Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (MSC-T)


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About Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens

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-session course which meets for 1.5 hours per session, 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.

"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

“It’s cool to see after we took [the class] how much life in general has improved, like not necessarily the situations, but the ways I can handle it. This is so important, so I’m going to take it again and then maybe make it even better.”

– Teen Participant

“Stressful situations and stuff happens… I’m able to handle it more easily and more quickly, and able to calm myself down and put it into perspective.

– Teen Participant

“My child loved this class from the first night. He told me about a guided meditation where he was to imagine his perfect friend in a perfect place – that really hit a chord and made him tear up. He wasn’t that excited about going before that – I think he was going because I told him he should – but that first night he was immediately hooked. Every day he told me ‘it was great!’”

– Parent

“My daughter absolutely was dreading attending. By the end, she was really upset that she couldn’t be there for Tuesday night due to travel. She LOVED it.”

– Parent

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, Karen Bluth and colleagues at University of North Carolina were awarded a grant from the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The study explored the effects of Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens as a depression-prevention program for adolescents with depression symptoms.

The overarching goal of Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (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

Live Online Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens Courses

January 5-29, 2022


MSC-T: A Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens

Karen Bluth and Dominique Sullivan