Using Self-Compassion to Help With Recurring Depression

Recurring depression is a challenge for many people. New research shows that a mindfulness-based therapy for depression may help with low mood, by explicitly focusing on self-compassion.

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Mindfulness-based cognitive therapies have become increasingly popular for lessening depression. How these treatments work is not fully understood, however. A new study from the Netherlands examined whether the interplay between self-compassion and mood during an eight-week mindfulness program might explain some of these effects.

The study included 118 adults with recurring episodes of depression who had previously participated in Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. Each was assigned to either a treatment-as-usual waitlist group, or a mindfulness plus treatment-as-usual group. 

The treatment-as-usual group received medication and/or psychotherapy, but not any form of compassion-focused intervention. They were given the opportunity to attend mindfulness classes after the first mindfulness group completed their program. The mindfulness group attended eight bi-weekly sessions for two-and-a-half hours in groups of 8-10 people. Much of the program focused on practicing befriending self and others. Individuals were given a CD containing a 30-minute guided meditation and asked to practice daily. They also received written materials covering each session and related practices. Individuals continued to receive medication and/or psychotherapy as needed. 

The self-compassion scale measured a number of individual dimensions of…