Mindfulness-based interventions generally include compassion implicitly, but it remains to be seen whether implicit compassion training can be effective, or if it needs to be trained explicitly through specific meditations and relational practices. This research study had two specific goals. The first was to expand the literature on the effects of compassion-based interventions (CBIs) by assessing the impact of the Compassion Cultivation Training program (CCT) on anxiety, depression, stress, life satisfaction, happiness, mindfulness, empathy, self-compassion, compassion for others, and identification with all humanity, through a wait-list randomized controlled trial in a community sample (study 1). Secondly, this research addressed the following question: Does a CBI—an explicit compassion training—have a differential impact in terms of empathy, compassion, and identification with all humanity, compared to a mindfulness-based intervention (mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)) in which compassion is taught implicitly? (study 2). Groups were assessed at baseline, post-intervention, and 2-month follow-up, and analyses involved repeated-measures of analysis of variance (ANOVA) for group contrasts. Compared to the wait-list group, CCT participants showed significant improvements in psychological well-being (decreased depression and stress, increases in life satisfaction, happiness, mindfulness, and self-compassion) and compassion skills. Both MBSR and CCT were effective in generally enhancing psychological well-being and increasing mindfulness and compassion, but CCT had a greater impact on developing compassionate skills, especially empathic concern and identification with all humanity. This research highlights the potential for a complementary (rather than competitive) relationship between mindfulness- and compassion-based interventions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Araya, C., Moncada, L., Fauré, J., Mera, L., Musa, G., Cerda, J., ... Brito, G. (2017). Adaptation and validation of the self-compassion scale in a Chilean context. Revista Latinoamericana de psicologia positiva, 3.
Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: a conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143.
Baer, R. A., Lykins, E. L., & Peters, J. R. (2012). Mindfulness and self-compassion as predictors of psychological wellbeing in long-term meditators and matched non-meditators. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3), 230–238. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2012.674548
Beck, A. T., & Steer, R. A. (1993). BAI. Beck anxiety inventory manual. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). BDI−II. Beck depression inventory—second edition manual. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation.
Beddoe, A. E., & Murphy, S. O. (2004). Does mindfulness decrease stress and foster empathy among nursing students? The Journal of Nursing Education, 43(7), 305–312.
Bernhardt, B. C., & Singer, T. (2012). The neural basis of empathy. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 35, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-neuro-062111-150536
Birnie, K., Speca, M., & Carlson, L. E. (2010). Exploring self-compassion and empathy in the context of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Stress and Health, 26(5), 359–371.
Bodhi, B. (2001). The connected discourses of the Buddha: a new translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Bodhi, B. (2012). The numerical discourses of the Buddha: a translation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Botella, J., & Sánchez-Meca, J. (2015). Meta-análisis en Ciencias Sociales y de la Salud [meta-analysis in social and health sciences]. Madrid: Síntesis.
Brito, G. (2014). Cultivating healthy minds and open hearts: a mixed-method controlled study on the psychological and relational effects of compassion cultivation training in Chile (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest. (UMI: 3631418).
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848.
Campos, D., Cebolla, A., Quero, S., Bretón-López, J., Botella, C., Soler, J., … Baños, R. M. (2016). Meditation and happiness: mindfulness and self-compassion may mediate the meditation–happiness relationship. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 80–85.
Cebolla, A., Campos, D., Galiana, L., Oliver, A., Tomás, J. M., Feliu-Soler, A., … Baños, R. M. (2017). Exploring relations among mindfulness facets and various meditation practices: do they work in different ways? Consciousness and Cognition, 49, 172–180.
Chödrön, P. (1991). The wisdom of no escape: and the path of loving-kindness. Boston: Shambhala.
Christopher, M., & Gilbert, B. (2010). Incremental validity of components of mindfulness in the prediction of satisfaction with life and depression. Current Psychology, 29, 10–23.
Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385–396. https://doi.org/10.2307/2136404
Cosley, B. J., McCoy, S. K., Saslow, L. R., & Epel, E. S. (2010). Is compassion for others stress buffering? Consequences of compassion and social support for physiological reactivity to stress. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46(5), 816–823.
Cova, F., Rincón, P., & Melipillán, R. (2009). Reflexión, rumiación negativa y desarrollo de sintomatología depresiva en adolescentes de sexo femenino. Terapia Psicológica, 27(2), 155–160.
Dahl, C. J., Lutz, A., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). Reconstructing and deconstructing the self: cognitive mechanisms in meditation practice. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(9), 515–523.
Dambrun, M., & Ricard, M. (2011). Self-centeredness and selflessness: a theory of self-based psychological functioning and its consequences for happiness. Review of General Psychology, 15(2), 138–157.
Davis, M. H. (1980). A multidimensional approach to individual differences in empathy. Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 10(85), 1–17.
De Waal, F. B. M. (2008). Putting the altruism back into altruism: the evolution of empathy. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 279–300.
Diener, E., Emmons, R., Larsen, R., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.
Eberth, J., & Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: a meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 3(3), 174–189.
Feliu-Soler, A., Pascual, J. C., Elices, M., Martín-Blanco, A., Carmona, C., Cebolla, A., … Soler, J. (2017). Fostering self-compassion and loving-kindness in patients with borderline personality disorder: a randomized pilot study. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 24(1), 278–286.
Fernández, A. M., Dufey, M., & Kramp, U. (2011). Testing the psychometric properties of the interpersonal reactivity index (IRI) in Chile. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 27(3), 179–185.
Frankl, V. (1967). Logotherapy and existentialism. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 4, 138–142.
Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062.
Galantino, M., Baime, M., Maguire, M., Szapary, P. O., & Farrar, J. T. (2005). Association of psychological and physiological measures of stress in health-care professionals during an 8-week mindfulness meditation program: mindfulness in practice. Stress and Health, 21(4), 255–261.
García-Campayo, J., Navarro-Gil, M., & Demarzo, M. (2016). Attachment-based compassion therapy. Mindfulness & Compassion, 2(1), 68–74.
Germer, C. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. New York: Guilford Press.
Gilbert, P. (2005). Compassion: Conceptualizations, research and use in psychotherapy. London: Routledge.
Gilbert, P. (2009). Introducing compassion-focused therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 15(3), 199–208.
Gilbert, P., & Choden. (2013). Mindful compassion. London: Robinson.
Gilbert, P., & Procter, S. (2006). Compassionate mind training for people with high shame and self-criticism: overview and pilot study of a group therapy approach. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 13, 353–379.
Gilbert, P., McEwan, K., Matos, M., & Rivis, A. (2011). Fears of compassion: development of three self-report measures. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 84(3), 239–255.
Goetz, J. L., Keltner, D., & Simon-Thomas, E. (2010). Compassion: an evolutionary analysis and empirical review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(3), 351–374.
Graham, J. R., Naglieri, J. A., & Weiner, I. B. (2003). Handbook of psychology: Volume 10. New York, NY: Wiley.
Gu, J., Cavanagh, K., Baer, R., Strauss, C., Toney, L., & Weich, S. (2017). An empirical examination of the factor structure of compassion. PLoS One, 12(2), e0172471.
Haverkamp, N., & Beauducel, A. (2017). Violation of the sphericity assumption and its effect on type-I error rates in repeated measures ANOVA and multi-level linear models (MLM). Frontiers in Psychology, 8.
Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: an experiential approach to behavior change. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Hofmann, S. G., Sawyer, A. T., Witt, A. A., & Oh, D. (2010). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: a meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78, 169–183.
Hofmann, S., Grossman, P., & Hinton, D. (2011). Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions. Clinical Psychology Review, 31(7), 1126–1132.
Hollis-Walker, L., & Colosimo, K. (2011). Mindfulness, self-compassion, and happiness in non-meditators: a theoretical and empirical examination. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(2), 222–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.09.033
Huta, V., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Pursuing pleasure or virtue: the differential and overlapping well-being benefits of hedonic and eudaimonic motives. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(6), 735–762.
Jazaieri, H., Jinpa, G. T., McGonigal, K., Rosenberg, E. L., Finkelstein, J., Simon-Thomas, E., et al. (2013). Enhancing compassion: a randomized controlled trial of a compassion cultivation training program. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1113–1126.
Jazaieri, H., McGonigal, K., Jinpa, T., Doty, J. R., Gross, J. J., & Goldin, P. R. (2014). A randomized controlled trial of compassion cultivation training: effects on mindfulness, affect, and emotion regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 38(1), 23–35.
Jinpa, T. (2006). Mind training: the great collection. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications in association with the Institute of Tibetan Classics.
Jinpa, T. (2010). Compassion cultivation training (CCT): instructor’s manual. Unpublished manuscript, Stanford, CA.
Jinpa, T. (2011). Essential mind training: Tibetan wisdom for daily life. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2008). Preface. In F. Didonna (Ed.), Clinical handbook of mindfulness. New York: Springer.
Kuyken, W., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., Taylor, R. S., Byford, S., … Dalgleish, T. (2010). How does mindfulness-based cognitive therapy work? Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(11), 1105–1112.
Dalai Lama. (1995). The power of compassion: a collection of lectures by his holiness the XIV Dalai Lama (trans: Geshe Thupten Jinpa). London, England: Thorsons.
Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Lutz, A., Greischar, L. L., Perlman, D. M., & Davidson, R. J. (2009). BOLD signal in insula is differentially related to cardiac function during compassion meditation in experts vs. novices. NeuroImage, 47(3), 1038–1046.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. S. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137–155.
Mayhew, S., & Gilbert, P. (2008). Compassionate mind training with people who hear malevolent voices: a case series report. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 15, 113–136.
McFarland, S., Webb, M., & Brown, D. (2012). All humanity is my ingroup: a measure and studies of identification with all humanity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103(5), 830–853.
Melipillán, R., Cova, F., Rincón, P., & Valdivia, M. (2008). Propiedades psicométricas del Inventario de Depresión de Beck-II en adolescentes Chilenos. Terapia Psicológica, 26(1), 59–69.
Neff, K. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250.
Neff, K. (2012). The science of self-compassion. In C. Germer & R. Siegel (Eds.), Compassion and wisdom in psychotherapy (pp. 79–92). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Neff, K. D., & Dahm, K. A. (2015). Self-compassion: what it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. In K. W. Brown, J. D. Creswell, & R. M. Ryan (Eds.), Handbook of mindfulness and self-regulation (pp. 121–137). New York, NY: Springer New York.
Neff, K. D., & Germer, C. K. (2013). A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(1), 28–44. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.21923
Pace, T., Negi, L., Adame, D., Cole, S., Sivilli, T., Brown, T., & Issa, M. (2009). Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 34(1), 87–98.
Pace, T. W. W., Negi, L. T., Sivilli, T. I., Issa, M. J., Cole, S. P., Adame, D. D., & Raison, C. L. (2010). Innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress do not predict subsequent compassion meditation practice time. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 35(2), 310–315.
Parsons, C. E., Crane, C., Parsons, L. J., Fjorback, L. O., & Kuyken, W. (2017). Home practice in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of participants’ mindfulness practice and its association with outcomes. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 95, 29–41.
Pence, G. E. (1983). Can compassion be taught? Journal of Medical Ethics, 9(4), 189–191.
Pommier, E. A. (2011). The compassion scale. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, 72, 1174.
Salzberg, S. (1995). Loving kindness: the revolutionary art of happiness. Boston, MA: Shambhala.
Sanz, J., & Navarro, M. E. (2003). Propiedades psicométricas de una versión española del Inventario de Ansiedad de Beck (BAI) en estudiantes universitarios. Ansiedad y Estrés, 91, 59–84.
Schmider, E., Ziegler, M., Danay, E., Beyer, L., & Bühner, M. (2010). Is it really robust? Methodology, 6(4), 147–151.
Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: a new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford.
Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373–386.
Soler, J., Tejedor, R., Feliu-Soler, A., Pascual, J. C., Cebolla, A., Soriano, J., ... Perez, V. (2012). Psychometric proprieties of Spanish version of Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS). Actas Españolas de Psiquiatría, 40(1), 19–26.
Steffen, P. R., & Masters, K. S. (2005). Does compassion mediate the intrinsic religion-health relationship? Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 30(3), 217–224.
Strauss, C., Lever Taylor, B., Gu, J., Kuyken, W., Baer, R., Jones, F., & Cavanagh, K. (2016). What is compassion and how can we measure it? A review of definitions and measures. Clinical Psychology Review, 47, 15–27.
Tapia, D., Cruz, C., Gallardo, I., & Dasso, M. (2007). Adaptación de la Escala de Percepción Global de Estrés (EPGE) en estudiantes adultos de escasos recursos en Santiago, Chile. Revista de Administracion Sanitaria, 1(2), 109–119.
Thabane, L., Mbuagbaw, L., Zhang, S., Samaan, Z., Marcucci, M., Ye, C., … Goldsmith, C. H. (2013). A tutorial on sensitivity analyses in clinical trials: the what, why, when and how. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 13, 92. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2288-13-92.
van den Brink, E., & Koster, F. (2015). Mindfulness-based compassionate living: a new training programme to deepen mindfulness with heartfulness. New York: Routledge.
Vera-Villarroel, P., Celis-Atenas, K., & Córdova-Rubio, N. (2011). Evaluación de la felicidad: Análisis psicométrico de la Escala de Felicidad Subjetiva en población chilena. Terapia Psicológica, 29, 127–133.
Vera-Villarroel, P., Urzúa, A., Pavez, P., Celis-Atenas, K., & Silva, J. (2012). Evaluation of subjective well-being: analysis of the satisfaction with life scale in Chilean population. Universitas Psychologica, 11(3), 719–727.
Wear, D., & Zarconi, J. (2008). Can compassion be taught? Let’s ask our students. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 23(7), 948–953.
Williams, J. M. G., Penman, D. (2012). Mindfulness: an eight-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world. Emmaus, (PA): Rodale books.
Jenny Wade and Ricardo Pulido made contributions to the study design. Ricardo Pulido and Susana Tolosa delivered MBSR programs at Universidad Alberto Hurtado. CIBERobn is an initiative of ISCIII.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
About this article
Cite this article
Brito-Pons, G., Campos, D. & Cebolla, A. Implicit or Explicit Compassion? Effects of Compassion Cultivation Training and Comparison with Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. Mindfulness 9, 1494–1508 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0898-z