Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Robin R. Whitebird


Social Work


Shame is a self-conscious emotion that affects self-esteem, self-concept and evaluation of the self. Shame is seen more often in women than men; in part due to societal and cultural standards placed upon women that create negative self-evaluations in women when those standards are not met. Shame is seen in mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, substance use disorders and eating disorders. When a woman presents for therapy or counseling, shame may be apparent and necessary to work on during therapy. This systematic review was designed to answer the research question: what therapeutic approaches are used in psychotherapy targeting shame in women with a mental health diagnosis? The review was set up using peer-reviewed articles published between 2000 and 2016. Using the database of PsycINFO, 11 peer-reviewed articles met the search criteria and were read and analyzed, which resulted in four themes being identified. These themes include: 1) the format of treatment, 2) increasing compassion, 3) mindfulness, and 4) acceptance. The research suggests using compassion focused therapies, mindfulness and acceptance skills to target shame in women with mental health diagnoses. Shame research is relatively new and more research is needed to replicate studies to ensure accuracy and validity of the results. Further research is also needed to understand the therapists’ feelings about addressing shame in psychotherapy.

Included in

Social Work Commons