For centuries, compassion has been a central virtue in all major religious traditions. It has also appeared – sometimes indirectly – in the literature on social psychology under headings such as empathy, altruism, and prosocial behavior (e.g. Batson et al., 1999). In psychotherapy, compassion has been viewed as crucial, but again, often under different names – empathy, unconditional positive regard, containment or holding, client-therapist rapport, and working alliance. Compassion appears, partially disguised, in the extensive literature on good parenting, under headings such as availability, sensitivity, and responsiveness. In recent years compassion has become visible in its own right, partly because of the growing emphasis in educated circles on Buddhism, which highlights compassion (Dalai Lama, 2001, 2002), and partly because of the tendency for compassion to wear thin in cases of ‘compassion fatigue’ (e.g. Keidel, 2002), a common problem in the helping professions.