, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 301-313
Date: 17 Jul 2008

Soothing Oneself and Resisting Self-Attacks: The Treatment of Two Intrapersonal Deficits in Depression Vulnerability

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Self-critical individuals are more likely to become and remain depressed (Blatt, Experiences of depression: Theoretical, research and clinical perspectives, American Psychological Association Press, Washington, DC, 2004). This vulnerability to depression may reflect the association of trait self-criticism with difficulties self-soothing and resisting self-attacks. The current study tested the impact of two self-help interventions designed to reduce depression by improving these two intrapersonal deficits. The first was designed to foster compassionate self-relating whereas the second was designed to foster resilient self-relating. Seventy-five distressed acne sufferers were assigned to one of three conditions: a self-soothing intervention, an attack-resisting intervention, or a control condition. The interventions consisted of daily imagery-based self-talk exercises inspired by Gilbert’s (Genes on the couch: Explorations in evolutionary psychotherapy, Brenner-Routledge, Hove, 2000) social mentatlities theory and compassionate mind training (Gilbert and Irons, Compassion: Conceptualisations, research and use in psychotherapy, Brunner-Routledge, London, 2005). In two weeks, the self-soothing intervention lowered shame and skin complaints. The attack-resisting intervention lowered depression, shame, and skin complaints, and was especially effective at lowering depression for self-critics. Implications for the treatment of self-criticism and depression are discussed.