As a practitioner, you know the critical role compassion plays in the work that we do. In fact, you were probably drawn to this profession out of a deep sense of compassion, that overpowering desire to relieve suffering.
Now, putting compassion to work in the clinical setting goes far beyond just the desire to relieve suffering. It includes a host of specific, highly targeted interventions that address the unique ways each client expresses the emotional distress that leads to suffering. It also includes specific interventions to help clients cultivate self-compassion.
Research is beginning to provide evidence of just how critical compassion is to healing – even some of the most challenging disorders.
Take a look at the video below. It’s about 2 ½ minutes:
Dr. Neff: The really amazing thing is that the research is showing, even people with difficult trauma histories or psychosis or very difficult-to-treat conditions, they can learn self-compassion. It’s not just what you’re born with, it’s not just your genes, it’s not just your early childhood upbringing. In some ways, what self-compassion is is learning to “reparent” yourself, actually learning to give yourself what you may not have gotten as a child.
Dr. Buczynski: That’s an important thing to remember about compassion. It can be powerful, even when there are challenging issues in your client’s past. Case in point: a small, randomized study was done at Emory University that examined compassion training on participants who had a high severity of depressive symptoms and had recently attempted suicide. They were also African American. The Emory research team wanted to see how compassion training might impact depression and self-criticism. To do this, they randomly assigned participants to either a six-week compassion training or a six-week support group. Participants in the compassion group were encouraged to meditate daily and complete practice assignments after each session. The study found that participants in the compassion training group showed greater reduction in self-criticism and depression. Fascinating, right? This suggests compassion interventions can be a powerful tool for ameliorating self-criticism and ultimately in decreasing depressive symptoms.
Now this research represents just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the evidence that supports compassion-oriented interventions.
But it’s complex, because there are multiple schools of thought, such as Compassion-Focused Therapy, Mindful Self-Compassion, and Compassion-Focused ACT.
So we spent a year developing this 4-week program to help you integrate these approaches into your work. And we brought together the top experts in the field to guide you.
But for now, I’d like to hear from you. How have you used compassion interventions in your work with clients? What was the result?
Please leave a comment below – and thanks for watching.
(If you’d like to know more about this research, the key citations are listed below.)
- Au, T. M., Sauer-Zavala, S., King, M. W., Petrocchi, N., Barlow, D. H., & Litz, B. T. (2016). Compassion-Based Therapy for Trauma-Related Shame and Posttraumatic Stress: Initial Evaluation Using a Multiple Baseline Design. Behavior Therapy, 48(2), 207–221. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.beth.2016.11.012
- Braehler, C., Gumley, A., Harper, J., Wallace, S., Norrie, J., & Gilbert, P. (2012). Exploring change processes in compassion focused therapy in psychosis: Results of a feasibility randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Clinical Psychology. doi: 10.1111/bjc.12009
- Diedrich, A., Grant, M., Hofmann, S. G., Hiller, W., & Berking, M. (2014). Self-compassion as an emotion regulation strategy in major depressive disorder. Behavioral Research and Therapy, 58, 43–51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2014.05.006
- Johnson, S. B., Goodnight, B. L., Zhang, H., Daboin, I., Patterson, B., & Kaslow, N. J. (2017). Compassion-Based Meditation in African Americans: Self-Criticism Mediates Changes in Depression. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 48(2), 160–168. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12347
- Kaurin, A., Schönfelder, S., & Wessa, M. (2018). Self-Compassion Buffers the Link Between Self-Criticism and Depression in Trauma-Exposed Firefighters. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 65(4), 453–462. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000275
- Kearney, D. J., Malte, C. A., McManus, C., Martinez, M. E., Felleman, B., & Simpson, T. L. (2013). Loving‐Kindness Meditation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study. Journal of Traumatic Stress. doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.21832
- Litz, B., & Carney, J. R. (2018). Employing loving-kindness meditation to promote self- and other-compassion among war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 5(3), 201-211. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/scp0000174
- Raes, F. (2010). Rumination and worry as mediators of the relationship between self-compassion and depression and anxiety. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(6), 757–761. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.023
- Yarnell, L. M., & Neff, K. D. (2012). Self-compassion, Interpersonal Conflict Resolutions, and Well-being. Self and Identity, 12(2), 146–159. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2011.649545
- Zessin, U., Dickhäuser, O., & Garbade, S. (2015). The Relationship Between Self-Compassion and Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 7(3), 340–364. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12051