The Compassionate Mind Research Group promotes wellbeing by facilitating the scientific understanding and application of compassion. We are particularly focused on compassion-focused therapy and evolutionary models and how they apply to therapy, parenting, leadership, schools and community.

The Compassionate Mind Research Group is Co-Directed by Dr James Kirby and Adjunct Associate Professor Dr Stan Steindl. We are affiliated with the Compassionate Mind Foundation in the UK, founded by Professor Paul Gilbert O.B.E. who is also the founder of Compassion Focused Therapy.

If you are interested in finding out more about compassion, you can listen to our podcast, The Compassion Initiative.

The aims of the Compassionate Mind Research Group are:

  1. To conduct scientific research exploring compassion.
  2. To train individuals in compassion-focused therapy approaches and programs.
  3. To disseminate compassion knowledge broadly.

We also hold the annual UQ Compassion Symposium. The inaugural symposium keynote speaker was Professor James Doty, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. Dr James R. Doty is the very first Advisory Board Member for The Compassion Mind Research Group, and we are honoured to have him as a founding member.

Research Areas

Our current Research Questions driving CMRG activities include:

  • Compassion in Everyday life
    • How do we experience compassion?
    • When are we compassionate?
    • How does compassion affect our well-being and relationships?
  • Compassion in Mental Health
    • How does compassion affect mental health?
    • Can fostering compassion improve mental health?
    • What are the experiences of compassion in clinical disorders?
    • How can targeting compassion treat clinical disorders?
  •  Compassion in Action
    • How can we cultivate everyday compassionate action?
    • What are the barriers to compassionate action in children, teens, and adults?
    • How is compassion experienced across cultures?   

We use multimodal measurement approaches to address this research questions:

  • Self-report: scales and questionnaires
  • Neurophysiological: functional magnetic resonance imaging, heart rate variability
  • Behaviour: experimental paradigms, experience sampling, donations
  • Interventions: training and therapies


Compassion Motivation and Action Scales

We have developed a free self-report scale for researchers and clinicians to use called The Compassionate Motivation and Action Scale. It measures compassionate and self-compassionate intention, distress tolerance and action. 

Compassion Focused Audio Guided Exercises

We have developed free audio guided exercises of key Compassion Focused Therapy exercises which can be accessed at the Compassion Initiative SoundCloud account or via Apple Podcasts.

Three Circle Measure

A key model used in Compassion Focused Therapy is Paul Gilbert’s Three Affect Regulation Model. We have developed with collaborator Dr Jamin Day a digital interactive measure to capture this model for participants and clients.

Compassion Syllabus

Dr James Kirby developed a 4th year Seminar on the Science of Compassion. The 2020 course syllabus can be accessed for free here.

Compassion Focused Therapy Tip Sheets

Dr James Kirby has also developed a series of Tip Sheets that convey core CFT exercises or concepts. 


Advisory board

Staff Members and Affiliates

Graduated PhD students

  • Dr Matti Wilks
  • Dr Jeffrey Kim
  • Dr April Hoang
  • Dr Grace Fitzallen
  • Dr Alicia Carter

Current PhD students

  • Deanna Varley (Social and Affective Impacts of Adult Attachment Style on The Experience of Compassion)
  • Dylan Moloney-Gibb (Feasibility and pilot testing of a compassion-focused intervention in young offenders and children in care)
  • Susanne Rose (Mindful and compassionate nature connection to increase the well-being of family members caring for people living with dementia)

Collaborating Partners

UQ Compassion Symposium

The UQ Compassion Symposium is an annual and key event of the activities of the Compassionate Mind Research Group.
This cross-disciplinary symposium is designed to bring together academics, clinicians, researchers, and students from different disciplines within The University of Queensland and from the community, to present on how compassion is or could be a part of their research, studies, or practice.

The compassion symposium consists of the free keynote address and the full-day conference.

Past keynote speakers have included Professor James Doty, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University, Dr Dennis Tirch from the Centre for Compassion-Focused Therapy in New York, Dr Emiliana Simon-Thomas from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and Dr Deborah Lee, Head of Berkshire Traumatic Stress Service and South Central Complex Treatment Service for Veterans. 

You can find information on this year's Compassion Symposium on the event page.

UQ Compassion Panels

In partnership with the Faculty of Medicine we developed the virtual Compassion Panel Discussions.

Professor Alasdair Foster was responsible for the creation of this video series, where we developed six compassion panels moderated by ABC reporters Sana Qadar and Tegan Taylor.

The panels are free to access via YouTube and focus on:

  1. The compassionate community
  2. The compassionate society
  3. Global compassion
  4. Compassion and machines
  5. Compassion and cyber bullying, and
  6. Compassion and loneliness.


The Compassionate Mind Research Group
McElwain Building (24A), St Lucia
   +61 7 3365 6802
  +61 7 3365 4466

Program Coordinator
Dr James Kirby