Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (MSC-T)


Live Online Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens Courses

Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens

For ages 11-18



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About Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens

The Challenge:   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.

The Response:   To support teens in coping more effectively with the ongoing challenges of their day-to-day life, teen experts Karen Bluth, Ph.D., and Lorraine Hobbs, M.A., co-created Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens (MSC-T), an empirically-supported, 8-week course designed to cultivate the skill of self-compassion in teens.

Following in the footsteps of the adult MSC program and endorsed by MSC co-developers Chris Germer, Ph.D. and Kristin Neff, Ph.D., the teen adaptation is rooted in the three key components of self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity and mindful, balanced awareness.

MSC-T teaches core principles and practices that enable teens to:

  • Respond to the challenges of these critical years with kindness and self-compassion

  • Identify their own suffering so they can learn to give themselves what they truly need

  • Know they are not alone in their suffering

  • Encourage an open-minded acceptance of the struggles they are facing

  • Feel supported and accepted in an emotionally safe, connecting, and guided learning environment with peers

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

Several research studies demonstrating the positive outcomes of MSC-T have been published. In the first pilot study (Bluth et al.., 2016), 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 – and therefore likely responsible – for the 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. Another study published in 2021 by Donovan, Bluth, Scott, Mohammed, and Cousineau demonstrated that MSC-T was feasible when taught to students on a college campus, and that perceived stress decreased from pre- to post-program. Most recently, Bluth and colleagues published a study in 2022 in which MSC-T was taught to transgender and gender-expansive teens. Findings demonstrated that anxiety and depression decreased significantly from pre- to post-program, and self-compassion, mindfulness, life satisfaction and resilience improved significantly over this time. Furthermore, at three months follow-up, significant improvements were observed in factors related to suicidal thoughts. Read more about the study with transgender teens here and here.

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

Frequent Q&A's

Frequent Q&As

1. What is this program about? It’s about learning ways to not be so hard on yourself, and still be motivated and get things done.

2. What actually happens in the class? We talk about what mindfulness and self-compassion are, we watch short videos, learn how to do a music meditation, do a little bit of mindful art at the beginning of each class, and learn ways to de-stress in the moment when we start feeling overwhelmed.

3. Do I have to participate in everything? No. You never have to participate in anything that you don’t want to.

4. Am I going to have to talk about my feelings? What if I don’t want to? You never have to talk about anything that you’re not comfortable discussing. FIRST AND FOREMOST, this program is about being kind to yourself. So, if it doesn’t feel like you’re doing something kind for yourself, you don’t have to do it.

5. I think you’re just saying that. I think once I get there, you’re going to find ways to make me participate. Nope! We’re serious. This isn’t school!

6. How do you know that this program will help me not stress as much? Through a number of research studies, we know that when teens are kinder to themselves, they have less depression, anxiety, and stress. So in this program, we “build” the self-compassion muscle. Just like lifting weights builds arm muscles, learning self-compassion builds resilience de-stress muscles.

7. My parent/therapist/coach/teacher thinks I should take this class but I don’t trust them. They’re an adult and they think they know me but they don’t really. Why should I take it? Well, certainly don’t take it to make them happy! Take it to make you happy, because lots of teens have talked about how it has really helped them, and they don’t feel as stressed as they used to. Watch the Benji Project video to see what teens say about the program!

8. Who teaches this class? Karen Bluth (one of the developers of the program), and Dom Sullivan teach it.

Policies/recommendations for participating:
  • If we have urgent concerns about a teen who has disconnected from the online classroom on their own or through electronic failure, we will prioritize safety and contact the adult above. Although not anticipated, in extreme situations, we may also need to contact an outside professional to ensure safety.
  • We strongly recommend teens use a secure, password-protected internet connection to promote privacy and a sense of safety and comfort in our online classroom.
  • We encourage teens to use a computer or laptop if they can be accessed in a private, secure location in the home. However, if that is not possible, cell phones are an option. Teens must have their camera on during all the sessions, they can have a hoodie on, be wrapped in a blanket, have their pet on their laps, but their camera must be kept on.
  • We will ask students to give the adult listed above their phone for the duration of class unless they need to use it to access the class.
  • We will be using the Zoom meeting platform/application for our online classes. It is not necessary to create an account to attend class. Teens can just click on the Zoom invitation/link sent to their email and the Zoom application will automatically download. Zoom is quite easy to use, but we will go through a brief orientation with the teens at the beginning of the first class.

Live Online Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens Courses

Mindful Self-Compassion for Teens


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Upcoming CMSC Teen Course Dates


MSC-Teens Resources

For ages 11-18


Free “In the Moment” Meditations