Compassion-Focused Therapy

Who is this course for?

Therapists who have at least two years counselling/therapy experience

Who offers the course?

University Centre for Rural Health (North Coast) in conjunction with Professor Paul Gilbert (UK) and Dr Dennis Tirch (USA)

Level of assumed/required knowledge

Thorough grounding and practical experience as a cognitive-behavioural therapist, or practitioner in one of the other evidence-based therapies

Course overview

The last decade has seen considerable research showing that cultivating compassion has a major impact on emotional states, social relationships and even physical processes. Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) was developed with and for people who have significant difficulty experiencing compassion for themselves and from other people.

This 3 day workshop represents a unique opportunity for Australian mental health professionals to gain a strong foundation in CFT from its founder, Professor Paul Gilbert and another leader in the field, Dr. Dennis Tirch.

The workshop will introduce participants to the basic ideas and interventions used in CFT. CFT draws on evolutionary psychology, cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology and Buddhist psychology to offer a sophisticated model for working with clients who have high levels of shame and self-criticism.

The model suggests that these clients often come from backgrounds where there were low levels of affiliation and affection. In the process, the development of brain-based attachment and emotional regulation systems has often been compromised.

CFT uses evolutionary functional analysis to understand clients’ motivations, emotions and emotion regulation processes. Once clients understand the rationale for CFT, they are trained to use compassion-focused skills. Practicing these skills helps them to develop new ways for emotional regulation and a new sense of self (the compassionate self) that is conducive to their well-being.


  • Gain an understanding of how evolutionary functional analysis advances understanding of psychopathology and, in particular, the importance of the evolution of attachment, caring affiliation as part of human effort regulation systems
  • Gain an understanding of the 3 system affect regulation model (threat, drive and affiliative-soothing), which informs compassion-focused interventions
  • Gain an understanding of how CFT may be applied to clients with different problems in which there is a non-affiliative relationship with self and/or others (e.g. eating disorders, personality disorders, anxiety, depression, shame, psychosis etc)

Acquire and practice key compassion-focused skills including:

  • the use of the breath and body postures
  • the practice of compassion-focused imagery
  • the use of compassionate mind training to build the “compassionate self”
  • employing the “compassionate self” to engage with areas of personal difficulty
  • building supportive social relationships


  • Recognise the fundamental value of compassion-based skills for both therapists and clients

Course duration

3 days

How is the course assessed?

Reflection sheets completed at the end of the workshop day and at 1 and 4 weeks post workshop

Can this course contribute to an academic degree?


Course delivery

Face to face workshop held at:
Southern Cross University
Byron Community and Cultural Centre
Level 1, 69 Jonson Street
Byron Bay NSW 2481

Course cost

Early bird - $780
Full price - $950

Course dates

1-3 July 2013

Is this course accredited for CME points?


Further information and registration

Contact person/Course coordinator

A/Prof James Bennett-Levy
University Centre for Rural Health (North Coast)
University of Sydney
PO Box 3074
Lismore NSW 2480

T: 02 6620 7570

Last updated

January 2013