June 2016 Tool of the Month

This month’s tool: Guided meditations for highly self-critical and shame-prone clients

We have updated our resource page with some of our favorite meditations that we find useful in working with shame-prone and self-critical clients. Often, people who are highly self-critical and shame-prone tend to spend a lot of time with emotion systems related to threat activated, or alternatively spend time feeling overwhelmed in response to their internal judgment. Their threat system may be chronically over activated, while their social safety system under activated. The social safety system signals to the person that it is safe to relax and explore, because the person is supported by their tribe or otherwise safe and experiencing a relative lack of aversive stimulation. Lovingkindness and compassion meditations can be very valuable for stimulating the social-safety systems of people who are highly shame-prone and self-critical.

For clients who are willing to engage in a daily meditation practice, we highly recommend encouraging them to do so. Once clients become familiar with cultivating lovingkindness and compassion, you can guide them to apply what they have learned before, during, and/or after situations that trigger shame and self-criticism.

For clients who are not willing to engage in a daily practice, they will still benefit from a formal practice on occasion, or using an informal practice like the self-compassion break as they go about their normal day. 

Meditation recordings for highly self-critical and shame prone clients

Files from ACTWithCompassion.com

We have put together a series of lovingkindness meditations specifically with highly self-critical and shame-prone clients in mind. Traditional lovingkindness sequences often start with lovingkindness for the self, but for highly self-critical and shame-prone clients, starting with the self may be too difficult and could trigger overwhelming self-criticism at first. This sequence starts with LKM for someone it is easy to feel warmth towards and works up to the self.


Other meditations relating to compassion


Dr. Kristen Neff


Dr. Tara Brach


Mindful Self-Compassion website by Dr. Christopher Germer has a wonderful range of mindfulness and compassion-focused meditations available for free listening or download.

Barbara Fredrickson has several guided meditations focusing on loving-kindness.

has a self-guided course for learning lovingkindess meditation that includes a variety of exercise. It provides a nice overview of how to practice and guides on many aspects of establishing an effective practice.

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