Fusing Compassion and Cognition: Compassion Focused Therapy

CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a primary treatment modality found in therapist offices and treatment centers around the world. By approaching cognitive function through problem solving, CBT seeks to help individuals by repatterning harmful patterns of thought or behavior. Years of substance abuse and addiction can create destructive, ingrained patterns. Trauma, codependency and other mental health issues can also contribute to the routine of practicing within the realms of attachment to cyclical patterns less than conducive to an authentic way of life. These behaviors take away from the ability to be present in the self, and in life with others.

Paul Gilbert introduced CFT, compassion focused therapy, by integrating the practices of CBT and Buddhism. Gilbert drew from a range of psychologies to build CFT: evolutionary, developmental, social, and neuroscience. Gilbert created a technique called compassionate mind training. Like CBT, the technique of compassionate mind training is meant to cause a shift in patterns that cause suffering, related to shame, guilt, depression, and anxiety.

Gilbert’s Introducing compassion-focused therapy explains that,

“Many clients cannot easily access the soothing and social safeness system that underpins compassion. In fact, much of the work in compassion-focused therapy addresses people’s fears and resistances to becoming self-compassionate and sometimes to becoming forgiving and compassionate to others.”

Shame, critical voices, and a lack of self-compassion are commonplace in the pain of addiction, trauma and codependency. Attachment to addictions and adverse behaviors instill a sort of unending judgment against the self: good is never good enough, bad is always unforgiving, and there is no in between. Long lost is the connection to a pure source of love, sourced entirely from within. Chronic abuse of drugs and alcohol, as well as the spirit, prolongs the disconnect and enables the distance.

Focusing on compassion toward the self is radically different than focusing on self-love. Compassion is “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering”. Loving the self is a full acceptance and care. Compassion is focused and specific. Much attachment to drugs and alcohol is in an effort to escape misfortune, to escape suffering, despite the wealth of each that addiction will bring. Compassion teaches us to heal our pains from the past in order to relieve the present to the present.

We can learn to care for, and about, ourselves again. Refuge Recovery humbly offers spiritually rich programs for substance abuse, trauma, and co-occurring disorders. For more information on the refuge recovery process, call 323-207-0276.

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