Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Cwinn, Eli

2nd Supervisor

Crooks, Claire



Compassion focused therapy (CFT) for parents and caregivers is an emerging evidence-based intervention that aims to teach caregivers how to manage their own stress and frustration, as well as co-regulate their children’s emotions and self-soothing capabilities. Previous research has found that CFT interventions can improve parental self-compassion, psychological flexibility, and increase their sense of self-efficacy. The present study aimed to determine whether parental burnout and psychological inflexibility can be reduced through a novel CFT caregiver protocol. Results of the present study provide preliminary support for the utility of the intervention. Analyses of relations between constructs as well as the quantitative and qualitative results were consistent with findings from previous studies on the processes of interest. Paired samples t-tests also revealed that caregivers responded positively to the intervention and perceived the program to be helpful. Implications for future CFT parent and caregiver interventions are discussed.

Summary for Lay Audience

This compassion focused therapy (CFT) caregiver program is a new intervention that was developed for caregivers who may be experiencing self-criticism and burnout, and who have children with mental health difficulties. CFT was developed for, and has been shown to be effective in, decreasing self-criticism, increasing an individual’s ability to cope with difficulties, and increasing compassion with oneself and others. This research focuses on a concept called psychological flexibility, which is an ability to interact with one’s thoughts and emotions, even if they are negative, while still choosing to behave in ways which align with personal values. In parenting, psychological flexibility involves being able to accept negative thoughts and emotions related to the parenting role, while still being able to perform parenting practices that align with one’s parenting philosophy. CFT was chosen for this caregiver program as caregiver burnout, self-criticism, and psychological inflexibility negatively impact caregivers, their children, and the parent-child relationship.

This CFT intervention aims to help caregivers develop a greater understanding of self-compassion and self-criticism, explore how to engage in value-based action, learn about emotions and how they impact behaviour, engage in self-reflective work to understand what is impacting current parenting practices, and to develop skills to strengthen the parent-child relationship. Results of this intervention did not show a difference before and after the group in burnout and psychological inflexibility. However, results from the surveys revealed that caregivers were highly satisfied with the program, found it to be helpful, and continued to use the skills and attitudes from the program after it was complete. Results also demonstrated that caregivers believed their understanding of and relationship with their child, their ability to cope, and their confidence in their parenting skills improved. This research provides tentative support for this CFT intervention on improving the parent-child relationship, and informs future research and implementation considerations related to CFT caregiver interventions.