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The Role of Mindful Self-Compassion in Trauma Care for Adults

May 15, 2012


What is Mindful Self-Compassion?

Mindful Self-Compassion creates a space for all parts of a person to be held gently and without judgment and integrated into a person’s being with loving kindness. It teaches that all parts and feelings of a person are important and valuable. Drawing from many principles of mindfulness “brain training,” we advance the concept of mindfulness by applying it directly to a sense of self and well-being.

We know that mindfulness is a very useful component for sensory regulation and awareness. Mindful Self-Compassion is particularly helpful in assisting adults to be lovingly aware of these feelings and sensations, while responding to them with gentleness, kindness and understanding.    It is comprised of several easy-to-learn ideas that build on principles of neuroplasticity and healing.

How is it important to trauma work?

When creating a sense of self as a survivor, a traumatized person often struggles with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and uncertainty in the process of recreating feelings of worth. It is important for a person to be able to hold these feelings in a way that is loving to themselves, instead of further perpetuating a sense of judgment and evaluation.

One can see how this is a powerful adjunct to the trauma healing process. It solidifies the intensive work they have accomplished and enhances the trauma narrative to not only survive but thrive. Trauma survivors often have difficulty in restructuring their identity as a “healed” individual.  Their trauma defined them for so long that a sense of self hardly existed. Mindful Self-Compassion teaches them to tune into aspects of themselves previously unknown, hidden or rediscovered.

Finally, it also aids in helping with private logic issues, especially those related to when a person has believed negative things about their role in the trauma. Mindful Self-Compassion directly aids a person’s growing, healthier perspective.

When is it integrated?

When using the TLC Trauma Intervention Program, I find that it is most apt to introduce this extra intervention strategy when either Self-Secondary Wounding is discovered or toward the latter part of treatment when working on Survivor Plans, self-care and establishment of a new, stronger identity. I would, however, add the important caution that when using any form of mindfulness in trauma work, we must be very certain that the person is ready to be fully present with those feelings. Mindfulness interventions of any sort should usually be introduced only in the latter part of trauma work and only when other healing conditions and readiness have been met.  This is especially true for Mindful Self-Compassion.

Another option is to add some solidification and identity sessions after the full Survivor Plan has been completed. I find that adding just a few sessions to the program at this point helps a traumatized adult move gently in the direction of rediscovering his/her own value in a way that honors all the parts of his/her experience and “Self,” even the ones he/she may not have liked much. It solidifies all of the survivor’s efforts in a way that helps bring empowerment and closure to his/her work.

How can I learn more?

There are several resources available to learn and incorporate Mindful Self-Compassion in your trauma care. A great place to start would be “The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion” by Christopher Germer. ( There are also several online resources, and you may even find some local practitioners who offer free classes in this area. It is definitely a resource you might want to consider adding to your tool kit, as the principles and practice of Mindfulness directly support the valuable process of the TLC Trauma Intervention Program. May you be well and mindfully supportive and supported in your ongoing efforts to help parents, adults and children!

Cherie L. Spehar

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