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Compassion and Loving-Kindness Meditation

An Overview and Prospects for the Application in Clinical Samples

Graser, Johannes MSc; Stangier, Ulrich PhD

doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000192

Objectives This article presents a brief overview of the empirical evidence of well-established mindfulness interventions and an in-depth review of less-established compassion-based interventions (CBIs) and loving-kindness meditation (LKM). Definitions, cognitive and physiological mechanisms, and methods of assessment are discussed.

Method A literature review using the databases Google Scholar, PsycINFO, and PubMed was conducted.

Results Whereas the efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy has been documented in many trials, only seven randomized, controlled trials have been completed on CBIs and LKM. In these trials, CBIs were effective in treating psychotic disorders, affective disorders with psychotic features, major depressive disorder, eating disorders, and patients with suicide attempts in the past year; LKM was effective in treating chronic pain; and a combination of both was effective for borderline personality disorder. A larger number of nonrandomized studies indicate that CBIs and LKM may be effective in treating a wide range of clinical conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Conclusions Further studies are needed to confirm the promising effects of CBIs and LKM. Preliminary evidence suggests that both approaches might be beneficial across various clinical populations. Future studies need to clarify whether these approaches might be options as stand-alone treatments or as adjuncts or augmentation of evidence-based methods in psychotherapy.

From the Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, Goethe University (Germany); Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, Witten/Herdecke University (Germany) (Mr. Graser).

Original manuscript received 18 September 2017; revised manuscript received 7 January 2018, accepted for publication 29 January 2018.

Correspondence: Johannes Graser, Alfred-Herrhausen-Str. 44, 58455 Witten, Germany. Email:

© 2018 President and Fellows of Harvard College
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