September 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:

Kindness toward others eases social anxiety

This study examined three groups of undergraduate students with social anxiety over a four-week period. The first group was instructed to perform acts of kindness in which they helped others. The second group was instructed to participate in social interactions, but without the acts of kindness. The third group did not receive any intervention, and simply monitored their experiences over the four-week period. The authors found that the group receiving the kindness instruction experienced the largest decrease in desire to avoid social interactions.

Take away: Let’s start thinking about adding kindness to our exposure protocols, at least for socially anxious clients.

Read more: 
Trew, J.L. & Alden, L.E. (2015). Kindness Reduces Avoidance Goals in Socially Anxious Individuals. Motivation and Emotion.


High self-critics may be stressed out by imagery exercises

In this study, participants completed a compassionate imagery exercise, a control imagery exercise involving imagining taking a stroll through the countryside, and a non-imagery control in which participants were asked to hold beanbags. High and low self-critics differed in their responses to the exercises. High self-critics experienced an increase in alpha amylase, a marker of a stress response, as well as higher self-report of feeling unsafe in response to both imagery exercises, but not the non-imagery control.

Take away: We want to be attentive to how the client is responding to imagery exercises, especially if the client is highly self-critical.

Read more:
Duarte, J., McEwan, K., Barnes, C., Gilbert, P., & Maratos, F. A. (2014). Do therapeutic imagery practices affect physiological and emotional indicators of threat in high self‐critics?Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice.


There is a new shame-proneness scale to use with adolescents

A new scale called the Adolescent Shame-Proneness Scale (ASPS) was developed and examined for evidence of reliability and validity across three studies.

Take away: This may end up being a good tool to use with adolescent shame-prone clients.

Read more:
Simonds, L. M., John, M., Fife-Schaw, C., Willis, S., Taylor, H., Hand, H., ... & Winton, H. (2015). Development and Validation of the Adolescent Shame-Proneness ScalePsychological assessment.

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