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Community-Wide Mindful Self-Compassion Program

The Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) Program is an evidence-based program that was created by Dr. Kristin Neff and Dr. Chris Germer through the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion. Vira Salzburn talks with the Telehealth Certification Institute about her use of MSC in her work as the Program Director of the Safety and Resilience programs at Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council.

According to Vira, MSC “is the first program that teaches self-compassion explicitly,” compared to other therapy practice models that focus on mindfulness skills training. For Vira, MSC also “[pulls] people out of the river of suicide” as an upstream approach to suicide prevention that empowers clients with mindfulness and self-compassion skills before they arrive at a crisis.

The research on MSC is compelling, too, and Vira shares several examples of how the practice of self-compassion can reduce a person’s stress levels and improve their psychological well-being. Vira describes how the brain interprets self-criticism and the unique way that MSC acts as a protective factor against suicidal behaviors.

As she puts it, self-compassion provides “a buffer between the feelings of shame and depression for those who have attempted suicide.” Vira recommends using compassionate phrases, gestures, or other self-soothing techniques to calm the danger response in the brain and to provide clients with relief.

In the video, Vira talks about her application of community-based services, including how she has increased access across populations in her own community by giving anyone, regardless of their background, an opportunity to learn life-long MSC skills. As part of her mission, Vira strives to “reach people we wouldn’t reach otherwise” free of cost.

Vira encourages professionals in the community to become MSC facilitators or what she termed “community champions,” who may be retired therapists or those who simply have a passion to help others. Vira also outlines the MSC classes that she offers through her program, and why flexibility is a necessary component to combat barriers to care.

Vira Salzburn is an MSC-Trained Teacher and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training Master Trainer. She is a Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness and Yoga Instructor, and she is currently studying human behavior at Harvard University, in addition to her role as Program Director at Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council. Vira has presented at numerous state and regional conferences about the importance of addressing suicide and building resiliency in communities.

By: Michael Tugendhat

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