CFT in North America: Deepening and Broadening The Work

(This is the first blog entry for our new website, but it is really one of a series of intermittent blog posts that can be found by clicking here. As we move forward these blogs will mirror one another, but for now, this is just a message to visitors of our home on the web.)

October 12, 2014

It is the Autumn of 2014, and after many years of working with a small group of friends and colleagues from all around the world, it finally feels like a new beginning for Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) in North America. I remember how different things seemed many years ago, when sitting in a Zendo, following the breath and focusing on compassion seemed like a completely different world from whatever we might bring into a psychotherapy consultation room or lab. Working on adaptations of Buddhist meditation to therapy in the 1990's and early "00's" my friends and I watched as a sea change towards mindfulness and acceptance surrounded us in the world of evidence based psychotherapies. Over these last years, working with CFT founder Paul Gilbert has been a privilege, but it also has been a joy. With equal parts humor and diligence, Paul, along with colleagues like Chris Irons, Russell Kolts, and the whole family of CFT pioneers in the UK have brought new directions and new possibilities into our work. And as we have been soldiering along, we have again watched as another tide in psychological science has risen, and we find ourselves in the midst of the rise of compassion. Right now, Paul is visiting the West Coast of the USA, delivering talks and workshops in Washington and California.  Dr. Gilbert will be presenting at Stanford with Yotam Heineberg, and meeting with a range of colleagues and innovators in psychological science about how we can apply cutting edge, evidence based methods to help develop compassion in individuals and in organizations. After Dr. Gilbert and co. have been bringing CFT to New York, California, Toronto and an expanding list of locales in North America for several years, the time is right for the Compassionate Mind Foundation USA to create a broader context and a more solid, true foundation for CFT here. Honestly, this time and the launch of this website feels like the extension of a family, and it reminds me of our "common humanity" - the essential connection among us all as conscious, caring and committed human beings. It feels good to be among one another as our work deepens.

Compassion may be defined as a sensitivity to the presence of suffering, combined with a deep motivation to prevent or alleviate the suffering we encounter in the world, and in our selves. However, when we speak of compassion in CFT, we aren't just referencing an attitude or an emotion, but an evolved, embodied set of human capacities and response potentials, known to us as a "social mentality." When we train in compassion, we are training this evolved aspect of our humanity in both our neurophysiology and in our behavior. Years of research by Dr. Gilbert, and his colleagues, as well as scientists the world over working in areas as diverse as emotion, neuro-imaging, evolutionary biology and behavioral research, have revealed the presence of this compassionate mind. Furthermore, we now know that this compassionate mind can be trained, and that when we are functioning at our most compassionate, we are most likely functioning at our best. Our friends and colleagues the world over have been developing a host of new applications of CFT, integrating elements of anger management, cognitive behavioral therapies, and mindfulness and acceptance based approaches, all the while building on the foundation of CFT's evolutionary model. It seems that the time is right for this small group of friends to evolve into a larger community. As this community grows, a spark of this compassionate fellowship, this foundation in compassion, will grow with it. As colleagues at CCARE and ABCT, ACBS, the BABCP and individual mental health scientist practitioners find their way to applying a compassionate focus in their work, our hope at the Compassionate Mind Foundation USA, is that we can serve the needs of this growing community. Following the model of the Compassionate Mind Foundation in the UK, we hope to create a context where researchers have support in their work; where clinicians can find community, training and mutual guidance; where organizations can develop more compassionate and effective practices, and where people in need can find a road to hope for the prevention and alleviation of unnecessary suffering. If you have any desire to be a part of this work, please contact us at, and we will be happy to explore what new collaborations and projects can emerge from this experiment!

Many compassionate wishes to you and yours, D. Tirch