A wait-list randomized controlled trial of loving-kindness meditation programme for self-criticism

Clin Psychol Psychother. 2015 Jul-Aug;22(4):346-56. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1893. Epub 2014 Mar 16.


Self-criticism is a vulnerability risk factor for a number of psychological disorders, and it predicts poor response to psychological and pharmacological treatments. In the current study, we evaluated the efficacy of a loving-kindness meditation (LKM) programme designed to increase self-compassion in a sample of self-critical individuals. Thirty-eight individuals with high scores on the self-critical perfectionism subscale of the Dysfunctional Attitude Scale were randomized to an LKM condition (n = 19) or a wait-list (WL) condition (n = 19). Measures of self-criticism, self-compassion and psychological distress were administered before and immediately following the intervention (LKM or WL). WL participants received the intervention immediately after the waiting period. Both groups were assessed 3 months post-intervention. Intent-to-treat (n = 38) and per-protocol analyses (n = 32) showed significant reductions in self-criticism and depressive symptoms as well as significant increases in self-compassion and positive emotions in the LKM condition compared with the WL condition. A follow-up per-protocol analysis in both groups together (n = 20) showed that these gains were maintained 3 months after the intervention. These preliminary results suggest that LKM may be efficacious in alleviating self-criticism, increasing self-compassion and improving depressive symptoms among self-critical individuals.

Key practitioner message: Self-criticism plays a major role in many psychological disorders and predicts poor response to brief psychological and pharmacological treatments for depression. The current study shows that loving-kindness meditation, designed to foster self-compassion, is efficacious in helping self-critical individuals become less self-critical and more self-compassionate. The study also suggests that practising loving-kindness may reduce depressive symptoms and increase positive emotions.

Keywords: loving-kindness meditation; randomized clinical trial; self-compassion; self-criticism.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Love*
  • Male
  • Meditation / methods*
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Program Evaluation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Waiting Lists*