Self-Compassion and Trauma Processing Outcomes Among Victims of Violence

Christine E. Valdez, Michelle M. Lilly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Self-compassion entails being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of psychological pain and holding painful thoughts and feelings in mindful awareness. Self-compassion has been associated with positive mental health outcomes and may have implications for post-traumatic processing. Sixty-three female trauma survivors completed measures of post-traumatic stress and self-compassion (baseline). One week later, they were randomly assigned to one of three processing conditions to undergo an induction: “analytic” (brooding, conceptualizing), “experiential” (self-reflective, mindful experiencing), or control. Following induction, participants completed a trauma-specific interview to discuss their trauma. Before induction (T1) and after the interview (T2), women completed measures of anxiety and affectivity. At baseline, greater self-compassion correlated with less post-traumatic stress symptoms. After the induction and trauma interview at T2, greater self-kindness and mindfulness correlated with less anxiety and negative affectivity in controls. In the analytic processing condition, greater self-kindness correlated with less negative affectivity, whereas mindfulness correlated with less anxiety and negative affectivity and greater positive affectivity at T2. In the experiential processing condition, greater self-kindness correlated with more anxiety and positive affectivity at T2 and greater common humanity correlated with more anxiety at T2. Results indicated that processing modes exert differential effects of self-compassion on trauma-related anxiety and affectivity. During conditions of experiential processing, self-kindness may allow for greater tolerance of anxiety. During conditions of analytic processing, mindfulness may decrease anxiety and negative affectivity by reducing the tendency to perseverate on negative internal experiences. Implications for research, theory, and practice are discussed.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Psychology
  • Psychology

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