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Objectives. The objective of this study was to explore the meaning and experiences of compassion and self-compassion for individuals with depression and anxiety.

Design. An interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) epistemology and methodology were adopted as the study was focused on understanding the meaning and experiences of participants towards self-compassion from existing theory.

Methods. Ten participants were selected based on a Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, 4th ed. – text revision diagnosis of depression or an anxiety disorder. Individuals were excluded from this study if they had additional diagnoses which impacted significantly on their disorder or on ethical grounds if participation was seen as psychologically distressing.

Participants completed a semi-structured interview with questions were based on existing self-compassion research. Interviews lasted an hour and were analysed using IPA methodology.

Results. Participants' reflections suggested that they saw compassion having two central qualities: kindness and action. Participants reported that they thought having compassion for themselves felt meaningful in relation to their experiences and useful in helping with their depression or anxiety. However, participants reflected that they felt being self-compassionate would be difficult either because the concept itself felt challenging to enact or their experience of psychological disorder had negatively impacted on their ability to be self-compassionate.

Conclusions. Participants' positive perceptions of self-compassion offer encouragement to clinicians as it appears people can connect with the concept meaningfully as well as seeing it as being useful. Clinicians focusing on self-compassion may gain greater efficacy when they incorporate both aspects within interventions. Findings about the difficulties associated with self-compassion provide valuable information as to why people find it difficult to adopt which can be used in the development of future clinical interventions.