Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) from the Inside Out

In September, our second offering of Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) from the Inside Out with Russell Kolts, Ph.D. will begin.   We asked Russell to provide a bit more information about the course for those that might be considering it and he wrote the following participant letter that we’d like to share with you.

If you have any questions about the course, please email us and we will be glad to assist you.



Hi Everyone,

I’m fresh back from the ACBS conference and was thrilled and inspired by the level of interest I saw in Compassion-Focused Therapy (and compassion generally) there, as well as all the opportunities I had to learn about other therapy approaches.  It made me really excited to get another round of our Compassion-Focused Therapy from the Inside Out training off of the ground.

As someone who does CFT trainings in lots of formats – in 1-2 day workshops, teaching a university course on CFT at Eastern Washington University, and in supervising therapists who are learning it, I think that the “inside out” course is my favorite way to teach it.  I always say (sometime to the annoyance of my colleagues, I suspect) that if you don’t practice compassion, you probably shouldn’t try to teach it to clients.  I think mindfulness is the same way – going through the practices ourselves helps us understand the nuances involved in learning these powerful mind-training techniques.  It also helps us really understand the obstacles first hand so that we are prepared to quickly recognize and work with them when they arise in the lives of our clients.  The practice helps us really get it.

When training is it’s best, I think there is a parallel process between the learning process and the therapy one is learning.  As a therapy, CFT is an experientially-based process of guided discovery, characterized by Socratic dialogue, experiential exercises, thought-and-behavioral experiences, and the purposeful cultivation of compassion.  This CFT From the Inside Out training is meant to blend this process with direct coaching on how to facilitate the therapy your own clients.  We’ll be using the True Strength group manual as an organizing framework, with the hope that when you complete the training, you’ll be familiar enough with the process to use the manual to run your own groups if you choose, and will know enough of CFT generally to begin bringing the approach into your individual therapy work as well.

If you choose to participate, you’ll learn about how our brains were shaped by evolution and the early circumstances of our lives in ways that can create great problems for us.  You’ll learn ways to help clients feel safe and work with shame and self-criticism as well as the challenging emotions and situations that arise in their lives.  And you’ll learn how compassion fits in to all of this, and gives us and our clients the opportunity to cultivate deep, transformative capacities in our minds – allowing us to work actively with our struggles, improve our relationships with others, and to create lives filled with meaning.  Compassion isn’t easy, not at all. But it’s worth it.

As we move toward this second go-round of the training, I find myself unable to resist sharing the experiences I’ve seen from folks who participated the first time, during Fall 2013.  Of the Initial attendees, the vast majority are now actively integrating CFT into their work with clients – 10 or so have founded their own online peer-supervision group to support one another in their ongoing CFT work.  Another 4-5 are actively using the therapy and working to integrate it into their therapeutic work.  Several groups have been developed and run by previous workshop participants, and it’s been inspiring to hear the stories of how our participants have brought compassion and CFT into their work with their clients.  I’ve also heard from some participants about how their CFT work has translated into change in their own lives as well.  That’s how compassion works: if we welcome it in and let it work on us, it can help us grow in ways that impact all aspects of our lives.  A rather nice side effect of learning a new therapy, I think.

So if you’re interested or curious, I’d like to invite you to consider participating in CFT From the Inside Out.  One of the nice things about CFT is that it functions well both as a stand-alone therapy and as an adjunctive approach for those who primarily use other therapy modalities.  I know several folks who primarily use ACT, DBT, or traditional cognitive-behavior therapy who draw upon CFT to help address shame in their clients, to “warm-up” their therapy, and to deepen their ability to understand, explore, and work with affect in the session.  Of course it’s also possible that, like me, you may find something in CFT that resonates so greatly that you choose to make it your primary approach and pursue further learning and supervision.  In either case, there’s a growing CFT community in North America that you might wish to connect with.

One thing I should say is that this is true “inside out” experience in which participants will both receive coaching on how to do the therapy and will participate actively in the exact experiences seen by clients going through the group.  While this training doesn’t in any way require self-disclosure, in the first group, a fair number of participants chose to do some deep personal work.  So at the least, if you choose to participate, you should be aware that other participants may choose to do such work and share it with the group, and should be comfortable with some self-disclosure being a part of the experience.  Additionally, if you are someone who thinks that you might like to use the experience to do some personal work, you’ll want to make sure you have adequate supports present in your life for doing so.  While this experience can certainly feel therapeutic, it is ultimately a training-experience, not proper therapy, and should be participated in with that in mind.

In any case, I’d like to thank you for your interest in CFT, and for your commitment to making life better for those of us whose lives may be filled with tremendous suffering.  I think there’s something sacred about being a helper – about sitting across the room from someone who is in terrible suffering, and who looks to us to help.  It’s a great honor, a great privilege, and a great responsibility – and I bow to all who choose to engage in such compassionate work.