ABC Coaching and Counselling Services presents
Hebden Bridge counselling, psychotherapy and lifestyle coaching services
Our counselling service can help you with problems of anger, anxiety and depression; stress management; anger management; couples therapy and relationship conflict; life coaching; lifestyle counselling; and relationship attachment and personality problems
Update: 16th March 2020: For the duration of the Corona-virus (COVID-19) crisis, we will be available for Telephone Counselling; and Jim will be available for Skype Counselling.
We will be addressing our normal range of problems and issues, and, in addition, we will be happy to help you with any health anxiety you might be feeling.
Update, 18th March 2020. For the duration of the corona-virus (Covid-19) epidemic, we will be offering Skype and/or Telephone counselling for anxiety. We will not be offering face-to-face counselling.
To make an appointment to get anxiety counselling from Dr Jim Byrne, please email: email@example.com.
Or to get anxiety counselling from Renata Taylor-Byrne, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A good counsellor helps clients to overcome those difficulties they cannot manage on their own: “Counselling is a wonderful twentieth-century invention. We live in a complex, busy, changing world. In this world, there are many different types of experience that are difficult for people to cope with. Most of the time we get on with life, but sometimes we are stopped in our tracks by an event or situation that we do not, at that moment, have the resources to sort out”. If we cannot find ways to sort this out in our family, with our friends, or with a priest or doctor, etc., then “Counselling is a really useful option at these moments”.
John McLeod, An Introduction to Counselling, 2003. (140)
Hello and welcome to ABC Coaching and Counselling Services, in Hebden Bridge, and all over the world (apart from California!) via the telephone system, Skype and email exchanges.
Are you looking for help with problems of emotional distress about everyday living? Is life getting on top of you, and weighing you down? If so, then one of us can help you!
This is the website of Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne.
Both Jim and Renata are informed by the most comprehensive system of counselling, psychotherapy and coaching in existence at the present time (in 2020). This system deals with the body-brain-mind of the individual, as well as their (current and earlier) physical and social environments. It is still ‘talk therapy’, but talk therapy which includes a consideration of every aspect of the lifestyle of the client – and not just their beliefs, thoughts or feelings.
Counselling is about personal change. Buddhism and Taoism teach us that change is the law of life. And yet, because we are creatures of habit, we cling to the known and resist the unknown! “The natural resistance that we seem to have to change sometimes surprises or angers others, particularly those who are trying to change for the better. We need to understand this resistance because the whole point of counselling is to make changes. You might want to make dramatic changes – for instance to change your whole lifestyle, end a relationship or move into a new career. On the other hand, the changes you want could be more subtle – perhaps changing your perception of a situation or becoming more comfortable with your emotional responses. Whether the changes are big or small, understanding how you might unconsciously hinder them will help you ensure that resistance is no impediment to your success”.
Sheila Dainow (2001) Be Your Own Counsellor: Your step-by-step guide to understanding yourself. Page 24. (107)
About Dr Jim Byrne’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Division
Lifestyle Counselling and Personality Focused Treatment, in Hebden Bridge, and over the telephone and internet
For couples therapy; relationship skills and attachment problems; anger management; stress management; physical and mental health coaching; habit building or habit change; confidence building; anxiety and panic problems; grief and depression; lifestyle coaching; assertiveness training; and general body-brain-mind integration…
Hello and welcome,
Are you wrestling with a problem you just can’t control on your own? If so, I can help you to develop your coping muscles.
My name is Jim Byrne and I am in my twenty-second year in private practice as a counsellor/psychotherapist. During that time, I have helped well over one thousand individuals with problems of anger, anxiety, depression, stress, couple relationship problems, attachment and personality adaptation problems, and general problems of daily living.
Here is an example of one of many unsolicited client testimonials which I’ve received over the years:
♣ Hi Jim, Just a quick note to say it was nice to see you today for a productive counselling session. I’ve been working hard using your system of reframing and reinterpreting the things that make me unhappy, so that I am now feeling happier much of the time. I am becoming more ‘adult’ and less ‘parental’, by using the things you taught me about parent and adult language. And you certainly convinced me that life doesn’t have to be such a struggle, and I am working at giving up my habit of struggling with everybody and everything that I meet. That saves a lot of emotional and physical energy, and leaves me free to feel happy and at peace most of the time.
K.G., Grag Vale, Calderdale. (Eight sessions of face-to-face counselling for addictions and personality adaptation problems).
I have a doctoral degree in counselling; a diploma in counselling psychology and psychotherapy; and several certificates in counselling. I am a Fellow Member of the International Society of Professional Counsellors (FISPC); and I am subject to the ISPC’s code of ethics and complaints procedure.
If you would like help with the taming or dissolving of an emotional, behavioural or relationship problem, then I would be glad to help.
My expertise is based on my twenty-one years of experience of counselling more than one thousand clients, who, between them, had all manner of problems – plus my professional training at the University of Manchester – and the research and application that went into writing more than twenty books on counselling and related topics.***
My main services are as follows:
For more information about my services, including my Email Counselling, Skype Counseling, Telephone Counselling and Face-to-face Counselling, please click the following button:
Or call me today on 01422 843 629 to set up an appointment.
Or email: email@example.com
A good counsellor helps clients to overcome those difficulties they cannot manage on their own: “Counselling is a wonderful twentieth-century invention. We live in a complex, busy, changing world. In this world, there are many different types of experience that are difficult for people to cope with. Most of the time we get on with life, but sometimes we are stopped in our tracks by an event or situation that we do not, at that moment, have the resources to sort out”. If we cannot find ways to sort this out in our family, with our friends, or with a priest or doctor, etc., then “Counselling is a really useful option at these moments”.
John McLeod, An Introduction to Counselling, 2003. (140)
About Renata Taylor-Byrne’s Counselling and Coaching Division
Why should anybody consult me? This is what I can offer:
Firstly, I see my clients as people who want to get the most out of life, but sometimes they come slap bang up against problems that they don’t know how to solve.
That’s where my 40 years experience of research and teaching counselling and personal development subjects to thousands of individuals comes in. I can show you the many ways that you can tackle the challenges that you are facing, and help you to choose a solution that works for you.
I have also written and/or co-authored several books on counselling-related subjects, including my book on the science of sleep.
The main kinds of problems with which I can help include the following:
(6) Managing anger
Watch this video clip on the impact of nutrition on mental health and emotional well-being. It will surprise you!
For more information about my services, including Face to Face and Telephone Counselling, please click the following button:
Or call me today on 01422 843 629 to set up an appointment.
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In E-CENT counselling, we teach our clients to face up to their traumatic memories, which they have often been running away from; sometimes for decades. Because it is only by facing up to the traumatic experiences from our past that we can re-frame them, complete them, and allow them to shrink and fade: “Shadows of the past sometimes contaminate the present and narrow down the future for all of us”, writes Muriel Shiffman. “The purpose of my self therapy technique is to confront the past and put it in its place. Only then are we released to live the present more fully and grow into a richer future, able to use more of our true potential.” Because she was depressed, Muriel Shiffman “…began to use myself as a guinea pig in a fumbling attempt at self therapy. … (Over time) I stumbled on the key to self therapy: I learned to feel painful emotions I had been avoiding all my life. I explored attitudes and relationships that forced me to feel rage and grief and anxiety, and I did a great deal of crying. For two long years I unearthed a hidden part of my life, and suffered and then it suddenly dawned on me that my old, recurrent depression was gone. Somewhere along the way I had lost it, and it has never come back”.
Muriel Shiffman, Self Therapy: Techniques for personal growth.
Counselling and self-help books
We also research, write and publish a range of books related to counselling, psychotherapy, personal development and lifestyle coaching and self-help; and these can be viewed here:
For more information, please see our Site map.***
We have studied more than 15 different systems of counselling and psychotherapy, including: Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT); Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT); Gestalt Therapy; Transactional analysis; Person-centred counselling; the psychodynamic approach to counselling and therapy; and many others. We have also done a lot of research on lifestyle factors, which affect the moods and emotions of counselling clients; including: diet/nutrition; physical exercise; sleep; relaxation; and others.
The emotive-cognitive approach to counselling
By Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne
Our approach to counselling includes offering to teach you – if you wish to learn – how to manage your emotions, behaviours and relationships more effectively; so you can have a happier, more successful life.
We focus on your thinking/feeling/perceiving and your attitudes towards the problems that life throws at you; and we help you to develop a whole new set of more productive attitudes, which will get you more of what you want from your life, at home and in work.
We also help you to examine your lifestyle – especially your approach to food/drink, sleep, and physical activity. There is now overwhelming evidence that all of the major chronic diseases, and the major mental health problems and emotional difficulties, are all linked significantly to lifestyle factors.
And we offer to teach you a set of skills to deal with communication, relationship (including couple relationships), stress, anger, anxiety, and depression; self-confidence and self-esteem; and much more besides.
Finally, we provide the kind of healing relationship which can address your childhood traumas and your current attachment issues.
Phone us today, on 01422 843 629 to set up an appointment.
Let us know which one of us you wish to work with: Jim or Renata.
For more information about our individual offerings, please click one of the following buttons:
The Bamboo Paradox: The limits of human flexibility in a cruel world – and how to protect, defend and strengthen yourself
Finding the Golden Mean that leads to strength and viable flexibility, in order to be happy, healthy and realistically successful
By Dr Jim Byrne.
With contributed chapters by Renata Taylor-Byrne
The Institute for E-CENT Publications: 2020
Are human beings like bamboo? Are we designed to withstand unlimited pressure, stress and strain? Is our destiny to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘flexible working arrangements’?
We live in a world in which there are dark forces that wish us to forget that we are fleshy bodies, with physical and mental needs; and physical and mental limitations; and to be willing to function like mere cogs in the wheels of somebody else’s financial or technological empire.
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) has played into this narrative, and given it philosophical support, by promoting a form of Extreme Stoicism in the name of therapy and wisdom, which it patently is not. (General Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [CBT] also supports this agenda, but to a lesser degree, or in a less obvious way! And some forms of Extreme Buddhism also advocate ‘detachment’ from material concerns, such as the need for a balanced life!)
In this book, I review the research that we have done on the limits of human endurance, and the determinants of that endurance – as well as identifying a viable philosophy of life – which will help you to optimize your strength and flexibility, while at the same time taking care of your health and happiness.
If you want to take good care of yourself in the modern mad-market, you could benefit from studying this book. It will provide you with both a compass and a suit of armour which will support you with the challenges and battles you will inevitably face.
How to Resolve Conflict and Unhappiness: Especially during Festive Celebrations:
Coping with and resolving frustrations, disappointments and interpersonal clashes at family celebrations like Christmas, Yuletide, Hanukkah, Eid, and Thanksgiving
Dr Jim Byrne (With Renata Taylor-Byrne)
Conflict can happen in families at any time of year. It jut so happens that the first Monday after the Christmas & New Year annual holidays is called ‘Divorce Day’, because that is when the highest number of divorce petitions is issued. And it seems most likely that the other major family holiday times are the runners up in the divorce stakes. However, what is hidden under these divorce statistics is the mountain of personal and social misery that precedes such drastic ‘solutions’ to repeated conflict, disappointments and interpersonal clashes.
But there is a better way to deal with these problems. Rather than letting the misery build up over time, you can take control of both your own mind, and the way you communicate within your family and society. You can insulate your social relationships from constant or repeated misery and unhappiness; and learn to have a wonderful life with your family and friends.
The solutions have been assembled by Dr Jim Byrne in this book about how to re-think/re-feel/re-frame your encounters with your significant others; how to communicate so they will listen; how to listen so they can communicate with you; and how to manage your lifestyle for optimum peace, happiness and success in all your relationships.
PAPERBACK AND eBOOK ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION…
Don’t let your relationships deteriorate. Get the solution today. Click this link for more.***
Update: March 2020:
By Dr Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne), 2019
In these pages you will find a detailed introduction to the theory and practice of one of the most recent, and most comprehensive, forms of holistic counselling and psychotherapy. This new system (for helping people to optimize their positive experiences of life, and to process their negative experiences), necessarily deals with emotions, thinking, stories and narratives, plus bodily states; and thus is called Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT).
This book has been designed to be helpful for three audiences:
(1) Counsellors, psychotherapists, coaches, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, educators and others;
(2) Students of counselling, psychotherapy, psychology, psychiatry, social work and related disciplines; and:
(3) Self-help and personal development enthusiasts.
The content of this book has been a long time incubating, at the very least since 2001 when I first tried to defend the ABC model of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) by relating it to the three core components of Freud’s model of the mind (or psyche): (1) the Id (or It [or baby-at-birth]); the Ego (or sense of self, or personality); and the Superego (or ‘internalized other’, including social and moral rules). The more I tried to defend REBT, the more its core models fell apart in my hands!
At the same time, I was studying thirteen different systems of counselling and therapy, from Freud and Jung, via Rogers and Perls, and the behaviourists, to the cognitivists and existentialists.
Later, I considered Plato’s model of the mind, alongside the Buddhist and Stoic philosophies of mind.
Into this mix, at some point, Attachment theory arrived, and that helped to make more sense of the emerging model of mind: (Gerhardt, 2010). Attachment theory, and Object relations theory – (Gomez, 1997) – eventually formed the core of my model of the mother-baby dyad, and the way in which the mind of the baby was born out of the interpenetration (or overlapping interactions) of the physical baby and the cultural mother.
And this gave rise to a greater awareness of the individual counselling client as a ‘social individual’, who is ‘wired up’ (neurologically) by social stories to be a creature of habit, living out of historic scripts; and viewing the world through non-conscious frames which dictate how things ‘show up’ in their automatic (cumulative-interpretive) apprehension of the external world.
As these developments were reaching fruition, I also discovered the insights of interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB – Siegel 2015) and Affect Regulation Theory (Hill, 2015).
Holistic Counselling in Practice:
An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy
By Jim Byrne DCoun FISPC
With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol
This book was the original introduction to Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT), which was created by Dr Jim Byrne in the period 2009-2014, building upon earlier work from 2003. It is of historic importance, but it has been superseded by Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, above.
Prices from: £5.83p GBP (Kindle) and £15.18p (Paperback)
But even beyond those developments, I also became increasingly aware that, because we are body-minds, our experience of sleep, diet, exercise, alcohol, water consumption, and socio-economic circumstances – (in addition to current and historic relationships) – have as much to do with our emotional disturbances (very often) as do our psychological habits of mind.
And in Appendix E, Renata Taylor-Byrne presents compelling evidence, from reliable sources, that dietary changes and physical exercise can produce dramatic reductions in levels of anger, anxiety and depression; anti-depressants are not nearly as effective as has been claimed (and that physical exercise alone is as effective at curing depression as are antidepressant drugs); that drug companies hide negative trial results; that the real pills often fail to outperform placebo (sugar) pills; that the real pills are often totally ineffective; that they seem to be addictive, and difficult to get off in some cases; and they have serious side effects (in some cases involving suicidal ideation). And in addition, we agree with those theorists who have argued that physical exercise is at least as effective as anti-depressants; and also that some forms of dietary change can and do reduce and/or eliminate depression, and also reduce anxiety and anger. (See Appendices E and F, below).
Counselling and therapy systems have normally ignored the convincing evidence that exercise and diet can change our emotional states. For example, in Dryden and Strawbridge’s (2003) book on counselling psychology, there are no references in the index to diet or physical exercise[i]. As in the case of McLeod (2003)[ii], there is a ‘virtual postscript’ (in Chapter 29 [of 32] in Woolfe, Dryden and Strawbridge) on counselling psychology and the body – which is essentially about using bodily experience in counselling and therapy – as in breath work, and body awareness – though the chapter author (Bill Wahl) also includes a consideration of body-work as such. However, in E-CENT, we consider that touch is too problematical (ethically) to include in our system of counselling. What we do include, because it is now clearly an essential ingredient of the health and well-being of the whole-client (body-brain-mind), is awareness of the role of diet and exercise in the level of emotional disturbance of the client; and an awareness of the need to teach the client that their diet and exercise practices have a significant impact upon their emotional and behavioural performances in the world. (See Appendices E and F).
Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person:
Or how to integrate nutritional insights, exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.
By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne
This book has been found in practice to be very helpful to counsellors and psychotherapists who want to understand the role of lifestyle factors in human disturbance. Because diet, exercise and sleep are increasingly seen to be important determinants of mental health and emotional well-being, it is now necessary to rethink our models of counselling and therapy.
This book shows counsellors how to incorporate lifestyle coaching and counselling into their system of talk therapy. It will also help self-help enthusiasts to take better care of their own mental and physical health, and emotional well-being.
Prices: from £4.26 GBP (Kindle) to £12.64 (paperback)
This then is a story of counselling and therapy revolution: the radical reformulation of most of our major theories of therapy; and their integration into a completely new view of the social individual as a body-brain-mind-environment whole.
Talk therapy has a lot to offer the social individual, but talk therapy alone cannot cure most of the ills of the modern world, which are related to the lifestyle of the client. (Interestingly, lifestyle coaching and lifestyle medicine are beginning to emerge in various quarters, including among some psychiatrists, [who are experimenting with diet – ‘Holistic psychiatry’]; some neurologists [‘Holistic neurology’]; and some medical doctors [‘Integrative medicine’, and ‘Nutritional therapy’]. But none of these approaches is nearly as complete or holistic as E-CENT theory and practice).
The world of counselling and therapy is being transformed (once again!). And in this book, in Chapter 3, we have summarized the core insights arising out of those various revolutions which have already occurred, which have relevance for counselling today. We have also explored the very latest thinking about how to understand and manage human emotions – especially anger, anxiety and depression, in Chapter 5.
Chapter 4 deals with our approach to helping clients to reframe their unavoidable problems – using our Six Windows Model – which draws on the insights of moderate Buddhism and moderate Stoicism. The theoretical rational for this windows model is explored in Appendix A, on Frame Theory.
Chapter 6 explores some of the most important and helpful models we use in E-CENT, to guide our counselling sessions, and to help the client to perfink (perceive, feel and think) more self-supportingly.
There are also major appendices on the roles of diet and exercise in the development and reduction of client-problems of anxiety, anger and depression. And there is a substantial chapter (7) on how to use E-CENT theory to promote effective self-management for self-help enthusiasts.
The core beliefs of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) are summarized in twenty principles, in Chapter 3.
Finally, there is a good deal of information on emotional needs assessment; desensitization of traumatized clients; and the role of morality in living a good life – (including the importance of refraining from giving counselling clients [and those outside the ‘Chinese walls’ of the counselling room] permission to be bad, amoral, immoral or evil!)
Counselling and therapy have been in a constant state of evolution and revolution since the creation of psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, in the late nineteenth century. This book represents one of the most recent, and most comprehensive, reformulations.
I hope you enjoy this volume, and that you find some useful theories, techniques and models within: for use in your own life, and/or with the people you aim to help.
Dr Jim Byrne
Doctor of Counselling
June 2016 (Updated and revised slightly, January 2019)
Byrne, J.W. (2019) Holistic Counselling in Practice: An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy. Updated edition (2). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.
[i] Woolfe, R., Dryden, W., and Strawbridge, S. (eds) (2003) Handbook of Counselling Psychology. Second Edition. London: Sage Publications.
[ii] McLeod, J. (2003) An Introduction to Counselling. Third Edition. Buckingham: Open University Press. Chapter 21 of 21; section 6 of 9 within that final chapter! No references to diet. This is the totality of his commentary on physical exercise: “The therapeutic value of physical exercise is well established. But, for the most part, counselling remains centred on talking rather than doing”. (Page 523 of 527!)
Who Are You, And Where Are You Going?
Transformative insights from psychology and the philosophy of psychotherapy
By Dr Jim Byrne
With Renata Taylor-Byrne
Most people lead lives of quiet desperation. They don’t know who are what they are. They also don’t know what is driving their actions in the world.
Most people skip the challenge of becoming conscious about who and what they are; where they are located in time/history; and what is possible for such an actor in terms of future directions for a viable/enjoyable life.
Most people spend the whole of their life living as largely non-conscious victims of a script they wrote for themselves, with the aid of their parents, when they were less than seven years old, when they hadn’t got enough sense to write a really good outcome for themselves.
This book teaches you who and what you are; and in particular, it helps you to come to know your own personality, and your life script. It shows you how to change your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, including your relationship behaviours, in order to produce a better future for yourself. Change your destiny!
Good counsellors and psychotherapists devote their lives to caring for the minds of their clients – the lives of their clients. They wrestle with difficult situations, challenging goals, and with dysregulated emotions (like grief and loss; anger and panic; relationship conflict, and mental confusion).
Innovative counsellors are constantly looking for new ways to help their clients. They mostly begin their careers with a single model of counselling, and many of them add in techniques and models and ideas from any source that seems likely to help their client. (There are of course a few ‘purists’ who will not deviate from their original training). However, after a few years of practice, in most cases, counsellors end up practicing a hybrid of many different approaches. Although they normally begin with a very simple model of counselling, and the nature of the counselling client, those perceptions change and evolves over the years.
For example: almost twenty years ago, I would sit in my consulting room, waiting for a counselling client. I had little to think about, because I already knew what their problem would be – the client’s ‘irrational beliefs’ – and my only challenge would be how to get the client to change to more ‘rational’ beliefs.
Today, more than nineteen years later, when I sit in my counselling room waiting for a new client, I sometimes run through a checklist in my head. It goes something like this:
- I do not know who this client will turn out to be; or how complex their case might be; or how I should begin to think about them. I have to wipe my mind as clear as possible of preconceptions, which, of course, is an impossibility for a human being. (Our preconceptions reside at the non-conscious level, and we most often do not know what they are! And without our preconceptions we would be gaga! We would literally not know what anything was).
- This client will be a body-brain-mind, linked to a familial social environment (in the past) and a set of relationships (in the present).
- They will be subject to a range of stressors in their daily life, and those stressors will be managed by a set of coping strategies (good and bad – resulting from the degree to which their emotions are habitually regulated or dysregulated).
- This client will have been on a long journey through space-time, sometimes learning something new, and often repeating the habitual patterns of their past experience/conditioning. They will be aware of some of their emotional pain, and unaware of much of it.
- This client will have some kind of problem, or problems, for which I have been identified as an aid to the solution.
- This client will come in and tell me a story; and another story; and another; and will want me to make sense of those stories; so they can escape from some pain or other. And that is part of my job. But a more immediate, and important part may be to be a ‘secure base’for them – to re-parent them.
- This client may or may not be aware that their body and mind are one: a body-mind. They may not realize that, to have a calm and happy mind, they need to eat a healthy, balanced diet; exercise regularly; manage their sleep cycle; drink enough water; process their daily experiences consciously (and especially the difficult bits [preferably in writing, in a journal]); have a good balance of work, rest and play; be assertive in their communications with their significant others; have good quality social connections; and so on.
- This client may have heard of ‘the talking cure’, and believe that all we have to do is exchange some statements, and then I will say ‘Take up thy bed and walk!’ And they will be healed.
They may not know that the solution to their problems is most likely going to involve them taking more responsibility for the state of their life; being more self-disciplined; learning to manage the ‘shadow side’ of their mind (or ‘bad wolf’ state); learning to manage their own emotions; manage their own relationships better; manage their physical health, in terms of diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, stress, and so on; and to manage their minds also.
About the only things I do know for sure, in advance, are as follows:
- This client will be a largely non-conscious creature of habit, wired up in early childhood to be secure or insecure in their relationships;
- It will take some time to reach some kind of agreement about the nature of their main problems; and:
- Our communications will be relatively difficult, because all human communication is very difficult. This is so because they will have to interpret what I say and do in the light of their previous experiences, and I will have to interpret what they say and do in the light of my previous experiences. So the grounds for misunderstanding are vast!
- A lot of what will be communicated between us will go directly from my right brain to their right brain, non-verbally.
- They will know how I feel about them long before they know any of my ideas.
- I will have to have my wits about me, like Hercule Poirot, sailing through a dark night, on a choppy river, watching for shadows in the bushes on either bank! But I love the challenge. And now that I have developed E-CENT counselling, I have a broad range of models and theories and strategies in my toolbox to help me on my journey through the therapeutic relationship with any client who consults me in the future.
A counsellor reflects upon models of mind
Integrating the psychological models of Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis
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This book explores some significant ways of thinking about the nature of the human brain-mind. Every counsellor needs to think long and hard about their perceptions of their clients. Are they based on ‘common sense’, or have they been subjected to the discipline of considering the theories of great minds that preceded us, like Plato, Freud, Berne and Ellis. (Ellis, of course, oversimplified the SOR model of mind into the simple ABC model, but he is still important because of his impact on the whole CBT theory, which currently dominates the field of counselling and therapy in the US, UK and elsewhere). The author provides a stimulating review of several theories of mind.
If I reflect upon some of my clients from recent years, and how I worked with them, I might conclude that:
- Their problems ranged from couple conflict, anger management and anxiety/panic, and an anxious-clinging attachment style – on the one hand – to grief and depression, guilt and shame, lack of self-confidence, and an avoidant attachment style on the other. In other words, some of them were troubled by hyper-aroused emotions, and others were troubled by low or hypo-arousal. (I have more to say on this subject in section 2.6 below, where I present a more extensive list).
- Although they were (and are) primarily emotional beings – (as am I) – nevertheless we had to communicate with each other through our socialized, largely language-based communication interface habits. (This, of course, includes a good deal of paralinguistic signals [or body language], and emotional leakages [or ‘tells’], which are beyond our control!)
- My main modus operandum consisted of: (a) Providing the client with a secure base; (b) Exploring their current life situation, including their lifestyle habits; and (c) Attempting to teach them those models and theories and techniques which I have used in the past (and those I use today) to keep my emotional arousal in the middle ground between too high and too low. (For more on the tasks undertaken in E-CENT counselling, please see section 2.6 below).
- In the process of working with me, over time, they mainly seemed to become more adult – without losing sight of the value of their Nurturing Parent and Playful Child parts (or ‘ego states’ – or states of their ego, or personality variations). They learned to perceive-feel-think in a less extreme mode, and to keep their affects (or emotions/feelings/actions) on an even keel.
E-CENT counselling is one of the newest, most comprehensive systems of holistic counselling. But this is something of a paradox, because, as John McLeod writes: “There are no new therapies.” (From page ix of McLeod 1997/2006). Of course, what he means here is that most new systems of counselling are a result of experiencing and knowing about older systems of counselling, which coalesce and mingle and transform and evolve over time.
For example, E-CENT theory has some of its roots in the moderate teachings of the Buddha, and the moderate teaching of the Stoic philosophers; though I also have criticisms of both of these schools of thought.
I have reviewed models of mind from Plato and Freud, and John Bowlby and the post-Freudian, ‘object relations’ tradition.
And I have incorporated many ideas from the very latest thinking in affective neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology. I stand on the shoulders of giants!
Furthermore, as argued by Hill (2015), in describing other innovations, I am participating in the development of “major advances in psychotherapy”, via the “integration of disciplines”. (Page 98).
It should be stated quite clearly, however, that I am critical of as many aspects of those disciplines as those I favour!
I am wary of taking anything on board too readily, without adequate testing and critical analysis. And I encourage you to do the same with the content of this book!
Processing Client Stories in Counselling and Psychotherapy:
How to think about and analyze client narratives
Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling
The Institute for E-CENT Publications – 2019
Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2019. All rights reserved.
Of all the systems of counselling and therapy, the main ones that pay attention to the body of the client include Gestalt Therapy, and my own system of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (or E-CENT for short).
In E-CENT counselling, when a client arrives to see us, we see a body-brain-mind-environment-whole enter our room. We agree that this person will begin by telling us a story about their current difficulties; but we recognize that this story is affected, for better or worse, by the quality and duration of their recent sleep patterns; their diet (including caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, and trans-fats in junk food); and whether or not they do regular physical exercise; and other bodily factors.
However, in this book, we will mainly focus upon the client’s story or narrative; and perhaps remind ourselves occasionally that this story is being told by a physical body-brain-mind which is dependent for optimal functioning upon such factors as diet, exercise, sleep, and so on. We will focus upon the question of the status of autobiographical narratives; and how to analyze the stories our clients tell us.
E-CENT counselling theory is about the whole individual client – the body-brain-mind-environment – and not just the mind of the client. It involves integrating the body-mind of the social-individual with their social environment.
It arose out the integration of various pre-existing theories and models of counselling and therapy – including the rational-emotive; cognitive-behavioural; emotive/ psychodynamic; and person-centred approaches. Plus attachment theory; and moral philosophy; narrative analysis; and some moderate Buddhist and Stoic principles.
Our ultimate aim was to integrate – as potentially equal contributors to personal happiness and mental tranquillity – the following elements:
(a) The body, (diet and exercise [plus sleep, relaxation and meditation]);
(b) The brain, (brain food, blood sugar, and brain/mind development);
(c) The environment, (relationships, right livelihood, living conditions);
(d) Family of origin and childhood experiences, including traumatic experiences;
(e) Personal narratives, (or stories, scripts, frames, beliefs, attitudes, values, which were learned from family and society); and:
(f) A sense of “something bigger than the self”, (a spiritual or moral practice, or a social/political/community involvement).
E-CENT counselling has a full title which benefits from being broken down into its constituent elements, for ease of presentation!
The ‘E’ stands for Emotive. We believe that humans are primarily feeling beings, with an innate set of emotional control systems, which are subject to development over time, in the context of social modelling and social shaping. (Panksepp 1998; and Siegel 2015).
The ‘E-C’ (or Emotive-Cognitive) juxtaposition was necessitated because of ‘the cognitive turn’, which began back in the 1950’s, when psychology researchers began to lose faith in the models of behaviourism. When it became obvious, for example, that experimental animals had their own ‘goals and agendas’, separate and apart from the behavioural shaping conducted by the observing researchers, then those disillusioned neo-behaviourists concluded: “Ah, there must be something going on inside of those animals: like thinking!” And thus the cognitive turn occurred. Now we were all thought to be ‘cognitive beings’, where cognition was thought to be dominated by thinking. Some of the major researchers (from the 1930’s and ‘40’s) who laid the foundations for this field – like Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky – overlooked human emotion. They also did not notice that our so-called cognitive processes, of attention, perception, memory, etc., are (apparently) strongly guided by emotional control systems. (Panksepp 1998; Siegel 2015; and Hill 2015 ).
I have come up with the E-C (Emotive-Cognitive) formulation to emphasize that we are primarily emotional, feeling beings, who also have a (limited) capacity to engage in relatively cool reasoning processes. In addition, those reasoning processes seem to depend upon our ability to form emotional evaluations of our choices and options (Damasio, 1994). Indeed, I dislike speaking or writing about ‘thinking’; preferring to use the term ‘perfinking’, to indicate that we perceive, feel and think (or perfink) all in one grasp of the mind. Those apparently separate processes (like ‘thinking’) cannot ever be clearly and wholly separated out from each other (though we can perhaps distinguish between them for certain theoretical purposes).
A Major Critique of REBT:
Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy
Also, we have added a reference to the research which shows that emotional pain and physical pain are both mediated and processed through significantly overlapping neural networks, which contradicts Dr Ellis’s claim that nobody could hurt you, except by hitting you with a baseball bat or a brick.
This is a comprehensive, scientific and philosophical critique of the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, as developed by Dr Albert Ellis; including the dismantling of the philosophical foundations of the ABC model; and a decimating critique of the concept of unconditional self-acceptance. Almost nothing is left of REBT when the dust settles, apart from the system called Rational Emotive Imagery, which Dr Ellis borrowed from Maxi Maultsby.
Price: £23.58 GBP (Paperback) and £6.99 GBP (Kindle eBook).
So much for the ‘E-C’ element of our acronym. Now for the ‘E-N’ element:
The E-N element stands for Embodied-Narrative. Again, this is an attempt to get away from some unhelpful ideas from the past: this time some ideas that have become prevalent in Rational and Cognitive therapies (REBT/CBT), to the effect that we have automatic thoughts, or beliefs, which are completely disconnected from the state of our bodies. This is not true. The REBT/CBT approaches lead therapists and counsellors to relate to their clients as ‘floating heads’, which they are not.
For examples: An inebriated body will produce different thoughts and beliefs and narratives than a sober body.
A hungry body (with exceptionally low blood sugar levels) will produce different (and more negative) thoughts and beliefs and narratives than a well fed body (given a balanced diet at regular intervals throughout the day).
A well exercised body will produce different (more positive, constructive) thoughts and beliefs than a ‘couch potato’ body, all other things being equal.
An excessively stressed body will produce different thoughts and beliefs than a suitably relaxed body. And so on.
Hence the importance of the concept of Embodied-Narratives.
So, our system of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) exists because of some of the most obvious errors in the therapies which preceded us.
Most of the models and processes which went into forming the theoretical foundations of E-CENT counselling come from one or more of the ten systems of therapy which were evaluated by Smith and Glass (1977), and found to be not only effective, but fairly equally effective! So I do not feel any need to waste resources funding a Randomized Control Trial to ‘prove’ the efficacy of E-CENT. (West and Byrne, 2009).
The main types of therapy validated by Smith and Glass (1977, 1982), and also by later studies, and used in E-CENT counselling, are: Transactional analysis; Rational emotive therapy; Psychodynamic approaches; Gestalt therapy; Client-centred; and Systematic desensitization.
The main exceptions to this rule – that E-CENT has been constructed from validated systems of counselling and therapy (validated by the Common Factors School of research – Smith and Glass ; Wampold and Messer ; and others) – include the use of:
- Elements of Attachment theory(which is perhaps the most researched and validated approach to developmental psychology in use today) – See: Wallin(2007); and Bowlby (1988).
- Aspects of the most popular approaches to Moral philosophy (including The Golden Rule; Rule utilitarianism; Duty ethics; and Virtue ethics.)
- Aspects of moderate Buddhist philosophy, including elements of the Zen perspective on language; and some of the insights of the Dhammapada.
- The Narrative approach to counselling and therapy, which has become increasingly popular, mainly as a result of the work of White and Epston; and Kenneth Gergen; plus Theodore Sarbin.
- And some moderate elements of Stoicism, especially those parts that overlap moderate Buddhism.
I did not go seeking to invalidate any particular theory, but rather to validate REBT (and I had no reservations about Zen Buddhism or Stoicism – which I do now!) In practice, however, as I worked at trying to validate the ABC model of REBT, (between 2001 and 2007/8), our reflective learning increasingly drew attention to flaws and weaknesses in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy theory and models.
In one of my papers on REBT – (Byrne 2009a) – I was trying to validate the ABC model by comparing and contrasting it with:
(1) Elements of Freud’s theory of the tripartite psyche (or mind): (Comprising the It [or organism]; the Ego [or socialized personality] and the Super-ego [or internalized mother-father-other]);
(2) Aspects of Transactional Analysis (TA) theory – including how the so-called Parent, Adult and Child ‘ego states’ (or ‘ways of being’) could be accommodated within the ABC model;
(3) The Object Relations emphasis on the relationship of mother and baby; and:
(4) Some cognitive science (including Hofstadter 2007, Le Doux 1996, and Damasio 1994 and 2000); some Zen koans; and some general theory of emotions from mainstream psychology.
In practice, REBT fell apart in our hands, and E-CENT emerged from the debris.
In 2009, six years before Daniel Siegel produced his book on Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPN), I had constructed a model of the ‘social individual’ who grows out of the interaction of mother-and-baby in the context of socialization and education (or induction into a culture – Byrne 2009b).
In this development, I had been influenced by the neuroscientific insights of Douglas Hofstadter’s (2007) view of the human brain-mind, and the other elements mentioned in sub-paragraphs (1)-(4) above.
I am not claiming that “E-CENT is right, and everybody else is wrong!” This would contradict the Common Factors theory that all systems of counselling and therapy that are designed to be therapeutic produce broadly equivalent outcomes for clients (on average).
I take the view that all science is tentative and propositional. (Of course, a few sciences [when closely related to technology, or to other physical referents that are easy to explore] prove to be more verifiable. But psychological science tends to be harder to verify; and verifications are often overturned with time. Indeed, the very idea of ‘verification’ in the human sciences is problematical. The positivistic approach is to apply the model of the hard (technological and physical) sciences to the world of psychology and therapy. But a more sustainable approach is to see the theories of psychology and psychotherapy as social constructions, in a world of social constructions about a ‘concrete reality’ – the human brain-mind – which is difficult to explore.
E-CENT theory is such a social construction, which should be continually tested in practice, and modified in the light of experience. Like all human science products, E-CENT theory was produced by “blokes and birds (or guys and gals) trying to make sense of stuff”.
I have used the best theories, models and evidences available to us in the most relevant literature. I have tried to avoid turning our theories into ‘facts’ – which is very hard for humans to do. We humans believe so strongly in our ideas that we tend to project them out into the world and ‘find them’ there. For example, Panksepp (1998) has said that what cognitive scientists think of as the cognitive functions of attention, perception, etc., are thought to be controlled by our emotional control systems.
However, in practice, I may sometimes seem to be firming that up into an incontrovertible fact. But in terms of my intentions, I intend to say: It seems to me (based on my literature reviews, and my own ‘clinical’ experiences) that we humans are primarily emotional beings, for the whole of our lives. It seems, from work conducted by Antonio Damasio, Jaak Panksepp, Allan Schore, Daniel Siegel, and others, that our thinking depends upon our feelings. And it seems to us that this should reverse the cognitive revolution, and usher in an era of emotional revolution in counselling and psychotherapy.
You will not find a pivotal case study at the foundations of E-CENT.
It is impossible to write a case study, or case studies, which would illustrate the essence of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) – at least in the sense of revealing what is going on inside the counsellor and the client. How could a case study reveal the non-conscious workings of the mind of the client, and the equally concealed mental processes of the counsellor?
If Sigmund Freud’s case studies reveal anything, they show the conscious formulations of cause and effect that Freud deduced, in the form of subjective interpretations from his conversations with, and thoughts about, his individual clients. They tell us nothing of what went on at the most important level of body-mind in either the analyst or the client.
If you read the case study at the beginning of Albert Ellis’s original version of his book, Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy (1962) – pages 22-33 (with context provided in pages 18-22) – what you will mainly learn (from the creator of Rational Therapy) is Albert Ellis’s theory of the human condition, and not anything real about the client. I now have good reasons to conclude that Dr Ellis had decided (as a child, probably mainly non-consciously), as an after-effect of the fact that he had been largely abandoned and emotionally neglected by his parents, that humans should be cool and detached. (This was evidenced by his lifelong avoidant attachment style, and his tendency to emphasize thoughts over feelings; and the fact than some of his closest colleagues considered him to be “somewhat Aspergerish”, or slightly autistic).
He also believed that there were no really good objective reasons for anybody to be disturbed (which was what he had learned from reading the extreme views of the major Stoics, Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus).
And in his case study (from 1962), mentioned above, concerning a disturbed female client, Ellis states quite clearly that “…every human being who gets disturbed really is telling himself a chain of false sentences…” (Page 28). This is very far from the truth, as you will find if you take one hundred ordinary citizens at random, and expose them to a rattle snake or a mad dog in a confided space in which they are captive. Most of them will become highly disturbed, no matter what they ‘try to tell themselves’ – because the reasoning centres of the mind can only damp down emotional disturbance at low levels of intensity. And the fearful things which we could imply they are ‘telling themselves’ (or emotively signally themselves) about these threats are, in any case, far from being false! Snakes really are dangerous, and a threat to our survival, in some contexts.
People are affected by their environments, and especially their social environments (which contradicts the extremist view expressed by Epictetus in his most famous dictum: where he states, in the Enchiridion, that “people are not disturbed by what happens to them, but rather by the attitude they adopt towards what happens to them”). Most often, our emotional reactions are automatic, very fast, and non-conscious (Goleman). The emotional arousal occurs in a fraction of a second, which is far too fast for any thinking to take place. And very often, the strong emotional reaction is ‘self-preserving’ or self-protective, or survival oriented, and not at all ‘irrational’.
The way Albert Ellis constructed his case study, above, allowed him to mislead his readers into becoming less sensitive and less empathic towards their clients and other people. The clients’ feelings are treated as an irrelevant epiphenomenon contingent upon what the clients are telling themselves – which is now seen by us – or now seems to us – to be a false theory of human mental functioning. More often than not, the feeling comes before the thought, and the thought is coloured by the feeling! (See the APET model from the Human Givens tradition, in chapter 8 below).
Here’s another example where a case study is used to justify an approach to counselling. Take a look at the case study at the beginning of Aaron Beck’s (1976) book on cognitive therapy. In a section titled ‘The discovery of automatic thoughts’ (in pages 29-35), Beck presents ‘an autobiographical note’ which claims to be a description of a conversation with a client, during which Beck discovered – by getting the client to introspect about (or look into) his own thought processes – that the client had ‘two streams of thought’. Beck admits that he had earlier formulated the theory that ‘clients in general withheld certain kinds of ideas’ that passed through their minds. Beck (1976) was hunting for just such ideas when this particular client “volunteered the information” (page 30) that he had been having a second stream of automatic thoughts while expressing the first stream verbally. Since we know that introspection into our thought processes is unable to reveal most of our moment to moment processing of our environment – as demonstrated by: Gladwell (2006); Gray (2003); Bargh and Chartrand (1999); Maier (1931) – and we also know that introspection was dumped by the world of psychology at the end of the nineteenth century as being unreliable – we can infer that this client was (unintentionally and non-consciously) ‘making up plausible stories’ (Maier 1931; and Hill 2015) to satisfy Beck’s questions. He was giving Beck what he asked for!
So case studies seem to be a poor source of objective data, telling us more about the author’s ideas than anything real about the subjects of the study.
Back in 2005, I had a research associate (let’s call him Charles) who wanted us to collaborate on the question of what he did in his counselling sessions that benefitted his clients, and how he did it.
He wanted me to review a few of his counselling sessions, recorded on video tape, and to write down a case study of: “….what I (Charles) did, and what my clients gained from particular interventions”.
I said I’d think about it. And I did. In fact, I created a thought experiment, which went like this:
Imagine this: (a) Charles is in a small counselling room with an individual client; (b) there are four one-way mirrors – one on each wall of that room; and (c) behind each one-way mirror there is an observer.
Now let us suppose that each of those four observers come from a different school of counselling and therapy theory. When each of them submits their written report of ‘what happened’ in the room, how good will the correspondence be between the four reports? Not very good, I am sure you will agree. (Because people do not see with their eyes, but rather with their interpreted, and interpretive, life experiences stored in their body-minds!)
My thought experiment is a bit like asking a rugby league (RL) player, a rugby union (RU) player, a soccer player and a Gaelic Athletic Association (Irish Football) player to evaluate a game of ladies netball, and to identify the three key events in the game which seemed to have determined the outcome.
Clearly there would be very little agreement between the reports – because we do not see with our eyes, but rather with our mental maps of the world. And each distinct school of counselling and psychotherapy teaches a distinct map of the psychological world.
So, if we want to know about Charles’s approach to doing counselling and therapy work, might it not be better to find out what his theory is? What models he uses? What processes he promotes? His concept of the mind of the client, and so on? And we could also try to get some testimonials from his clients regarding their experience of his counselling skill.
If we knew those things, we could then decide whether or not they seemed credible to us. We could experiment with his approach to see how it works in practice (for us!) And we could incorporate into our lives those elements that worked for us, and discard the rest.
That is what I intend to do in this book – to describe the key principles, models and theories upon which E-CENT counselling is based; and to describe how E-CENT is applied in individual counselling; and in self-management.
I will not try to develop case studies of clients and what they got from E-CENT, for the reasons outlined above, although I might quote illustrative examples, occasionally; or cite a client testimonial regarding what they got from E-CENT counselling.
E-CENT counselling sees our clients as primarily emotional, with some cognitive (thinking) abilities, which are underpinned by automatic, non-conscious emotional control systems (Panksepp, 1998; and Siegel, 2015).
Their narratives, or stories of their experiences, are encoded in their body-brain-minds. They are not just ‘floating heads’.
“Clients … come in and, one way or another, tell their story and discover or construct new stories to tell. Therapists do not usually disclose stories of their own personal troubles, but instead offer their clients more general, almost mythic stories of how people change or what life can be like. Implicit in the therapist’s story is an image of the ‘good life’.” (McLeod, 1997/2006).
E-CENT counselling is interested in the stories of our clients, and we have helpful stories to share with them; and also ways of helping them to explore and re-write their stories. Some of this is described in Chapter 8, where I introduce the Jigsaw story model, which is a guide to focusing on the client’s stories, and to remember to relate the various bits of their stories to each other, and to look for patterns and inconsistencies.
But first, let us review the ‘narrative’ approach of E-CENT, by comparing and contrasting it to some of the more traditional approaches.
(i) Similarities: E-CENT accepts that human beings are immersed in social narratives, and that they apprehend their environments in terms of narrative elements of characters, plots, dramas, stories, cause and effect imputations, etc. (See: Perry, 2012, pages 71-88. And McLeod, 1997/2006). I believe humans function largely non-consciously, and view the world – non-consciously – through frames of reference derived (interpretively and automatically) from their past (social) experiences. And these narratives are emotive or feeling stories, which provide meaning and structure to the life of the social-individual.
(ii) Differences: E-CENT does not subscribe to the White and Epston (1990) strategy for dealing with narrative disturbances. Instead I have created my own processes of narrative therapy. I also avoid using McLeod’s commitment to postmodern perspectives. The E-CENT perspective on narrative is grounded in our conception of the human being as a socialized body-mind-environment-whole. So there is a real, physical ‘me’, and a real physical environment in which I am embedded. We do not advocate the view which says “all there is is story!” And the stories I tell myself are dependent upon not only my physical existence in a physical/social world, but also upon how well I slept last night; how well I have eaten today; how much physical exercise I have done recently; how hydrated my body-brain-mind is today; how well connected I am to people in significant relationships; how much pressure I am under (actually and experientially) – and what my coping resources are (or seem to me to be); and so on.
So E-CENT theory only deals with grounded narratives: or embodied-narratives.
It is now widely accepted in psychology and social science that narratives and stories are central to how humans make sense of the world, and communicate with each other about their lives. Professor Theodore Sarbin was one of the main and earliest of the American theorists who raised objections to positivist psychology, and argued that ‘emotions are narrative emplotments’. (Sarbin, 1989, 2001). Kenneth Gergen (1985, 2004) is another theorist of this ‘narrative turn’ in the field of psychology. White and Epston (1990) are probably the best known theorists of Narrative Therapy today. However, there are three pre-existing approaches to narrative therapy – as described by John McLeod (2003), pages 227-238; plus McLeod (1997/2006), chapters 3 to 5. These are: (1) the psychodynamic approach; (2) the cognitive/ constructivist approach; and (3) the social constructionist approach.
(1) The psychodynamic approach to the use of narratives in counselling and therapy focuses on the ways that the client’s stories can reveal habitual ways of relating; and the counsellor can thus use those stories to help the client to ‘re-author’ their lives: (Strupp and Binder, 1984; Luborsky and Crits-Christoph, 1990). The main emphasis in the psychodynamic approach to the use of narrative in counselling and therapy is in helping to identify the Core Conflictual Relationship Theme (CCRT). This CCRT then provides the basic agenda for their work of counselling.
(2) The cognitive/constructivist approach to the use of narratives in counselling and therapy focuses on two strategies:
(a) Identifying stories that conflict with each other, which provides the possibility of using ‘cognitive dissonance’ to help with the challenge of rewriting and integrating conflicted schemas (or frames, scripts, stories) in the client’s long-term memory; and:
(b) The use of metaphor. For example: If your read my Story of Origins, you will find I use the metaphor of being a ‘little mouse’ to describe a period of my life when I was passive and withdrawn, and then ‘a big moral cat’, when I discovered a form of political expression that allowed me to safely express my anger towards my father. Metaphors can be depowering and empowering, and the therapist can help the client to develop more empowering metaphors for the problem roles, themes, or characters in their most difficult stories.
(3) The social constructionist approach to narrative therapy is based on the idea that we are social beings born into a story-telling culture; that we are surrounded by stories, myths, legends; that these stories preceded our existence; and we take on some of the story roles and themes into which we are thrown at birth. According to Alasdair MacIntyre, we are primarily story-telling animals.
The best known contributors to the development of this tradition were White and Epston, a couple of Australasian family therapists: (White and Epston, 1990). Since people are seen as occupying a family- or community-generated narrative or story, the solution is to ‘externalize’ this story, and get the client to see it as not part of them, so they can step away from the roles specified in the story; or to re-author their story in various ways.
Like E-CENT therapy, this form of therapy uses both spoken dialogue and written narratives to help the client to unearth their dominant narratives and to change them.
E-CENT theory does not fit comfortably within any of the three narrative traditions outlined above. Neither was E-CENT directly inspired by the creators of any of those three traditions. Nevertheless, E-CENT involves, or echoes – primarily – an integration of elements of traditions (1) and (3) – the psychodynamic and the social constructionist.
But E-CENT is much more than that; and is a completely unique approach to narrative, in that I have integrated many different systems to develop and explicate our understanding of human development and individual functioning.
And even more than that, I have developed a form of counselling and therapy for dealing with embodied-narratives about something (tangible and meaningful!) And that embodied narrative approach is informed by affective neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology. (Panksepp, 1998; Schore, 2015; Siegel, 2015).
The core foundation stones of E-CENT are these:
Element 1: A physical baby (or body-mind) in its mother’s arms, internalizing her language and culture; her behaviour and speech; her values and attitudes; and her relational approach to the baby.
Element 2: A developmental history of the mother-baby dyad, resulting in:
(a) A grown-up form of that ‘baby’, which is a physical organism (dependent upon diet, exercise, relaxation, relationship connection and support, and so on); with…
(b) all of its cumulative-interpretive experiences; including:
(i) internalized representations of significant others (e.g. mother and father, etc.; called ‘objects’ for short); and:
(ii) all of its good and bad adaptations towards – and reactions and rebellions against – those internalized ‘objects’;
(c) which gave rise to its ‘internal working models’ of relationship – (secure and/or insecure);
(d) all of which (in paragraphs ‘b-c’ above) is stored in long-term memory, in the form of electro-chemical equivalents of schemas, scripts, stories, frames and other narrativized and non-narrativized elements;
(e) below the level of conscious awareness; and:
(f) permanently beyond direct conscious inspection. (Byrne 2009b; and Bowlby 1988).
So narrative is only part of what is going on in the world of E-CENT theory. The larger picture is of a real, physical body, travelling through real space-time, in a real socioeconomic culture – all of which can be interpreted to some degree; but there are limitations to the degree of interpretations. (This is Element 1 plus Element 2 above). It would be very difficult, for example, for very many working class individuals, living and working in London or New York today, to interpret their circumstances as living in Paradise! Reality exerts some constraints upon the potential shape of our stories!
Different schools of thought have their own theories of human story-telling. For examples;
(a) In constructivism, the individual makes up their own story, as they explore their environment (Piaget).
(b) In social-constructionism, the individual is socialized into a belief system which is not their own (Vygotsky).
(c) In the Freudian world, the individual is a sexy organism which makes up phantasies about its love objects.
But in E-CENT, there is more going on than is described in (a) to (c) above.
And now, to try to firm up that E-CENT perspective, I feel compelled to do something that I have argued against: to give a case example. This is intended to illustrate E-CENT, rather than to ‘prove’ anything about it.
Sharon is a woman who phoned me recently to say she needed help with a problem. Her husband had been in hospital to have major surgery on his intestines, during which he almost died. Now her husband (Frank) had made a shaky recovery, but with permanent impairment resulting from the surgery, which had drastically changed their relationship. And her husband (stupidly in her view) planned to return to his stressful job, which could quickly kill him off. Understandably, Sharon felt traumatized; was experiencing undigested grief; was anxious about Frank’s return to work; and depressed about some of the ways in which she had lost out in life.
I assumed I might end up doing some grief work with her: helping her to get in touch with the tears and letting them out. I discussed that possibility with her.
I also thought it was possible that, instead, she might want to do some desensitization around the trauma of her husband’s surgery and near death experience.
And we had also discussed on the phone the possibility that Sharon was reliving a trauma from her fifth year of life, stimulated by recent experiences.
In the event, we had one counselling session, during which fragments of stories fitted together badly, and, while some grieving came up, desensitization seemed to recede into the background.
In trying to put Sharon’s story together (the Jigsaw-story approach of E-CENT: See Chapter 8) I came up with these fragments:
1(a). While Sharon thought her husband’s intestinal problems probably ‘fell from the skies’ – (‘just bad luck’) – I suggested that their love of a highly spicy and sugary diet might have precipitated Candida Albicans, which can in turn precipitate the form of intestinal disease Frank suffered from. (These insights come from reading alternative heath books and articles; and taking responsibility for ‘becoming our own physicians’. See, in particular, Taylor-Byrne and Byrne, 2017; and Dr Mercola’s website). (See also Chapter 4 below).
1(b). I made sure Sharon understood that I was not dispensing medical advice, but rather modelling the importance of understanding our own physical and mental health; and the links between our bodies and minds; and the connections between what we eat, how we maintain our guts, and our physical health and emotional wellbeing.
2(a). Sharon had never thought about diet before; but she now realized that she also has intestinal discomfort, though it does not stop her eating hot and sweet chilli meals (yet!). (I recommended that she see a good nutritionist, or an alternative health practitioner, or a holistic medical doctor; and that she subscribe to a helpful journal which educates the general public regarding cutting edge medical science that is not normally disseminated by general medical practitioners (GPs).)
2(b). Some aspects of Sharon’s diet may be undermining her psychological condition. For example: Eight cups of strong, fresh-ground coffee each day; skipping breakfast; sugary foods. (I shared this insight with her. She was very surprised, as she subscribed to the common social delusion that ‘eating is a form of recreation’, with no health implications. In E-CENT we say: “Eating is for health and nutrition. Recreational eating can kill you!”) ‘How to have fun with (bad) food’ is a common (irresponsible) social narrative. (See Chapter 4 for information about foods to eat and foods to avoid; and Chapter 9 on how to teach this subject).
2(c). It became apparent to me that Sharon was not getting enough sleep, because she stayed up late, watching TV, as a way of alleviating her anxiety about Frank’s health. So I taught her some key insights into the science of sleep (as in Chapter 5 below).
- She was aware of the Stoic and Buddhist injunction to give up trying to controlthe uncontrollable, but she was really upset because she could not figure out how to stop Frank going back to work; or how to stop herself trying to stop Frank going back to work. So I introduced her to my Six Windows Model, as a strategy for re-framing challenging problems. (See Chapter 6 below).
- I told her a story of a recent dream I’d had, which had helped me to complete some longstanding grief of my own, possibly from around the same time as her age-five trauma. (Some of this proved to be ‘feeling talk’ – which probably was mainly right-brain to right-brain communication, running alongside the left-brain to left-brain story-talk). She was amazed by the terrain of my dream, because it paralleled a recent dream she had had. Her dream involved walking through a particular landscape (which she described in detail), and having particularly traumatic things happen (which again were detailed by her).
I suggested that we work on that dream, using a fusion of Gestalt therapy and psychodrama.
I got her to identify with each element of the dream; and then, because she found it so hard to dis-identify (or dissociate) from herself as the traumatized subject (or viewer) of the dream, I got her to act out the process of ‘stepping out of herself’, and then watching herself from a safe distance – from the side-lines.
In the process, she discovered a deeply unhelpful aspect of her character and temperament, which might have been driving some of her attitudes towards her husband’s illness and his plan to return to work. (As a result of that discovery, she apparently ‘changed her [feeling] story’ – [or rewrote or revised it] – about who she was, and how she has to act!)
By the end of the session, Sharon was “re-moralized”; more confident; less shaky. She went away saying she would think about what I’d said about the connection between diet and health. I don’t think she’ll be back, because I believe she has enough Stoical capacity to handle whatever is up ahead. (If she does come back, we should talk about the role of exercise in damping down anxiety and panic. See Chapter 4, section 4.9; and Chapter 9, section 9.2(2)).
Her weakness comes mainly from the coffee (which, in large amounts, usually causes stress and anxiety) and her use of sugary foods (which can cause an overgrowth of Candida Albicans, which is depression-inducing)! And I have asked her to look at changing those, and some other aspects of her diet, with the support of a professional nutritionist.
The rest she can handle through the normal processes of grieving, which I have helped her to accept as okay.
“It’s okay to cry, Sharon!” I told her near the beginning of the session, when she was resisting crying openly.
“If I told you a joke, you would laugh out loud”, I said.
“So when you feel sad, I want to see your sad face, and your tears!” I think she got it!
E-CENT has one root in narrative; one root in the body-mind (where narrative is stored); one root in the environment (where the nutrients and love and stories come from – and where the physical exercising is done [or not!]).
Of course, I can redeem ‘the purity’ of my stance on the limitations of case studies, like this:
I am the only person who saw Sharon when she came to Hebden Bridge that day.
I cannot offer you any corroboration of the veracity of my story about Sharon’s visit. I believe the story recounts some key elements of the counselling session we shared.
But I do not know the extent to which I might have inadvertently steered the conversation, based on my subconscious commitment to various ways of understanding Sharon (and other humans in her situation).
So my story is a ‘just-so’ story. It might be helpful to you to explore some of its inferences and implications. But it is still just my story about Sharon.
Because Attachment theory is a significant component of E-CENT theory and practice, it is important to provide some background.
What is attachment theory? How does it relate to post-Freudian or neo-Freudian approaches to psychotherapy? And how are these ideas used in E-CENT?
Firstly, attachment theory was originated by Dr John Bowlby, a British psychoanalyst, based on his observations of the negative impact of protracted separation of young children from their parents, especially their mothers. This is how it was described by Gullestad (2001):
In a documentary film made by Dr John Bowlby for the World Health Organization, he reports on “…the mental health of homeless children in post-war Europe. The major conclusion was that to grow up mentally healthy, ‘the infant and young child should experience a warm, intimate, and continuous relationship with his mother (or permanent mother substitute) in which both find satisfaction and enjoyment…’.”
Secondly, attachment theory seems to be part of the post-WW2 movement away from classical Freudianism: (Gomez, 1997). The British Object Relations School of psychoanalysis – involving Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, Michael Balint and Harry Guntrip – seems to have been a big part of the cultural milieu in which John Bowlby arose and developed. However, there were significant differences between all of these post-Freudian psychoanalysts, some of whom were never tolerated by Anna Freud and the heirs to Sigmund Freud, and some of whom, like Winnicott, straddled both camps.
Thirdly, some of the Object Relations theorists emphasized the role of the inner working of the individual’s psyche in causing their emotional problems – which was the classical Freudian approach – and some emphasized the role of the environment – which was not. Bowlby, like Karen Horney in the USA, was adamant that people were strongly shaped by their environment, and especially by their formative relationships with their mothers (and fathers) – or their main carers.
Fourth, Bowlby’s ideas on attachment were subjected to empirical enquiry and further elaboration by Mary Ainsworth (1967, 1969), who developed the ‘strange situation’ research model, in which mothers withdraw from a room in which their toddler is playing, a stranger enters, then mother returns after three minutes, and the toddler’s reaction to mother is assessed. This work gave rise to the categories of:
– ‘secure attachment’, where the child has a basic trust in the enduring love and availability of the mother;
– ‘avoidant attachment’, where the child does not trust the mother to be available consistently; and:
– ‘resistant (or anxious-ambivalent) attachment’ in which the child clings to the mother, but often in punitive or angry ways.
When clients come to see us in E-CENT counselling, we try to identify their attachment style, and to relate to them on the basis of re-parenting those who are avoidant or anxious-ambivalent.
Paradoxically, Albert Ellis – the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy – had his training analysis in the Karen Horney school of Object Relations in New York City, which emphasized the role of the environment in harming and/or helping the individual. When Ellis split from psychoanalysis, he represented himself as splitting from Sigmund Freud (and did not mention differences with Horney).
In fact, in developing his ABC model, he argues that it’s not what happens to the client – (the Activating Adversity [or the ‘A’]) – which is upsetting, but rather their Beliefs about it – (which he labels as the ‘B’). And it is assumed to be the interaction of the A and the B which causes the Consequent emotion (which he labels as the ‘C’). (However, in practice, he normally dumps the role of the ‘A’ quite quickly, and focuses on the role of the ‘B’. “People are always and only upset by the ‘B’”, is his core message! And this is a false conclusion! See Byrne, 2017).
In creating this A>B>C model, Ellis was leaving Horney’s A>C model behind, and re-joining Freud’s “ABC model”, in which Freud assumes that it is the child’s (or patient’s [or client’s]) mentation (or phantasies) which cause their upsets, and not the noxious behaviours of their mother/father (or other elements of their social environment)!
Both Ellis and Freud attach primary significance to the inner workings of the individual (their B, or beliefs; or drives and phantasies), and relatively little or no importance to their actual environments. Horney and Bowlby, on the other hand, thought the environment was primary. For Horney and Bowlby, young children have little or nothing to do with how they are shaped by their ‘good’ or ‘bad’ parents: (or should I say “good enough” or “not good enough” parents).
E-CENT theory takes a middle position between Freud/Ellis on the one side, and Horney/Bowlby on the other. I believe that the relationship between the mother and child is dialectical; that the child internalizes working models of how mother relates to him; how father relates to him; and he then relates to them and the world on the basis of those models. The character/personality of the child is driven by his/her cumulative, interpretive experience of encountering ‘good enough’ or ‘not good enough’ carers, and significant others (like siblings, relatives, neighbours, teachers, etc.) But the mother/ father/ others have more power and control, and more shaping impact, in this interactive encounter, than the baby ever could.
Whereas Sigmund (and later Anna) Freud emphasized the sexual tensions between parents and children, during the child’s biologized stages of development, as the seat of neurosis, some post-Freudians, such as Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, and others, went back to the relationship between mother and child in the early months of life to look for the seat of emotional mal-adaptations. This was the beginning of the Object Relations School of psychoanalysis.
The ‘object’ in Object Relations theory can be the actual mother (or father, or carer) of the perceiving child; or an internalized image or memory of the mother (or father, or carer) in the child’s mind; or a part of a significant other (such as mother’s breast).
One of the central ideas of Objects Relations is that children split their world up into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ objects, based on their experiences of pleasure and pain in relationship, and then project those splits into their social environments. And the more painful experiences they have as children, the more disturbed their later lives will prove to be, all other things being equal.
In the USA, Margaret Mahler and her associates conducted observational research on young children and their mothers, to develop a theory of ego development. This research demonstrated a clear connection between the quality of the relationship between mother and child, on the one hand, and the degree of emotional disturbance of the child, on the other.
John Bowlby, in the UK, created his theory of Attachment on the basis of his wartime experiences of dealing with children separated from their parents by war, or hospitalization, or other forms of institutionalization. He argued that children who are separated from their parents at a young age are likely to be disturbed in ways that will affect their later adult functioning. This thesis has been extensively researched and validated.
However, it is not just separation that can damage the relationship between mother and child, but also any form of absence, neglect, or abuse (including physical, sexual or emotional abuse), or lack of sensitive attunement. (Wallin, 2007).
A child’s emotional wellbeing can be protected by ‘good enough’ mothering, and ‘good enough’ fathering, and the provision of a ‘secure base’. In this connection, ‘good enough’ means: sensitive, caring, attuned and supportive; and a secure base means a person to return to when problems are encountered, to ‘refuel’ or calm down emotionally, and to gain reassurance and restore self-belief. According to Bowlby (1988), children develop an ‘internal working model’ of their relationship with mother, then father, and so on. These then become templates for their later relationships. Thus, if there are significant disturbances or distortions in their earliest relationships, the child will take them into later relationships, including adult relationships, because those are the only ‘maps of the territory’ (or ‘schemas’ for relationship) that they possess. And this is why Bowlby (1988) argues that one of the tasks of a psychotherapist is to provide their client with a secure base from which to explore (their issues), and ‘good enough’ substitute-parenting. This calls for ‘emotional communication’ between client and therapist, and not just logical and rational, ‘cognitive’ or thinking-based communications. (See Hill, 2015).
This development of Attachment theory has had a profound effect on the shape of E-CENT counselling practices. In particular, I place more emphasis on my emotional attachment to the client, than I do on the quality of my thinking and philosophical teachings, and this change makes my work quite different from REBT/CBT counselling approaches. I assume that my relationship with my client is being largely conducted on the basis of implicit, automatic, non-conscious communication from my right brain to my client’s right brain. (Hill, 2015).
A ‘good enough’ E-CENT counsellor will seek to provide a ‘secure base’ for his/her clients; to treat them with concern, care and sensitivity; and to model mindfulness, body awareness, and emotional intelligence for the client to copy, or internalize. In short, a ‘good enough’ E-CENT counsellor should be prepared to extend ‘maternal love’ (or something like it) to their clients, as a matter of course. (But they also need to have an equivalent of ‘paternal love’ in the background, to set boundaries and be the ‘reality principle’ for the client). In time, the client can outgrow this re-parenting process, and move into a more equal peer-to-peer relationship with their therapist.
The subject of how to integrate Attachment theory and psychoanalysis has been taken up by David Wallin (2007). David’s work, and the E-CENT perspective, will change how the self is seen in counselling and psychotherapy. The conventional view of a self is that it is a ‘separate’, ‘individual’, ‘discrete entity’. However, in my E-CENT models, the individual is seen to be a social being, ‘connected (healthily or dysfunctionally) to others’ – especially the mother, and then the father, and later significant others. (This lines up with the Interpersonal Neurobiology [IPNB) model of Siegel , who describes the mind [or personal identity, personality, etc.] emerging out of the interaction of the baby’s brain and external relationships [especially, initially, with mother].)
I have some reservations about some aspects of Wallin’s presentation. However, there is little doubt that David’s model has some significant validity. For example, his emphasis on the ‘somatic self’ (or embodied identity) as the foundation of the person, seems intuitively right, and fits into the E-CENT model. The ‘emotional self’ is an extension and refinement of the somatic self – a self that is felt in the viscera (or heart, lungs and guts) and based in the limbic system (or emotional centres) of the brain. And, of course, we also have our ‘narrative self’, or our story of who we are; and where we came from; and where we are trying to get to!
Wallin cites Fonagy et al (2002), Schore (2003) and others as proposing “…that regulation of emotions is fundamental to the development of the self and that attachment relationships are the primary context within which we learn to regulate our affects (or emotional attitudes) – that is, to access, modulate, and use our emotions. The relational patterns that characterize our first attachments are, fundamentally, patterns of affect regulation that subsequently determine a great deal about the nature of our own unique responsiveness to experience – that is, about the nature of the self.”
Wallin (2007) continued: “Correspondingly, in the new attachment relationship that the therapist is attempting to generate, the (client’s) emotions are central and their effective regulation – which allows them to be felt, modulated, communicated, and understood – is usually at the very heart of the process that enables the (client) to heal and to grow”. (Page 64).
This is a most important area for consideration by all counsellors and psychotherapists, psychologists and psychoanalysts. And this time, what I notice to be missing from David’s presentation is how ‘good and evil’ get into human behaviour. (See Appendix H of Byrne  for the E-CENT position on good and evil tendencies in humans. Also, see Figure 1.3 below, in section 1.16).
The third element of David’s model of the self is the ‘representational self’, about which he says: “Bowlby argued that it was an evolutionary necessity to have a representational world that mapped the real one”. That is to say, that we have a map in our heads of the spaces in which we live, and the experiences we have had in those spaces. “To function effectively, we needed (and still need) knowledge of the world and of ourselves, and this knowledge must be portable. We derive such knowledge from memories of past experience, and we use this knowledge to make predictions about present and future experience. Hence, the internal working model. But the map, as they say, is not the territory”. (Page 64).
That is a very important point. All of our stored representations are cumulative and interpretive, as shown in the E-CENT models – which are described in Byrne (2009b). And in Chapter 8, and, more briefly, in the next section below.
Our internal working models are not images or templates for individuals we have known, but rather what Douglas Hofstadter (2007) called ‘strange loops’ – and which I have clarified in my E-CENT writings as ‘strange loops of experience of encountering others’ in which our sense of the other and our sense of self get braided together into one.
This suggests that at our very foundations are strange loops of experience of being changed by others and changing them, in which it is impossible to separate out an ‘individual-I’.
(And those ‘strange loops’ are not abstract thoughts or beliefs. They are based in strongly potentiated neuronal connections [Panksepp, 1998]. They can, presumably, be articulated into narratives [as ‘the narrative self’], but they are not ‘mere linguistic constructions’. They are physical entities which drive our existence in the world. We do not ‘have’ a narrative self, which drives us; we ‘are had’ by a ‘narrative self’, which is an articulation or our physical-experiential-historical self).
The E-CENT model seems to somewhat overlap the position being developed by Fonagy and Wallin, but it is also significantly different. One difference seems to be that in E-CENT, I see the new baby arriving with both good and bad tendencies, in potential. Thus the baby’s innate urge to attach is not its only urge. Bowlby’s biggest area of weakness was his neglect of the inner world of the child, and how to understand “…how the child builds up his own internal world…” (Holmes, 1995, cited in Gullestad, 2001).
Attachment theory seems to be closely related to object relations theory, both of which seem to agree that “the child’s need for human contact is a human one”. (Gullestad, page 6).
Gullestad also draws attention to a controversial question, as to whether the drive towards relationship in the object relations and attachment theory approaches replaces or merely supplements the original theory of drives presented by Freud.
In E-CENT theory, I take the view that drive theory is one side of the coin, and attachment the other.
In practice, what that means is that there are two major components that go into creating the personality of a human being:
(1) Their physical existence, with innate urges and developmental capacities.
(2) Their social environment, of which mother, or the main carer, is the most important element.
This is illustrated in Figure 1.2 below, where I show the overlapping minds of the mother and child, where the child is seen to have innate drives, and the mother has a social-shaping role. And it is the interaction of those two forces that give rise to the baby’s ‘personality adaptation’; or ‘ego’; or ‘self’; or personality and character.
Figure 1.2: Attachment style complements the innate urges theory
Out of the interaction of the two major overlapping and interacting components, shown in Figure 1.2, a third component is ‘grown’ – the mind/self of the baby. (This is in line with the interpersonal neurobiology theory. See Daniel Siegel, 2015).
This is how I modelled that conceptualization, back in 2009:
For us in E-CENT, attachment is not just about security and comfort, but also about desire and a will to power. And as shown in Byrne (2010), both the mother and the child have a good and bad side to their nature. See Figure 1.3 above. This view, of the baby as having an innate moral sense, is supported by empirical research showing that five month old babies have a preference for prosocial behaviour and an aversion to antisocial behaviour. (Bloom 2013).
In E-CENT theory, we argue that each human has, innately, a good and bad side to their nature (or to their ‘heart’).
These “good and bad wolf states” – to borrow a concept from the Native American Cherokee people – are inherent in human nature, and in human culture, and the proportions are variable in each individual over time, and from situation to situation. The way they shape up depends a lot on the skill of the parents, and the nature of the wider social environment – and good and bad luck, in terms of peer group encounters, and so on.
When we encounter clients who have not had a good training in moral behaviour, and this is impacting their capacity to live a happy life, we teach our clients the importance of living from the Golden Rule – of never treating anybody any less well than we would desire them to treat us, if our roles were reversed.
According to Bowlby’s (1988) book of lectures, republished in 2005, “…attachment theory (is) widely regarded as probably the best supported theory of socio-emotional development yet available (Rajecki, Lamb, and Obmascher, 1978; Rutter, 1980; Parkes and Stevenson-Hind, 1982; Sroufe, 1986)”. (Page 31).
Therefore, in E-CENT, I think it is hugely important that counsellors and psycho-therapists should learn to apply Attachment theory insights to their therapeutic work, as one (fundamental) dimension of their understanding of the client’s emotional wiring.
For this purpose, counsellors need to attend to any problems that exist with their own attachment style; and also learn how to be a ‘secure base’ for the client. (See Wallin, 2007).
In chapter 8, I have tried to illustrate the nature of an individual counselling session, using E-CENT theory, models and processes – in so far as that is possible.
In order to facilitate that outline, I used the standard four-part, Jungian session structure, of: Confession; Elucidation; Education and Transformation.
In practice, however, no two E-CENT counselling sessions are ever likely to be the same – since the agenda is set by where the client is ‘at’ on that occasion, in terms of their perfinking (perceiving, feeling and thinking); their personal history and life circumstances; and how this affects their agenda for the session.
And each session is affected and shaped by the way in which the counsellor manages to respond, non-consciously, spontaneously; and taking into account the unique shape of the client; and the unique flavour of their communication, ‘in the present moment’.
In the process I clarified the status and role of some of the most important models used in E-CENT counselling, including:
The Holistic SOR Model, which is shown on the next page.
- The holistic SOR model. This model helps us to focus upon the fact that the client is a socialized-body-mind in an environment (which is physical and social), and that there are many factors that go into shaping the client’s emotional and behavioural experiences, apart from their beliefs and thoughts. (Our exploration of those many factors is supported by effective, systematic questioning strategies – quite unlike the so-called ‘Socratic Questioning’ which is used in REBT/CBT – as well as the teaching of mind-body health promotion strategies). See Figure 1.4 on the next page.
- The Six Windows Model, which allows us to educate the client regarding various alternative ways of viewing their current problems – which allows them to reframe their experience and to generate reduced levels of emotional arousal, and better forms of behavioural response.
The Six Windows Model is derived from a fusion of some of the most important principles of moderate Buddhism and moderate Stoicism. For examples, the first two windows are as follows:
- Life is difficult for all human being, at least some of the time, and often much of the time; so why must it not be difficult for me right now?
- Life often proves to be significantly less difficult is we stick to picking and choosing modestly, moderately, realistically. (Many upsets are caused by ‘choosing’ to have the option which is not available!)
And, in this windows mode, there are four further windows – or frames – or lenses – or ways of looking at problems – which can be explored in Chapter 6, below.
The key process involved in the use of the Six Windows is about helping the client to re-frame their problematical situations and experiences, so that those problems ‘show up’ in a better light, and become more manageable and tolerable over time. But it is not just about re-framing. It also involves what Daniel Siegel (2015) calls “naming it to tame it”.
Feelings arising on the right side of the brain can be named and understood by the left side of the brain. Or as Dr James Pennebaker writes: “When we translate an experience into language we essentially make the experience graspable.” And in so doing, we can free ourselves mentally from being tangled in old “undigested traumas”.
This process – of naming and taming – is what Bucci (1993) calls ‘referential activity’ in which the person (or counselling client) “…is involved in making links and connections between the non-verbal/affective and the verbal/symbolic domains of experience”. (McLeod, 1997/2006. Page 65).
The Six Windows Model is supported by various other models, which will be explored more fully in Chapter 8. See figure 1.5 below for a quick overview.
These other models include:
(1) The E-CENT-created EFR model (which looks at the sequence of:
E = an Event; and how it is
F = Framed, or viewed through an interpreting lens; and how that framing shapes the
R = emotional Response).
But here, first of all, is the promised overview of the six windows model:
(In fact, from late 2019, this has been expanded into a Nine Windows Model).
In applying the Six Windows model with a counselling client, the E-CENT counsellor helps the client to form a clear image of their problem, which is visual. The client is then asked, “On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is as bad as could be; just how bad is this problem in your estimation?”
Once that Subjective Unit of Disturbance (SUDs rating) is known, the client is then asked to look at the same image through Window No.1, and asked to assume that the slogan around Window No.1 is a true statement.
Then the client is asked: “Looking at the image of your current problem, through Window No.1, does that re-framing help you to reduce the SUDs rating?”
(Normally it comes down a little for each window through which the client looks! And those little reductions in disturbance add up over the six windows!)
Some other models that we use include:
(2) The APET model from the Human Givens school (which deals with an
‘A’ (Activating event, or stimulus); which is subject to a habit-based
‘P’ (Pattern-matching process in the mind of the perceiver); which leads to an
‘E’ (Emotional response); and then to
‘T’ (Thoughts, about the feelings or the situation).
(3) The Parent-Adult-Child (or PAC) model and other models (such as the OK Corral model) from Transactional Analysis [TA].
In addition, we use about another dozen or more explicit models to guide our work with clients.
In this brief foretaste of the E-CENT models, let us introduce one more:
(4) The Jigsaw-story model, which helps us to keep track of the stories told to us by our clients, so we can spot patterns, gaps, tensions, contradictions, and so on; which we can use to help the client to revise and update their stories, and to integrate them; and to get a better life from living within a more accurate set of narratives of their life.
The Jigsaw-story model is really a set of place-holders for potential stories to emerge in therapy.
It is based on the therapist’s litany of possible stories. For examples: the story of origins; the story of childhood; the story of relationships; the story of early trauma; the story of transitions (school, puberty, college, work, marriage, having children, and so on); and/or the story of personal failure, or stuckness, or lost-ness; and so on.
The emergence of this model was necessitated by two factors:
(a) The insight from Bandler and Grinder (1975) that counselling clients have their life experiences, and then – non-consciously and unwittingly – engage in deletions, distortions and generalizations, resulting in a ‘just-so’ story which they tell to their counsellor. The counsellor has to try to help the client to correct those stories. (In other words, the counsellor looks for contradictions between stories, and points those tensions out to the client, who is invited to rethink their story. The counsellor might feel that a particular story sounds highly selective, brief and patchy. ‘What are the missing pieces here?’ might be the obvious question.
‘Did anything good happen?’ is a powerful question in the context of an overgeneralized, bleak and despairing narrative.)
(b) While Piaget believed that our various stories (or schemas [or schemes]) – which are in conflict with each other – will tend to ‘equilibrate’ over time (which means that he expected that the stories, or packets of information, that we have stored in long-term memory, would tend to correct each other, and come into line with each other) – this idea has been rejected by Lunzer (1989); and I agree with Lunzer. For example: I have noticed that a client will tell me one story about their key relationship in the first half of a counselling session, and another story in the second half, and not notice that those two stories are in contradiction, or at least in serious tension with each other. This discovery links back, I believe, to the concept of ‘sub-personalities’, and ego states, whereby a person may believe one thing whilst in one ego state or sub-personality, and something altogether different when in another of their ego states or sub-personalities. (Drawing the client’s attention to their ego state shifts can be very helpful, in facilitating ‘conscious equilibration of schemas’).
The Jigsaw-story model is a reminder and a challenge to the counsellor or therapist to watch out for the flaws and faults in the client’s stories, and to help the client to come up with a new, more integrated story. As McLeod (1997/2006) writes, describing the theory of Omer and Strenger (1992):
“… the theory of therapy espoused by a therapist acts as a kind of general or overarching story through which the client learns to frame his or her life narrative. Every reflection or interpretation made by a therapist acts as a vehicle for the therapist to communicate, bit by bit, a story of what life is about”. (Page 22).
I sincerely believed that I had invented the idea of creating a jigsaw of stories, using our Jigsaw-story model. Much later, I was surprised to find a very similar idea in McLeod (1997/2006) where he writes about how firefighters, at the end of a call out to a fire, have to talk among themselves in order to come up with a composite story of what happened during their call-out. This is necessary because each individual may have noticed different aspects of the event, sometimes because they were in different parts of the building; but also because of their different mental maps based on past experience; and so on. McLeod quotes Docherty (1989) to the effect that this process is called, by the firefighters, ‘jigsawing’.
I do this kind of jigsawing with my clients to make sense of their various stories; or to integrate fragments of a single story; or to clarify my own understanding of the client’s life, which I then feed back to them.
A broad range of other models is available in E-CENT counselling, which can be used to support the work done with the Six Windows model, and those other models mentioned in sections 1-4 above. (See Chapter 8 for more).
But please bear in mind that the client is a complex body-brain-mind-environment-whole: and therefore the following factors are as important as the client’s story: Diet, exercise, and sleep patterns; home living conditions, relationships in the present, and relationships in the past; the original relationship with mother/father; current age, and stage of development; life stressors, including those related to socioeconomic circumstances; coping mechanisms and capacities; and so on.
It might seem that the models briefly introduced above mainly deal with what Hill (2015) calls “the secondary system of affect regulation” – which is, the use of left brain to left brain, language-based communication from counsellor to client. But in fact, we cannot ever stop communicating right brain to right brain, which involves the use of implicit, non-conscious, nonverbal communication. This goes on outside of our conscious awareness and control, no matter who we are, and no matter how long we practice counselling and psychotherapy. The reason a good counsellor is more effective than other individuals in the life of the client – at helping the client to change at deep, emotional levels – is that the good counsellor has worked on their own therapy, and their own attachment style, so that they are able to be available as ‘good enough substitute parents’ for the client, and help the client to achieve ‘earned security’ – which they can then transfer into their daily lives outside of therapy.
We do not need to develop special systems of right brain to right brain communication. Humans cannot help but communicate right brain to right brain (through nonverbal communication [including body language and facial expressions]). And the healthy counsellor cannot help but change the way the client experiences the world, given enough time, thus rewiring (or helping to rewire) that part of the client’s orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) which is, and was, the source of over-arousal or under-arousal of their automatic emotional affects; and which, after effective therapy, will automatically keep their emotional responses well-regulated at appropriate levels of arousal.
However, the less enamoured we are of ‘cognitive approaches’, the more we are able to just ‘be’ in our encounter with our clients; to just be human beings in a caring encounter!
But, of course, it is important to be able to think critically – or to perfink (perceive, feel and think) with Adult ego state in the Executive position of our personality; supported by Nurturing Parent ego state. And a bit of Playful Child can lighten the mood of the most difficult counselling session.
There are times for dealing with the ‘thinking’ component of the client’s ‘perfinking’ – or perceiving, feeling and thinking – and times to deal with the ‘feeling’ component of their perfinking. We learn how to make those judgements, of which modality to use, through practice and experience. But the main guideline may be this: The mother’s relationship with her child begins in a mainly non-verbal modality. It’s all smiles, and coos, and handling and helping and comforting. In a later stage of development, the mother uses more languaging, guidance, and advice. But even so, when necessary, she can always swap back to mainly being in a caring, accepting, understanding modality. A similar strategy may be the best a counsellor ever gets to ‘knowing’ how to respond to any particular client.
But finally, we should note that, in E-CENT counselling, we are not just interested in the so-called ‘thinking’ side of the client; or the so-called ‘feeling’ side of the client. We are also interested in these questions:
How well do you sleep? How many hours per night do you sleep?
Do you get up in time to have a slow and gentle start to the day, or do you begin late, with time deadlines, which push up your stress level?
What do you have for breakfast, and is it the healthiest option possible/ (It is never a good idea to skip breakfast!)
How well do you manage your time and your stress, in your daily working life?
How good are your relationships with your significant others? At home and in work?
How much physical exercise do you do, and how many days per week do you do it?
How much water do you drink during the day?
What do you eat for lunch?
What snacks do you have mid-morning and mid-afternoon?
How much alcohol do you drink?
Do you consume any of these toxic foods: sugar; alcohol; caffeine; gluten; trans-fats (or hydrogenated fat, in junk foods); and highly-processed foods (with added sugar, salt, trans-fats, colours, flavours, and other denatured components)?
Tell me about your childhood? Was it broadly happy? Or not? Are you secure or insecure in your relationships?
What is the problem that brought you here today? And how does it relate to the questions I have asked above?
In Chapter 8, I will try to illustrate a typical E-CENT counselling session, which will not be easy, because each session is unique. But there are some ways in which I can suggest some of the kinds of things that might come up in an ‘averaged’ session.
 In attachment theory, a child is seen to use his/her mother (or main carer) as a secure base from which to explore its environment, and to play. If the child’s stress level rises, or s/he becomes anxious, s/he can scurry back to mother for a feeling of being in a sensitive and responsive relationship of care and reassurance. This reassurance can also be sought and given nonverbally from a distance. And in counselling and therapy, that role of being sensitive and caring, and reassuring the client, is also seen as providing a new form of secure base from which the client can explore difficult and challenging memories and feelings.
 The British ‘Object relations’ tradition was a breakaway from the Freudian psychoanalytic theory – pioneered by of Melanie Klein, Ronald Fairbairn, Donald Winnicott, Michael Balint, Harry Guntrip and John Bowlby – which emphasized interpersonal relations, primarily in the family and especially between mother (the ‘object’) and child (the ‘subject’). In Object Relations theory, ‘object’ actually means a person, or part of a person, which is internalized by the subject (normally a baby or child). The concept of ‘relations’ refers to interpersonal relations, and suggests the residue of past relationships that affect a person in the present. The internalization of ‘objects’ results in the formation of an Inner Working Model of relationship.
 Hill, D. (2015) Affect Regulation Theory: A clinical model. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc.
 Damasio, A. R. (1994). Descartes’ Error: emotion, reason and the human brain. London, Picador.
 Glasersfeld, E. von (1989) Learning as a constructive activity. In Murphy, P. and Moon, B. (eds) Developments in Learning and Assessment. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
 See my page on ‘REBT and Research’, Available here: web.archive.org/web/*/http://abc-counselling.com/id113.html
 West, W., and Byrne, J., (2009) ‘Some ethical concerns about counselling research’: Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 22(3) 309-318.
 Smith, M.L. and Glass, G.V. (1977) Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcomes studies. American Psychologists, 32, 752-760.
Smith, M., Glass, G. and Miller, T. (1980) The Benefits of Psychotherapy. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
 Wampold, B.E. (2001) The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Model, methods, and findings. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Wampold, B.E., Ahn, H., and Coleman, H.K.L. (2001) Medical model as metaphor: Old habits die hard. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 48, 268-273.
 Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base. London: Routledge Classics.
 Beauchamp, T.L. and Childress, J.F. (1994) Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Fourth edition. New York. Oxford University Press. And:
Bond, T. (2000) Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action. Second edition. London: Sage.
 Watts, A. (1962/1990) The Way of Zen. London: Arkana/Penguin. And:
The Dhammapada (1973/2015) Taken from Juan Mascaró’s translation and edition, first published in 1973. London: Penguin Books (Little Black Classics No.80)
 Wilson (2011); and:
Sarbin, T. R. (1989). Emotions as narrative emplotments. In M. J. Packer & R. B. Addison (eds.) Entering the circle: Hermeneutic investigations in psychology (pp. 185-201). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. And:
Sarbin, T. R. (2001). Embodiment and the narrative structure of emotional life. Narrative Inquiry, 11, 217-225.
Gergen, K. (1985) The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist, 40: 266-275. And:
Gergen, K. J. (1994). Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge. London: Sage Publications. And:
Gergen, K. (2004) When relationships generate realities: therapeutic communication reconsidered. Unpublished manuscripts. Available online: http://www.swarthmore.edu/Soc.Sci/kgergen1/printer-friendly.phtml?id-manu6. Downloaded: 8th December 2004. And:
Gergen, K.J. and Gergen, M.M. (1986) Narrative form and the construction of psychological science. In T.R. Sarbin (ed), Narrative Psychology: the storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger. And:
Chapter 4 – ‘What’s the story’ – in Philippa Perry (2012) How to Stay Sane. London: Macmillan.
 The ABC model of REBT states that the adversities (or ’A’s) which happen to us are responded to by our beliefs (or ‘B’s) which gives rise to our Consequent emotions (or ‘C’s). This model ignores two major factors: (1) That we are creatures of habit, and thus we respond to adversities on the basis of how we responded to those same adversities in the past; which also tends to be how we were trained by our social environment to respond to such adversities. And (2) that in addition to our beliefs, we are also influenced by our blood sugar level; our gut flora health or lack of heath; our general level of stress; and how fit our bodies are. It is not all about beliefs.
 Hofstadter, D. (2007) I am a Strange Loop. New York: Basic Books.
 Ellis, A. (1962) Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. New York: Lyle Stuart.
 Byrne, J. (2013) A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis’s Childhood, and the strengths and limitations of REBT/CBT. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for CENT Publications/CreateSpace.
 Goleman, D. (1996) Emotional Intelligence: why it can matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury.
 Beck, A.T. (1976/1989). Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. London: Penguin Books.
 Rugby League and Rugby Union are “two distinctly different forms of rugby football”.
 White, M. and Epston, D. (1990) Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: Norton.
 Sarbin, T. R. (1989). Emotions as narrative emplotments. In M. J. Packer & R. B. Addison (eds.) Entering the circle: Hermeneutic investigations in psychology (pp. 185-201). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Sarbin, T. R. (2001). Embodiment and the narrative structure of emotional life. Narrative Inquiry, 11, 217-225.
 Gergen, K. (1985) The social constructionist movement in modern psychology. American Psychologist, 40: 266-275.
Gergen, K. J. (1994). Toward Transformation in Social Knowledge. London: Sage Publications.
Gergen, K. (2004) When relationships generate realities: therapeutic communication reconsidered. Unpublished manuscripts. Available online: http://www.swarthmore.edu/ Soc.Sci/kgergen1/printer-friendly.phtml?id-manu6. Downloaded: 8th December 2004.
Gergen, K.J. and Gergen, M.M. (1986) Narrative form and the construction of psychological science. In T.R. Sarbin (ed), Narrative Psychology: the storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger.
 McLeod, J. (2003) An Introduction to Counselling. Third edition. Buckingham: Open University Press.
 Strupp, H.H. and Binder, J.L. (1984) Psychotherapy in a New Key: A guide to time-limited dynamic psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.
 Luborsky, L. and Crits-Christoph, P. (eds) (1990) Understanding Transference: the CCRT method. New York: Basic Books.
 Russell, R.L. and van den Brock, P. (1992) Changing narrative schemas in psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, 29: 344-354.
 Byrne, J. (2009d) A journey through models of mind – The story of my personal origins. E-CENT Paper No.4. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/
 Gonçalves, O.F. (1995) Hermeneutics, constructivism and cognitive-behavioural therapies: from the object to the project. In: R.A. Neimeyer and M.J. Mahoney (eds) Constructivism in psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
 Quoted on page 27 of McLeod (1997/2006).
 White, M. and Epston, D. (1990) Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: Norton.
 The baby’s attachment relationship to their mother (or primary caregiver) – and layers of cumulative, interpretive experience of encountering them – leads to the development of an ‘internal working model’ (Bowlby, 1969). This internal working model is an emotive-cognitive framework comprising mental representations for understanding the world, self and others. (“How they related to me; and how I felt I had to relate to them”). (Bowlby, J.  Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York: Basic Books.)
 See the link between mood and food in Part 1 of Taylor-Byrne and Byrne (2017).
 Gomez, L. (1997) An Introduction to Object Relations. London: Free Association Books. Chapter 7.
 Gullestad, S.E. (2001) Attachment theory and psychoanalysis: controversial issues. Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 24, 3-16.
 Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base. London: Routledge Classics.
 Ainsworth M.D. (1969) Object relations, dependency, and attachment: a theoretical review of the infant-mother relationship”. Child Development, 40 (4): 969–1025.
 Bowlby J (1958). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 39 (5): 350–73.
 Ainsworth M (1967). Infancy in Uganda: Infant Care and the Growth of Love. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
 Mahler, M.S., Pine, F. and Bergman, A. (1975/1987) The Psychological Birth of the Human Infant: Symbiosis and individuation. London: Maresfield Library.
 Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base: clinical applications of attachment theory. London: Routledge Classics.
 This use of the word ‘thinking’ is a mistake. Perfinking should become the central concept used in E-CENT, to the exclusion of feeling, thinking, etc. We perfink all in one grasp of the mind. Our feelings and our linguistic stories (taken over from our family, community and society, become braided together as the foundation of our ‘mentalizing’ capabilities – which expresses our ‘social/ emotional intelligence’. Our mentalized stories about our social experiences are braided into the core of our being as social-individuals.
 Wallin, D. (2007) Attachment in Psychotherapy. New York: The Guildford Press.
 Fonagy, P., Gergeley, G., Jurist, E.J., and Target, M.I. (2002) Affect regulation, mentalization, and the development of the self. New York: Other Press.
 Schore, A. N. (2003) Affect regulation and the repair of the self. New York: Norton.
 Hofstadter, D. (2007) I am a Strange Loop. New York: Basic Books.
 Holmes, J. (1995) Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. John Bowlby, attachment theory, and psychoanalysis. In: Goldberg, S. et al (eds) Attachment Theory: Social, Developmental and Clinical Perspectives. London: The Analytic Press. (Pages 19-43).
 Byrne, J.W. (2010a) Therapy after Ellis, Berne, Freud and the Buddha: the birth of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT).
 Bloom, P. (2013) Just Babies: the origins of good and evil. London: The Bodley Head. Pages 18 to 31, describing a range of very clever experiments with very young babies. “These experiments suggest that babies have a general appreciation of good and bad behaviour, one that spans a range of interactions, including those that the babies most likely have never seen before…” (Page 30).
 Bowlby, J. (1988/2005) A Secure Base. London: Routledge Classics.
 Pennebaker, J.W. (2004) Writing to Heal: A Guided journal for recovering from trauma and emotional upheaval. Oakland, Ca.: New Harbinger Publications.
 Bucci, W. (1993) The development of emotional meaning in free association: a multiple code theory; in A. Wilson and J.E. Gedo (eds) Hierarchical Concepts in Psychoanalysis: Theory, research and clinical practice. New York: Guilford Press. Pages 3-47.
 Bandler, R. and Grinder, J. (1975) The Structure of Magic, Vol.1: A book about language and therapy. Palo Alto, Calif.: Science and Behaviour Books Inc.
 Lunzer, E. (1989) Cognitive development: learning and the mechanisms of change. In: Murphy, P and Moon, B. (eds) Developments in Learning and Assessment. London: Hodder and Stoughton/Open University Press.
 Omer, H. and Strenger, C. (1992) The pluralist revolution: from the one true meaning to an infinity of constructed ones. Psychotherapy, 29: 253-261.
 Docherty, R.W. (1989) Post-disaster stress in the emergency rescue services. Fire Engineers Journal, August. Pages 8-9.
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The reason for the current confusion about the location of our base is that most mapping systems have mismanaged the mapping of this area! (To be fair, it’s not an easy area to map!)
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For further information, please:
Telephone: 01422 843 629 (UK): 44 1422 843 629 (from outside the UK)
Or email us: Jim Byrne
We follow a set of ethical codes which are described on our personal pages. We help adults only, aged above 18 years, and preferably above 21 years of age. We do not do any work with children.
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