Psychotherapeutic benefits of compassion-focused therapy: an early systematic review

Psychol Med. 2015 Apr;45(5):927-45. doi: 10.1017/S0033291714002141. Epub 2014 Sep 12.


Background: Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is a relatively novel form of psychotherapy that was developed for people who have mental health problems primarily linked to high shame and self-criticism. The aim of this early systematic review was to draw together the current research evidence of the effectiveness of CFT as a psychotherapeutic intervention, and to provide recommendations that may inform the development of further trials.

Method: A comprehensive search of electronic databases was undertaken to systematically identify literature relating to the effectiveness of CFT as a psychotherapeutic intervention. Reference lists of key journals were hand searched and contact with experts in the field was made to identify unpublished data.

Results: Fourteen studies were included in the review, including three randomized controlled studies. The findings from the included studies were, in the most part, favourable to CFT, and in particular seemed to be effective for people who were high in self-criticism.

Conclusions: CFT shows promise as an intervention for mood disorders, particularly those high in self-criticism. However, more large-scale, high-quality trials are needed before it can be considered evidence-based practice. The review highlights issues from the current evidence that may be used to inform such trials.

Keywords: psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Self Concept*
  • Shame*
  • Treatment Outcome