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Self-criticism benefits psychiatrists, too.

Congratulations to Ricks Warren, PhD, ABPP, Elke Smeets, PhD, and Kristen Neff, MD, the authors of "Self-criticism and self-compassion: Risk and resilience," (Evidence-Based Reviews, Current Psychiatry, December 2016, p. 18-21,24-28,32). I believe the application of the innovative and scholarly message of self-compassion will not only be a boon to patients and the public but also to psychiatrists and mental health clinicians. Why? We, psychiatrists, seem to be experiencing a rising and epidemic rate of burnout, and self-compassion can help us to stop blaming ourselves for being unable to do our best when the system inhibits us. In turn, if we help our own well-being, we will be better able to help our patients.

H. Steven Moffic, MD

Retired Tenured Professor of Psychiatry

Medical College of Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dr. Warren responds

We couldn't agree more with Dr. Moffic's perspective that psychiatrists and other mental health clinicians likely would benefit from self-compassion during our clinical work in a complex, demanding, and rapidly changing mental health environment. Fortunately, attention to the importance of self-compassion for caregivers has been advocated, and recent studies of self-compassion in health care professionals have reported promising results. Because the neuroticism and self-criticism personality traits are most associated with depression and burnout in physicians, interventions that promote self-compassion are likely to lead to improved mental health in psychiatrists and other health care professionals. Recent research has found that self-compassion in health care providers is associated with less burnout and compassion fatigue, increased resilience, adaptive emotion regulation, and reduced sleep disturbance. (1)

The time is now right for clinical trials of self-compassion interventions in psychiatrists and other caregivers. Neff and Cermer's mindful self-compassion intervention/ discussed in our article, could be easily adapted for psychiatrists and other mental health professionals. As Mills and Chapman, (3) stated, "While being self-critical and perfectionistic may be common among doctors, being kind to oneself is not a luxury: it is a necessity. Self-care is, in a sense, a sine qua non forgiving care for patients."

Ricks Warren, PhD, ABPP

Clinical Associate Professor

Department of Psychiatry

University of Michigan Medical School

Ann Arbor, Michigan


(1.) Baker K, Warren R, Abelson J, et al. Physician mental health: depression and anxiety. In: Brower K, Riba M, eds. Physician mental health and well-being: research and practice. New York, NY: Springer. In press.

(2.) Neff KD, Germer CK. A pilot study and randomized controlled trial of the mindful self-compassion program. J Clin Psychol. 2013;69(1):28-44.

(3.) Milk J, Chapman M. Compassion and self-compassion in medicine: self-care for the caregiver. AMJ. 2016:9(5):87-91.

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Title Annotation:Comments & Controversies
Author:Moffic, H. Steven
Publication:Current Psychiatry
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Feb 1, 2017
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