What is MBCL?

Mindfulness-Based Compassionate Living (MBCL) is a compassion training in eight weekly sessions. The programme has been developed by Erik van den Brink and Frits Koster for those with basic mindfulness skills who wish to deepen the wholesome effects of mindfulness with compassion practices.

MBCL is based on a scientific vision on the importance of (self-)compassion for our health and wellbeing – physically, emotionally, and relationally. Initially MBCL was developed in mental healthcare and offered to clients with various psychological problems. Soon, the benefits for health care professionals themselves became clear.

Meanwhile, MBCL is offered in various settings (healthcare, education, the workplace, management, spiritual care) to people who wish to learn healthier ways of coping with stress, pain and suffering in whatever form.

MBCL is a secular programme, not wishing to exclude anyone, whatever their cultural, ethnic or religious background.

What is compassion?

Compassion is a sensitivity to pain and suffering – of ourselves and others – and a commitment to relieve and prevent it. It is not about being overinvolved with others at the expense of ourselves. Neither about wallowing in self-pity whilst neglecting others. It is about finding a way to care for ourselves and for others in a balanced way.

Compassion is a human capacity, present in all of us, which did not always have the chance to blossom. Fortunately, it can grow with practice, which is precisely what MBCL wishes to offer.

Mindfulness & heartfulness

When we practice mindfulness we learn to be aware of our experience as it enfolds moment by moment. But how doe we deal with moments which are especially difficult and painful? This is a challenge we all face sooner or later, vulnerable as we are to adversity, loss, ageing and dying.

The key is that we not only learn to meet life with mindfulness but also with compassion or heartfulness – with a heartful mind and a mindful heart. But often, we are harsh upon ourselves. We think we should not be vulnerable, blame ourselves and isolate ourselves form others. We listen to an inner critic, while we need an inner helper. But if we do not take good care of ourselves, it may be difficult to sense what others need.

For whom is MBCL suitable?

Have you noticed that you benefit from mindfulness exercises, but find it difficult to integrate them into your daily life? Do insights often stay in your head without becoming part of your life ('I understand, but I don't feel it')? Do you suffer from persistent patterns of self-criticism, withdrawing or overcharging yourself?

Do you find it difficult to find a healthy balance between taking care of others and taking care of yourself? Do you feel vulnerable or burdened by life circumstances you had no choice in - such as your body, your gender, your family, your ethnic, cultural or religious background?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, and you are motivated to deepen your mindfulness practice with exercises in compassion towards yourself and others, then MBCL can be a valuable gift to yourself.


There has been a lot of research into the beneficial effects of mindfulness and self-compassion in general. Also specific (self-)compassion training programmes are increasingly researched. The MBCL programme itself has shown beneficial effects in a growing number of studies - inside and outside the mental health services, on location and online, in controlled and uncontrolled, quantitative and qualitative research.

Three RCT's (Randomised Controlled Trials) have now been published:

  • A study of MBCL after MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy) among people with recurrent depression at Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;
  • A study of an adapted MBCL online programme among people with high levels of self-criticism at the University of Bern, Switzerland;
  • a short online intervention with MBCL exercises among students at the University of Bratislava, Slovakia.

In summary, research confirms that after an MBCL intervention:

  • mindfulness, self-compassion, quality of life and resilience increase, and
  • depression, self-criticism, anxiety, and stress levels decrease.