Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Committee Chairperson

Lia O’Brien, Ph.D

Committee Member

Deanne Zotter, Ph.D

Committee Member

Lauri Hyers, Ph.D


The aim of the present study sought to explore the perceptions of self-compassion through the perspectives of individuals who experience complex trauma symptomology and low rates of self-compassion to inform and enhance trauma treatment. Despite a growing accumulation of studies implicating self-compassion as an integral construct for alleviating symptoms associated with complex trauma, most research designs were quantitative and did not investigate the internal processes occurring within the individual. Based on this gap, the current study expanded the scope of the current literature to include a qualitative thematic analytic approach to better understand the nuances of how this population relates to self-compassion prior to, during, and immediately following a brief self-compassion based intervention. Four eligible participants engaged in this brief self-compassion based intervention that incorporated a psychoeducational and experiential component prior to completing a semi-structured interview regarding their experiences and impressions. Thematic analysis of the semi-structured interviews revealed six superordinate themes: 1) avoidance perceived as realistic coping skill, 2) inner conflict creates discrepancy, 3) increased insight, 4) discomfort when confronting avoidance, 5) self-compassion perceived as beneficial, and 6) persisting barriers to self-compassion. Consistent with pre-existing research, these findings corroborate that individuals with complex trauma symptomology simultaneously perceive both barriers to and benefits of practicing self-compassion. Clinical implications and recommendations for addressing this ambivalence while attuning to the specific needs of this population are discussed.