Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 88 Issue 2 (June 2015), Pages 127-226

An exploration of compassion focused therapy following acquired brain injury (pages 143-162)


People with acquired brain injuries (ABI) frequently experience psychological difficulties such as anxiety and depression, which may be underpinned and maintained by high self‐criticism and shame alongside an inability to self‐soothe. Compassionate focused therapy (CFT) was developed to address shame and self‐criticism and foster the ability to self‐soothe.


This is a naturalistic evaluation with the aim of assessing the feasibility, safety, and potential value of CFT for ABI patients with emotional difficulties receiving neuropsychological rehabilitation.


This study employed a mixed methods design combining self‐report measures and qualitative interviews. Twelve patients received a combination of CFT group and individual intervention. Self‐report measures of self‐criticism, self‐reassurance, and symptoms of anxiety and depression were collected pre and post programme and analysed using Wilcoxon signed rank test (N = 12; five female, seven males). Follow‐up data were analysed in the same manner (N = 9). Interviews were conducted with six patients and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.


CFT was associated with significant reductions in measures of self‐criticism, anxiety, and depression and an increase in the ability to reassure the self. No adverse effects were reported. Three superordinate themes emerged from the interviews: psychological difficulties; developing trust and finding safeness; and a new approach.


This study suggests that CFT is well accepted in ABI survivors within the context of neuropsychological rehabilitation. Furthermore, the results indicate that further research into CFT for psychological problems after ABI is needed and that there may be key aspects, which are specific to CFT intervention, which could reduce psychological difficulties after ABI.

Practitioner points

  • CFT appears to be a feasible intervention for psychological problems after ABI.
  • CFT was associated with a reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression and associated self‐criticism, as well as enhanced self‐reassurance for ABI survivors.
  • These ABI survivors reported that CFT provided them with tools to manage continued psychological difficulties.

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