Introduction to CFT

Introduction to Compassion Focused Therapy

Paul Gilbert

The last decade has seen considerable research showing that cultivating compassion has a major impact on emotional states, socialPaul Gilbert relationships and even physical processes. Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) was developed with and for people who have significant difficulty experiencing compassion for themselves and from other people. This 3-day workshop represents a unique opportunity for Australian mental health professionals to gain a strong foundation in CFT from its founder, Professor Paul Gilbert.

Compassion Focused Therapy is rooted in an evolutionary model of human psychology. Participants on this course will be introduced to the difficulties that the human brain encounters as a result of its evolutionary history. We explore the way in which old motivation and emotional systems interact with newly evolved cognitive competencies and intelligences, causing difficulty and complexity in the mind.

This workshop enables participants to bring an evolutionary framework to the conceptualisation of mental health problems and their alleviation. Participants will learn:

  • How the human ability to have objective self-awareness and self-monitor can be a source of shame, anxiety and depression
  • How the three-affect regulation system (threat awareness & coping, reward & resource seeking, and contentment & soothing) forms complex patterns within the mind
  • How early life experiences can shape the organisation of our emotions and underpin mental health difficulties

We then explore:

  • the two basic psychologies of compassion (engagement and action)
  • the various competencies that support them such as distress tolerance empathy and cultivating compassionate intention for self and others
  • how these competencies are used to address mental health difficulties particularly shame and self-criticism and to recognise and explore ways of dealing with our fears, blocks and resistances to compassion.

Participants complete the workshop with an understanding of compassion as flow: compassion to others, being open to compassion from others, and compassion towards oneself. The course is designed to encourage the use of practices that stimulate compassionate mental states and those that build a sense of the compassionate self-identity.

Workshop Objectives:

Over the three days, participants will:

  1. Gain an understanding of how evolutionary functional analysis advances our understanding of mental health difficulties and in particular the importance of the evolution of attachment, caring and affiliation as part of the human affect motivation and regulation systems
  2. Gain an understanding of the 3 system affect regulation model (threat, drive and affiliative-soothing), which informs compassion-focused interventions
  3. Be exposed to key compassion-focused skills including the use of the breath and body postures, the practice of compassion focused imagery, the use of compassionate mind training to build the “compassionate self”, employing the “compassionate self” to engage with areas of personal difficulty ,and building supportive social relationships.
  4. Gain an understanding of how CFT may be applied to clients with different problems in which there is a non-affiliative relationship with self and/or others (e.g. eating disorders, personality disorders, anxiety, depression, shame, psychosis etc).


Key references

Gilbert, P. (ed.) (2005).  Compassion:  Conceptualisation, Research and Use in Psychotherapy.  London: Routledge.

Gilbert P. (2009). The Compassionate Mind. A New Approach to the Challenges of Life: London: Constable & Robinson.

Gilbert, P. (2010). Compassion Focused Therapy. Distinctive Features. London: Routledge.

Gilbert, P. and Choden (2013). Mindful Compassion. London: Constable & Robinson.


Venue for the workshop is:

Rosina Auditorium

Abbotsford Covent

Abbotsford, Melbourne 3067

Find the venue here

When? November 15-17, 9.30-4.30

Price: Early Bird – extended till Oct 31st – $890; From Nov 1st-8th, contact to see if places still available ($950).

Price includes morning and afternoon tea, and lunch.


In collaboration with

CMA logo

UQ Compassion Symposium