Effects of Attachment-Based Compassion Therapy (ABCT) on Self-compassion and Attachment Style in Healthy People


Attachment-based compassion therapy (ABCT) is a new protocol of compassion based on attachment theory. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of this protocol for improving self-compassion in a healthy population and determine whether improvements in self-compassion mediate changes towards a more secure attachment style. The study consisted of a non-randomized controlled trial with an intervention group (ABCT) and a waiting list control group. In addition to pre- and post-intervention assessments, a 6-month follow-up assessment was included. Participants were healthy adults attending ABCT courses who self-rated as not having any psychological disorders and self-reported as not receiving any form of psychiatric treatment. Compared to the control condition, ABCT was significantly more effective for improving self-compassion as evidenced by changes on all subscales on the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS), except isolation. Effect sizes were in the moderate to large range and correlated with the number of sessions received. ABCT also led to improvements across all subscales of the Five Facets of Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), except describing. ABCT decreased psychological disturbance assessed using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) and decreased experiential avoidance assessed using the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire (AAQ-II). Furthermore, ABCT led to significant reductions in levels of anxiety and avoidance. Secure attachment style significantly increased in the ABCT group and was mediated by changes in self-compassion. In summary, ABCT may be an effective intervention for improving self-compassion and attachment style in healthy adults in the general populations.

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Author information

MNG designed and executed the study and assisted with the writing of the manuscript. YLH designed and assisted with the writing of the manuscript. MMA executed the study and collaborated in the editing of the manuscript. WVG collaborated in the writing of the final manuscript. ES collaborated in the writing of the final manuscript. JMM developed the data analyses and assisted with the writing of the results and the manuscript. JGC designed and executed the study and collaborated in the writing of the final manuscript.

Correspondence to Jesus Montero-Marin.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The study was approved by the Aragon Ethical Committee (Spain). All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (Aragon Ethical Committee), and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Navarro-Gil, M., Lopez-del-Hoyo, Y., Modrego-Alarcón, M. et al. Effects of Attachment-Based Compassion Therapy (ABCT) on Self-compassion and Attachment Style in Healthy People. Mindfulness 11, 51–62 (2020) doi:10.1007/s12671-018-0896-1

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  • Compassion
  • Self-compassion
  • Attachment
  • Attachment-based compassion therapy
  • ABCT
  • Mindfulness