Competencies of Compassion
- the 'Compassion Circles'

In Compassion Focused Therapy, as you begin to learn more about what compassion is, and in particular the definition of compassion and the two psychologies of compassion that sit within it (see here), we can then explore the idea that for each part of compassion, there are 6 competencies or abilities that give rise to these parts of compassion.

These different components or competencies of compassion can be represented visually in the ‘compassion circles’ diagram (see here to download, and also below)


competencies of compassion

The components of the first part of compassion (engaging with distress) are:

  1. care for wellbeing
  2. sensitivity to distress
  3. sympathy
  4. distress tolerance
  5. empathy
  6. non-judgement

The components of the second psychology are:

  1. attention
  2. thinking
  3. feelings
  4. behaviour
  5. sensory/body
  6. imagery

In Compassion Focused Therapy and Compassionate Mind Training, we can look at these 12 competencies of compassion and assess:

  • how able someone is to embody or engage in that specific competency
  • what blocks or difficulties they might experience that stop them doing so
  • consider ways of building, cultivating or strengthening that competency of compassion

If you’d like to find out more about what each of these mean in relation to compassion and self-compassion, click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about compassion, and self-compassion in particular, can help you, check our our compassion self-help and resources


The Competencies of Compassion

These handouts have all been adapted from the wonderful work of Paul Gilbert