Shame and Psychotherapy: Theory, Method and Practice

  • Mrigaya SinhaEmail author


Shame along with guilt and embarrassment, belongs to a family of emotions that have been called the self-conscious emotions. These emotions are known to make us inward focused, however, shame almost always occurs in the presence of the other or imagined other making us relationally focused. When appropriately experienced, shame can be a modulator of interpersonal relatedness, however, if it is denied in oneself or not accessed meaningfully, it can lead to disconnect in the emotional and relational realm. In psychotherapeutic literature, there has been a surge in clinical interest in shame and many of the problems of anxiety have now been reconceptualized as problems of shame. It has been found correlated with a host of psychiatric disorders like depression, suicidal ideation, anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, and substance abuse. An appreciation of manifestations of shame in psychotherapy may greatly deepen our ability to connect with and understand our patients’ experience. This chapter will discuss the relevance of shame in therapeutic practice, the importance of assessing shame, identification of verbal and non-verbal markers of shame, role of shame in therapeutic alliance, and some principles a therapist should follow when treating shame.


Shame Guilt Embarrassment Psychotherapy Psychiatric disorders Shame therapy Non-western cultures Shame cultures Guilt cultures 



This work was encouraged by Dr. Dharma Bhawuk, Professor, University of Hawaii. I thank him for his guidance.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Staunton ClinicPittsburghUSA

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