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Recovery After Psychosis (RAP): A Compassion Focused Programme for Individuals Residing in High Security Settings


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The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a recovery group intervention based on compassionate mind training, for individuals with psychosis. In particular, the objective was to improve depression, to develop compassion towards self, and to promote help seeking. A within-subjects design was used. Participants were assessed at the start of group, mid-group (5 weeks), the end of the programme and at 6 week follow-up. Three group programmes were run over the course of a year. Nineteen participants commenced the intervention and 18 completed the programme. Significant improvements were found on the Social Comparison Scale; the Beck Depression Inventory; Other As Shamer Scale; the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory and the General Psychopathology Scale from the Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. The results provide initial indications of the effectiveness of a group intervention based on the principles of compassionate focused therapy for this population. The findings of this study, alongside implications of further research are discussed.
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Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 2009, 37, 511–526
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP): A Compassion Focused
Programme for Individuals Residing in High Security Settings
Heather Laithwaite, Martin O’Hanlon, Padraig Collins, Patrick Doyle,
Lucy Abraham and Shauneen Porter
The State Hospital, Carstairs, Scotland
Andrew Gumley
University of Glasgow, Scotland
Background: The aim of the study was to evaluate the effectiveness of a recovery group
intervention based on compassionate mind training, for individuals with psychosis. In
particular, the objective was to improve depression, to develop compassion towards self, and to
promote help seeking. Method: A within-subjects design was used. Participants were assessed
at the start of group, mid-group (5 weeks), the end of the programme and at 6 week follow-up.
Three group programmes were run over the course of a year. Nineteen participants commenced
the intervention and 18 completed the programme. Results: Significant improvements were
found on the Social Comparison Scale; the Beck Depression Inventory; Other As Shamer
Scale; the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory and the General Psychopathology Scale from the
Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale. Conclusions: The results provide initial indications
of the effectiveness of a group intervention based on the principles of compassionate focused
therapy for this population. The findings of this study, alongside implications of further research
are discussed.
Keywords: Psychosis, compassionate mind training, recovery, offenders.
In social mentality theory (Gilbert, 1989, 2001, 2005) the interplay in social situations
between emotional, motivational, cognitive, and behavioural processes is conceptualized as
reflectioning underlying evolutionary derived systems that shape relationships between the
self and others. Social mentalities are implicated in care-giving, care-eliciting, formation of
interpersonal alliances, social rank and sexual behaviour. They have a critical role in appraising
threat, enhancing safeness, and in regulating the affect associated with these fundamental
evolutionary challenges (MacBeth, Schwannauer and Gumley, 2008). According to whether
the environment is threatening or safe, all organisms must co-ordinate a range of internal
Reprint requests to Heather Laithwaite, Rowanbank Clinic, Balornock, Glasgow G21 3UL, Scotland. E-mail:
© 2009 British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies
512 H. Laithwaite et al.
processes in order to pursue goals, enact strategies and co-create social roles (Buss, 2003;
Gilbert, 1989, 1992). Whether environments are threatening or safe, humans have (often
rapid) access to an evolved menu or suite of strategic responses (ways of attending, feeling,
behaving and thinking) to aid adaptive responding (Gilbert, 2005).
Social mentality theory refers to the development of the human warmth syndrome”
whereby human beings develop, through secure attachments with primary care givers, the
ability to have compassion towards themselves and others. A secure attachment facilitates
the development of internal working models of others as “safe, helpful and supportive”.
The internalization of this helps the individual to develop self-soothing and compassionate
behaviours towards themselves and others. This activates the safe(ness) social mentality.
The threat-defence mentality is activated in situations of perceived and actual threat. For
example, social rank may provide a source of threat, whereby dominant individuals will issue
commands and hold power, whilst subordinates will take those commands and be submissive.
Social mentality theory states that the role relationships that exist between people can also
exist within people and arise from internal working models of early relationships. Therefore,
human beings can internalize the voice of a critical other and develop a submissive/subordinate
response to this. This model can help to explain the occurrence of command hallucinations.
It has been demonstrated that people who experience auditory hallucinations often relate
to them as though they were relating to real external others. In particular, the voices are
commonly experienced as malevolent, derogating, shaming and self-critical (Legg and Gilbert,
Developmental theory helps us understand the impact of early attachments on adult
psychopathology and hence the development of safe(ness) or threat focused social mentalities.
Previous research shows that early attachment experiences influence the ability to develop safe
and secure adult relationships (Bowlby, 1988). Gilbert (2004) refers to two consequences that
result when parents are unable to create (and stimulate) safeness, are threatening or shaming,
and do not convey warmth. First the “under-stimulation” of positive affect and warmth systems;
and second, the child is more likely to be “threat focused”, seeing others as a source of threat.
Subsequently, they are more social rank focused, especially on the power of others to control,
hurt or reject them. Sloman (2000) and Sloman, Gilbert and Hasey (2003) have shown that
those who have not been able to internalize a sense of warmth (able to stimulate positive affect
in the mind of others) and who feel unloved by others, can set out on quests to earn their place,
becoming excessively seeking, competitive and sensitive to rejection (Gilbert, 2004).
People with psychosis who also commit offences often come from backgrounds that reduce
the safe(ness) mentality and result in an activation of the threat focused mentality. Read
et al. (2004) have shown that the very high incidence of childhood trauma (emotional, sexual
and physical abuse or neglect) and a diagnosis of schizophrenia is not attributable to chance.
Experiences of bullying, shame, and other humiliation experiences (Bebbington et al., 2004;
Campbell and Morrison, 2007) trauma and loss (Romme and Escher, 1989) are also associated
with increased risk of developing psychosis. Such traumatic life experiences can lead to
the collapse and disorganization of attachment characterized by impaired mentalization and
theory of mind, fragmentation, dissociation and segmentation of episodic memories; and
use of competing and inconsistent coping responses (Liotti and Gumley, 2008; Read
and Gumley, 2008). Such early experiences may compromise the development of inner warmth.
We know that many people who have psychosis and who have also offended have had such life
experiences (Boswell, 1996; Fonagy et al., 1997) and we understand that this has an impact
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP) 513
on attachment organization and increases propensity for a threat focused social mentality or
“paranoid mind” (Gumley and Schwannauer, 2006).
The potential importance of developing inner warmth came from observations that some high
self-critics could understand the logic of cognitive behavioural therapy, and could generate
alternative thoughts to self-criticism, but rarely felt reassured by such efforts (Lee, 2005).
Similar observations were made when a self-esteem programme was piloted with a group of
patients with psychosis in a high security hospital (Laithwaite and Gumley, 2007). The findings
of this preliminary study were encouraging and demonstrated an improvement in self-esteem,
and depression. A noticeable change in positive symptomatology was not evident, due to
most participants being remitted of their positive symptoms prior to the group commencing.
Furthermore, participants in the group spoke about their early adverse experiences and how
this contributed to the development of low self-esteem. However, it was clear that many
participants were able to challenge their self-criticism on an “intellectual level” but continued
nevertheless to report feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.
The participants in both the above studies (Lee, 2005; Laithwaite and Gumley, 2007) came
from traumatized backgrounds. It is postulated by Gilbert (2004) that individuals with such
experiences are compromised in their ability to generate a model of compassion, and hence
the ability to self-soothe. Further studies have demonstrated that a lack of self-compassion is
associated with increased vulnerability to a number of indicators of psychopathology (Neff,
2003a). We know this is relevant because compassion helps to tap into safeness mode, which
helps to regulate affect. This is significant with regards to relapse and recovery after psychosis
as a key aspect in relapse is high levels of emotional distress and affective dysregulation in
the period before, during and following the acute phase of psychosis. For example, findings
from retrospective and prospective studies have shown that the most commonly reported early
signs of relapse are fearfulness, anxiety, poor sleep, irritability, tension, depression and social
withdrawal (Herz and Melville, 1980; McCandless-Glimcher et al., 1986; Birchwood, Hallett
and Preston, 1989). In terms of recovery, studies by Birchwood, Mason, MacMillan and Healy
(1993) and Rooke, Birchwood and Iqbal (1998) have shown that patients with depression
following an acute psychotic phase were more likely to have experienced more compulsory
admissions and loss of, or drop in, employment status. Gilbert formulates this according to
social rank theory, whereby schizophrenia is a major life event that leads to significant loss in
social status and role in society. Those who experience post-psychotic depression may indeed
have greater insight into such losses and fear subsequent relapse for this reason.
Gilbert and colleagues (Gilbert, 1992, 1997, 2000; Gilbert and Irons, 2005) have developed
compassionate mind training (CMT) to help people develop compassion and the ability to
self-soothe, regulate affect and hence provide an antidote to the threat mode. This model
is based on the premise that self-criticism is significantly associated with shame-proneness
and that self-criticism is associated with lifetime risk of depression (Murphy et al., 2002).
CMT proposes that some people have not had the opportunity to develop their abilities to
understand sources of their distress, be gentle and self-soothing in the context of set-backs and
disappointments, but are highly (internally and externally) threat focused and sensitive. CMT
seeks to change an internalized dominating-attacking style that elicits a submissive response
to one that elicits a caring and compassionate response.
There is a poverty of published research carried out into people with psychosis in forensic
clinical settings. This is despite the fact that this is a population with complex and long-
term needs. This population has generally experienced past trauma; poor relationships with
514 H. Laithwaite et al.
significant others, disrupted attachment histories and has the double stigma of experiencing
severe mental health problems and being offenders (Laithwaite et al., 2007; Boswell, 1996;
Fonagy et al., 1997). Recovery in this population is not just about reduction of symptoms
or distress, but reduction/management of risk of violent offending. It is therefore important
that therapies that have been researched in general mental health settings are adapted and
piloted with this population. A recovery programme that draws on CMT is attractive as it has
a developmental perspective that focuses on the effect of disrupted attachment histories on
the current functioning of the individual and their ability to respond to self-criticism, self-
soothe, and modify distress. Hence a programme that focuses on developing a compassionate
understanding of those vulnerabilities may promote recovery and help those seeking safety
strategies, which in turn may reduce the risk of violent re-offending.
The aim of this group intervention was to evaluate the specific aims of the Recovery After
Psychosis Programme. The aims of this programme were:
To improve depression
To improve self-esteem
To develop compassion towards self
To improve social comparison and to reduce external shame
A within-subjects design was used. Participants were assessed at the start of group, mid-group
(5 weeks), the end of the programme, and at 6-week follow-up.
The State Hospital is the maximum-security hospital for Scotland and Northern Ireland and
provides treatment and care in conditions of special security for individuals with mental
disorder who, because of their dangerous, violent or criminal propensities, cannot be cared for
in any other setting (The State Hospitals Board for Scotland, 2005). There are 11 wards covering
admissions, rehabilitation and continuing care. Patients in the hospital and participants in the
study are familiar with being assessed on a regular basis by health professionals who are
vigilant to issues of risk and mental health.
Inclusion/exclusion criteria
Participants were considered eligible for the group if they had a primary diagnosis of
schizophrenia, schizo-affective disorder or bi-polar affective disorder (those with bi-polar
affective disorder had a history of psychotic features). Potentially eligible participants were
excluded from the study if they had an organic illness, severe intellectual disability, and were
not able to provide informed consent. Participants were also excluded if they were involved
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP) 515
in other research. All participants in this study had a primary diagnosis of schizophrenia,or
bi-polar-affective disorder.
Ethical approval was given by the Local Research Ethics Committee (LREC number
06/s1103/76). Participants were recruited from a high security inpatient NHS setting. Letters
were sent to Responsible Medical Officers and clinical psychologists in the hospital in order
to identify potential participants. Prior to seeking informed consent from potentially eligible
patients, the respective patient’s Responsible Medical Officers were asked to provide consent
for their patient to be approached. Following consent, patients were approached by a chartered
clinical psychologist (HL) and following a full description of the study, patients were invited
to participate.
Assessments were administered to participants at the start, at 5 weeks (mid group), and
at the end of the programme, with a 6-week follow-up. All the clinical outcome measures
were standardized measures, either self-report questionnaires or structured interviews with
acceptable psychometric properties.
Inter-rater reliability
All psychometric assessments were carried out by the assistant psychologists who had both
received in-house training in the delivery of such assessments. Both were trained to use the
Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS) using video assessment (with reliability at
Primary outcomes
Social Comparison Scale (SCS): this scale was developed by Allan and Gilbert (1995), and
is an 11-item scale that taps global comparisons to others in the domains of attractiveness,
rank and group fit (feeling similar or different to others). A lower total score reflects relative
inferiority compared with others, whereas a higher total score indicates relative superiority.
External Shame (the Other as Shamer Scale – OAS): this scale was developed by Goss,
Gilbert and Allan (1994) and Allan, Gilbert and Goss (1994) to measure external shame (how
an individual thinks others see him/her). The scale consists of 18 items asking respondents
to indicate the frequency of their feelings and experiences to items such as, “I feel insecure
about others’ opinion of me” and “other people see me as small and insignificant” on a 5-point
Likert scale (never, seldom, sometimes, frequently, almost always). A total score is given by
adding up the items; a higher score indicates greater experience of external shame.
Self Compassion Scale (SeCS; Neff, 2003b).This scale is a self-report measure that
explores self-compassion in individuals. It is a 26-item scale that measures self-compassion
(13 items) and coldness towards the self (13 items). There are six subscales – three measure
self-compassion: common humanity, self-kindness and mindfulness. There are also three
subscales to measure coldness towards the self: self-judgment, over identification, and
516 H. Laithwaite et al.
isolation. Responses are given on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 =“almost never”
and 5 =“almost always”. Subscale scores are computed by calculating the mean of subscale
item responses. To compute a total self-compassion score, reverse score the negative subscale
items – self-judgment, isolation, and over-identification – then compute a total mean. The
higher the total score, the greater the self-compassion (NB: this is recommended scoring by
Neff, personal communication, but not scoring of original 2003b paper).
The Beck Depression Inventory II (Beck, Steer and Brown, 1996) was used as a self-report
measure of mood (score range 0–63). Higher scores reflect increase in self-reported low mood.
The Rosenberg Self-Esteem measure (RSE; Rosenberg, 1965; Rosenberg, Schooler,
Schoenbach and Rosenberg, 1995) is a 10-item self-report measure of self-esteem. Higher
scores (range 0–30) are indicative of higher self-esteem.
The Self-Image Profile for Adults (SIP-AD; Butler and Gasson, 2004) consists of 30 self-
descriptions and is a self-report questionnaire. Participants are invited to rate themselves as
they are and how they would like to be (ideal) along each self-description. A self-image score
(SI) represents how the individual feels about him/herself. A high self-image score suggests the
person has a positive view of him/herself. Self-esteem (SE) reflects an individual’s evaluation of
him/herself. On the SIP-AD this is operationalized as the discrepancy between how the person
sees him/herself and how they wish to be (ideal). A high score reflects a wide discrepancy and
therefore lower scores are interpreted as reflecting high self-esteem.
Secondary outcomes
The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (PANSS; Kay, Fiszbein and Opler, 1987)
measures 32 symptoms on a 7-point Likert scale, deriving three composite subscales: Positive,
Negative, or General Psychopathology. Higher raw scores indicate higher symptomatology.
The Recovery After Psychosis programme was delivered by a team comprising two chartered
clinical psychologists (HL and PC), an advanced practitioner (MO’H), a trainee clinical
psychologist (LA) and two assistant psychologists (SP and PD). The group was delivered by
three therapists (due to security reasons). The first group was facilitated by HL, MO’H and
SP and the last two groups were facilitated by HL, MO’H, PC and LA. SP and PD provided
between group session individual support. The programme was developed by HL and AG and
based on Compassionate Mind Training (Gilbert, 2001). AG provided the group facilitators
with clinical supervision. The programme ran for 10 weeks (20 sessions). This involved two
sessions a week. The programme was divided into the following three modules:
Module one: understanding psychosis and recovery. The aim of this module was to help
patients conceptualize the holistic nature of psychosis and the impact of this on various aspects
of their lives. Patients were encouraged to think about psychosis in relation to their emotions,
their cognitions, their behaviour, relationships and environment (see Figure 1). This model
was then used to understand recovery. Therefore patients were encouraged to think beyond
recovery as symptom reduction, but also to view recovery in terms of their emotions, feelings,
relationships with others and their environment. To help patients with this, the metaphor of
the “pebble in water” was used, so that they could understand how recovery or progress in one
area of their life can have an impact on another area. Another group exercise involved using
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP) 517
Figure 1. “Pebble in the water” conceptualization of recovery and psychosis
the metaphor of “recovery as a journey”, which helped create a visual experience of the many
difficulties that they may face in the future, and the “tools” they need to take with them on
their journey to help with this.
Module two: Understanding compassion and developing the ideal friend. In this module the
group explored the concept of compassion and the many features of this (strength, forgiveness,
acceptance, trust, non-judgemental). The strengths and weaknesses of these characteristics
were discussed in depth. This exercise progressed to the creation of the “ideal friend”. The
intention of creating this ideal friend is for patients to be able to refer to “someone” who is
compassionate and, over time, it is anticipated that they will internalize the characteristics of
this ideal friend, to develop their own compassionate responses towards themselves and others.
Guided discovery techniques were used to illicit an image of this ideal friend, and patients
were encouraged to focus on characteristics such as voice tone, facial expressions, and body
posture. Throughout the remainder of sessions, the programme referred to the ideal friend, and
used exercises to help develop compassionate responding. Participants were asked to keep a
diary of any negative emotions and self-critical thoughts they experienced during the week,
and how they responded to this using their “ideal friend”.
Module three: Developing plans for Recovery after Psychosis. This part of the programme
involved the development of a Recovery After Psychosis plan (focusing on triggers, early
warning signs, use of safety behaviours, action plan and agreed coping strategies). This
information was used to create a compassionate letter, which involved participants writing a
518 H. Laithwaite et al.
letter to themselves (as written by their ideal friend). This letter contained encouragement and
support in relation to how to respond to set-backs and how to seek help in the future.
Participant characteristics
Three groups were run in the hospital. There were 19 (all male) participants in total and
18 participants completed the programme. The mean age of the participants was 36.9 (SD
9.09). The mean duration in hospital was 8 years. Five participants had received a diagnosis of
schizophrenia; 10 paranoid schizophrenia and 3 bi-polar affective disorder (these 3 participants
had experienced auditory hallucinations when elated, although at the time of the group, these
had remitted). Eight of the participants also had a co-morbid personality disorder, namely
anti-social personality disorder. One participant was considered to be in the “borderline”
intellectual disability range.
Outcome measures
Analyses were carried out using SPSS for windows (version 14). Descriptive statistics were
conducted and further analyses were carried out using Friedman’s ANOVA. Significant overall
effects were followed up with Wilcoxon signed ranks (two-tailed). Effect sizes based on
Wilcoxon signed ranks are provided for all outcome measures for the purposes of transparency.
It should be noted that pmeasures were not adjusted for multiple comparisons. This was a
pilot study and thus we did not want to potentially miss significant outcomes by restricting
Primary outcomes measures
Overall significant changes were found on the Social Comparison Scale, Other As Shamer
Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory II, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem measure and the Self-
Image profile for Adults. Further analyses using Wilcoxon signed ranks test found significant
changes on the Social Comparison Scale between the start and end of the group (Z=1.96,
n-ties =11, p<.05, r=0.3) and this change was maintained at follow-up (Z=2.148,
n-ties =10, p<.05, r=0.36). A small change was found on the Other as Shamer scale between
the start of the group and 6-week follow-up (Z=.801, n-ties =11, p>.5, r=0.15). Significant
changes on the Beck Depression Scale were found at the end of treatment (Z=2.332,
n-ties =15, p<.05, r=0.38) and at 6-week follow-up (Z=−2.825, n-ties =16, p<.01,
r=0.47). An overall significant change was found on the Rosenberg self-esteem questionnaire.
Further analyses using Wilcoxon signed ranks test demonstrated a significant change at 6-week
follow-up (Z=−2.80, n-ties =15, p<.01, r=0.47) from baseline. Significant changes were
not found on the Self-compassion scale, the Robson self-concept questionnaire or the Self-
image profile for adults.
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP) 519
Tabl e 1. Primary outcome measures: change in assessment measures over course of treatment (Median, IQR and Friedman’s analysis)
Pre-treatment Mid group Post-treatment 6 week follow-up Effect sizes (r)
Measure median and IQR median and IQR median and IQR median and IQR X21(df)p(t1-t3)∗∗ (t1-t4)
Scale 3.30 (3.1–3.7) 3.57 (3.3–3.9) 3.48 (3.2–4.2) 3.63 (3.1–4.1) 4.87(3) .18 0.22 0.28
Social Comparison
Scale 36.00 (29–39) 35.00 (33–40.5) 38.00 (32.5–43.5) 35.00 (33.5–43) 8.54(3) .0360.30 0.36
Beck Depression
Inventory (11) 9.00 (4.5–15.5) 6.00 (3.0–16) 4.00 (3.0–8.0) 4.00 (1.5–10) 10.05 (3) .0180.38 0.47
Other as Shamer Scale 33.00 (23–41.5) 36.50 (25.5–48) 32.50 (22.5–36.3) 31.50 (18.8–46.7) 8.35 (3) .040.04 0.15
Rosenberg Self-Esteem
Questionnaire 19.00 (18–22) 19.00 (18–22) 20.00 (18.5–23) 22.00 (19–26) 12.5 (3) .0060.14 0.47
Robson Self-Concept
Questionnaire 126.50 (120–142) 128.50 (120–144.25) 127.50 (115–140.6) 127.50 (112.6–149.7) 1.85 (3) .603 0.01 0.24
SIP-AD-SI 132 (102–150) 129 (109.5–144) 131 (114–149.5) 126 (111–142) 5.09 (3) .165 0.14 0.06
SIP-AD-SE 24 (16.5–37) 25 (17.5–45.5) 20 (12.5–38.5) 22 (14–41) 2.03 (3) .566 0.02 0.07
significant results ∗∗t1-t3 (pre-treatment to end of treatment) t1-t4 (pre-treatment to 6 week follow-up) Effect sizes calculated on Wilcoxon signed
520 H. Laithwaite et al.
Tabl e 2. Secondary outcome measures: PANSS
Pre-treatment Mid group Post-treatment 6 week follow-up Effect sizes (r)
Measure median and IQR median and IQR median and IQR median and IQR X21 (df)p(t1-t3)∗∗ (t1-t4)
PANSS Positive 9.00 (8–10) No mid group 9.00 (8–10) 8.00 (7–10) 2.79 (2) .248 0.1 0.24
PANSS Negative 10.00 (9–13) No mid group 10.00 (9–16.5) 9.00 (8–12) 5.79 (2) .055 0.02 0.3
PANSS General
Psychopathology 24.00 (20.5–26) No mid group 21.00 (18.5–23.5) 19.00 (16.5–21) 7.61(2) .0220.38 0.41
PANSS Depression 9.00 (2.99) No mid group 7.31, 7.00 (2.35) 6.31, 6.00 (2.25) 5.76 (2) .056 0.26 0.31
significant results ∗∗ t1-t3 (pre-treatment to end of treatment) t1-t4 (pre-treatment to 6 week follow-up) Effect sizes calculated on Wilcoxon
signed ranks
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP) 521
Secondary outcomes
Significant changes were found on the PANSS general psychopathology score at the end
of the group (Z=2.23, n-ties =14, p <.05, r=0.38) and this was maintained at follow-up
(Z=2.75, n-ties =12, p<.01, r=0.41). Significant changes were not found on the PANSS
positive, negative or depression scales.
This was a pilot, pre-trial study. This was the first time that a compassion focused group
intervention has been run at the State Hospital and, to our knowledge, the first time that it
has been run with a forensic clinical population. The primary objective of this study was to
evaluate whether the programme would improve depression, improve self-esteem, develop
self-compassion and social comparison and lower the experience of shame compared with
others, and hence improve how an individual perceives how others see him/her.
The findings of this study demonstrated a large magnitude of change for levels of depression
and self-esteem as measured by the Beck Depression Inventory II, and Rosenberg Self-Esteem
Inventory. A moderate magnitude of change was found for the social comparison scale and
general psychopathology, with a small magnitude of change for shame, as measured by
the Other as Shamer Scale. These changes were maintained at 6-week follow-up. Gilbert
(2005) has shown that self-critical thinking biases are influential in the development and
maintenance of psychopathology; therefore a programme such as this recovery programme,
which focuses on developing compassionate responses to shame, self-critical and self-attacking
thoughts, will likely lead to a reduction in depression, shame and an increase in self-esteem.
Much of the research on psychopathology has focused on depression; however, we know
that self-critical thinking, shame and low self-esteem also play a role in the development
and maintenance of psychotic experiences (Bentall, Kinderman and Kaney, 1994; Garety,
Kuipers, Fowler, Freeman and Bebbington, 2001; Smith et al., 2006). We observed changes
on the general psychopathology scale that may be associated with a reduction in shame and
self-critical thinking. However, in a larger scale study, investigating the mediating effects of
changes in compassion, shame and self-critical thinking on general psychopathology might
be interesting. Furthermore, anger is a common response to rejection from others, shame
and feeling inferior (Gilbert and Miles, 2000; Baumeister, Smart and Boden, 1997), and
therefore an intervention that focuses on reducing shame, and improving comparison with
others, may have an impact on reducing anger and possibly risk of violent offending. This
again could be explored in a larger scale trial of a compassion focused group on shame,
anger and risk reduction. There is limited published research carried out on interventions for
psychosis with a mentally disordered population. However, although this study drew from
patients in a high security setting, the results sit favourably with a case series study of three
patients with psychosis, anger problems and substance misuse in a low security environment
(Haddock, Lowens, Brosnan, Barrowclough and Novaco, 2004) and with a self-esteem group
intervention carried out in high security (Laithwaite and Gumley, 2007).
A significant change was found on the Rosenberg self-esteem questionnaire but not on the
other measures of self-esteem. In the self-esteem group evaluation (Laithwaite and Gumley,
2007) self-esteem was found to be strongly correlated with scores on the BDI II. That is,
lower self-esteem was associated with more severe depressed mood. Therefore it was unclear
522 H. Laithwaite et al.
whether changes in self-esteem were related to changes in depressed mood or vice versa.
Although correlations between scores on the BDI II and the Rosenberg self-esteem measure
were not carried out in this study, it is possible that a similar relationship was present. Indeed,
Rosenberg and colleagues have found that the negative correlation between the two variables
seems to be due somewhat more to the effect of depression on self-esteem than to the effect
of self-esteem on depression” (Rosenberg et al., 1995, p. 145). Furthermore, the findings
from Birchwood and Iqbal (1998) draw attention to the fact that depression in psychosis
is particularly common, with prevalence estimates ranging from 22% to75%, depending on
criteria used.
Significant changes were not found on the self-compassion scale. However, the median
score on this measure is comparable with norms developed on a general student population
(Neff, 2003a, b). It may be that the self-report of compassion is different for individuals
who have lacked the experience of compassion from others during critical periods of their
development. This would be consistent with the proposals of social mentality theory. There
were several challenges to delivering this programme. The concept of compassion is one that
is not usually discussed in forensic clinical settings where notions of symptom reduction and
risk management prevail. Participants were able to describe the characteristics of compassion
but struggled to relate these characteristics to themselves. For example, acceptance and
forgiveness generated much discussion in the group, with many participants reportedly feeling
uncomfortable about self-forgiveness as it may be interpreted as lack of remorse or empathy
for their victims. The programme focused on developing acceptance for past behaviours but
taking responsibility for future possible outcomes. This seemed to empower many of the
group participants as there was some hope of moving on from the stigma and shame of
the past to being positive about the future. This change in looking at future possibilities
also helped participants respond to self-attacking thoughts that seemed to be mainly past
orientated. There is a movement to promote forgiveness in violent offenders and to promote
the potential to develop a “good life” (Ward and Marshall, 2004), with this being seen as a more
positive approach to offender rehabilitation as it helps to engage individuals in therapy, and
subsequently may reduce risk of future violent offences (Day, Gerace, Wilson and Howells,
Many of the participants initially found it challenging to generate a compassionate image.
This was not just simply that participants in the group found it difficult to access early
memories, as some could clearly describe memories of inconsistent care-giving – it was
that they could not relate to personal experiences of compassion, and therefore found it
challenging to generate an internal working model of a compassion. The research on attachment
theory may help to explain this. When early attachment experiences are compromised,
this may result in insecure adult attachment states of mind. We know from research that
individuals with psychosis and with violent offending histories often have experienced
disrupted attachment histories (Boswell, 1996; Read and Gumley, 2008). For example, limited
early experiences of care giving conducive to secure attachment and limited experience of
mirroring, where needs of the infant are reflected on by their care-giver (Fonagy, Gergely,
Jurist and Target, 2002). Such early attachment experiences have an effect on the development
of mentalization and subsequent regulation of affect (Liotti and Gumley, 2008). Therefore
individuals’ ability to reflect on their own emotional mental states and memories may be
compromised (Bowlby, 1988., Fonagy et al., 2002). Such early attachment histories might
also have been associated with avoidant/dismissive coping styles. The compassion focused
Recovery After Psychosis (RAP) 523
therapy encouraged participants to reflect upon episodic memories that may have resulted in
some participants feeling anxious or distressed and using avoidant coping styles so as not to
think about an image. Furthermore, individuals operating in a threat focused social mentality
may have experienced a degree of fear when generating a compassionate image (Gilbert,
2003). To overcome some of these challenges, group facilitators offered support and helped
the group to generate a group compassionate image, and also suggested that they could think
of a place or non-human object that generated feelings of warmth and safety.
There are several limitations to this study. In particular, the study was conducted with a small
sample of participants without any matched control group. We therefore cannot be fully confid-
ent that the changes observed over time are fully attributable to the effects of the intervention.
Future research could incorporate a larger sample size, and randomization to an appropriate
control condition, which would improve the reliability and generalizability of findings. In
addition, many of the measures used in the study do not have published norms and have not
been validated with a forensic clinical population. However, comparisons can be drawn with
previous studies that have used these measures. We know that patients in the forensic clinical
population score higher on external shame and lower on social comparison compared with a
student population (Goss et al., 1994; Gilbert, Cheung, Grandfield, Campey and Irons, 2003).
Gilbert and Proctor (2006) developed a group intervention for six patients with major/severe
long term and complex difficulties. At the start of this group, the mean score for participants
was much higher on external shame than the forensic clinical population. However, at the end of
the intervention, the scores on external shame and social comparison were comparable with the
forensic clinical population. It is also important to recognize that Bonferonni corrections were
not used in the analysis. One limitation of the study is the accepted pvalue was not corrected
for the number of multiple comparisons and small sample size. However, we considered that
given the pilot nature of the study that the increased risk of type I errors was acceptable. This
was because we wished to estimate which outcomes were more important to measure in a larger
randomized study. Facilitators involved in the delivery of the group were also involved in the
completion of psychometric assessments. To reduce bias, future evaluation of the programme
would be improved by using raters independent of the treatment programme.
In conclusion, this preliminary study evaluated a compassion focused group intervention
for patients with psychosis residing in a high security setting. The findings demonstrate an
improvement in depression, self-esteem, and rating of self compared with others, and a reduc-
tion in shame, and general psychopathology. Further replication of this study could involve a
waiting list control group, a larger sample size and independent rating of change in outcome.
Further research could also involve extending this protocol to non-forensic populations.
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... This is a phenomenon related to fear of positive emotions (and associated with insecure adult attachment styles) that may require an adjustment in treatment in certain patients in order to desensitise them from the fear of compassion. 36 Laithwaite et al. 11 have developed the pilot programme Recovery After Psychosis (RAP), based on Compassionate Mind Training, which was carried out in a penitentiary psychiatric unit. The sessions were led by a team made up of three therapists (for security reasons). ...
... -Intermediate Phase (sessions [6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13]. Focused on the gradual development of compassion towards oneself and others. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper outlines the theoretical and empirical basis for a treatment of psychosis from an evolutionary model of emotional regulation: Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) for recovery from psychosis. CFT was originally developed for people with high levels of shame and self-criticism. Along with stigma, these are common features in people who are recovering from psychosis, and who may also develop serious emotional regulation problems. Elements of attachment theory involved in the origin of these difficulties are explored and some empirical facts about the clinical utility and efficacy of this new treatment are presented. A brief description is given of a recent group protocol that has been subjected to randomized trial, obtaining promising results.
... Recently, compassion-based approaches have been adapted and applied to the treatment of psychotic disorders with encouraging results (Braehler et al., 2013;Gumley et al., 2010;Laithwaite et al., 2009;Martins et al., 2018). Nonetheless, patients with psychosis sometimes have difficulties in engaging with compassionate training and imagining compassionate behaviours, feeling frightened instead of soothed (Laithwaite et al., 2009;Mayhew & Gilbert, 2008). ...
... Recently, compassion-based approaches have been adapted and applied to the treatment of psychotic disorders with encouraging results (Braehler et al., 2013;Gumley et al., 2010;Laithwaite et al., 2009;Martins et al., 2018). Nonetheless, patients with psychosis sometimes have difficulties in engaging with compassionate training and imagining compassionate behaviours, feeling frightened instead of soothed (Laithwaite et al., 2009;Mayhew & Gilbert, 2008). Several factors may account for this phenomenon. ...
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Previous research has supported the emergence of approaches focused on the cultivation of compassion as a means of decreasing psychopathology and improving well-being. However, some individuals show resistance against compassion, which may compromise these interventions. The Fears of Compassion Scales (FCS) is a self-report questionnaire comprising three scales, that measure fear of compassion (FC) for others, from others and for self. The aim of this study was to confirm the original factor structure of FCS and examine its psychometric properties, in a sample of Portuguese individuals with psychosis. A total of 196 participants (141 male and 55 female) diagnosed with a psychotic disorder or a mood disorder with psychotic features answered a set of self-report questionnaires that included the FCS, as well as measures of self-criticism, self-compassion, social safeness and severity of psychotic symptomatology. Confirmatory factor analysis indicated an excellent fit to the single-factor structure for each scale. FC from others and for self scales maintained all the items, however, four items with inadequate loadings were removed in the FC for others scale. The three scales were correlated with each other and showed the expected associations with the remaining measures. Additionally, FC from others and FC for self were associated with both positive and negative psychotic symptomatology. Overall, our results confirm that the FCS is a reliable and valid measure of FC in individuals with psychosis and reinforce that it may be a useful tool in clinical and research settings.
... Evidence has suggested significant benefits of adding CFT-based approaches to CBT for a range of psychiatric problems (Beaumont et al., 2012;Gale et al., 2014). Several studies have also shown that CFT interventions increase the ability to selfsoothe, distress tolerance, reduce shame and self-criticism, enhance self-perception, and positively affect cognitive patterns associated with particular psychiatric disorders, such as eating disorders and personality disorders (Ashworth et al., 2011;Beaumont et al., 2012;Gale et al., 2014;Gilbert & Procter, 2006;Judge et al., 2012;Laithwaite et al., 2009;Lucre & Corten, 2013). Compassion training techniques applied in CFT have also demonstrated impacts in biological measures such as changes in activity in brain regions associated with emotional regulation (Begley, 2007;Davidson et al., 2003;Longe et al., 2010), heart rate variability, and cortisol levels in directions suggesting improved emotion regulation (Rockliffe et al., 2008). ...
Hoarding Disorder (HD) was formally recognized as a mental health diagnosis in 2013. A number of therapeutic methods have been developed and tailored for HD, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). The aims of this article are threefold: First, to provide a description of the rationale of developing a group CFT protocol for HD (CFT-HD); Second, to introduce the theoretical framework, treatment targets, and techniques of CFT-HD; Third and finally, to share existing empirical evidence of CFT-HD, and an ongoing study on CFT-HD conducted in a private practice setting. Implications of the development of and research findings on CFT-HD, as well as future directions, are discussed.
... Further research in this field found MBIs to be particularly helpful at reducing psychotic symptoms (Bacon, Farhall, & Fossey, 2014;Gaudiano & Herbert, 2006) and the decreasing severity of negative symptoms (Gaudiano, Nowlan, Brown, Epstein-Lubow, & Miller, 2013;Johnson et al., 2009;Johnson, Penn, Fredrickson, Kring, & Meyer, 2011;White et al., 2011). Some studies also suggest improving social functioning (Gaudiano & Herbert, 2006) and self-esteem (Laithwaite et al., 2009). Furthermore, it has also been shown that these interventions lower rehospitalization rates (Bach & Hayes, 2002;Gaudiano & Herbert, 2006) and the average duration of inpatient time (Chien & Lee, 2013), even one year after a brief four sessions of MBI (Bach, Hayes, & Gallop, 2012). ...
In recent years, Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI) have gained popularity as a modern psychotherapeutic approach, primarily in English-speaking countries. A growing body of evidence demonstrates the clinical benefits of MBI for a wide range of symptoms experienced in Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders (SSD). However, research in German speaking countries remains scarce. Against this background, the present dissertation aims to contribute to the available body of literature by developing and validating a Mindfulness-Based Group Therapy (MBGT) for the treatment of inpatients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders. This comprehensive research study will include both qualitative and quantitative data analysis concerning the three subprojects revealed below. A qualitative research design based on inductive thematic analysis in the form of a semistructured interview guide was developed and 27 interviews were conducted with inpatients having SSD after attending a mindfulness-based intervention in study one. Analyses revealed two domains (content and function) of MBI. The domain content had further subcategories, including core elements, as well as effects on emotions, cognition, and symptoms changes. The second domain was related to the relevance of perception of context and transfer to everyday life. Overall, individuals reported improvements on several clinical parameters and gave an indepth understanding of underlying processes and mechanisms at action. Based on these outcomes, a novel Mindfulness-Based Group Therapy (MBGT) was developed for the first time in the German language through a fundamental participatory and iterative research process and finally published in a manual's printed book form. Moreover, historical concerns regarding the therapeutic utility of mindfulness for SSD are discussed, while recommendations and careful adaptations are given to implement MBI in inpatient and outpatient settings as a part of an editorial article. In study two, the newly translated German version of the Southampton Mindfulness Questionnaire (SMQ) was validated regarding convergent and divergent validity, reliability, factor structure, and treatment sensitivity while providing evidence for clinical practice and research for healthy individuals, mediators, and clinical groups. In the third study, a rater-blinded randomized controlled trial was conducted to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary outcomes of MBGT with inpatients having SSD. Results showed high protocol adherence and retention rates indicating feasibility and acceptability. Furthermore, various improvements were revealed on clinical- and process dimensions compared with treatment-as-usual. Overall, the present dissertation gives compelling evidence regarding the effects of mindfulness for SSD and adds a modern psychological treatment option for this marginalized patient group.
... External shame, and its focus on external judgement from others, has been more strongly related to social anxiety and generalised anxiety than internal shame (Cândea & Szentagotai-Tătar, 2018b). There is also some evidence for the efficacy of training in compassion to reduce external shame in individuals with severe mental health disorders (Laithwaite et al., 2009). However, research in this area is limited (Proeve et al., 2018), and no research has yet explored the relative efficacy of self-compassion interventions for regulating external shame across different clinical disorders. ...
Objective: The self-focused emotion of shame has been implicated in risk for psychopathology. However, this risk might be reduced by using emotion regulation strategies. To better understand the factors influencing emotion regulation and well-being in Australian university students, the current study investigated the relationships between external shame, a perception of judgement and negative evaluation from others, and core symptoms associated with psychopathology. The current study also explored whether self-compassion moderated these relationships. Methods: Australian university students (N = 392) ranging in age from 18 to 55 years old (M = 23.60) completed questionnaires assessing trait external shame, self-compassion, and the psychopathology dimensions of depression, anxiety, and stress. Results: There were strong positive associations between external shame and the core dimensions of psychopathology, along with strong negative associations between these variables and self-compassion. Self-compassion moderated the relationship between external shame and psychopathology in relation to depression and anxiety symptoms, but these findings were not replicated for stress. Conclusions: The results have advanced our understanding of the experience of self-relevant emotional distress and core symptoms of psychopathology among Australian university students and have revealed that self-compassion may provide a way to regulate the negative affectivity associated with external shame in this context. Key Points What is already known about this topic: • (1)Shame follows evaluations of perceived failure and is associated with avoidant emotion regulation techniques and psychopathology. • (2)Self-compassion activates the soothing emotion regulation system which can encourage more measured processing of negative self-relevant events. • (3)External shame is emerging as a higher risk for psychopathology than internal shame or shame-proneness; both of which have been the predominant focus of enquiry to date. What this topic adds: • (1)Higher self-compassion reduced the strength of the external shame-anxiety and external shame-depression relationships in Australian university students. • (2)Self-compassion may be an effective emotion regulation strategy to reduce the aversive effects of external shame on the severity of depression and anxiety symptomatology. • (3)Self-compassion could be a way to regulate the negative affectivity associated with perceptions of external shame.
... For example, it has been argued that caution should be taken to ensure that patients are given realistic expectations rather than false hopes (Mezey et al., 2010). Nevertheless, a recovery approach has been implemented in secure settings in several countries (Drennan & Alred, 2013;Laithwaite et al., 2009;Livingston et al., 2012;McKenna et al., 2014b;Skinner et al., 2014), and the research in this field is growing rapidly. Skinner et al. (2014) found that forensic patients are 'able to manage the complexities of developing a realistic sense of hope in the context of the double stigma of being both mentally ill and dangerous' (p. ...
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Aim To measure change in service user involvement in secure mental health units, before and after the implementation of recovery‐oriented practice. Design Quasi‐experimental study pretest–posttest design with non‐equivalent comparison groups. Methods Data were collected from May 2018 to December 2019 in four medium‐/high‐security units in Norway. Two intervention units that implemented recovery‐oriented practice were compared with two comparison units that did not. Data were obtained using anonymous questionnaires at baseline and at 6‐month follow‐up. For intervention units, data were also obtained at a 12‐month follow‐up to measure sustainability of improvements over time. Twenty inpatients (‘patients’; intervention group: 10, comparison group: 10) and 141 members of frontline staff (‘service providers’; intervention group: 92, comparison group: 49) participated at baseline. Mann–Whitney U‐tests and independent sample t‐tests were applied at the group‐level to analyse changes in mean scores in groups. Results Among patients in the intervention units, findings indicated no improvements after 6 months, but significant improvements after 12 months in terms of patients’ opportunities to participate in formulating their individual care plans, to influence decision‐making about therapy and to receive information about complaint procedures. Opportunities to participate in discussions about medication and treatment regimens did not improve. After 6 months, service providers in the intervention units reported an increase in democratic patient involvement, patient collaboration and management support, but not in carer involvement and assisted patient involvement. The improvements in democratic patient involvement and management support were sustained over time. No changes were found in the comparison groups. Conclusion The patients and the service providers reported a higher degree of service user involvement after implementing recovery‐oriented practice. Specific work is needed to ensure patients’ involvement in all domains. Impact The findings are encouraging with respect to the potential to increase empowerment in a restricted setting through the implementation of recovery‐oriented practice.
Research has repeatedly demonstrated that individual and group psychotherapy are equally effective. Compassion‐focused therapy (CFT) has been shown to be an effective approach to treating individuals with a wide range of presenting mental health concerns. In this study, we discuss the basic tenets of CFT and introduce a 12‐module CFT group psychotherapy approach for college counseling centers. We use a clinical vignette to provide an example of how psychotherapists may implement this approach. We then discuss clinical applications, including strengths and limitations of this approach.
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The purpose of this study is to determine the level of depression, anxiety, stress and emotional intelligence of university students with different level of compassion (low, medium, high). Research sample was composed of students from Ahmet Keleşoğlu Faculty of Education, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Literature and Science. Participants of the research were 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th year university students from Selçuk and Necmettin Erbakan University chosen by convenience sampling method. Participants were made up of 576 students of whom 322 were females and 254 males. In order to determine the depression anxiety stress scores of the students, Depression Anxiety Stress Scale for emotional intelligence scores Trait Emotional Intelligence Scale for compassion scores Compassion Scale, Turkish adaptation made by the researcher. One-way Anova was employed to determine if depression anxiety stress emotional intelligence mean scores differentiate with respect to compassion levels. Tukey test was used as further analysis to determine the source of differentiation. According to the findings of the research, the students with low and medium compassion levels have more depression, anxiety and stress levels than students with high level of compassion. It was found that there is no significant differentiation between the levels of anxiety and stress on the students with different level of compassion (low, medium, high). The students with low and medium compassion levels have less emotional intelligence levels than students with high compassion.
Limited evidence exists for the effectiveness of psychological interventions that target the mental health needs of people who use forensic mental health services. Capturing service users’ perspectives and experiences may provide information helpful to understanding why this is the case. It may also provide information that could help to improve the effectiveness of such interventions with this population. This paper aimed to address this and reviewed qualitative studies to identify the factors that are considered important to the effectiveness of interventions from the perspectives of service users. A review of the literature was conducted and eleven papers were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria. A meta-ethnography approach was used to synthesize the data. Six super-ordinate themes emerged which were synthesized into a hierarchy of treatment based on two main categories: “Treatment Foundations” and “Treatment Benefits.” The findings suggested that addressing the Treatment Foundation factors such as enabling informed decision-making; developing trusting therapeutic relationships; and providing accessible materials whilst considering service user preferences can in turn result in service users benefitting from treatment in a number of ways. The findings have significant implications for future research, mental health service providers, clinicians and therapists, and for those who design therapeutic interventions.
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Conventional wisdom has regarded low self-esteem as an important cause of violence, but the opposite view is theoretically viable. An interdisciplinary review of evidence about aggression, crime, and violence contradicted the view that low self-esteem is an important cause. Instead, violence appears to be most commonly a result of threatened egotism--that is, highly favorable views of self that are disputed by some person or circumstance. Inflated, unstable, or tentative beliefs in the self's superiority may be most prone to encountering threats and hence to causing violence. The mediating process may involve directing anger outward as a way of avoiding a downward revision of the self-concept.
Human Nature and Suffering is a profound comment on the human condition, from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Paul Gilbert explores the implications of humans as evolved social animals, suggesting that evolution has given rise to a varied set of social competencies, which form the basis of our personal knowledge and understanding. Gilbert shows how our primitive competencies become modified by experience - both satisfactorily and unsatisfactorily. He highlights how cultural factors may modify and activate many of these primitive competencies, leading to pathology proneness and behaviours that are collectively survival threatening. These varied themes are brought together to indicate how the social construction of self arises from the organization of knowledge encoded within the competencies. This Classic Edition features a new introduction from the author, bringing Gilbert’s early work to a new audience. The book will be of interest to clinicians, researchers and historians in the field of psychology.
IntroductionClassification and Unipolar DepressionSymptoms and SyndromesCompeting ClassificationsThe Limits of ClassificationLeaky Classes and ComorbidityDepression and the Threshold ProblemCase Identification in ResearchQuestionnaires and InterviewsBottom-up and Top-Down Case IdentificationThe Frequency of Depressive DisorderDepression and SexDepression and AgeOther Sociodemographic Variables That Influence Rates of DepressionBIological Explanations for the Sex Ratio In DepressionLife Stress and DepressionThe Childhood Antecedents of Later DepressionThe Epidemiology of Treatment for DepressionThe Genetic Epidemiology of Major DepressionConclusions References
This article defines the construct of self-compassion and describes the development of the Self-Compassion Scale. Self-compassion entails being kind and understanding toward oneself in instances of pain or failure rather than being harshly self-critical; perceiving one's experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as isolating; and holding painful thoughts and feelings in mindful awareness rather than over-identifying with them. Evidence for the validity and reliability of the scale is presented in a series of studies. Results indicate that self-compassion is significantly correlated with positive mental health outcomes such as less depression and anxiety and greater life satisfaction. Evidence is also provided for the discriminant validity of the scale, including with regard to self-esteem measures.