Enhancing self-compassion using a gestalt two-chair intervention
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The construct of self-compassion, recently defined and operationalized by Neff, offers an alternative approach to thinking about psychological well-being. Self-compassion has three components which mutually influence and engender each other: self-kindness, awareness of common humanity, and mindfulness. Although new, the construct of self-compassion shows great promise. As measured using Neff's Self-Compassion Scale, it demonstrates positive associations with current markers of psychological well-being, such as self acceptance, life satisfaction, social connectedness, self-esteem, mindfulness, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, personal growth, reflective and affective wisdom, curiosity and exploration in life, happiness, and optimism. It has also demonstrated negative associations with anxiety, depression, self criticism, neuroticism, rumination, thought suppression, and neurotic perfectionism. Because self-compassion has been shown to be linked with psychological health in multiple studies, finding a way to increase self viii compassion through psychotherapeutic intervention is an important research task. This dissertation study is an initial investigation of the possibility of increasing self-compassion using a specially designed Gestalt-type two-chair intervention. The Gestalt two-chair dialogue has already been found to assist clients in challenging maladaptive, self-critical beliefs and to help clients transform negative evaluations of their wants and needs into self-acceptance. A sample of 80 university students was divided into an intervention and control group. All participants completed measures of self-compassion, measures targeted at the individual components of self-compassion, and measures of general psychological well-being. Intervention participants received a specifically designed version of a Gestalt two-chair intervention for an intrapsychic conflict. Hypotheses for the study included expectations a) for the intervention group, of a greater increase in self-compassion, as well as other positive attitudes toward the self, and a greater decrease in negative attitudes toward the self; b) within the intervention group, of better outcomes for participants whose sessions resulted in greater depth of experiencing and softening; and c) at follow-up, of increased evidence of self-compassionate attitudes and behaviors in the intervention group. In addition, the study provides additional verification of the links between self compassion and other markers of psychological health, and validation of the Self Compassion Scale as a measure of the construct of self-compassion.