HP Ex3 – Holistic Counselling book chapters 1-4

Homepage Extension No.3 –

Brief extracts from Chapters 1-4 of the ‘Holistic Counselling in Practice’ book

by Dr Jim Byrne (with Renata Taylor-Byrne)

Copyright (c) March 2017

~~~

Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 Counsellors and their clients

Good counsellors and psycho-therapists 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.  After a few years of practice, their system of counselling is 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: eighteen 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, eighteen 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. This client will have some kind of problem, or problems, for which I have been identified as an aid to the solution.
  6. 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[1] – to re-parent them.
  7. 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; and so on.
  8. 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:

  1. This client will be a largely non-consciouscreature of habit, wired up in early childhood to be secure or insecure in their relationships;
  2. It will take some time to reach some kind of agreement about the nature of their main problems; and:
  3. 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!
  4. A lot of what will be communicated between us will go directly from my right brain to their right brain, non-verbally.
  5. They will know how I feel about them long before they know any of my ideas.
  6. 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.

~~~

If I reflect upon some of my clients from recent years, and how I worked with them, I might conclude that:

End of extract from Chapter 1.

~~~

You can buy the book here:

Amazon links to buy this paperback book:

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com Amazon in Canada
 Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Mexico Amazon in France  Amazon Netherlands
 Amazon in in Brazil Amazon in India Amazon in Japan
Amazon in Australia

~~~

Get your eBook copy now, from any one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon in Canada
Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon Australia
Amazon in Italy Netherlands Amazon India

~~~

Chapter 2: Key Elements of E-CENT Counselling?

2.1: Overview

Chapter 1 set the scene for this brief chapter, which begins with a summation of a few key features of the Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) approach.  This is followed by a basic description of E-CENT and its origins; followed by: the importance of emotions; E-CENT models of the social individual; and his/her emergence from the interactions of a physical baby and a cultural mother; plus typical client problems and counselling tasks.

E-CENT theory sees humans as essentially physical-emotional story tellers, to ourselves and others, and storytellers who live in a concrete world of narratives and scripts, which include reasonable and unreasonable elements, logical and illogical elements, and defensible and indefensible elements.

These stories are not primarily made up by us, individual humans, though we do embellish them, and produce our own variants of them.  But, in essence, these are social stories – stories from our parents, our families, our school and our communities and nations (via mass media channels).

These are the stories that constitute our social identity, and locate us in a historical web of relationships to the past. And these are the stories we inevitably use to interpret our actual, social experiences of our very real lives!

One of the basic functions of the central nervous system and perceptual apparatus of a human being (or any mammal) is to help us to classify and evaluate our environmental stimuli (or experiences) into those that we experience as ‘good’ (pleasurable) and those we experience as ‘bad’ (or un-pleasurable).

Humans most often tend to push away (or repress out of conscious awareness) their unpleasant experiences; to refuse or fail to process them; and to then become the (non-conscious) victims of those repressed, denied and undigested experiences.  We do this pushing away (or rejecting), and repressing (out of conscious awareness) of our unpleasant experiences, because we are wired up by nature to seek pleasure and to avoid pain (or un-pleasure.)  But the solution to most of our problems, paradoxically, resides in our courageous willingness to face the pain of unpleasant experiences; to reframe them; to feel them; and to fully digest them.  Only then can they disappear.  You cannot, as Albert Ellis foolishly believed, “forget the god-awful past”.  You cannot forget it because it is hardwired into your neurology, and your physiology/musculature. And it manifests in your daily habits today. To get rid of it, you have to digest it; complete it, and then file it away.

And there are no therapists who can “extract” your pain!  And no medications that can permanently dissolve your pain (as opposed to hiding it for a while!) Pain has to be faced and processed.  Those individuals who attempt to run away from pain by taking recreational or prescription drugs, alcohol, painkillers, etc., end up having to face the same old pain when their escapist strategies eventually prove to be not just useless, but self-harming!

And you have to face your pain with a moderate degree of Stoic endurance (or willingness to suffer the unavoidable pain of life); a sensible degree of scientific enquiry into the possibility of changing things instead of endlessly enduring them; and acceptance of the need to digest whatever cannot be eliminated by controlling yourself or your environment.

E-CENT also sees adult relationships as being the acting out, in the present moment, of childhood experiences of relationship with parents and siblings, because some part of those earlier relationships have not been properly digested and completed.  In other words, we internalize ‘models’ of how our parents related to us, and we take them to school.  We modify some of our internal models of relationship in school and take them into the wider world.  It may be that our childhood script, or life-story, is updated around puberty, to expand into a vision of our autonomous, adult future, coloured by the experiences of childhood. (See McAdams’ view, on page 63 of McLeod, 1997/2006).

And we always relate to others in the present moment on the basis of those old models, (or Working Models), or templates, of “how they related to me; and how I must respond”. (Byrne, 2009b)  This, of course, all goes on at non-conscious levels of mind, while the conscious mind deludes itself – (like a kid with a plastic steering wheel, on the top deck of a bus, deludes himself into believing that he is steering the bus) – into thinking that it, the conscious ‘me’, is choosing relationships and deciding how to act within them.

Furthermore, there are significant disruptions that can occur at various stages in the early childhood experience of the individual which can produce specific forms of relationship dysfunction in later life.  Most of these have to do with disruption of attachment relationships, which render the individual ‘insecure’ in future attachment relationships.

And, because we are body-minds, and not floating heads, the state of our bodies affects our emotions and thoughts, and thereby our actions in the world.  At the most basic level, we are either in a physically relaxed mode (with the parasympathetic nervous system activated) resulting in a feeling of emotional wellbeing; or we are in a physically tense mode (with the sympathetic nervous system activated) resulting in a feeling of anxious or angry over-arousal and a general state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.  This we normally call ‘stress’, or distress.

If we live like couch potatoes who eat junk food and subject our nervous systems to information overload; and/or struggle with economic insecurity and poor housing conditions; and/or aim too high and are never satisfied with our material possessions; and/or surround ourselves with relationship conflict, in a chaotic world; then we cannot hope to function well emotionally and mentally.

2.2: Basic description and origins

Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) is a system of counselling and psychotherapy which integrates:

…End of extract.

You can buy this book in paperback or eBook formats:

Amazon links to buy this paperback book:

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com Amazon in Canada
 Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Mexico Amazon in France  Amazon Netherlands
 Amazon in in Brazil Amazon in India Amazon in Japan
Amazon in Australia

~~~

Get your eBook copy now, from any one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon in Canada
Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon Australia
Amazon in Italy Netherlands Amazon India

~~~

Chapter 3: The core beliefs of E-CENT philosophy

In a broader sense than that outlined above, E-CENT counselling theory was developed by this author over many years of study and application, in private practice with more than 850 clients.  In recent years, I set out to boil my learning down into a limited list of key principles.  What I came up with was a list of twenty core principles of E-CENT theory, as follows:

Firstly, I do not make the mistake of extrapolating from adult functioning in order to understand the psychology of human nature.  Instead, I begin with the baby in the mother’s womb (where the mother may be more or less stressed, and more or less well nourished, depending upon the actual circumstances of her life).  I then move on to the baby post-birth, which is colonized by a carer (normally mother) who may be more or less sensitive to the baby’s signals of comfort and discomfort; more or less responsive to the baby’s needs; and more or less caring.  And I also take account of how stressed the mother was, by her life circumstances, even before the baby was conceived.  These are the foundations of human psychological functioning.

Secondly, I accept the Attachment theory proposition, that the baby is born with an innate attachment drive, which causes it (after some period of weeks of development) to seek to attach itself to a main carer.  The attachment bond that is formed becomes either secure or insecure, depending upon whether the mother (or main carer) is “good enough” – meaning sensitive, responsive, and caring enough to soothe the affective states of the baby.  Later father and siblings become important attachment figures for the baby. And the baby forms a set of internal working models of relationship based upon those earliest relationships.

Third, the first five or six years of life are taken to be the prime determinants of what kind of life the individual will live.  Very largely, the emotionally significant narratives, scripts and frames that the child learns and forms during this period – which manifests in the form of moods and emotional states, expectations, beliefs and habitual patterns of behaviour – will determine its trajectory through life, all other things being equal.  There is, of course, some degree of malleability of the human mind, and so what was once shaped badly (by negative relationship experiences) can to some extent be reshaped into a better form by subsequent ‘curative experiences’, with a love partner, or with a counsellor or psychotherapist. (Wallin, 2007).

Fourth: With regard to the narratives, stories, schemas, scripts and frames that the individual learns and/or creates: these are, as J.S. Bruner said[2], enactive (or experiences of doing); iconic (or experiences of seeing); and semantic (or language based abstractions and interpretations of events and objects).

In cognitive psychology, the development of the child and later adult is mapped through studies of attention, perception, memory, language and thinking; and emotion only gets a brief mention at the end of standard textbooks – as an afterthought.  However, in E-CENT, I teach that a human being is essentially and unavoidably an emotional being.  It is an emotional being that pays attention; it is an emotional being that perceives; it is an emotional being that forms memories; it is an emotional being which uses language; it is an emotional being that thinks.  And even the most abstract of academic thinking cannot be totally separated from the (strong or weak) emotionality of the person engaging in it.

In other words, the human brain-mind is an emotional brain-mind.  Human beings are emotional beings, at their very foundations, and they can also think (to some limited extent!) They are not ‘cognitive beings’, if by cognitive beings we mean ‘computer like’.  Computers do not have emotions.  And humans are not computers!  (This is why I developed emotive-cognitive therapy, because cognition and emotion cannot ever be separated!)  Indeed, we could say that human beings are not thinking beings at all.  They are actually perfinking beings (Glasersfeld, 1989): or beings who perceive-feel-and-think all in one grasp of the mind.  And the feeling component never sleeps!  You cannot leave it at the door on your way into school or work.

Fifth: We accept that temperamental differences are detectable in new born babies; that an individual may be born with a tendency towards introversion or extraversion; and that the new born baby may also be more emotionally disturbable, or less emotionally disturbable.  We accept that there are fundamental differences (emotionally and behaviourally) between boys and girls.  (For example, the case of John Money and David Reimer)[3]. We accept that the innate nature of the baby will influence and impact the mother in how she relates to the baby; and the mother’s personality and character and temperament will also influence and impact the baby.

But in general the mother has much more influence than the baby.  “Genetic determinism” has been replaced by “epigenetics”, which accepts that genes have to be “switched on” by an environment, and that the genes of identical twins can be changed – as often as not – by placing them in two different home environments. And even where identical twins are raised in the same home, they may well develop different personalities.  (See the case of Ladan and Laleh, monozygotic (single egg) twin sisters, with significant personality differences: (Spector, 2013)[4].

Returning to the dialectical (or interactional) cross-influence between mother and baby: this will eventually settle down into a stable pattern of relating, which will be experienced by the baby (and the mother) as more, or less, satisfactory.

Depending upon whether or not the mother can function as a ‘good enough’ mother (in terms of being sensitive, caring, responsive and in good communication with her baby), the child may develop either a secure or an insecure ‘attachment style’.  And these attachment styles play out in all significant future relationships.

Sixth: E-CENT theory takes into account that we are bodies as well as minds, and so diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation/ stress, social connection and relatedness, meditation/ mindfulness/  detach-ment, drugs and other physical inputs and stimuli, are seen as important factors in determining the emotional-thinking-perceiving state of the individual client.  That is to say we are body-minds, and our body-mind has needs – both physical and emotional.

…End of extract from Chapter 3.

You can buy this book in paperback or eBook format:

Amazon links to buy this paperback book:

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com Amazon in Canada
 Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Mexico Amazon in France  Amazon Netherlands
 Amazon in in Brazil Amazon in India Amazon in Japan
Amazon in Australia

~~~

Get your eBook copy now, from any one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon in Canada
Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon Australia
Amazon in Italy Netherlands Amazon India

~~~

Chapter 4: The Six Windows Model of E-CENT

4.1: Introduction

E-CENT counsellors utilize a range of models to conceptualize and manage various stages in the counselling process.  (See Chapter 6). For example, the Holistic-SOR model is used to teach the client that everything that affects them as an organism (O) also affects their emotional and behaviour responses (R) to noxious stimuli (or negative experiences).  See section 6.3(b) Elucidation, below.

However, in this chapter I want to introduce the Six Windows Model.  This is our most original model, though it is not as central as the Holistic-SOR model.  Although it is not as central as the Holistic-SOR model, the Six Windows model requires more space and time to explain and illustrate the six key perspectives involved. Hence the need for its own chapter.

4.1(a) Context: The Six Windows Model is applied in the context of having assessed the client’s overall state of body-mind, (using the Holistic-SOR checklist), and decided that it would be most helpful to focus upon re-thinking, or re-framing, the nature of their major problem(s): where the concept of ‘re-framing’ is defined as meaning ‘changing the lens through which the client views the problem’.

However, for us, there is a tension here between two processes, which are labelled (1) ‘completion’, and (2) ‘reframing’.

The first of these processes calls for a ‘digestion’, or ‘completion’, of a previously denied, repressed or rejected experience.  This involves the client being taught that experiences which they could not tolerate (emotionally) when they were younger, including those experienced when they were a small child, can now be tolerated and faced up to, with the support of their therapist: (Byrne, 2011)[5].

However, having looked at the ethics of this situation, we decided that it is important to teach the client how to re-frame their experiences, in general, before we help them to dig up and confront particularly difficult material which was previously denied! The idea is that the client only needs a brief exposure to traumatic memories in order to complete the experience, but then they need to quickly re-frame it as being less traumatic than it previously seemed. Otherwise they are in danger of simply re-traumatizing themselves, by re-living the original experience with the old, child-created emotional-interpretations. This would almost certainly seem devastating and over-whelming, alarming and panicking, or deeply depressing to the client. With a (previously established) good working knowledge of the Six Windows model, however, the client can quickly re-frame the old, painful experience as being less significant than it once seemed.

4.1(b) Elaboration of the theory: In E-CENT theory, we see the limbic system – or emotional centres of the brain-mind – (including the orbitofrontal cortex) – as the central controller and integrator of the information flows from (1) the neo-cortex (or higher order mentation in the outer brain); (2) the body (muscles, heart, guts, face, etc. – coming up through the brainstem); and (3) socio-emotional incoming information (through sight and sound, touch, etc. (Hill, 2015).  Much of our work is involved in helping to integrate right-brain emotional states with left-brain language-derived mentation.

And the Six Windows Model is one of our best tools for this job of integration.

4.1(c) Re-framing: Human beings are largely delusional beings, who think they are looking out through their eyes, and seeing what is “there to be seen”.  This is called “naïve realism”, because it ignores the extent to which we construct what we see.

We do not see with our eyes so much as with our brains.  (Of course, this does not mean that ‘everything is relative’ to our individual viewpoint.  We are social animals, socialized into family and communal stories; and ‘official’ stories via the TV, schools, books, newspapers, plays, and daily conversations).

Eyes are part of the machinery of perception, but the decisions – about ‘what it is’ that we see – are not made by our eyes.  Those decisions are made by our stored social experiences driving our interpretations and judgements; followed by feelings and behaviours; followed by thoughts.

We do not see ‘external events’ so much with our eyes, then, as we see them through ‘frames of reference and interpretation’, which were created (socially) in the past, and which we now implement as habit-based stimulus-response pairings.  (This does not mean that Epictetus was right to say that “people are not upset by the things that happen to them”.  They are!  But the extent of their emotional distress can be reduced by moderating our expectations and our judgementsat least to some degree! Epictetus was an advocate of both moderate and extreme Stoical ideas.  And the idea that we are not upset by what happens to us is one of his most extreme ideas; and one that nobody can live by; and nobody should be expected to live by such an inhuman standard.  As Shakespeare wrote: “If you cut us, do we not bleed?”  And the people who, on average, experience the most traumatic experiences – like war, rape, destitution, economic stress, employment redundancy, business failure, and so on – also show the highest degree of emotional distress – all other things being equal!

Because we are socialized animals, we see what we have been trained by our social experiences to see. And because we are fleshy bodies and fragile emotional egos (or virtual personalities), we fear being hurt, physically or emotionally; or abandoned by our significant others; or subjected to unusual deprivations or cruelties. We are born with innate emotional control systems, including anxiety; and we learn what to fear from our culture.

A lot of what we see/ perceive/ interpret is okay, good, and helpful!  That is to say, many of our socialized perceptions are helpful in allowing us to know what to think and what to do in relatively standardized, predictable, routine situations. We could call these socialized ‘seeing’ responses our non-conscious ‘pattern matching processes.  (Griffin and Tyrell, 2004[6]).

To put this as Jonathan Haidt put it: If you had a good moral education, then you can trust your moral intuitions. (Haidt, 2006). And from this perspective, I would also say that if you have had a good socialization process, in general, then you can most often trust your automatic thoughts and feelings.

This is how the perceptual process works: The incoming stimulus or experience – (which is seen, and/or heard, and/or felt [and/or recalled]) – triggers the lens, or frame, (or schema), through which we view and interpret it.

It is as if the automatic, non-conscious processing part of our body-brain-mind is concluding:

…End of extract from Chapter 4.

You can buy this book in paperback or eBook formats:

Amazon links to buy this paperback book:

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com Amazon in Canada
 Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Mexico Amazon in France  Amazon Netherlands
 Amazon in in Brazil Amazon in India Amazon in Japan
Amazon in Australia

~~~

Get your eBook copy now, from any one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon in Canada
Amazon in Germany Amazon in Spain Amazon Australia
Amazon in Italy Netherlands Amazon India

~~~

For more information about this book, please go to Homepage Extension No.4 (for extracts from Chapters 5-8)…

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2016-2017

~~~

For further information, please, either:

Go back to the Homepage;

or

~~~

Go to Homepage Extension 1: Background on Jim and Renata

or

~~~

Go to Homepage Extension 2: The Counselling Revolution;

or

~~~

Go to Homepage Extension 3: Being extracts from Chapters 1-4 of the Holistic Counselling book.

~~~

Footnotes

[1] 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 non-verbally 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.

[2] Bruner, J. (1986) Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[3] (For example: John Money’s failure to ‘reassign’ the sexual identity of David Reimer. Source:       https://samanthakatepsychology.wordpress.com/ 2012/ 04/ 28/david-reimer-possibly-the-most-unethical-study-in-psychological-history/. Accessed: 30th December 2015.)

[4] Spector, T. (2013) Identically Different: Why you can change your genes. London: Phoenix.

[5] Byrne, J. (2011) Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions and painful emotions.  CENT Paper No.13.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy.  Available online:               http://web.archive.org/web/20160519163415/http://www.snapsitemap.com/sitemap/104996/search.html?q=CENT+Paper+No.13

[6] Griffin, J. and Tyrrell, I. (2004) Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. Chalvington, East Sussex: HG Publishing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s