A Self-Compassion Group Intervention for Patients Living With Chronic Medical Illness: Treatment Development and Feasibility Study

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2019 Sep 26;21(5):19m02470. doi: 10.4088/PCC.19m02470.


Background: Self-compassion is a psychological skill associated with good mental health and adjustment to illness in the second half of life, but to date, few self-compassion-based interventions have been developed specifically for use in midlife and older adult cohorts. The purpose of this study was to develop and test the feasibility of a 4-week group self-compassion-based intervention designed to improve self-report and biological markers of well-being in midlife and older adult patients living with chronic illness.

Methods: Treatment development drew on existing literature, expert input, and qualitative interview data. Eight patients in outpatient treatment for a chronic illness were recruited from a rehabilitation hospital (during September and October 2017 and again during February and March 2018) to test feasibility. Participants attended a 1-hour group self-compassion-based intervention once per week for 4 weeks. Feasibility was assessed on 6 domains. Measures of well-being and heart rate variability (HRV), an index of nervous system functioning, were also collected.

Results: Recruitment was feasible and occurred within the expected time frame. Attendance at sessions was high (84.4%), with no dropouts. Participants found that the intervention was acceptable, rating sessions as enjoyable (6.8/7) and relevant to daily life (6.6/7). There were no adverse events. Secondary analysis revealed pre-post improvements for some well-being outcomes, such as a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (Hedges' g = -1.18, 95% CI, -0.18 to -2.16).

Conclusions: A 4-session group self-compassion-based intervention was found to be feasible and acceptable to midlife and older adult patients in treatment for a chronic illness. A larger, randomized pilot trial is needed to explore the efficacy of this intervention.

Trial registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) identifier: ACTRN12619000709145​.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Empathy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods*
  • Self Concept*