What is Mindful Self-Compassion?


To err is human. Try as we might, we each make mistakes from time to time. We may snap at family members, make errors at work, or forget to pay a parking ticket. During these moments, when we’re faced with our perceived failures or shortcomings, many of us may beat ourselves up, believing that we don’t deserve kindness, or that somehow punishment may make us “be better” or become “good enough.”

But over the past decade of researching self-compassion, we’ve learned that we can’t berate ourselves into optimal health, happy relationships, or career success. In fact, research shows that self-compassion — responding kindly to ourselves in the face of struggle, just as we would a dear friend — is much more likely to lead to long-term wellbeing than harsh self-criticism.

What is Mindful Self-Compassion?

While the research may demonstrate the benefits of self-compassion, as a practical matter, where do we begin? How do we learn self-compassion when it may be so counter to our years of habitual response and cultural/familial conditioning?

We begin with wonder. Curiosity. Is it possible to shift our long-held beliefs and behaviors?

We believe it is.

In the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program, we start right where you are. This empirically supported training, taught in 24 countries and 12 languages, offers practical tools that help people become a warm and supportive friend to themselves when difficulties arise in their lives. Because when personal wellbeing is in full bloom, not only are we more content as individuals, but we are better able to wisely respond to the needs of those around us, whether family, friends, colleagues, our community, or the earth.

MSC Objectives:

At the completion of MSC, participants should be able to:

  • motivate themselves with encouragement rather than self-criticism;

  • relate to difficult emotions with greater moment-to-moment acceptance;

  • practice the art of savoring and self-appreciation;

  • integrate core mindfulness and self-compassion exercises into daily life;

  • describe the theory and research supporting mindful self-compassion;

  • teach simple self-compassion practices to patients, students, or clients.

MSC was co-developed in 2010 by Christopher Germer, PhD, a leader in the integration of mindfulness and psychotherapy and Kristin Neff, PhD, a pioneering researcher in the field of self-compassion. It is available in three formats for maximum accessibility: 5-Day Intensive, 10 weeks (Live Online MSC), and 8 weeks. MSC is the prerequisite to several other self-compassion trainings, including the MSC Teacher Training, Self-Compassion in Psychotherapy, and the MSC Community for Deepening Practice.

Populations served by MSC:

People of all backgrounds and identities are welcome in MSC. No previous experience with mindfulness or meditation is required to participate in MSC.


MSC has also been adapted for several specific populations, including:

As we deepen our understanding of ways in which we can support unique populations, we continue to develop new adaptations to accommodate those needs. We are especially determined to bring self-compassion training to vulnerable populations by supporting projects in addiction recovery, refugee populations, prisons, trauma-sensitive compassion training, and more. Through strategic collaborations, we hope to enhance cultural awareness about the potential of self-compassion for emotional resilience and to promote thoughtful social change.

Research about MSC:

In a randomized, controlled study, MSC significantly increased self-compassion, compassion for others, mindfulness, and life satisfaction, as well as decreased depression, anxiety and stress. Read the full-text article.

Please read an in-depth summary of more self-compassion research here.

What to expect in MSC class:

While there will be some variation depending on the format and adaptation being offered, below is the core arrangement of MSC topics in the 8-week, empirically supported format of MSC.

Session 1

Discovering Mindful Self-Compassion

Welcome, introductions, and intentions. Guiding principles for our time together; physiology of self-criticism and self-compassion; misgivings about self-compassion; exploring soothing touch; MSC core meditation

Session 2

Practicing Mindfulness

What is mindfulness? Explore wandering mind, resistance, and Default Mode Network. How do we cause ourselves unnecessary suffering? Anchoring practice for moments of overwhelm.

Session 3

Practicing Loving-Kindness

Create your personal lovingkindness phrases; compassionate movement; interpersonal meditation; loving-kindness meditation for self and a loved one

Session 4

Discovering Your Compassionate Voice

Practice loving-kindness meditation using phrases and the breath; identify stages of your progress on the path to self-compassion; motivate ourselves with encouragement rather than criticism

Session 5

Practicing Loving-Kindness

Create your personal lovingkindness phrases; compassionate movement; interpersonal meditation; loving-kindness meditation for self and a loved one


Half-Day Silent Retreat (online)

This silent retreat will give participants an opportunity to strengthen and deepen their MSC practice.

Session 6

Meeting Difficult Emotions

Understand shame and alleviate its impact by using self-compassion as an antidote to shame. Transform difficult emotions using mindfulness and self-compassion practices.

Session 7

Exploring Challenging relationships

Manage caregiver fatigue through self-compassion and equanimity; using self-compassion to meet unmet needs in relationship;

Session 8

Embracing Your Life

Practice savoring, gratitude, and self-appreciation as corrective measures for the mind’s natural negativity bias; explore strategies for embracing both the negative and positive in our lives and in ourselves.

How to approach MSC:

  • MSC is a journey—an adventure in self-discovery and self-kindness. Self-compassion has the paradoxical effect of both soothing our emotional distress as well as opening us to the pain that we may have been unconsciously holding inside, often for many years. Therefore, difficult emotions are likely to surface during the program, including past traumas. MSC teachers are committed to helping participants feel safe and comfortable during the course. However, participants agree at the outset that they will take primary responsibility for their emotional wellbeing.

  • To ensure safety, participants are asked to provide background information when they register for the program.

  • MSC is therapeutic, but it’s not therapy. The emphasis of the program is on building the resources of mindfulness and self-compassion. MSC is not a substitute for medical or mental health care.

  • Participants should also be aware that MSC is mindfulness-based compassion training. Mindfulness and compassion go hand-in-hand, but our main purpose is compassion training.

Recommended reading:

The following book is highly recommended while participating in MSC:

It is also recommended, but not required, that participants read the following two books prior to the training:


It is also recommended, but not required, that participants read the following two books prior to the training:

Ready to learn more?