1. The MSC Programme

No. MSC is a skill that can be learnt by anyone and everyone is welcome with or without previous meditation experience.

Participants are encouraged to practice mindfulness and self-compassion at least 30 minutes per day throughout the programme.  This time can consist of longer (more “formal”) practices or shorter (more “informal”) practices, or a combination of both.

The intention of practice is to help you to familiarise yourself with the tools and to deepen your practice.

During MSC there will be periods of guided meditations when the teacher might leave a minute or two between one instruction and the next. Other than the retreat day during MSC (which is usually offered during the 8-week program), there is not a lot of silence.

You may like to have a note pad and pen available as there will be some writing and you might like to take notes.  We also recommend you wear comfortable, loose, clothing (so that you can feel relaxed and breath easily) and have a blanket and yoga mat handy.

Our group sizes for the 8-week programme tend to be between 10-18 people. Shorter courses may have slightly more people.

It is recommended, but not required, that you read the following book while participating in MSC:

Prior to attending a course, the following two books may also be helpful:

This 8-week programme fulfils one of the prerequisites for becoming an MSC teacher. A minimum of six sessions (of the eight) must be attended for certification of attendance. The 5 Day MSC Silent retreat also qualifies as one of the prerequisites for the MSC Teacher Training.

The short courses and workshops do not meet any prerequisites for the MSC Teacher Training programme.  Nor do they meet the prerequisite to join the Healthbalance MSC Graduate programme.

For more information on MSC Teacher Training requirements, please click here MSC Teacher Training Requirements.

2. Who is the Programme Suitable for?


During the programme you will learn;

  • how to stop being so hard on yourself
  • how to handle difficult emotions with greater ease
  • how to motivate yourself with encouragement rather than criticism
  • how to transform difficult relationships, both old and new
  • mindfulness and self-compassion practices for home and everyday life
  • how to become your own best teacher
  • the art of savouring and self-appreciation
  • how to manage empathy fatigue

We suggest those that have experienced recent trauma first become emotionally stable, perhaps through individual therapy, before participating in an MSC course. This is because during the MSC program we ask participants to intentionally bring themselves into contact with a small amount of suffering so that we can practice using the tools of turning toward our pain and comforting ourselves with self-compassion. If you are already suffering from recent trauma, touching on more suffering might be overwhelming rather than helpful.

Short workshops and lectures about Mindful Self-Compassion might be suitable, and possibly even the 8-week programme depending on your situation. Please contact Julia at info@healthbalance.ie to discuss this further

During the MSC programme, we ask participants to intentionally bring themselves into contact with a small amount of suffering so that we can practice using the tools of turning toward our pain and comforting ourselves with self-compassion.

If you are already suffering, we want to be very respectful of your current situation. 8-week programs and short workshops might work for you depending on your situation or it might be best to leave them until a time when you are feeling more stable. Please contact Julia at info@healthbalance.ie to discuss your particular situation.

People who have learned to manage their symptoms can benefit a great deal from learning self-compassion. However, MSC is probably not suitable for someone in the acute phase of anxiety or depression. Please contact Julia at info@healthbalance.ie to discuss your particular situation

3. Practical Details

Course information can be found in the “Courses” tab of the website.  Please check the information about the course and then go to “Book Now”.  You will be given the option to pay via Stripe and have the option of doing a bank transfer or using a debit/credit card.  If you would prefer to pay in installments please contact us directly at info@healthbalance.ie.

There is an option to pay in Sterling if you would prefer.  Please contact us directly to arrange this.

Once we’ve received your payment we will ask you to complete a background form, providing some information about you and your current life circumstances.  This information will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Once we’ve received the form we will arrange a 20-30 minute zoom call with you.  The purpose of this call is to make sure as far as possible that this is the right course for you at the right time.  It also provides an opportunity for us to answer any questions you may have and to support you with the technical side of zoom if that would be helpful.

Individual price information can be found under the information for each course – click here

A non -refundable deposit of €50 is required to confirm your place. The full remaining fee is to be paid at least a week before the course starts.

The website offers you the opportunity to pay for the course in full via Stripe or bank transfer.  If you’d prefer to pay the €50 deposit first then please email us at info@healthbalance.ie (see “Contact”) to arrange.   Please note this €50 deposit is non-refundable.

Any cancellations made up to 1 week before the start date will receive a full refund minus the €50 deposit. For any cancellations made less than a week before the start date, no refund will be made available. However, depending on the circumstances of your cancellation if there is a space on a subsequent course you may be able to attend this without charge.

We are based in Ireland and welcome EVERYONE – no matter where you are in the world.  Our 8-week programme and MSC Graduate practice sessions are held fully online (via the Zoom Platform).  Other workshops can be held online or in person – depending on requirements.   We can give you support to help you familiarise yourself with Zoom before the course starts if that would be useful.

4. General Questions about Mindful Self Compassion

Although mindfulness is the foundation of self-compassion, MSC is primarily a “compassion” training programme rather than a “mindfulness” training programme such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  Mindfulness has a very important role in Mindful Self Compassion – we need mindfulness in order to be self-compassionate!  Self-compassion may then be considered the heart of mindfulness when we meet personal suffering.

We talk about mindfulness and self-compassion being two wings of the same bird. They both allow us to live with less resistance to ourselves and our lives.

No. Whilst MSC is therapeutic it is not the same as group therapy. MSC is a structured programme designed to build the resources of mindfulness and self-compassion, not to heal old wounds.

MSC does not take the place of personal therapy.  MSC participants who wish to explore their personal lives more intensively are encouraged to seek individual counselling or psychotherapy.

On the contrary, learning self-compassion skills helps you to self-regulate your emotions so that you feel more balanced.  Research shows that self-compassionate people are more likely to engage in perspective taking rather than focusing on their own unhappiness.  They are also less likely to ruminate on how bad things are.  Research also shows that self-compassionate people are better able to cope with tough situations like divorce, trauma, chronic illness or chronic pain.

Most people believe self-criticism is an effective motivator, but research has shown that it actually undermines self-confidence and leads to fear of failure.  Using self-compassion gives us a gentle way to motivate ourselves rather than beating ourselves up if we feel like we’ve failed at something.  Research has shown that self-compassionate people are less afraid of failure and are more likely to try again and to persist in their efforts after failing.

Consider the example of the motivational impact of a harshly critical coach versus a kind and supportive one.  Self-Compassion can be like having a positive mentor by your side.

Actually the more positive we are with ourselves, the more positive we are with others!  Research shows, for example, that self-compassionate people tend to be more caring and supportive in personal relationships and less jealous and more like to compromise in relational conflicts.  Self-compassionate people have also been shown to be more compassionate towards other people

Compassion wants long term health, not short-term pleasure (just like the compassionate parent who doesn’t let their child eat all the sweets they want to, but instead says “eat your vegetables”).

Research shows that self-compassionate people engage in healthier behaviours like exercise, eating well and drinking less.