RAIN Method for Self-Compassion

Have you ever struggled with your own thoughts? Maybe you get a lot of mind chatter. Maybe your thoughts are intrusive or upsetting. Maybe you have some self-judgment about your thoughts. Maybe you get stuck in suffering or problem-solving and can’t seem to free yourself.

In therapy, you might hear “mindfulness” or “meditation” as proposed tools to tackle these types of thoughts. For those of us who struggle with anxious, racing, or distressing thoughts, these concepts can seem a bit unattainable. I remember the first time someone suggested meditation for my anxious thoughts I laughed out loud. My mind is never quiet, empty, or still. How can I possibly use something like mindfulness of meditation?

I recently stumbled across a new (to me) meditation tool that I have found very helpful. First coined by Michele McDonald and further adapted by Tara Brach the RAIN method is a simple, four-step process which fosters self-compassion and gentle awareness. These steps can be used whenever difficult thoughts, emotions, or circumstances arise.

R – Recognize : what is happening

A – Allow : life to be just as it is

I – Investigate : with gentle attention

N – Nurture : with self-compassion

Recognize. This means acknowledging and observing thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and circumstances at play. There is no judging or analyzing in this step. Simply observing and taking note of what is happening.

Allow. This is simply making space for each thought, feeling, and behavior you have without analyzing, problem-solving, avoiding or trying to change anything. Simply acknowledging that each of these elements has a place and belongs.

Investigate. This means allowing your natural sense of curiosity to take hold and directing it toward each thought, feeling, or behavior you have observed in the two previous steps. This could involve investigating what element needs your attention, where you feel these things in your body, or observing what you need.

Nurture. This is directing a sense of self-compassion and kindness to the parts of you that need attention. This may involve asking “what does my “insert emotion here” need from me in order to feel safe/free/supported/peace etc.” This process is gentle and may take some experimentation. Try on a solution or a compassionate gesture and see how it sits. Is that what you need?  If not, maybe tenderly try on something else.

Give the RAIN method a try next time a thought or emotion arises. You may find the mind chatter, self-criticism, and the racing thoughts slow down and you make room for self-compassion. 

For more information on the RAIN method check out  Tara Brach’s website:



Blog by Sara Pogue, MSW, LICSW
Photo by Kseniya Kopna via Pexels