About the Book

Compassion’s Compass, Strategies for Developing Kindness and Insight

offers a systematic approach to developing compassionate insight that has been adapted from Tibetan mind training strategies, secularized for modern audiences, and supplemented with relevant research, anecdotes, and exercises in accessible language. It in includes a Handbook for Helping Professionals in order to help combat compassion fatigue. The strategy described in this book is called COMPASS, which is an an acronym for Compassion and Analytical Selective-Focus Skills. Selective-focus skills suggest contemplations that can help to generate and enhance compassionate insight.

Mind Training Exercises

These exercises follow an “emotional logic” in which one step produces a basis for cultivating the next. These skill steps are broken down in detail with each section of the book containing a discussion of the purpose of the skill being presented, supporting research for it, examples of its use, and short exercises for the reader to try in order to cultivate and enhance it. These techniques have been piloted with social workers and therapists-in-training. Details of these pilot studies are included. The exercises that are presented in each chapter are also compiled in order for easy use in the back of the book.

The intended audience for this book includes

educators, helping professionals, students in training for careers in the helping professions, first responders, and any adult who may face compassion fatigue as a part of his or her career or as a part of coping with daily life.


may find that these exercises help them stay positively connected with their children.


may be interested in this book in order to enhance employee relations and customer service.

Civil servants

might benefit from these exercises to reduce burnout and renew a commitment to service.


People may also want to read this book for personal growth and well-being.

Narcissism vs. Compassion

Narcissism has a devastating effect on individuals and on culture.[1] Researchers are finding that excessive self-focus is linked to negative affect, impaired problem-solving abilities, heightened social anxiety, increased anger and aggression, and coronary disease. The social isolation that ensues from narcissism can be devastating. In contrast, compassionate insight leads to several health benefits including a strengthened immune system and better vagal tone. It increases happiness, calms and focuses us, improves social connections, enhances hope and well-being, and gives life meaning. Therefore, the subject matter of this book is of critical importance to individuals and to society.

Recognition at symposiums & conferences

COMPASS has received some recognition through various presentations including symposiums at national conferences


At the national conference for the American Psychological Association (APA)


At the national conferences for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

ASTHO hosted a webinar for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in July 2019 in order help frontline workers combatting the opioid epidemic in overcoming compassion fatigue, which included information about COMPASS.

ASTHO Video with Wilson

Wilson is continuing to work with ASTHO as they strive to address the many challenges our country faces with the COVID 19 pandemic.  Here is a sample of an ASTHO video with Wilson on ways to regain equilibrium and well-being.

Studies on COMPASS

Three formal pilot studies of COMPASS have been conducted, two at George Mason University (2015) and a third at the University of Maryland (2015). Participants in the two pilots at George Mason University indicated “increased positive emotions (e.g., empathy, compassion), decreased fear of compassion, and positive anticipated increases in empathy and compassion.”[2] The third formal pilot study, conducted at University of Maryland’s on-campus Psychotherapy Clinic and Research Lab, found an increase in mindfulness in the pre and post testing, and “the therapists reported that centering supported a positive state of being, self-care, and self-reflection.”[3]


[1] See https://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/narcissism.

[2] Goodman, R., Rietschel, C.H., Pruzinsky, T., Hurley, W. (2015), Brief Mindfulness-based Compassion Training: A Multi-method Approach to Assessing Positive Psychological Outcomes and Potential Barriers to Future Practice among Therapist Trainees. Grant Proposal, Unpublished.

[3] Rietschel, C.H., Goodman, R.D., Hurley, W.C, Pruzinsky, T., Hilert, A., & Hill, C. (2015), Assessing the effects of a mindfulness workshop and pre-session centering exercises for therapists: A pilot study. Unpublished.

About the Author

Wilson C. Hurley, LCSW

is an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University and a clinical social worker in private practice in Centreville, VA. He specializes in working with children, adolescents and families, but also works with adults in individual and couples therapy.

Mr. Hurley developed a mindfulness program for children in an outpatient treatment program in the 1980s before entering the Fairfax County Public Schools where he worked in centers for emotionally disabled children for twelve years.

Since his return to private practice in 2001, Mr. Hurley has integrated mindfulness and other selective focus techniques into his work with clients. He has presented on mindfulness, mind/body research, and transforming stress to clinical social workers in the Fairfax County School System and has talked on spirituality and psychotherapy in various venues including

  • the Washington School of Psychiatry
  • the Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, and
  • the Northern Virginia Regional Support Center.

More recently he has worked on a systematic approach to compassion development, which he presented at the 5th Annual Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education (ACMHE) at Amherst College, the National Association of Social Workers’ 2014 National Conference in Washington DC, and the American Psychological Association’s 2014 National Conference in Washington DC.

His publications include:

  • Enhancing a Positive School Climate with Compassion and Analytical Selective-Focus Skills (COMPASS), IISTE Journal of Education and Practice (2014)
  • The Water and Wood Shastras, which he co-translated from the Tibetan with Yeshe Khedrup (www.karunapublications.org, 2012)
  • Currently, plans are underway to publish a book entitled Compassion’s Compass, Strategies for Developing Kindness and Insight (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020)

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