October 2015 Shame and Self-Compassion Research Update

Every month, we scour the scientific literature for interesting studies that have practical implications for therapists working with shame, self-criticism, or compassion. Below are a few of our favorites for this month:

Reconsidering the Self-Compassion Scale

The Self-Compassion Scale (SCS; Neff, 2003) is currently the only self-report instrument used to measure self-compassion. In the original study of the SCS, there were determined to be three clusters of components: self-kindness versus self-judgment, common humanity versus isolation, and mindfulness versus over-identification. In this new study, the SCS was re-examined in a large sample, and the additional variables of rumination, neuroticism, depression, perceived stress, and positive affect were included in the analyses. The authors found that, rather than replicating the original factor structure, the data loaded onto two distinct factors. One factor contained self-judgement items, isolation items, and over-identification items as well as psychological symptoms, rumination and neuroticism. The other factor included self-kindness items, common humanity items, and mindfulness items as well as positive affect. The authors make a case for a two-factor structure of the SCS measuring self-criticism and self-compassion.

Take away: We should careful when interpreting the SCS with our clients, and not overstate the implications of the subscale scores.


A meta-analysis of the relation between self-compassion and well-being

This study looked at the relation between well-being and self-compassion across 79 different samples. The authors found an average correlation of r = .47.

Take away: Self-compassion is clearly related to well-being.

Read more:
Zessin, U, Dickhäuser, O,  & Garbade, S (2015). The relationship between self-compassion and well-being: a meta-analysis. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Ahead-of-Print.


Shame and stigma are barriers to treatment seeking among people with OCD and related disorders

This study examined the most frequent barriers to treatment seeking among people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, trichtillomania, and skin-picking disorder. The authors found that across all diagnostic categories, the primary obstacle to seeking treatment was agreement with being “ashamed of my problems.” Three quarters of people with OCD in the study agreed with that statement. Additionally, the authors found that among racial and ethnic minorities, stigma and shame connected to family disapproval was a notable barrier.

Take away: This study indicates that it may be beneficial to consider how to have a non-blaming and compassionate stance with clients with OCD and related disorders, before they ever walk into the door of the therapy office. If anyone has ideas about de-stigmatizing marketing, we would love to hear them.

Read more:
Glazier, K., Wetterneck, C., Singh, S., & Williams, M. (2015). Stigma and Shame as Barriers to Treatment for Obsessive-Compulsive and Related DisordersJ Depress Anxiety4(191), 2167-1044.

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