What to Expect At Your 1st CFT Session – 7 Powerful Things to Keep In Mind and Heart

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Whether or not you’ve sought therapy before, or are completely new to therapy, the phrase “Compassion Focused Therapy” or CFT may strike curiosity. After all, isn’t all therapy supposed to be compassionate? The quick answer is yes, but unfortunately, not all therapies teach the actual skills necessary for developing self-support and inner kindness. You will begin to learn this from your very 1st CFT session.

What Makes CFT Unique ?

What distinguishes Compassion Focused Therapy or CFT (both mean the same thing) from other therapies is that CFT explicitly teaches you how to generate and feel compassion for yourself. CFT utilizes the latest neuroscience as a guide for how to help you develop lasting self-support in the most efficient manner.  

You may wonder, how does this happen? CFT works by helping you learn how your alarm, drive and soothing systems work and how we can work with our bodies and minds to create balance. Learning to not overwork, and manage our stress is very important. 

CFT does this and much more. With CFT, you will learn how to self soothe your body / mind as well as develop a kind and inner self-monologue. 

When we get caught in stress and expectations, it’s easy to forget to slow down and help our bodies and minds break out of this cycle. Learning how to treat yourself with kindness and compassion is what makes CFT a wonderfully powerful therapy approach.

While it may sound simple (and hopefully even fun!) it’s remarkably effective.

1st CFT Session – Beginning Compassion Focused Therapy

In your 1st Compassion Focused Therapy session, together we will explore what has brought you to therapy and what you most hope to get out of CFT.

In fact, before we even meet for your first official session, I will ask you to begin reflecting deeply on your life as you complete a background information form which I will read prior to us meeting. 

Laying this understanding and groundwork is important so that we can identify the best place to begin your therapy. We may also talk about other types of therapy and coaching you’ve tried and discuss what was helpful and what wasn’t. 

One of the beautiful things about CFT is that you don’t have to spend hours in my office (or in Zoom) scrutinizing your childhood or other things that happened a long time ago. Of course, this information can certainly be helpful as you identify causes that block you from treating yourself with kindness. 

CFT helps you make emotional breakthroughs quickly, without the need for extended therapy sessions sorting through the minutiae of your past. You can think of it like this: in order to put out a fire, we don’t need to know how the fire started. 

This understanding may be helpful later, but it isn’t helpful when we need to deal with the intense flames of the present. My motto here is – put out the fire first, then learn how to prevent future fires as best as possible.

Many of my clients greatly appreciate this aspect of CFT. It offers insight and assistance even from your first session. We start in the present, work towards your future and include the past only as it is relevant.

Does CFT help With Anxiety, Self-Criticism, Depression 

Yes, absolutely. CFT has been shown to help individuals with anxiety, self-criticism and depression even if they’ve tried other treatment methods that didn’t work. In fact, CFT developed out of CBT particularly for when CBT wasn’t helping people make lasting changes. 

If you live with any of these struggles, you know how painful it can be and what a debilitating impact it can have on your life. If you’ve sought help before but didn’t find relief, you may feel very discouraged. This is very normal and unfortunately far too common. 

Thankfully, CFT can help you develop soothing coping methods to help you sort through these feelings and develop tools to manage your mind (and life) for good. 

What is the difference between CBT and CFT? 

As mentioned, Compassion Focused Therapy evolved from CBT. For this reason, some therapists take the view that Compassion Focused Therapy is an advanced form of CBT and other therapists argue that CFT is its own unique therapy. 

The reality is that both is true. Having been trained extensively in Compassion Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy, my view is that CFT is CBT (and more) but CBT isn’t necessarily CFT.

What makes CFT so unique and valuable is that it is based on how our brains and bodies actually work in real life, as well as what the neuroscience tells us about the most effective way to change our brains (and lives).

Is Online CFT As Effective As In Office CFT? 

Online CFT is as effective as in office CFT. In some cases, it can be even more effective. The reality is that going to therapy itself can be stressful. For some people, the added convenience of being able to have therapy from your own home, office, or any other space you choose, can be very empowering and creates a feeling of safety and confidence.

After all, if you can learn how to incorporate CFT tools in your actual life (not just a therapist’s office) you can do it anywhere and for the rest of your life. That being said, some people find that they feel they are more accountable if they meet with a therapist in person. The great thing here is that the choice is yours. 

Looking at Transitions

Another aspect of learning about you and your life is understanding what’s happening in your life right now. Many people come to therapy during times of life transitions. This may be the same with you. 

Pinpointing specific transitions, which you’re going through is very helpful in therapy. There are many types of life transitions, and they all have their own unique challenges. Compassion Focused Therapy, however, is helpful with all of them because CFT teaches you how to be kind, compassionate and supportive towards yourself. 

Right now, many individuals are transitioning back into “normal” life as the U.S. and U.K. are beginning to reopen after the pandemic. Marriage, divorce, and breakups are also common transition times.

Likewise, so is becoming a parent and then becoming an empty nester, or going to College / Uni. for the first time, or starting a new job. Career changes and retirement may also create some anxiety and uncertainty in your life. This is perfectly normal and CFT can help. 

Life transitions, whether wanted or not, typically bring some emotional upheaval and the need to make adjustments in our lives. Compassion Focused Therapy teaches you the tools you need to adapt and experience less distress during these times and how to truly appreciate the good in life as well. 

Tools to Take Home

As we begin to get to know each other during your first few sessions, I will share simple things you can do right away to make CFT start working in your life. As mentioned above, CFT is about learning to treat yourself with the same kindness and empathy that you give to others and fortunately this is a skill we can learn like any other. 

For some reason, humans seem programmed to treat ourselves more harshly than we do those around us who struggle with the same issues. But when we are aware of this tendency, we can then counteract it by training our brains to be for us, not against us. 

We’ll talk about small, actionable steps you can start doing the same day you start CFT therapy. These might include physical things you can do to create more calm in your life. For example, becoming more intentional about your breathing is often a good place to start, and in CFT you will learn how to breathe correctly, in a manner which evokes a relaxation and soothing response.

Over the years, I’ve seen CFT help countless individuals find the emotional relief they seek, including those who have tried other types of therapy without success. To read more about Compassion Focused Therapy and Online CFT, please click HERE.

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I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 15 years experience. I have also received specialist training in Compassion Focused Therapy. Please feel free to contact me at my Honolulu or London clinic to set up a free online CFT Test Drive.

Free Test Drive

The right approach, tools and fit is a game changer. It is not fair to have to pay just to meet a therapist. For this reason, I offer a Free Test Drive to see if working together could be a great fit for you. Each Test Drive lasts between 45-60 minutes and takes place within my Video Consulting Room. Based on the latest evidence, science, and my experience, I will aim to make concrete suggestions as to what I think can be most helpful for you.

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