Compassionate mind training (CMT) was developed for people with high shame and self-criticism, whose problems tend to be chronic, and who find self-warmth and self-acceptance difficult and/or frightening. This paper offers a short overview of the role of shame and self-criticism in psychological difficulties, the importance of considering different types of affect system (activating versus soothing) and the theory and therapy process of CMT. The paper explores patient acceptability, understanding, abilities to utilize and practice compassion focused processes and the effectiveness of CMT from an uncontrolled trial. Six patients attending a cognitive–behavioural-based day centre for chronic difficulties completed 12 two-hour sessions in compassionate mind training. They were advised that this was part of a research programme to look at the process and effectiveness of CMT and to become active collaborators, advising the researchers on what was helpful and what was not. Results showed significant reductions in depression, anxiety, self-criticism, shame, inferiority and submissive behaviour. There was also a significant increase in the participants' ability to be self-soothing and focus on feelings of warmth and reassurance for the self. Compassionate mind training may be a useful addition for some patients with chronic difficulties, especially those from traumatic backgrounds, who may lack a sense of inner warmth or abilities to be self-soothing. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.