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Clin Psychol Psychother. 2012 Nov-Dec;19(6):496-507. doi: 10.1002/cpp.762. Epub 2011 Jun 28.

A pilot investigation of emotion-focused two-chair dialogue intervention for self-criticism.

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School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel.


Self-criticism plays a key role in many psychological disorders and predicts poor outcome in psychotherapy. Yet, psychotherapy research directly targeting self-critical processes is limited. In this pilot study, we examined the efficacy of an emotion-focused intervention, the two-chair dialogue task, on self-criticism, self-compassion and the ability to self-reassure in times of stress, as well as on depressive and anxiety symptoms among nine self-critical clients. Results showed that the intervention was associated with significant increases in self-compassion and self-reassuring, and significant reductions in self-criticism, depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms. Effect sizes were medium to large, with most clients exhibiting low and non-clinical levels of symptomatology at the end of therapy, and maintaining gains over a 6-month follow-up period. Although preliminary, these finding suggest that emotion-focused chair work might be a promising intervention addressing self-criticism.


Self-criticism is an important process in a variety of clinical disorders and predicts poor outcome in brief therapy for depression. Yet, little is known about how self-criticism can be effectively addressed in psychological treatment. Practitioners can benefit from increasing their awareness of self-critical processes in their clinical work, and from directly working with emotions in addressing self-criticisim. Emotion-focused two-chair dialogue intervention can be effective in reducing self-criticism, increasing self-compassion, and decreasing depressive and anxiety symptoms, and these improvements are largely maintained six months after therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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