Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (MSC-T)

“At long last, a self-compassion training for teens! This delightful, innovative program captures the essence of self-compassion for an age group that needs it the most. Wholeheartedly recommended!”

— Christopher Germer, PhD



Adolescence is a time of change and growth. It is the period of life reserved for rebellion and self-discovery, but as the demands in life increase for teens, this time is often fraught with confusion, anxiety or depression. For many teens these challenges lead to disconnection and isolation.

To support teens in coping more effectively with the ongoing challenges of their day-to-day life, Karen Bluth, Ph.D., and Lorraine Hobbs, M.A., co-created Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (MSC-T), an empirically-supported, 8-week program designed to cultivate the skill of self-compassion in teens. It was adapted from the original Mindful Self-Compassion program for adults and is endorsed by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer.

MSC-T teaches core principles and practices that enable teens to respond to the challenges of these critical years with kindness and self-compassion.

Following in the footsteps of the adult MSC program, the teen adaptation is rooted in the three key components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindful, balanced awareness. These elements serve to open the hearts of teens to their own suffering so they can learn to give themselves what they truly need, recognize they are not alone in their suffering, and encourage an open-minded acceptance of the struggle they are facing.

In this 8-week long course, which meets weekly for 1.5 hours, teens engage in developmentally appropriate activities and carefully crafted practices and meditations, which provide them with the opportunity to learn how to navigate the emotional ups and downs of life with greater ease. Backed by research, findings indicate increases in emotional well-being and greater resilience after taking the course.

The research:

Two preliminary research studies on this program have now been published. In the first pilot study (Bluth, Gaylord, Campo, Mullarkey & Hobbs 2016 MSC-T), findings indicated decreases in depression, anxiety, stress, and negative affect after a 6-session class. Findings in the second pilot study (Bluth & Eisenlohr-Moul 2017) demonstrated decreases in stress, and increases in resilience, positive risk-taking (willingness to take on new challenges) and gratitude after the course was over. Further, a within-person analysis indicated that increases in mindfulness and self-compassion were associated with decreases in depressive symptoms and stress; additionally, increases in mindfulness were associated with decreases in anxiety and increases in self-compassion were associated with increases in positive risk-taking and resilience.

In August 2016, Making Friends with Yourself was also awarded a grant from the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The study will explore the efficacy of Making Friends with Yourself as a depression-prevention program for adolescents with depression symptoms.

One of the teens in our first pilot study summed up the emotional trials of adolescence in her statement “I feel like everyone is crying in high school!”

The overarching goal of Making Friends With Yourself (MSC-T) is to help teens turn toward the emotional ups and downs of this life stage with greater ease, to offer them specific tools for recognizing and managing their struggles, and to help them learn how to meet these struggles with kindness and compassion.

This understanding was clearly expressed by another teen in a statement she made after the compassionate friend meditation: “You know … I’m thinking that it’s ok if other kids don’t like me… because I like me!”


Read more about teens and self-compassion

MSC-T featured in the NY Times

How to Help Teens Become More Self-Compassionate

Benefits of Self-Compassion: When Teens Are Too Hard On Themselves

Why Teens, More Than Ever, Need To Learn To Be Kind – To Themselves

How We Can Keep Teens From Killing Themselves

Can Self-Compassion Improve Well-Being In Teens?

The Power Of Self-Compassion Podcast, With Karen Bluth



Dr. Karen Bluth is faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina, and a research fellow at the University of North Carolina Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, where she conducts research on self-compassion and its influences on the emotional wellbeing of teens. Dr. Bluth is a certified instructor of Mindful Self-Compassion, co-creator of curriculum Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (formerly known as Making Friends with Yourself), Embracing Your Life, the adaptation of Mindful Self-Compassion for young adults, and one of the creators of Self-Compassion for Educators, a self-compassion program offered through Mindful Schools. Dr. Bluth is author of the books “The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are”, “The Self-Compassionate Teen: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice”, co-author of “Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Teen ADHD: Build Executive Functioning Skills, Increase Motivation, and Improve Self-Confidence” (New Harbinger Publishers), and the soon-to-be-released Audible Original “Helping Girls Learn Self-Compassion: A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Coaches”.
As a mindfulness practitioner for over 40 years, a mindfulness teacher, and an educator with 18 years of classroom teaching experience, Dr. Bluth frequently gives talks, conducts workshops, and teaches classes in self-compassion and mindfulness in educational and community settings. In addition, she trains teachers in Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens internationally.
Dominique Sullivan B.B.A, B.Ed , M.Ed is a certified Mindful Self Compassion instructor. She is a school librarian in Canada by day and supports teens online by night. She is the Zen Librarian! In her early twenties, she struggled with stress and anxiety. Over the last 19 years, Dominique’s quest for wellness has brought her to a place of calm and joy that she wishes to share with others. Visit www.zenlibrarian.ca for more information or listen to her podcast Mostly Mindful for Teens and Tweens.


MSC-T Teacher Training

Sample some MSC-T practices now

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"It was a lot more entertaining than I expected."
- MFY Participant, age 14

"It helped more with my mental health than I thought."
-MFY participant, age 14

"Now when I make a mistake, I am able to remember that everyone makes mistakes."
-Eli H., age 12

“[The self-compassion class] was good because it helped me to be more kind and calm toward myself."
-Amanda N., age 13