Counselling the whole person

Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching – Supporting the body-brain-mind of the counselling client

by Dr Jim Byrne – Copyright (c) Jim Byrne 2018

It’s just the 8th January 2018, and already my commitment to a fallow period is falling apart.  I am a writer, and writers feel compelled to write.  So I have begun a new project, almost despite my will. Or is it an expression of the clash between conscious and non-conscious goals!?!

Anyway, Charles has already begun to produce draft covers (see sample next):


And I have just finished amending the proposed contents page, as follows:

Revised (draft) structure – some deletions and some additions – (which was originally published – in longer form – as Holistic Counselling in Practice, in 2016):


Chapter 1 – Introduction

Chapter 2 – Key elements of our emotive-cognitive theory

Chapter 3 – The core beliefs of our emotive-cognitive perspective

Chapter 4 – Overview of diet and exercise impacts on mental health

Chapter 5 – Brief review of the impact of sleep on mental health

Chapter 6 – Reframing experiences with the Six Windows Model

Chapter 7 – Understanding and managing human emotions (including talk therapy, and dietary and exercise guidelines)

Chapter 8 – Counselling individuals using the holistic body-brain approach

Chapter 9 – Holistic self-management strategies for self-help enthusiasts

Chapter 10 – Conclusion




(All of the appendices have been deleted; as have most of the costly, full-colour illustrations.  Thus, the cost can be greatly reduced!)


If you want to know more about this book, here is a copy of the Preface and the Foreword:


Much of the material in this book was originally published in Byrne (2016) – Holistic Counselling in Practice.  However, in that book, we made the mistake of adding excessive amounts of material in the appendices, which made the book overly long.  We also added a good deal of full-colour illustrations, which added little to the overall meaning of the text.  Those two factors made the book excessively costly for most of the individuals who expressed an interest in buying it.

We also made the mistake of omitting any reference to the importance of sleep in our holistic counselling approach.  We now tend to emphasize that our clients need to fix their sleep problems before they tackle their dietary intake and their exercise needs.  For this reason, we decided that, when we republish this material we will omit the material in the appendices, and add a brief chapter on fixing sleep hygiene problems; plus a briefer overview of the impact of diet/nutrition on mental health.

We have also come to terms with the fact that most readers want a manageable amount of material which calls for them to change and learn and grow.  They do not want a comprehensive book, which covers everything about the holistic approach to counselling the whole person.  They want to get that learning in digestible chunks, spread out over time.  Therefore, in this volume, we will restrict our presentation to this issue: How to integrate some core ideas about the impact of poor quality sleep, inadequate nutrition and lack of physical exercise upon the body-brain-mind of the counselling client.  And how holistic or integrative counsellors can integrate elements of sleep, diet and exercise coaching into their talk therapy about broader emotional problems with life difficulties.

We hope you enjoy working with the material in this book, whether you are a counsellor/psychotherapist/psychologist; a student of those disciplines; or a self-help enthusiast who wants to improve your own body-brain-mind functioning for a better life.

Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Hebden Bridge, January 2018



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. You will learn how to integrate ideas about nutrition, physical exercise and sleep coaching into your talk-therapy or integrative counselling approach; or into your personal life.

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!

ABC model

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.

mother and babyAnd 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).


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.

In 2017, I co-authored a book with Renata Taylor-Byrne, in which we presented compelling evidence, from reliable sources (mostly researched by Renata), that dietary changes and physical exercise can produce dramatic reductions in levels of anger, anxiety and depression. We also revealed that 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).  And omega-3 fatty acids (readily available in wild salmon, sardines, krill oil, etc.) are one of the best anti-depressants available.  We presented evidence 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 agreed 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 Taylor-Byrne and Byrne, 2017)[i].

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[ii].  As in the case of McLeod (2003)[iii], 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, exercise and adequate sleep (at least eight hours per night), in determining the level of emotional disturbance of the client; and an awareness of the need to teach the client that their diet, sleep and exercise practices have a significant impact upon their emotional and behavioural performances in the world.  (See Taylor-Byrne and Byrne, 2017).


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 of Byrne (2016)[iv].

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.  (We believe that CBT has promoted a false sense of the capacity of humans to separate out thinking from feeling, and that it is much better to think in terms of perceiving-feeling-thinking, all in one ‘grasp’ of the mind; and to normally recognize that we were feeling beings from birth, and even in the womb; and that what we perceive as ‘thinking’ is added on afterwards, and is inseparable from automatic-feeling-perception, which is habit based, and shaped in the past).

We have integrated the main insights from Byrne (2016) and Taylor-Byrne and Byrne (2017) – on diet and exercise – into this revised volume. 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.

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

Hebden Bridge

January 2018


Watch this space! Coming soon!


[i] Taylor-Byrne, R.E. and Byrne, J.W. (2017) How to control your anger, anxiety and depression, using nutrition and physical activity.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.

[ii] Woolfe, R., Dryden, W., and Strawbridge, S. (eds) (2003) Handbook of Counselling Psychology. Second Edition. London: Sage Publications.

[iii] 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!)

[iv] Byrne, J.W. (2016) Holistic Counselling in Practice: An introduction to Emotive Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.


For more on our current range of books for counselling and personal effectiveness, please click this link: E-CENT Books.***