• Multiple emotions, multiple selves: compassion focused therapy chairwork

      Bell, Tobyn; Montague, Jane; Elander, James; Gilbert, Paul; University of Derby (Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2021-07-19)
      Compassion focused therapy (CFT) is rooted in an evolutionary view of the human mind as formed of a multitude of contrasting, and often conflicting, motivations, emotions and competencies. A core aim of the therapy is to help clients understand the nature of their mind in a way that is de-pathologizing and de-shaming. The approach is also focused on the cultivation of compassion to work with these difficult aspects of mind. CFT includes the ‘multiple-selves’ intervention which involves the differentiation of threat-based emotion and an exploration of their conflict. Compassion is then applied to the client’s affective world to aid regulation and integration. This paper focuses on clients’ experiences of a chairwork version of multiple-selves, wherein clients personify their emotions in separate chairs. Nine participants with depression were interviewed directly following the intervention and the resulting data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Three interconnecting themes were identified: appreciating emotional complexity; the role of chairwork process; and compassionate integration. The results highlight the importance of emotional differentiation in understanding internal multiplicity and conflict in depression, and the role of compassion in creating a sense of personal coherence. The embodied and enactive nature of chairwork was found to be of benefit in identifying and separating emotion, and in developing new forms of self-relating. The paper discusses the clinical implications of such findings for the treatment of depression.