How compassion focused therapy benefits relationships


When most people think of therapy, they think of how the therapeutic process benefits the individual through their own changes. Emerging interpersonal theories reimagine that therapy is focused on the intrapersonal aspects, or the changes an individual experiences, to how these therapies affect change through the interpersonal processes. Compassion Focused Therapy was developed to help suffering individuals develop more compassion both internally and externally as they encounter it in the world. Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is potentially helpful to the individual through its effects through interpersonal skill development.

The study

A research group from Canada, the UK, and Australia explored the interpersonal processes of Compassion Focused Therapy and its purported mechanism of action, or what is believed to be responsible for therapeutic change. By focusing on key discussions between a patient who participated in CFT and the therapist, the authors position their putative mechanisms of change within the context of the interpersonal dynamics.


The paper relates the core practices of CFT to existing interpersonal theories. CFT incorporates practices of teaching compassion skills, interpersonal skills, and shaping effective responses to interpersonal signals. In particular, CFT teaches patients how to skillfully respond to moment-to-moment interpersonal processes. The paper explores Social Rank Theory and Social Mentality Theory, but also relates it to the more familiar attachment theory and how exploration and agency is encouraged while simultaneously supporting emotional recovery within a safe environment. With a greater consideration to the interpersonal processes in contextual-behavioral therapies such as CFT, researchers and clinicians can better understand how relating to clothes can better help us change ourselves. 

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