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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2018 Feb;86(2):101-115. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000268. Epub 2017 Dec 21.

Compassion-focused therapy as guided self-help for enhancing public mental health: A randomized controlled trial.

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Centre for eHealth and Well-Being Research, Department of Psychology, Health and Technology, University of Twente.
Center of Research on Psychological and Somatic disorders (CoRPS), Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University.
Centre for eHealth and Well-being Research, Department of Psychology, Health and Technology, University of Twente.
Centre for eHealth and Well- Being Research, Department of Psychology, Health and Technology, University of Twente.



Despite promising results for compassion-focused therapy (CFT) as self-help, larger-scale trials including long-term follow-up data are needed to establish its effectiveness in the context of public mental health. Empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness in improving well-being is lacking. In a randomized controlled trial, the effects of CFT as guided self-help on well-being were evaluated.


Adults (mean age = 52.87, SD = 9.99, 74.8% female) with low to moderate levels of well-being were recruited in the Dutch population and randomized to CFT (n = 120) or a waitlist control group (n = 122). Participants completed the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (well-being), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (depression and anxiety), Perceived Stress Scale (stress), Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form (self-compassion), Forms of Self-Criticizing/Attacking and Reassurance Scale (self-criticism and self-reassurance), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (positive/negative affect), and Gratitude questionnaire (gratitude) at baseline, postintervention (3 months), 3- and 9-month follow-up.


Compared with the waitlist control group, the CFT group showed superior improvement on well-being at postintervention, d = .51, 95% CI [.25, .77], p < .001, and 3-month follow-up, d = .39, 95% CI [.13, .65], p < .001. No significant moderators were found. On all secondary outcome measures but positive affect, the intervention group showed significantly greater improvements up to 3-month follow-up. At 9-month follow-up, improvements on all measures were retained or amplified among CFT participants.


CFT as guided self-help shows promise as a public mental health strategy for enhancing well-being and reducing psychological distress. (PsycINFO Database Record


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