Compassion therapy comes to Brisbane Private Hospital


A compassion therapy program treating mental illness that has proven successful in the United Kingdom and United States has been introduced to Brisbane Private Hospital.

The program, now available at the Damascus Health Services, the hospital's alcohol and prescription drug treatment service and rehabilitation unit, develops self compassion, which is often lacking in patients, according to Program Coordinator Bev Wethereld.

"From a therapeutic perspective, self-compassion becomes relevant when considering the struggle many of our patients have with personal inadequacies linked to a robust self-critic, internal distress resulting from mental health issues including shame, depression and anxiety, and a sense of failure," she said.

She said research into compassion and its therapeutic application had gained scientific acceptability primarily due to factors including:

  • Increasing recognition of the importance of early childhood attachment
  • Growing evidence that behaviours such as affection, kindness, connection and a sense of belonging have a major impact on mental health and wellbeing
  • Neuroscientists committing to work with the Dalai Lama to discover what happens in the brain when individuals practice compassion.

Ms Wethereld said the Damascus program, Compassion Focused Recovery, was a composite of traditional contemplative self-compassion based practices, scientific research and contemporary psychological approaches used by world leaders in compassion therapy.

"Compassion Focused Recovery is offered for outpatients as a follow-up program to assist with recovery, and for the 38 clients who have completed the 10 week course to date, we have seen measureable improvements," she said.

"Our aim at Damascus is to approach recovery from different angles, both for inpatients and outpatients, and provide programs that guide people on their journey and give them the best chance of a good recovery."

Patients admitted to Damascus follow a two-week group program after initial withdrawal is completed.

The inpatient program features a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, motivational interventions, communication skills training and relapse prevention to help manage emotions and problematic thoughts, maintain motivation for change, achieve and maintain abstinence and build social support networks.

Once discharged, patients are encouraged to attend follow-up programs, which include Compassion Focused Recovery, Mindfulness Based Sobriety and Relapse Prevention.


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