy’? It is very important when discussing terms like these in psychology and therapy to define what we mean. A common definition of compassion that CFT ascribes to is: ‘A sensitivity to the suffering of self and others, with a commitment to try and alleviate this.’ Whilst people have different opinions on this, empathy is generally understood to involve ‘feeling with,’ and is usually seen as having an affective and cognitive (perspective taking) component. There are an increasing number of studies showing that empathy can be associated with both positive (e.g. compassion, care) and negative (manipulation, aggression, personal distress). ￼ From a CFT perspective, we would suggest that emapthy, along with other attributes (e.g. sympathy, sensitivity, motivated care and so forth) can all contribute to compassion, but are not, by themselves, compassion. It turns out that when people experience compassion that this is associated with a variety of positive outcomes, but less of the negative; for example, compassion in variable forms/practices is associated with improved immunological functioning, reduction in negative emotions, an increase in positive emotions, and a greater desire to help and support others. Moreover, Tania Singer and colleagues have found that in comparison to empathy, compassion can ameliorate the distress of engaging with another person’s distress. Of course we have a lot of work to still do in clarifying what we mean by these terms, how they overlap and differ, and how we can help people cultivate skills in them. 4. What got you interested in delivering training? A couple of different factors. My parents – and many of my extended family – are teachers by profession, and so as a child I was always exposed to and raised in a climate of the importance of teaching and education. I had the opportunity to be in the classroom when my parents taught, and quite frankly was inspired by the way they conveyed material in such a helpful and interesting way to their audience. Later in life, working with Professor Paul Gilbert, I was encouraged to develop my own skills in this area, and found very quickly that, like my parents, I really enjoyed teaching and training, and in particular, finding ways to convey information, ideas and concepts that people could engage with and use themselves. 5. If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be and why? As much as I would love to be a sportsman (either football or cricket), I think the more realistic career at this stage of my life (and given my less than excellent sporting ability!) would be as an academic/lecturer. Although I don’t have as much opportunity as I’d like to, I am an academic at heart, and love carrying out research, developing ideas, writing (papers, books) and teaching. 6. Where can people hear more from you? (e.g. your own Blog, Website, Twitter, Email?) There are a number of places. I teach regularly at the School of Life and people can find short presentations of mine online (we’ve put one of Chris’ presentations at the bottom of this interview). I have also recently had my first book published on Depression. I’m always happy for people to get in contact with me by email, which is firstname.lastname@example.org, and there is more information available at www.balancedminds.com and at the charity linked to CFT, the Compassionate Mind Foundation. You can also view Chris Irons’ profile page here on Brighton Therapy Partnership. A big thanks to Chris for this interview too. We hope to see you on 25th June at Chris’ next event. Take a look at our article series on mindfulness for more on empathy and compassion.