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Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2019 Sep 26;21(5). pii: 19m02470. doi: 10.4088/PCC.19m02470.

A Self-Compassion Group Intervention for Patients Living With Chronic Medical Illness: Treatment Development and Feasibility Study.

Author information

Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, Redmond Barry Bldg, University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia.
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Healthscope Hospitals, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Melbourne School of Engineering, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
School of Information Technology, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia.



Self-compassion is a psychological skill associated with good mental health and adjustment to illness in the second half of life, but to date, few self-compassion-based interventions have been developed specifically for use in midlife and older adult cohorts. The purpose of this study was to develop and test the feasibility of a 4-week group self-compassion-based intervention designed to improve self-report and biological markers of well-being in midlife and older adult patients living with chronic illness.


Treatment development drew on existing literature, expert input, and qualitative interview data. Eight patients in outpatient treatment for a chronic illness were recruited from a rehabilitation hospital (during September and October 2017 and again during February and March 2018) to test feasibility. Participants attended a 1-hour group self-compassion-based intervention once per week for 4 weeks. Feasibility was assessed on 6 domains. Measures of well-being and heart rate variability (HRV), an index of nervous system functioning, were also collected.


Recruitment was feasible and occurred within the expected time frame. Attendance at sessions was high (84.4%), with no dropouts. Participants found that the intervention was acceptable, rating sessions as enjoyable (6.8/7) and relevant to daily life (6.6/7). There were no adverse events. Secondary analysis revealed pre-post improvements for some well-being outcomes, such as a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (Hedges' g = -1.18, 95% CI, -0.18 to -2.16).


A 4-session group self-compassion-based intervention was found to be feasible and acceptable to midlife and older adult patients in treatment for a chronic illness. A larger, randomized pilot trial is needed to explore the efficacy of this intervention.

Trial Registration:

Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) identifier: ACTRN12619000709145​.

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