Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Feasibility, Acceptability, and Preliminary Effectiveness of a Pilot Online Mindful Self-Compassion Program for Medical Students

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

William O'Brien (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Ashley McCoy (Other)

Third Advisor

Clare Barratt (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Abby Braden (Committee Member)


Medical students experience elevated stress, burnout, depression, suicidal ideation, and compassion fatigue. Previous research has demonstrated that a variety of mindfulness and self-compassion interventions can improve stress, burnout, and self-compassion in this population. However, these programs are not consistently implemented and, given the costly nature of program implementation, it is imperative to improve the effectiveness of interventions on psychological and behavioral health outcomes through systematic development. The specific aims were to: 1) assess feasibility and acceptability of the Self-compassion, Yoga, and Mindfulness for Burnout: Integrating Online Sessions and Interpersonal Support (SYMBIOSIS) program, and 2) evaluate preliminary psychological and behavioral health outcomes. A mixed-methods approach was utilized to investigate feasibility, acceptability, and effects of the program using validated measures and open-ended questions. Participants were 20 first- and second-year medical students at one U.S. mid-western medical college who participated between October 2020 to December 2020. Participants were enrolled in one of two groups for the virtual 8-week program via Webex. Participants completed surveys at pre, post, and four weeks after the intervention. They also completed weekly home practice assessments. Of the 19 participants who completed the program (95% retention rate), all participants attended 6 or more sessions. Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed that participants had significant improvements in burnout, self-compassion, perceived stress, and health promoting behaviors across time. These results were supported by qualitative themes of increased social support, wellness skills, and overall positive experiences. Findings suggest that the SYMBIOSIS program was feasible and acceptable to medical students, and improved psychological and behavioral health outcomes.