Kristin Neff, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin. She is known for her work on self-compassion.
Neff earned her bachelor's degree in communications at the University of California at Los Angeles before pursuing graduate work at the University of California at Berkeley. Her early areas of interest included moral development and reasoning, and her doctoral dissertation focused on her studies exploring the moral reasoning of children in India. After earning her doctoral degree, she spent time at Denver University studying authenticity and how the self-concept develops. During that time, her interest in Buddhism led her to begin research in the area of self-compassion, which was at the time a newly emerging area of interest within the field of psychology.
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In 1999, Kristin Neff began teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. She was promoted to the position of associate professor in 2006 and is still a member of the faculty. She remains interested in Buddhism and is an active practitioner of Insight Meditation.
Contribution to Psychology
Neff is considered a pioneer in the field of self-compassion. In 2003, she published two articles on self-compassion. These articles led to increased interest in the topic and furthered research efforts. Her research has focused on increasing understanding of self-compassion and the development of methods to help people learn how to become more compassionate toward themselves.
Self-compassion can be described as kindness toward the self in difficult, painful, or otherwise challenging times. According to Neff, people who are self-compassionate acknowledge that the human existence is an imperfect one and work to remain mindful of their negative thoughts and emotions.
Through her work, Neff has suggested that self-compassion may serve as a more beneficial alternative to self-esteem, an idea that has been supported by numerous psychologists and researchers. While self-esteem may fluctuate based on comparisons with others that can lead to self-critical feelings or diminished self-worth, self-compassion tends to be more stable and reliable. It allows people to be kind to themselves when they are struggling and helps them become better able to pick themselves up after a loss or failure and try again. It is Neff's belief that people who are able to increase their self-compassion will be able to lead happier, more fulfilled lives.
With her colleague Chris Germer, Neff developed Mindful Self-Compassion, an 8-week program designed to help people learn skills to develop their self-compassion. Another outcome of Neff's work is her scale to measure self-compassion, which has been used by researchers worldwide and translated into over a dozen languages.
Neff has given presentations on self-compassion around the country, and her research has been widely published in both journal articles and book chapters. Her book, Self-Compassion, which was published in 2011, has been printed in multiple foreign editions.
- About Dr. Kristin Neff. (2016). Retrieved from http://self-compassion.org/about
- Self-compassion. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://self-compassion.org/self-compassion-kristin-neff