Georgina Robinson, PhD.

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is an evidence-based program for adults, developed by two psychologists, Dr. Chris Germer and Dr. Kristen Neff (Germer and Neff, 2019). Dr. Neff is a research educational psychologist, and a mother of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In her teaching, Dr. Neff frequently refers to how she has personally benefited from applying mindful self compassion to help her cope with difficult times as a parent and in navigating all that is involved in supporting a child with special needs. Dr. Germer is a clinical psychologist with an interest in the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy. Dr. Germer’s work in psychotherapy has been informed by integrating self-compassion practices to benefit his clients. Their partnership combines their clinical and research perspectives to create a robust therapeutic program informed by research.
MSC Works for Anyone
Since the inception of the original MSC program there have been several adaptations including programs targeting specific groups such as teens, educators, parents, and health care workers. MSC can be learned by anyone of any age, and the program adaptations adjust for the developmental level or increase contextual relevance. Across adaptations, research consistently finds benefits.
Well Established Mindfulness Based Interventions
Research on the benefits of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) have been growing exponentially for the past 10-15 years. Well established group-based mindfulness intervention programs, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction [MBSR] (Kabat-Zin, 2013), and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy [MBCT] (Seigel, Williams & Teasdale, 2013) have a range of empirically verified outcomes. Common outcomes include reductions in stress, worry, anxiety, depression, negative affect, pain perception, reduced rumination, reduced emotional reactivity and impulsivity, along with increased abilities to shift focus (i.e., cognitive flexibility), increased positive affect, ability to focus (i.e., improved executive functions), increased empathy, along with improved physical well being and quality of life (e.g., Davis & Hayes, 2011).
MSC Adds a Compassion Focus

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) is a relatively new therapeutic mindfulness-based intervention combining the researched benefits of both mindfulness and self-compassion. MSC teaches mindfulness to help us improve our attention and become more aware and accepting of our experience, while the self-compassion component teaches us to consider what we need, activate our soothing system, and build resilience to carry on when faced with difficulties.

The Influence of Compassion focused Therapy (CFT)

MSC draws from the work of Compassion Focused Therapy [CFT] (e.g., Gilbert 2009). Research and clinical work conducted by Paul Gilbert and colleagues have studied the neurophysiology involved when activating compassion and self-soothing mechanisms. Learning skills of noticing (mindfulness) when we are struggling (stress system) and using self-compassion rather than self-criticism can be a powerful support to self-regulation, helping to de-activate the threat system which comes online when faced with an actual or perceived threat (Gilbert, 2014).

Established Benefits of MSC

Kristen Neff is a leading researcher in mindful self-compassion and interested readers may refer to her website, to access a plethora of studies. Key findings indicate that participation in the MSC program, similar to other therapeutic mindfulness-based intervention group programs, decreases negative affect and stress, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and the associated destructive self-criticism, while enhancing mindfulness, positive emotions and both psychological and physical well-being (e.g., Neff & Germer, 2012; 2018). Given the specific focus of MSC, research confirms that along with the increase in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions and stress, participation in the program increases compassion towards self and others, social connectedness, and life satisfaction. Consistent with most mindfulness-based interventions, the degree of benefit is associated with the amount of time spent practicing MSC.

Germer, C. D. & Neff, K. D. (2019). Teaching the mindful self compassion program: A guide for professionals. New York: The Guildford Press.

Gilbert, P. (2014). The origins and nature of compassion focused therapy. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 53, 6–41.

Gilbert, P. (2009).Introducing compassion focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15, 199-208.

Davis, D. M. & Hayes, J. A. (2011). What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy related research. Psychotherapy, Vol. 48, No. 2, 198-208

Neff, K. D. & Germer, C. D. (2012). A pilot study and randomized control trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol 00(00), 1-17.

Neff, K. D. & Germer, C. D. (2018). The mindful self compassion workbook. New York: The Guilford Press.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Bantam Books.

Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2013). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression (2nd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.

Georgina Robinson
Author: Georgina Robinson

Georgina has a doctoral degree in educational and counselling psychology from the University of British Columbia. She has over 20 years of clinical experience supporting both adults and children to cope with life stressors including anxiety and depression. She has extensive experience working with professionals and parents who support children and adolescents with learning or behavioral challenges. Georgina is passionate about supporting caregivers, those who provide support to others and are at risk for compassion fatigue.