The Effect of Self-Compassion on Trauma Reactivity

Document Type


Publication Date



Clinical Psychology


Research suggests up to 90% of individuals will be exposed to a potentially traumatic event at least once during their lifetime (Benjet et al., 2016). Common experiences that follow such exposure include re-experiencing symptoms, avoidance, hyper arousal, and changes in cognition and mood (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In addition, individuals often experience a variety of emotion regulation difficulties following exposure to a potentially traumatic event, including: low awareness of emotions; excessive avoidance of, and attempts to control and / or modulate, emotional experiences; low frequency of goal directed behaviors; and inconsistent use of adaptive, effective, and contextually-sensitive emotion regulation strategies (Tull et al., 2007; Tull et al., 2018). As such, development of interventions that lead to enhanced emotion regulation skills for individuals with posttraumatic stress symptoms seems warranted. Self-compassion may be one such strategy. Research suggests high self-compassion is associated with low distress in individuals who struggle with posttraumatic stress symptoms. In addition, low self-compassion appears to be related to emotion regulation difficulties in the context of posttraumatic stress symptoms, including the overuse of avoidance strategies (Thompson & Waltz, 2008). Thus, the purpose of the proposed study is to identify the effect of a brief self-compassion-based intervention on emotion regulation in individuals who have experienced a potentially traumatic event and report posttraumatic stress symptoms. We hypothesize individuals randomly assigned to participate in a 10-minute self-compassion exercise following exposure to a personally relevant trauma reminder will demonstrate faster physiological recovery relative to individuals randomly assigned to an inert comparison task. Research methodology and planned analyses will be discussed.

First Advisor

Christopher Berghoff

Research Area

Clinical Psychology

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