An Exploration of Shame, Spiritual Practices, and Compassion in a Community-Based Group

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Psychological research has explored the maladaptive role of shame in contributing to poor self-image, impaired relationships, and psychopathology. Compassion-focused therapy, offered in individual and group therapy formats, has demonstrated effectiveness in repairing shame through its emphasis on increasing self-acceptance and empathy. In settings such as the Bahamas that have experienced societal fragmentation, culturally tailored community-based group interventions may play a significant role in mitigating the effects of maladaptive responses to shame. In the present study, researchers explored whether engaging in spiritual practices within a community-based group was related to transformation and the alleviation of shame. Research questions focused on whether the group process and shared ritual practices of spirituality were significant elements of participants’ experience of transformation. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 members of “The Family: People Helping People,” a Bahamas-based group resocialization program, and analyzed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis. Fifty-four themes were identified and cluster analyses were conducted to assess relationships between themes based on word similarity. Themes related to spiritual practices, compassion for self and others, shame, transformation, and group process were examined. Participants noted that prayer enhanced their group experience and fostered group cohesion and increased compassion for others. In addition, group-related factors (particularly interpersonal elements) and compassion were significant in participants’ description of transformation and decreased shame. Findings support a holistic approach to addressing shame that incorporates psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Abernethy, Alexis D.

Document Type





Emotion-focused therapy, Compassion, Cognitive therapy, Shame, Community-based corrections.




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