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The Compassion Foundation of Ireland

The Compassion Foundation offers Psychological Assessment & Therapeutic Intervention. Offices are located at Navan and Slane, Co Meath.

What can I expect when I contact the Foundation?

You will initially receive an appointment for a consultation to discuss your situation.

If you decide to pursue a course of therapy, undergo a psychological assessment, or to engage in one of the classes or group activities offered at the Foundation, you will be offered an agreed number of appointments at weekly or fortnightly intervals. You will be asked to sign a therapeutic contract agreeing to the conditions of the service. Your engagement with the Foundation will involve your active participation in decisions and activities that concern your mental health.

The Compassion Foundation of Ireland provides a range of psychotherapeutic services to help with psychological suffering, and to enhance mental health. At all times the Foundation aims to ensure that clients are treated with dignity and respect.

Sandra Higgins, BSc (Hons) Psych, MSc Couns Psych, MBPsS, Director of The Compassion Foundation of Ireland, is a Counselling Psychologist. She has a special interest in helping people suffering from eating distress, trauma, depression and anxiety. Sandra specialises in the practical application of the non-violent philosophy of veganism, fostering social justice and compassion for ourselves, for each other, for other species, and for the planet we all share, as the way to inner peace and happiness, and the route to sustainable and harmonious living for all forms of life.

Sandra studied for a degree in pure Psychology at The Open University, and at post-graduate level at Trinity College, Dublin where she obtained a MSc in Counselling Psychology with Distinction. She also trained at The Positive Psychology Centre, University of Pennsylvania, The Human Animal Connection Unit at The University of Denver, Colorado, and The Institute for Humane Education, Maine, United States. Sandra is a Certified MB-EAT Instructor (Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Instructor) and Intuitive Eating Instructor and has trained in working with Trauma & Dissociation with the UK ESTD (European Society for Trauma & Dissociation)

Sandra has presented on Neuro-Psycho-Social Model and Neuro-Cognitive Models of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotraumatology & the Challenge to Counselling Psychology, Eating Disorders, Self-Harm & Trauma, Cartesian Dualism, and Compassion Fatigue at HSE Multidisciplinary Medical conference, Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the British Psychological Society, and The Fourth Dutch Conference on Psychology and Health. She gives regular workshops on Veganism & Compassionate Living and is an active member of In Defense of Animals (IDA) Activist Resource List of Therapists who are sensitive to Animal Activist Issues

She is the author of The Power of Compassion in O’Flaherty, E, Pauli, N, Owens, C, Higgins, S, Del Monte, M, Halpin, M and Billings, M (2014) (2nd ed) How to be Happy & Healthy, The Seven Natural Elements of Mental Health, Ashfield Press: Dublin.

Treatment at The Compassion Foundation

People seek psychological intervention not because there is anything inherently wrong with them, but because they have suffered as they attempt to live their lives.

Suffering is an inevitable part of life that we cannot avoid. Some people experience a great deal of pain that overwhelms them and at times it can become an unbearable burden to carry alone.

Given the right conditions everyone can work through suffering. The role of psychological intervention is to provide those conditions. Furthermore, given the right conditions, everyone can emerge more resilient, and enriched with insight, strength, compassion and sensitivity, regardless of the depth of their suffering.

Many people seek psychological intervention because they experience painful emotions such as sadness, fear, anger, and grief. These emotions are often reactions to distressing life experiences such as rights violations, injustice, and trauma. They may arise in reaction to painful situations such as abuse, poor parenting, bullying, work problems, relationship difficulties, financial problems, family issues, illness, or death. Some of the difficult conditions that clients seek help for are simply the consequences of painful life events and their attempts to cope with the suffering they experience. They include: unhappiness and depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, self-harm, eating distress, eating disorders and weight issues, compulsive behaviours, lack of confidence and self-esteem. Many people seek psychological intervention because simply staying alive is difficult and painful.

There are evidence based psychological approaches that can help people to resolve painful experiences. Regardless of which psychological approach is used to help you resolve your problem, there are some basic psychotherapeutic factors common to all interventions practiced at The Compassion Foundation that, in themselves, facilitate healing. The Compassion Foundation places special emphasis on these factors that enhance the therapeutic environment:

  • the belief that every life matters equally
  • a willingness to listen and support clients regardless of the situations they find themselves in
  • a genuine, non-judgmental, therapeutic alliance, that respects and values people for who they are
  • an empathic response to clients where they are carefully listened to so that their individual feelings and situations can be accurately perceived
  • tolerance and acceptance of the fact that each one of us makes mistakes and each one of us suffers
  • the belief that everyone can overcome their difficulties
  • supportive facilitation as clients discover their individual path to a meaningful, fulfilling life
  • the belief that clients can do more than survive: they can thrive and flourish
  • the belief that mental health is a rights issue that we are entitled to, and responsible for, and the willingness to help clients learn the skills necessary to accept this responsibility
  • the belief that you are the expert, by experience, of your own life. Therapy is seen as the joint effort of psychological science and your personal experience to secure the best outcome for your future mental health
  • the value of striving to live our lives non-violently, for ourselves, others, and the planet on which we depend for survival, through the philosophy of veganism

A range of evidence-based interventions are offered at The Compassion Foundation including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Schema Therapy, Compassion Focussed Therapy, Trauma treatment including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing), and Ecotherapy.

Following assessment and discussion of your circumstances, psychological intervention will be tailored to suit your specific needs. The Foundation also offers Positive Psychological interventions on a one to one basis or classes in Positive Psychology that can enable you to discover how to function at your best, what makes your life meaningful, what makes you happy and how to be psychologically resilient.

The Foundation also offers individual and group work (in-person and online) on Compassionate Eating & Living, Intuitive Eating and Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training. These programmes are based in the non-violent philosophy of Veganism.

The Foundation is unique in working within a Ecopsychological setting, using the beauty of the rural setting of Co Meath to foster better mental health and sustainable living.