Balance the Three Systems
- Reduce Red Build Blue Grow Green

In Compassion Focused Therapy, the three system model is a core part of the assessment, psychoeducational and therapy process. One thing that commonly shows up for many people when they learn about the three system model is that the systems are out of balance (often with threat system being very big, and soothing system being very small). 

When the systems are out of balance, we can ask people what they think we might do in Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) to help. One simple thing for people to hold in mind is using the colours of the three system model (red for threat, blue for drive and green for soothing) to guide a simple but general principle – reduce red build blue grow green


      1. Reduce Red (RR) – here we are trying to help reduce unnecessary, unhelpful threat system activation. There are lots of things that psychotherapy does in general to help with this, and obviously it’s a big focus in CFT too

      2. Build Blue (BB) – an important aim in CFT is to build a sustainable, healthy drive system. For some people this might involve finding ways to activate it more, whereas for others it might involve finding ways to slow it down, or make it less linked to the threat system (i.e. threat based drive)

      3. Grow Green (GG) – for many people, the soothing system is underdeveloped, and therefore becomes a key focus in CFT. Here, it’s important to hold in mind the difference between the more ‘rest and digest’ aspect of the green system, and the more interpersonal, attachment, care based aspect of this system, as these might require different inputs

A visual of this idea can be downloaded here or seen below

If you’d like to find out more about how to balance your three systems, take a look at our self-help and resources


Reduce Red, Build Blue & Grow Green

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