Cultivating compassion in psychological therapists: the potential of loving-kindness meditation

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Boellinghaus, Inga A.
  • Subject: BF0637 | RC0475 | BF511 | BF77

Section A: summarises theory and research relevant to the role of compassion in the work of psychological therapists. Two approaches that are thought to cultivate compassion, namely, mindfulness meditation and loving-kindness meditation (LKM), are introduced and their potential for fostering compassion in therapists is explored. Following this, extant empirical studies examining the effects of mindfulness-based and loving-kindness interventions on compassion are critically evaluated. Limitations and gaps in the existing evidence base are discussed, and the need for further research, such as studies using LKM with therapists, is outlined.\ud Section B: Objectives. Emerging research suggests that loving-kindness meditation (LKM) increases well-being and compassion whilst being difficult to engage with. Since there is a need to cultivate self-care and compassion in trainee therapists (TT), this study aimed to explore how TT experience a course of LKM.\ud Design. A qualitative design using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis was applied in order to gain a detailed understanding of the experience of LKM and the meaning participants gave to it.\ud Methods. Twelve TT who had previously attended a mindfulness-based cognitive therapy course took part in a six-session long LKM course and were interviewed about their experience.\ud Results. Five master themes were identified ‘Engaging with the practice’, ‘Impact on self’, ‘Impact on relationships’, ‘Bringing compassion into the therapy room’, and ‘Integrating LKM into life’. Participants perceived LKM to have led to increased self-awareness, compassion for self and others, and therapeutic presence and skills. At the same time, LKM was experienced as emotionally challenging.\ud Conclusions. LKM may be a useful tool for enhancing self-care and compassion in TT. Further research is needed to extend the findings and implications for the use of LKM with TT and other populations are discussed. \ud Section C: summarises critical reflections on the process of conducting this research study, including the researcher‟s learning experience, implications for training and clinical practice, and further research.
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