CFT for Eating Disorders- Advanced

3 day Workshop: Mon 22nd May (10am - 5pm) | Tues 23rd May (9.30am-5pm) | Wed 24th May (9.30am- 4.30pm)

Presented By: Dr Ken Goss

Date/Time: 22nd May 2017 at 9:30am until 24th May 2017 at 5:00pm

Venue: Riverside Chambers, Full Street, Derby DE1 3AF

Location: Derby

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Event Description

Mon 22nd 10am - 5pm, Registration from 9.30am; Tues 23rd  9.30am-5pm; Wed 24th 9.30am- 4.30pm. Lunch and refreshments will be provided, as will a CPD certificate.

This workshop is designed for clinicians familiar with Compassion Focused Therapy, and Compassion Focused Therapy for eating disorders.  This workshop will remind clinicians of the principles, philosophy and techniques of Compassion Focused Therapy CFT, how these can be modified and applied to help people recover from an eating disorder.  It will outline how these principles are applied from assessment to intervention.  Participants will have an opportunity to practice identifying shame and self-criticism and developing formulation skills within a “Three Circles” model of affect regulation.  We will explore how shame and pride can be addressed during therapy, how to developing a client’s capacity for managing the biological, psychological and social challenges of recovery and to practice key CFT-E therapeutic techniques, including imagery and two chair work. We will also explore how the principles of group based CFT-E can be applied to the participants work setting and client population. 

The workshop consists of didactic teaching, role plays and the practise of key CFT techniques (such as imagery and breathing exercises).  It is aimed at health professionals who are working, or want to work, therapeutically with people with an eating disorder.  

Riverside Chambers, Full Street, Derby DE1 3AF, Derby

Additional Information

Compassion Focused Therapy and Compassionate Mind Training

Compassion focused therapy is derived from the evolutionary model of social mentality therapy (Gilbert 1989, 1995, 2005a,b, 2007). CFT was developed to help people who frequently experience shame and self-criticism.  These factors have been associated with the development and maintenance of a range of mental health problems, and are often difficult to treat using traditional psychotherapeutic approaches.

CFT is a scientific model that draws on many branches of psychology (e.g., developmental social and evolutionary) and neuroscience science. It has a specific formulation model that notes that internal and external experiences can activate our "threat" system. We find various ways to manage these painful emotions and thoughts as best we can.  Sometimes this can lead to unintended consequences that can exacerbate our problems and make it even more difficult to manage life’s challenges.

Key to CFT is the idea that we have evolved with a brain and emotional systems that can very difficult to manage, and that much of the way we respond to the world is not our fault, but our (often automatic) responses to threat.  However understanding these responses can

help us to take responsibility for the ways we respond to threat, and find new, more adaptive, ways of coping.

CFT is designed to help clinicians develop  therapeutic relationships that are most likely to be helpful for people who experience high levels of shame and self-criticism, or who find compassion and receiving care from others (including their therapist) difficult to manage. It is an integrative approach, utilising the wisdom of both Western and Eastern approaches to helping people change.  CFT argues that we can be taught to train our minds (Compassionate Mind Training) to help us to experience compassion, develop various aspects of compassion for ourselves and others, improve our abilities to self-sooth and affiliate with others, and to foster the courage and wisdom we need to cope with difficult life events, memories or emotions.

To find out more about CFT you can visit the Compassionate Mind Foundation Website at  It has lots of useful information about the model, training materials, links to key papers and commonly used measures, and to clinicians and researchers working in with compassion around the world.

Recommended Reading

Gilbert, P. (2009) The Compassionate Mind. A New Approach to the Challenges of Life. London: Constable & Robinson.

Gilbert, P. (2009) An introduction to compassion focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15, 199-208.

Gilbert, P. (2010) Compassion Focused Therapy: Distinctive Features. London: Routledge.

Gilbert, P. (ed.) (2010) Compassion Focused Therapy: Special Issue. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy. 3, 97-201


Compassion Focused Therapy for Eating Disorders (CFT-E) 

CFT-E expands upon the original model of CFT, to incorporate biopsychosocial factors that have been identified as aetiological and maintaining factors in eating disorders, including shame and pride.  It also includes specific techniques, adapted from standard CFT,  to help clients address eating disordered thoughts, feelings, and behaviours and help them normalize their eating and weight.   

CFT focuses on three specific affect regulation systems: 

The threat-detection and protection system associated with rapidly activated emotions such as anxiety, anger and disgust, and defensive behaviours of fight/flight/ avoidance and submissiveness.   

The drive, vitality and achievement system is associated with emotions of (anticipated) pleasure and excitement and with behaviours of approach and engagement.   

The soothing and contentment is linked with the experience of peaceful well-being and it is also associated with affiliation with and affection from others.  It allows us to experience social connectedness and soothing from others or from ourselves.   

CFT-E argues that eating disordered behaviours serve a functional purpose in attempting to regulate threat via the drive system.  CFT-E expands on the “Three-Circle” model of affect regulation and suggests that pride in behaviours designed to regulate affect may also play an important role in regulating threat.  Often these two systems (drive and pride) then become interlinked, at the expense of developing affiliative focused or self-soothing affect regulation strategies.  Thus, people with an eating disorder / disordered eating tend to live in a world of on-going threat where they are unable to access the soothing system (either to calm themselves or be soothed by others).  Hence the use of either the drive and/or pride systems to regulate affect (for example, pursuing thinness and taking pride in that achievement) or to try to avoid or numb painful affect (i.e. by engaging in bingeing).  These strategies often have the unintended consequence of creating further distress that in turn leads to vicious maintenance cycles and the escalation of their difficulties.  

Core Assumptions of CFT-E 

1. People with an eating disorder / disordered eating share transdiagnostic psychological processes.

These include; extreme concerns about shape and weight; self-worth assessed almost exclusively in terms of shape and weight; and body image disturbances impacting on psycho-social functioning and use behaviours designed to control their shape and weight.  These behaviours include extreme dieting, bingeing , self-induced vomiting, misuse of purgatives/diuretics, and rigorous exercising,  that , at least in the short term, help them to manage their feelings and cope with interpersonal difficulties, and / or traumatic memories.  This can occur even if their eating disorder did not begin as a way of managing these difficulties. 

In addition they are also likely to share a range of additional difficulties including high levels of shame, self-criticism,  self-directed hostility, and using social support. These may pre-date the onset of their eating disorder, or may evolve during the course of the disorder.  The negative emotions associated with these difficulties has can trigger or maintain further episodes of problematic eating behaviour. such as bingeing, purging, and compulsive eating. 


2. Biological starvation must be addressed during treatment. 

Biological starvation occurs when the one’s body consistently consumes less energy than it needs. However, these responses can also be triggered when serial restrictors plan restriction or fast for relatively long periods, even if adequate amounts of energy are consumed later. 

When individuals are in a state of biological starvation they are likely to experience a range of difficulties including; preoccupation with food and eating, episodes of over-eating, depressed mood and irritability, obsessional symptoms, impaired concentration, reduced outside interests, loss of sexual appetite, social withdrawal, and relationship difficulties. 

Restoring regular eating patterns, eating sufficient food to meet energy needs and maintaining a healthy body weight can lead to improvement in these difficulties.  Without this essential first step, biological starvation is likely to significantly compromise any psychological therapy.  However these issues are likely to remain problematic for most eating disordered clients even  when they are no longer in a state of biological starvation.  Thus they need to be addressed both biologically and psychologically during treatment.   

Treatment Components in CFT-E 

CFT-E offers a structured approach to helping clients gain control of their chaotic eating patterns and to address the behavioural and cognitive processes that underlie them. 

Structured Eating and CFT-E 

Developing a regular eating routine.   

Eating sufficient calories to meet the body’s demands for energy.  Low weight clients need to restore weight to a biologically healthy BMI (least 20). Normal or overweight clients may need to gradually get used to eating less than they usually would if they binge or comfort eat). 

Learning to be in touch with, and respond to, the body’s need for food.  


Psychological Change in CFT-E 

Developing compassionate feelings and motivations for people with an eating disorder, including themselves. 

Experiencing, tolerating, and acting upon the provision of compassionate support from others (including their therapist and group members- if in group therapy).   

Compassionate Mind Training (CMT), focusing on activating the soothing system via imagery and related practical exercises, and using their Compassionate Mind to help them address the challenges of recovery.   

Improving their ability to use their wider social network to access support.   

CMT exercises are practised during therapy sessions and as homework tasks.  Exercises include imagining oneself being a very compassionate person, offering compassion to others, receiving and using compassion from others, offering compassion to the self and receiving and using self-compassion. Compassionate letter writing is a key tool in CFT-E.  It is used help clients identify and deal with the biological, psychological, and social changes that come with normalising eating and shape.  Clients write to, and about themselves, from a compassionate and validating perspective to address the challenges of recovery (for example, eating more regularly).   

Compassionate Behaviour 

One of the key foci of these exercises is to help the clients develop a more compassionate relationship with themselves.  Within the treatment program this is specifically targeted at managing eating disordered behaviours, the issues that trigger them, and the functions they serve.  However, it also explores compassionate behaviours associated with assertiveness, appropriate levels of rest and activity, and ways of interacting with others.  The key is to develop coping thoughts and response that are “felt” to be helpful, to enable clients to let go of eating disordered behaviours that have come to feel “safe” ways of managing difficult emotions or experiences and to develop more “self-caring” behaviours in everyday life. 

As with CBT, CFT-E includes specific behavioural experiments (such as seeing the impact that eating more regularly or more food has on weight).  However in CFT-E  it can also include experimenting with new ways of addressing drive system behaviours (such as learning to rest) or developing alternative more adaptive behaviour that can be linked with their pride system and so reduce their dependence on accessing feelings of pride via shape and weight control. 

Social Connectedness 

This treatment component aims to help clients develop increased social connectedness to help them manage their distress.  Thus clients can explore and engage in alternative strategies of affect regulation rather than continuing to rely on strategies based on the drive and pride systems.  

The CFT-E Treatment Program 

In order to deliver the program successfully, clinicians are required to understand the basic philosophy of the CFT-E, have experience and skills in psycho-educational teaching, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Compassionate Mind Training and ideally in group work, as we have found that this can be a very effective treatment modality. 

In addition clinicians also need to have a good understanding of eating disorders, particularly the complex interactions between biological and psychological maintenance processes and the problems that can arise over the course of eating disorder treatment.   

Treatment Phases 

The CFT-E treatment group program is divided into four distinct phases, with each phase being followed by an individual review before progression to the next phase.  These phases are: 

Psycho-Education and Motivational Enhancement 

Developing Self-Compassion Skills 




To find out more about the program and its outcomes you might wish to read: 

Goss, K. & Allan, S.  (2010) Compassion focused therapy for eating disorders. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy 3 (2):141-158  


Gale, C., Gilbert, P., Read, N., & Goss, K. (2012)   An evaluation of the impact of introducing Compassion Focused Therapy to a standard treatment programme for people with eating disorders. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy.  In press. 


Or contact Ken Goss at

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Our workshops and training are available to book through payment by credit card on our website. If you are unable to pay by credit card please contact us to request an invoice. Please note that we cannot confirm your place until we have received payment.

Terms and Conditions: 

Refunds, less a 20% administration fee, will be made if cancellations are received in writing up to six weeks before the Workshop.  Any cancellations received after this time will not be eligible for a refund.  We regret, refunds for failure to attend cannot be made but you can transfer your workshop fee to a future workshop.