Chris Germer has been interested in the science of psychology and contemplative practice since early adulthood. He graduated from Colby College, Waterville, ME with a BA in psychology in 1974, and then traveled abroad for 3 years to conduct research on selective attention in schizophrenia at the University Psychiatric Hospital in Tübingen, Germany, and implement a field study on indigenous mental health healing practices in India under the guidance from the Bangalore National Institute of Mental Health. Chris became fascinated by the many varieties of yoga and meditation in India, and he returned to India over a dozen times to study with a variety of teachers.
In 1978, Chris went to Temple University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) for graduate training in clinical psychology and received a PhD in 1984. The title of his dissertation was “Contextual Treatment of Test Anxiety,” reflecting an early interest in acceptance-based treatment methods.
After graduation, Chris moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he met his wife, Claire, a molecular biologist, and they have been living in Cambridge ever since. Chris has maintained a private psychotherapy practice since 1985, and has also taught and supervised clinical trainees at the Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), Harvard Medical School.
Chris first learned mindfulness meditation at a hermitage in Sri Lanka in 1977. His interest in mindfulness was rekindled in 1985 when he joined a study group in Cambridge that became the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy. Decades of conversations came together in 2005 with the publishing of a co-edited, professional text, Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (now in its 2nd edition), and Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy (2012). Mindfulness is the heart of Buddhist psychology, and interest in mindfulness-, acceptance-, and compassion-based psychotherapy has recently blossomed to become a mainstream approach to psychotherapy.
Chris’ primary interest is self-compassion—the warmhearted attitude of mindfulness when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. He stumbled onto self-compassion in 2005 as a solution to his decades-long struggle with public speaking anxiety.
In 2007, Chris began collaborating with Kristin Neff, psychology professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and pioneering researcher on self-compassion. In 2009, he wrote the book, The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and, in 2010, Chris and Kristin co-developed Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), an empirically-supported, 8-week training program for the general public. The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion was established in 2012 and since then over 100,000 of people have learned MSC from over 3,000 teachers worldwide. A bestselling workbook on the MSC program appeared in 2018 and a professional textbook was released in 2019, both co-authored by Chris and Kristin.
In 2015, Chris helped to establish the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion at the Cambridge Health Alliance. He is on the faculty and serves as a senior advisor and research consultant, currently co-developing an fMRI research protocol for treating chronic pain with self-compassion.
Chris spends his professional life traveling internationally, teaching and writing about mindfulness and self-compassion, supporting MSC teachers and students, consulting on self-compassion research, and maintaining a modest psychotherapy practice.