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Clin Psychol Psychother. 2020 Jan 27. doi: 10.1002/cpp.2429. [Epub ahead of print]

Self-compassion, trauma, and posttraumatic stress disorder: A systematic review.

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Department of Clinical Psychology, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.


Self-compassion has emerged as an important construct in the mental health literature. Although conceptual links between self-compassion and trauma are apparent, a review has not been completed to examine whether this association is supported by empirical research findings. To systematically summarize knowledge on the association between trauma and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and self-compassion. Searches were conducted in PsycINFO, PubMed, Ovid Medline, Web of Science, Embase, and PILOTS databases, and papers reporting a direct analysis on the relationship between these constructs were identified. The search yielded 35 studies meeting inclusion criteria. Despite considerable heterogeneity in study design, sample, measurement, and trauma type, there was consistent evidence to suggest that increased self-compassion is associated with less PTSD symptomatology and some evidence to suggest that reduced fear of self-compassion is associated with less PTSD symptomatology. There was tentative evidence to suggest that interventions based, in part or whole, on a self-compassion model potentially reduce PTSD symptoms. Although findings are positive for the association between increased self-compassion and reduced PTSD symptoms, the precise mechanism of these protective effects is unknown. Prospective and longitudinal studies would be beneficial in clarifying this. The review also highlighted the variability in what is and should be referred to as trauma exposure, indicating the need for further research to clarify the concept.


fear of self-compassion; posttraumatic stress disorder; review; self-compassion; trauma


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