How One Experiences and Embodies Compassionate Mind Training Influences Its Effectiveness

Abstract

This paper explores indicators of practice quality of a brief compassion mind training (CMT) intervention and their impact on the development of an inner sense of one’s compassionate self (CS) and a range of self-report measures. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: compassionate mind training (CMT; n = 77) and wait-list control. Participants in the CMT condition practiced a range of CMT practices during 2 weeks. Each week, participants completed a feedback questionnaire, measuring practice frequency, helpfulness and embodiment of the practices in everyday life. Self-report measures of compassion, positive affect, shame, self-criticism, fears of compassion and psychopathological symptoms were also completed at pre and post. Practice frequency was associated with the frequency and easiness of embodiment of the CS. Perceived helpfulness of the practices was related to greater embodiment of the CS and to increases in compassion, reassured self, relaxed and safe affect and decreases in self-criticism. The embodiment variables of the CS were associated with higher compassion for the self, for others and from others and with improvements in reassured self, safe affect and compassionate goals. Embodiment of the CS and perceived helpfulness of the practices predicted compassion for the self and experience of compassion from others at post-intervention. Perceiving compassion cultivation practices as helpful and being able to embody the CS in everyday life is key to foster self-compassion and the experience of receiving compassion from others, as well as to promote feelings of safeness, contentment and calmness.

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Funding

This study was funded by the first author (MM) post-doctoral grant (SFRH/BPD/84185/2012), sponsored by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). This work was also part funded by the Compassionate Mind Foundation charity (www.compassionatemind.co.uk).

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MM designed and executed the study, performed the data analyses and wrote the paper. JD assisted with the design and implementation of the study, data analyses and writing of the paper. CD assisted with the design and implementation of the study, data analyses and writing of the paper. PG collaborated with the design of the study, discussion of results and writing of the paper. JPG collaborated with the design the study, data analyses and discussion of results.

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Correspondence to Marcela Matos.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Coimbra, and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Matos, M., Duarte, J., Duarte, C. et al. How One Experiences and Embodies Compassionate Mind Training Influences Its Effectiveness. Mindfulness 9, 1224–1235 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0864-1

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Keywords

  • Compassion
  • Practice quality
  • Practice frequency
  • Practice helpfulness
  • Embodiment
  • Compassion mind training