Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Psychological and Brain Sciences

Degree Program

Clinical Psychology, PhD

Committee Chair

Lewine, Richard

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Stetson, Barbara

Committee Member

Stetson, Barbara

Committee Member

Sephton, Sandra

Committee Member

Cashon, Cara

Committee Member

Monsma, Brian

Author's Keywords

self-compassion; resilience; chronic pain


Previous research in chronic pain has established that reducing or removing negative aspects of functioning, such as negative emotion, maladaptive thoughts and behaviors are associated with better outcomes in this population. More limited is the research on the role of positive aspects of functioning in those with chronic pain, specifically exploring the benefits of positive emotion and how this can be bolstered in individuals with chronic pain. Limited research to date has explored strategies to promote positive aspects of functioning, including savoring, gratitude, and mindfulness, but even more limited is research exploring the role of self-compassion as a resource for promoting positive emotion in those with chronic pain. This study had three main aims and an exploratory aim. In Aim 1, the basic relationships between self-compassion, positive and negative emotion, pain and functional variables were examined in order to establish criterion validity for their measures in a unique and diverse pain sample; Aim 2 addressed the need for an alternative measure of positive emotion that better aligns with self-compassion; and Aim 3 explored the unique role that self-compassion has in relation to positive emotion and adaptive functioning in individuals with chronic pain when compared to other important resilience factors, mindfulness and acceptance. In an v . exploratory aim, this study also explored the potential role for self-compassion to moderate the relationship between pain severity and affect, as well as disability and quality of life. 84 patients with chronic pain at the Pain Management Center were recruited during the time of their appointments to participate in the study. Participants filled out self-report measures assessing sociodemographic, pain and psychological characteristics; rates of positive and negative emotion over the last week; levels of pain severity; rates of self-compassion, pain acceptance and mindfulness; as well as pain disability and current physical and mental components of quality of life (QoL). Results demonstrated that higher self-compassion was associated with higher positive emotion, lower negative emotion, lower pain severity and disability, and higher QoL. Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that self-compassion was a significant and unique predictor of change in positive and negative emotion, pain disability and mental components of QoL, independent of contributions made by mindfulness, pain acceptance, and covariates (income, gender, and age). Further, moderation analyses indicated that self-compassion significantly moderated the relationship between pain severity and negative affect as well as physical components of QoL. These results added to the burgeoning literature on the role of self-compassion as a unique resilience factor in promoting positive emotion in those with chronic pain independent of sociodemographic variables and other similar resilience factors, such as mindfulness and acceptance. While this study was cross-sectional in nature and thus inferences about causality are limited, it suggests enough evidence to pursue future research with experimental or longitudinal, interventional designs on the role of selfvi . compassion in promoting positive emotion as well as other elements of adaptive functioning in those with chronic pain.