Is Compassion Focused Therapy Effective?

Is Compassion Focused Therapy Effective?

In a recently published meta-analysis we discuss this question: Is Compassion Focused Therapy effective? I was part of an amazing team led by Nicola Petrocchi on this topic. We conducted a series of meta-analyses on diverse positive and negative outcomes of trials on Compassion Focused Therapy.

The main finding is that Compassion Focused Therapy is effective. We worked a lot on this study since last March to get all the information available. We tried to overcome the main limitation of this research (i.e., heterogeneity) by running several meta-analyses on a bunch of different outcomes.

More specifically, we explored effectiveness in terms of reduction of depression and self-criticism, and increase of compassion for self and others. This analyses were conducted on both clinical and non-clinical samples.

Compassion Focused Therapy resulted effective in reducing overall negative mental health outcomes (k = 32, g = 0.72, p < .0001), depression (k = 23, g = 0.49, p < .0001), self-criticism (k = 17, g = 0.40, p < .0001) and in improving compassion for self and others (k = 24, g = 0.51, p < .0001).

A summary of the study has been published by the blog of the Society of Clinical Psychology of American Psychological Association.

Petrocchi, N., Ottaviani, C., Cheli, S., Matos, M., Baldi, B., Basran, J. K., & Gilbert, P. (2023). The impact of compassion-focused therapy on positive and negative mental health outcomes: Results of a series of meta-analyses. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. Advance online publication.

CFT for Personality Disorders – Retreat

CFT for Personality Disorders

Just concluded the first edition of a retreat for mental health professionals interested in applying Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) in personality disorders.

Despite CFT is genuinely transdiagnostic and usuful in targeting maladpative interpersonal schemas, little is known about its application in treating those struggling with personality disorders.

Thus, I organized this retreat where to present an evolutionary model of conceptualization of personality disorders and those tecniques that I found extremely useful when working with personality disorders. I also presented my work in this field with a specific focus on schizotypal, perfectionistic, narcisistic and borderline traits.

The retreat was located in an amazing center near Florence, surrounded by woods and vineyards! For two days, about 30 partecipants worked on mindful compassion, chairwork imagery, and so on.

A large meta-analysis on CFT

A team of international researchers I’m a part of, just concluded and submitted a large meta-analysis on the effectiveness of Compassion Focused Therapy – CFT. CFT is an an evolutionarily oriented psychotherapy developed by Paul Gilbert (one of the co-author of the study). The main focus of the interventions is the soothing system, a mammalian affect regulation system that is usually triggered by social safeness. In humans, this system may be impaired by either external (eg interpersonal criticism) or internal (eg self-criticism) threats.

In this meta-analysis we screened a large number of studies and explored the effectiveness of CFT in improving negative and positive mental health outcomes. Our team, led by Nicola Petrocchi and Cristina Ottaviani, reported a moderate to large effect size in clinical and non-clinical samples.

We also found a relevant heterogeneity, urging scholars in CFT to outline larger-scale higher quality randomized controlled trial. That said, the final analysis of our meta-analysis included 47 RCTs and 7875 partecipants, suggesting how CFT may be considered an effective intervention for a variety of symptoms and disorders.

Fingers crossed while waiting reviwers’ feedbacks!

Compassion and COVID-19 Pandemic

pandemic covid-19

The last paper of series on the role of compassion during the COVID-19 pandemic has been realeased. The new rsearch suggests that, in a time of elevated distress and shared human suffering such as the pandemic, people from multiple countries and nationalities seem to become more compassionate to self and others and less afraid of, and resistant to, compassion.

During pandemic I joined an international team led by Marcela Matos aimed to explore the role of compassion in adjusting to pandemic. 21 countries were involved and 4 waves of data were collected. First, we showed how all fears of compassion moderated (heightened) the impact of perceived threat of COVID-19 on psychological distress. Second, we confirmed how social connection is key to how people adapt and cope with the worldwide COVID-19 crisis and may facilitate post-traumatic growth in the context of the threat experienced during the pandemic. Finally, our findings highlight the universal protective role of compassion, in particular self-compassion and compas- sion from others, in promoting resilience by buffering against the harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and social safeness.

The Italian team was led by Nicola Petrocchi and I, and supported by Tages Onlus.

Matos, M., McEwan, K., Kanovský, M., Halamová, J., Steindl, S. R., Ferreira, N., Linharelhos, M., Rijo D, Asano K, Vilas SP, Márquez MG, Gregório S, Brito-Pons G, Lucena-Santos P, da Silva Oliveira M, de Souza EL, Llobenes L, Gumiy N, Costa MI, Habib N, Hakem R, Khrad H, Alzahrani A, Cheli S, Petrocchi N, Tholouli E, Issari P, Simos G, Lunding-Gregersen V, Elklit A, Kolts R, Kelly AC, Bortolon C, Delamillieure P, Paucsik M, Wahl JE, Zieba M, Zatorski M, Komendziński T, Zhang S, Basran J, Kagialis A, Kirby J, Gilbert P. (2023). Improvements in Compassion and Fears of Compassion throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Multinational Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health20(3), 1845. MDPI AG. Retrieved from