A model for cognitively-based compassion training: theoretical underpinnings and proposed mechanisms

Marcia Ash, Timothy Harrison, Melissa Pinto, Ralph DiClemente, Lobsang Tenzin Negi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across cultures and belief systems, compassion is widely considered to be beneficial for the development of personal and social wellbeing. Research indicates that compassion-training programs have broad health benefits, but how and why compassion-training programs are effective is still relatively unknown. This paper describes the theoretical underpinnings of a specific compassion-training program, CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training), and proposes an integrative model that draws on existing health behavior constructs to identify CBCT’s core components and hypothesizes their directionality and interaction. The model includes two primary categories of skill development: (1) intrapersonal skills leading to greater resiliency, and (2) interpersonal skills leading to greater compassion. It is hypothesized that these two pathways are mutually reinforcing and both contribute to greater wellbeing. This model provides a foundation for theory-driven research on the underlying mechanisms in CBCT training. An understanding of CBCT’s mechanisms is a critical step towards optimizing and personalizing the intervention to meet the needs of specific populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-67
Number of pages25
JournalSocial Theory and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Compassion
  • Contemplative practice
  • Mechanisms of behavior change
  • Resilience
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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