Research Reports - An exploration of compassion focused therapy following traumatic brain injury

Psychol Psychother. 2014 Aug 15

Ashworth F(1), Clarke A, Jones L, Jennings C, Longworth C

BACKGROUND: 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.
OBJECTIVES: 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.
METHODS: 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.
RESULTS: 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.
CONCLUSIONS: 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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