Loving-kindness meditation for posttraumatic stress disorder: a pilot study

J Trauma Stress. 2013 Aug;26(4):426-34. doi: 10.1002/jts.21832. Epub 2013 Jul 25.


Loving-kindness meditation is a practice designed to enhance feelings of kindness and compassion for self and others. Loving-kindness meditation involves repetition of phrases of positive intention for self and others. We undertook an open pilot trial of loving-kindness meditation for veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Measures of PTSD, depression, self-compassion, and mindfulness were obtained at baseline, after a 12-week loving-kindness meditation course, and 3 months later. Effect sizes were calculated from baseline to each follow-up point, and self-compassion was assessed as a mediator. Attendance was high; 74% attended 9-12 classes. Self-compassion increased with large effect sizes and mindfulness increased with medium to large effect sizes. A large effect size was found for PTSD symptoms at 3-month follow-up (d = -0.89), and a medium effect size was found for depression at 3-month follow-up (d = -0.49). There was evidence of mediation of reductions in PTSD symptoms and depression by enhanced self-compassion. Overall, loving-kindness meditation appeared safe and acceptable and was associated with reduced symptoms of PTSD and depression. Additional study of loving-kindness meditation for PTSD is warranted to determine whether the changes seen are due to the loving-kindness meditation intervention versus other influences, including concurrent receipt of other treatments.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / therapy
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Veterans / psychology*