Self-compassion by Tech: A Demonstration of a Supportive Self-compassion App for People with Newly Diagnosed Cancer

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


A diagnosis of cancer often has an immense impact on the life of cancer patients, and they are at an increased risk for distress, depression and anxiety. Given the low number of distressed patients who ask for or receive psychosocial care, the already high load of medical appointments for patients and their needs for autonomy, an intervention that can be executed in their own time may be particularly helpful. Mobile technology offers possibilities to partake in an intervention in a familiar context, to reach a large amount of people at low-threshold, and to help with integration of intervention content into daily life. Self-compassion, a way of responding to difficulties with kindness and wise, caring action, can help patients to increase their well-being and reduce distress. Since people with cancer are in the midst of an extremely challenging situation that entails difficult emotions and often self-blame, self-compassion is particularly relevant as a tool to help cope with the diagnosis. In compassion-based interventions such as Compassionate Mind Training, participants learn about the origins and nature of their emotions and safety strategies, and to cultivate mindful and compassionate acceptance towards them. Participants learn to recognize three evolutionary based emotion systems (threat-protection, drive and soothing system) in themselves, as a way to reduce self-blaming and shame and increase the sense that it is human and universal to experience functional but difficult emotions that are not our fault. In addition to such psychoeducation, Compassionate Mind Training consists of reflective, meditative and visualization exercises, in which participants learn to soothe and support themselves during difficult times. A recent review found that compassion-based interventions show promise in reducing anxiety and depression in people with cancer and are well-received by intervention participants. Combining the relevancy of self-compassion with the benefits of mobile technology, we have developed a supportive self-compassion app for people with newly diagnosed cancer in a co-creative design process. The development process consisted of a series of co-creative workshops with patients and nurses, and focused on integrating requirements of cancer patients and stakeholders (bottom-up input) and theoretical evidence about compassion-based interventions (top-down input) into an intervention. Description of the application/technology/concept The self-compassion smartphone app consists of six sequential modules that include psycho-education and exercises aimed at cultivating self-compassion in the time after a cancer diagnosis. Next to the sequential modules, features that are directly accessible from the app homepage include a mood tracker and an exercise in which the user recalls a pleasant moment of the day. Push messages are used to stimulate integration of the content into daily life. Practical description of demo The application will be set-up on two laptops, so that multiple conference visitors can navigate the application themselves or in discussion with the researcher. The visitors can learn how we have translated the theoretical and user requirements into technical solutions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2020
EventSupporting Health by Technology 2020 - U Parkhotel Enschede, Enschede, Netherlands
Duration: 11 Jun 202012 Jun 2020


ConferenceSupporting Health by Technology 2020
Internet address


  • EHealth interventions
  • cancer
  • Self-compassion
  • demonstration


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