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Compassion Meditation for Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a Nonrandomized Study

Abstract

Compassion meditation (CM) is a contemplative practice that is intended to cultivate the ability to extend and sustain compassion toward self and others. Although research documents the benefits of CM in healthy populations, its use in the context of psychopathology is largely unexamined. The purpose of this study was to refine and initially evaluate a CM protocol, Cognitively Based Compassion Training (CBCT®), for use with Veterans with PTSD. To this end, our research team developed and refined a manualized protocol, CBCT-Vet, over 4 sets of groups involving 36 Veterans. This protocol was delivered in 8–10 sessions, each lasting 90–120 min and led by a CBCT®-trained clinical psychologist. Quantitative and qualitative data were used to identify areas to be improved and to assess change that occurred during the treatment period. Based on pooled data from this series of groups, CM appears to be acceptable to Veterans with PTSD. Group participation was associated with reduced symptoms of PTSD (partial eta squared = .27) and depression (partial eta squared = .19), but causality should not be inferred given the nonrandomized design. No change was observed in additional outcomes, including positive emotion and social connectedness. The results of this open trial support additional exploration of CM as part of the recovery process for Veterans with PTSD.

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Author information

AJL: designed and executed the study, assisted with the treatment development, and wrote the paper. PC: conducted meditation groups and assisted with treatment development. SH: collected and analyzed qualitative data and assisted with treatment development. TH: assessed fidelity to CBCT and assisted with treatment development. SG: analyzed quantitative data and contributed to the writing of the paper. RG: acted as the research assistant and assisted with treatment development. ME: assisted with treatment development. LN: developed CBCT and assisted with treatment development.

Correspondence to Ariel J. Lang.

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Conflict of Interest

Drs. Lang, Casmar, Hurst, Golshan and Essex and Ms. Good declare no conflict of interest. Dr. Negi and Mr. Harrison have a copyright for CBCT®.

Ethical Approval

IRB approval for this study was provided by the IRB of the VA San Diego Healthcare System. All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Institutional Review Board and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Lang, A.J., Casmar, P., Hurst, S. et al. Compassion Meditation for Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): a Nonrandomized Study. Mindfulness 11, 63–74 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0866-z

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Keywords

  • Compassion
  • Meditation
  • PTSD
  • Mindfulness