Compassion-Focused Therapy for Eating Disorder Recovery

A Collaboration with Alsana

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Developed by Dr. Paul Gilbert, an English psychologist, CFT is an evidence-based therapeutic approach built on the belief that compassion (toward self and others) effectively alleviates the shame and self-criticism that feed psychological dysfunction. It promotes mental and emotional healing by helping clients replace internalized shame and self-criticism with acceptance and self-compassion.

It also aids in the cultivation of mood management and relational skills and is proven effective not only in the treatment of eating disorders but in treating common co-morbidities.

Compassion-Focused Therapy has proven beneficial for individuals with high levels of isolating traits such as shame and self-criticism, including those struggling with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Trauma
  • Mood disorders

 

CFT exercises are skill-based and deliberately target shame and self-criticism. Examples include:

  • Rhythmic breathing 
  • Imagery exercises
  • Body scans and embodiment exercises
  • Mindfulness

Self-Compassion – An Antidote for Self-Criticism

Compassion-Focused Therapy is a powerful method for cultivating self-compassion, without which lasting recovery from eating disorders is impossible. But how do we define “compassion” and what are the distinctive features of “self-compassion?”

Paul Gilbert, the English psychologist who saw the need for and subsequently developed CFT defines compassion as “a sensitivity to suffering in self and others with a commitment to try to alleviate or prevent it.”

Dr. Kristine Neff,  a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, defines self-compassion as being warm and understanding toward oneself, especially in the face of struggle. It consists of three main elements:

  1. Kindness
  2. Common humanity 
  3. Mindfulness
 

CFT and Trauma: Compassion-Focused Therapy is centralized around de-shaming and de-blaming. We know that much of the residual effect of trauma is rooted in shame. The CFT approach looks at several significant areas during a client’s treatment such as innate and historical influences, key fears, safety strategies, and unintended consequences. Our goal during their time in treatment with us is to prepare the client to build transferable skills, stabilization, insight, and self-compassion to continue their hard work on a long-term basis with their outpatient team.

CFT and Shame Reduction: Everyone experiences feelings of shame. For individuals struggling with certain mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, depression, and anxiety, feelings of shame and self-criticism can become overwhelming, painful, and debilitating. A primary goal of CFT in treating eating disorders is to help clients develop ways of engaging with distress in their recovery from the perspective of the compassionate self. 


Outpatient

Multidisciplinary team, weekly sessions, duration varies (3 months to several years).


Inpatient Hospitalization

Medical unit for unstable patients, psychiatric unit for severe cases, specialized care, structured environment, shorter stays.


Intensive Outpatient / Partial Hospitalization

These programs are used when it is determined that individuals need more support than can be offered by outpatient treatment.


Residential Care

Longer-term treatment for medically stable patients struggling with eating disorders, focusing on psychological stability and behavior control.