Candidate Mechanisms of Action of Mindfulness-Based Trauma Recovery for Refugees (MBTR-R): Self-Compassion and Self-Criticism

Anna Aizik-Reebs, Iftach Amir, Kim Yuval, Yuval Hadash, Amit Bernstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Mindfulness- and compassion-based interventions may represent a promising intervention approach to the global mental health crisis of forced displacement. Specifically, Mindfulness-Based Trauma Recovery for Refugees (MBTR-R)-a mindfulness- and compassion-based, trauma-sensitive, and socioculturally adapted intervention for refugees and asylum-seekers-has recently demonstrated randomized control evidence of therapeutic efficacy and safety. Yet, little is known about potential mechanisms underlying these therapeutic effects for trauma recovery and for refugees and asylum-seekers.

METHOD: Thus, we examined adaptive and maladaptive forms of self-referentiality, namely self-compassion and self-criticism, as mechanisms of action for trauma recovery in a randomized wait-list control trial of MBTR-R among a community sample of 158 traumatized and chronically stressed asylum-seekers (46% female) in an urban postdisplacement setting (Middle East). Self-compassion and self-criticism were measured vis-à-vis an experimental Self-Referential Encoding Task (SRET) designed to quantify cognitive processes underlying self-compassion and self-criticism using diffusion modeling, a computational modeling approach to quantify cognitive processes underlying decision-making from behavioral reaction time data.

RESULTS: Findings indicate that self-compassion and self-criticism were associated with trauma- and stress-related psychopathology at preintervention. Relative to wait-list controls, MBTR-R led to significant elevation in self-compassion, and reduction in self-criticism, from pre to postintervention. Finally, pre to postintervention change in self-criticism significantly mediated therapeutic effects of MBTR-R on depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) outcomes, while pre to postintervention change in self-compassion only mediated therapeutic effects on PTSD outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS: Findings speak to the importance of (mal)adaptive self-referentiality as a target mechanism in MBIs and trauma recovery broadly, and among refugees and asylum-seekers specifically. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mindfulness
  • Refugees/psychology
  • Self-Assessment
  • Self-Compassion
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology


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