Picking yourself up – not putting yourself down

Intentions and notes

The intention of this group is to gently introduce the idea of self-compassion, in the least triggering way possible, while making it explicit that self-compassion is an important element of mindfulness, recovery and leading a happy life.

I’ve found an acceptable way to do the loving-kindness meditation is to introduce one being, wish them well, and then imagine them wishing you well back, rather than trying to wish oneself well, which people often struggle with. It’s extremely important to make it clear that if there is any negative association with the being whatsoever then choose someone else – to avoid someone’s abusive parent coming up for example. In traditional Buddhist practices it’s suggested not to allow dead beings, but a couple of people have used their dead dogs and found this helped them cultivate a sense of loving kindness and did no harm. Also recommending that if it’s difficult to imagine oneself receiving loving kindness, to go back to the loved being and just try the self for very short periods.

It can be difficult, and triggering, for people to start to bring kindness to themselves, so it’s important to make sure they know at the beginning of the meditation that they can always come back to the breath and zone out of any instructions if they would like to.

It will depend on the make-up of your group what the initial reaction to the concept of self-compassion is – I have written this for my group, who are usually made up largely of men from homeless backgrounds (hence why the handout mentions the fact that ‘strong people’ do this – as self-compassion can often be seen as irrelevant, hippyish, and alien to this group), so other demographics will have different reactions and may need different input for this part.

The friend exercise and self-compassion break are both from Kirsten Neff’s Mindful Self-Compassion programme.


  • Download a printable group outline, worksheet and handout here.

You will also need

  • Pens and clipboards or something to lean on


  • Title and running order of group
  • Maybe speech bubbles if feeding back to the board during exercises

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