Self-Compassion: An Antidote to Shame

Masters Series in Clinical Practice 

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy Conference Sponsors



Christopher Germer, PhD, Instructor

Shame is ubiquitous in psychotherapy. Shame is the sense that something is wrong with us that will render us unacceptable in the eyes of others. There is often an element of shame when a client arrives at our office door, and our stickiest emotions, such as guilt, grief, anger, or despair, often have a vein of shame running through them. There is so much stigma around the word “shame” that both clinicians and clients prefer to avoid the topic altogether. However, when look carefully at the nature of shame, we discover three paradoxes: (1) shame feels blameworthy, but it is an innocent emotion; (2) shame makes us feel separate and alone, but it connects us to the rest of humanity; and (3) shame feels old and all-encompassing, but it is only a temporary state that affects just part of who we are. And when we turn toward shame with kindness and compassion, a mountain of unnecessary emotional suffering begins to dissolve.

Self-compassion is a powerful antidote to shame. It is a kind and understanding relationship to ourselves, including during moments of shame. Self-compassion practice helps clients to establish a secure base inside themselves even when this didn’t happen in childhood. There are multiple pathways to self-compassion, including simple self-soothing exercises during periods of distress. Self-compassion is a core mechanism of action in psychotherapy that can be taught either through the therapy relationship or by practicing self-compassion exercises.  In this workshop, participants will learn how to alleviate shame using self-compassion in the context of psychotherapy.
There are currently over 1200 articles on self-compassion in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Research has shown that self-compassion reduces anxiety and depression, boosts happiness, strengthens relationships, and helps individuals maintain healthy life habits. A meta-analysis of the research demonstrated that self-compassion is an important explanatory variable for understanding mental health and emotional resilience (MacBeth & Gumley, 2012).

Despite impressive scientific evidence for the connection between self-compassion and emotional wellbeing, explicit training in the skill of self-compassion is relatively rare. The instructor of this program (Germer) co-developed an 8-week training program in self-compassion modeled on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (Kabat-Zinn, 1990). A randomized, controlled trial of the self-compassion program showed that self-compassion training increases mindfulness, self-compassion, life satisfaction, and compassion for others and decreases anxiety and depression (Neff & Germer, 2013). Key principles and practices of this self-compassion training program will be taught to participants on this course, especially as they relate to the alleviation of shame.

Specific learning objectives:

  1. Describe shame conceptually and recognize it experientially
  2. Identify shame in clinical conditions
  3. Discover the impact of shame on the therapy relationship
  4. Describe the theory and research of self-compassion
  5. Practice compassion and self-compassion in the therapy relationship
  6. Teach simple self-compassion practices to clients to alleviate shame

Program Code: MS99

Credits: 6 CE/CME

About The Masters Series

The Master Series affords the chance to spend a complete day with leaders in our field to consider the unique perspective each speaker brings to the challenging dilemmas in both theory and practice. We hope that you will consider joining us for the entire series or choose the programs most relevant to your own practice. You can visit our other Master Series offerings here.


  • When

  • Friday, May 18, 2018
    9:00 AM - 4:30 PM
    Eastern Time

  • Where

  • William James College
    1 Wells Avenue
    Newton, Massachusetts 02459

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