Compassion interventions: The programmes, the evidence, and implications for research and practice

Psychol Psychother. 2017 Sep;90(3):432-455. doi: 10.1111/papt.12104. Epub 2016 Sep 24.


Purpose: Over the last 10-15 years, there has been a substantive increase in compassion-based interventions aiming to improve psychological functioning and well-being.

Methods: This study provides an overview and synthesis of the currently available compassion-based interventions. What do these programmes looks like, what are their aims, and what is the state of evidence underpinning each of them?

Results: This overview has found at least eight different compassion-based interventions (e.g., Compassion-Focused Therapy, Mindful Self-Compassion, Cultivating Compassion Training, Cognitively Based Compassion Training), with six having been evaluated in randomized controlled trials, and with a recent meta-analysis finding that compassion-based interventions produce moderate effect sizes for suffering and improved life satisfaction.

Conclusions: Although further research is warranted, the current state of evidence highlights the potential benefits of compassion-based interventions on a range of outcomes that clinicians can use in clinical practice with clients.

Practitioner points: There are eight established compassion intervention programmes with six having RCT evidence. The most evaluated intervention to date is compassion-focused therapy. Further RCTs are needed in clinical populations for all compassion interventions. Ten recommendations are provided to improve the evidence-base of compassion interventions.

Keywords: compassion; intervention; programme; review; self-compassion.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Psychotherapy / methods*