Compassion-focused therapy as guided self-help for enhancing public mental health: A randomized controlled trial

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2018 Feb;86(2):101-115. doi: 10.1037/ccp0000268. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Objective: Despite promising results for compassion-focused therapy (CFT) as self-help, larger-scale trials including long-term follow-up data are needed to establish its effectiveness in the context of public mental health. Empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness in improving well-being is lacking. In a randomized controlled trial, the effects of CFT as guided self-help on well-being were evaluated.

Method: Adults (mean age = 52.87, SD = 9.99, 74.8% female) with low to moderate levels of well-being were recruited in the Dutch population and randomized to CFT (n = 120) or a waitlist control group (n = 122). Participants completed the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form (well-being), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (depression and anxiety), Perceived Stress Scale (stress), Self-Compassion Scale-Short Form (self-compassion), Forms of Self-Criticizing/Attacking and Reassurance Scale (self-criticism and self-reassurance), Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (positive/negative affect), and Gratitude questionnaire (gratitude) at baseline, postintervention (3 months), 3- and 9-month follow-up.

Results: Compared with the waitlist control group, the CFT group showed superior improvement on well-being at postintervention, d = .51, 95% CI [.25, .77], p < .001, and 3-month follow-up, d = .39, 95% CI [.13, .65], p < .001. No significant moderators were found. On all secondary outcome measures but positive affect, the intervention group showed significantly greater improvements up to 3-month follow-up. At 9-month follow-up, improvements on all measures were retained or amplified among CFT participants.

Conclusions: CFT as guided self-help shows promise as a public mental health strategy for enhancing well-being and reducing psychological distress. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Public Health*
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR5413