Self-compassion in mindfulness-based stress reduction: An examination of prediction and mediation of intervention effects

Stress Health. 2020 Feb;36(1):88-96. doi: 10.1002/smi.2917. Epub 2019 Dec 24.


The current investigation sought to clarify mechanisms of treatment effects in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Self-compassion and mindful awareness were assessed first as dispositional influences and then as mediators of outcome in unique models. One hundred thirty individuals participating in the 8-week MBSR intervention were recruited (73.08% female, mean age = 46.97, SD = 14.07). Measures of psychosocial well-being (Brief Stress Inventory [BSI], Perceived Stress Scale-10 [PSS]), mindful awareness (Mindful Awareness and Attention Scale [MAAS]), and self-compassion (Self-Compassion Scale [SCS]) were collected at preintervention and postintervention. Regression was conducted to examine the influence of baseline MAAS and SCS on change in PSS and BSI scores. Serial multiple mediator models were conducted separately with pre/postintervention BSI and PSS values as criterion, and preintervention/postintervention MAAS and SCS values as mediators. Higher levels of baseline self-compassion were predictive of greater reductions in PSS scores (β = 0.16). Reductions in BSI scores were serially mediated by change in self-compassion both directly (MBSR → ΔSCS → ΔBSI β = 0.06) and indirectly through mindful awareness (MBSR → ΔMAAS → ΔSCS → ΔBSI β = 0.09). Results provide support for the role of self-compassion as both a predictor of treatment effect and a process through which MBSR operates. Mechanisms underlying MBSR effects appear to be unique to the outcome of interest.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Depression / prevention & control
  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*