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Homepage Extension No.1: Background on Jim and Renata

By Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne

Copyright (c) 2017

About the body-brain-mind

Counselling, diet, and the body-brain-mind of the counselling client

Ellis-video-imageIn 1962, Dr Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), wrote that human disturbance is always and only a result of the beliefs (or thoughts) of the disturbed individual[1]. The problem with this statement is as follows: Back in 1944, thirty-six young men agreed to engage in a semi-starvation diet experiment, in the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene at the University of Minnesota: (Keys, 1950)[2]; and that study proved that one of the effects of nutrient-deficiency is emotional disturbance!  (And since it only takes one black swan to invalidate the claim that ‘all swans are white’, it only takes one scientific study showing that dietary factors can cause emotional disturbances to invalidate the claim that ‘all disturbances are caused by beliefs!’  And since the whole of CBT is based on the claim that the client disturbs themselves by holding unreasonable beliefs or negative thoughts, the whole of CBT is now in crisis!)

The results of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment have been summarized as follows, by two authors at the American Psychological Association:

“Amid the privations of World War II, 36 men voluntarily starved themselves so that researchers and relief workers could learn about how to help people recover from starvation.

“They reported fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy. Interestingly, the men also reported decreases in mental ability, although mental testing of the men did not support this belief.”  And their sex urge disappeared completely.” (Professor Bonnie Kaplan, who has studied the reports carefully, expands this list as follows: “Depression, hysteria, irritability, self-mutilation, apathy/lethargy, social withdrawal and inability to concentrate”[3].)

Given the insights of this research, why should anybody feel any sense of stigma about ‘mental health issues’?  What if all of their problems could be cleared up by working on their diet, their gut health, and their general level of stress?  (And perhaps re-writing or re-thinking their personal and family history?)

“The Minnesota Starvation Experiment … reminds us that in psychology studies of mind and body, science and practice can converge to deal with real problems in the real world.”[4]

Despite the fact that the American Psychological Association knows of this research, in which semi-starvation, or extreme nutrient deficiency, resulted in fatigue, irritability, depression and apathy, no significant evidence exists that counsellors and psychotherapists normally take the diet of their clients into account.  (A junk food diet is a form of semi-starvation from the point of view of nutrient-deficiency! And there is now evidence that trans-fats and high sugar content results in emotional disturbances, such as angry outbursts and depression).


End Notes

[1] Ellis, A. (1962) Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy.  New York: Carol Publishing Group.

[2] Keys, A., Brozek, J., Henshel, A., Mickelson, O., & Taylor, H.L. (1950). The biology of human starvation, (Vols. 1–2). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

[3] Kaplan, B.J., Julia J. Ricklidge, Amy Romijn, and Kevin Flood (2015) The emerging field of nutritional mental health: Inflammation, the microbiome, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial function.  Clinical Psychological Science, Vol.3(6): 964-980.

[4] American Psychological Association: The psychology of hunger. By Dr David Baker and Natacha Keramidas, October 2013, Vol 44, No. 9. Online: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2013/10/hunger.aspx



Our story 1

Our lives began in the kind of ordinary confusion and suffering which is universally human.  One of the biggest breaks we got in life was being strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism – Jim since 1980, and Renata much earlier.  We still meditate together, most mornings of each week. There is scientific evidence to support the idea that counsellors who meditate are better at listening deeply to their clients than counsellors who don’t. Here’s a quick introduction to Zen:


Counselling-div-quoteIt has often been said that “most humans lead lives of quiet desperation!”  And whatever ‘life script’ we created in our childhood tends to control the ‘drama’ of our lives.  This kind of life script is addressed in the ‘narrative element’ of our approach to counselling and coaching.  We want to know your story, and to teach you that it is not ‘the’ story!

According to Stoic philosophy, we are “actors in a play” that the manager directs.  However, the manager is not, as the Stoics thought, ‘providence’, or ‘nature’ – with the implication of inevitability and intractability.  The manager is the interaction of your early (and later) personal history (and how that shaped you) – on the one hand – with your current external environment, on the other.  We can coach and counsel you to an understanding of how to better manage your life-interactions.

Some of the variables which affect how well or how badly you cope with this current external environment, then, include your diet, exercise regime, self-talk (or ‘inner dialogue’), relaxation/ meditation practice, sleep pattern, current living arrangements, self-management skills, current relationships, historic relationships, and general environmental stressors.

In our system of counselling and coaching, we help our clients to figure out what is going wrong in their lives, and teach them some new strategies for putting things right.


So we can help you today, if you would like to contact us:

Telephone: 01422 843 629


Or email Jim at:





Or email Renata via:




Of course, it is not all about diet and exercise;

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 reframe 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.


Dr Jim’s Counselling Division

Counselling, coaching and psychotherapy in Hebden Bridge

Dr Jim’s Counselling Division

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 21st November 2016


honetpieFor couples therapy; relationship skills and attachment problems; anger management; stress management; habit building or habit change; confidence building; anxiety and panic problems; grief and depression; lifestyle coaching; assertiveness training; and general body-brain-mind integration…


If you are unhappy with any significant aspect of your life, it makes sense to try to change that aspect.  However, if you cannot change it, then you could always consider changing yourself!

You are a creature of habit – and an interpreting being – wired up by your family of origin, and later by your peers and school teachers, and others, to respond in particular ways to particular triggers.  Most of the thinking/ feeling that determines your habitual responses to other people and things today is stored in non-conscious parts of your brain-mind-body.  You cannot access that thinking/ feeling wiring, but you can over-write that wiring in a successful therapeutic relationship with a good counsellor/ coach/ psychotherapist. It is now beyond all doubt that, when counselling and therapy works, it is because of brain-mind changes (in the form of physical re-configurations) that have been promoted by the therapeutic encounter.


…For more information about Dr Jim’s services, please go to Dr Jim’s Counselling Division.***



Metal Dog – Long Road Home, by Dr Jim Byrne

front-cover2This book is the nearest thing you will ever find to an autobiography of the first forty years of the life of Jim Byrne, the creator of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT).  However this is not how Jim describes it.  Instead, he writes: “This text is my ‘revised personal mythology’. That is not to say that it is untrue.  The core of the story is true to my recollection of my felt experience.  But it is embellished with elements of another person’s life; plus hundreds of years of Irish history/mythology; and several strands of mysterious ‘fictional’ story, about the timeless struggle of good against evil; of love against hate and ignorance; and of the heroic journey of an innocent goat and a curious boy, from passive victimisation towards the possibility of personal liberation, with the help of a mysterious ‘tall woman’. It is a story of hope and despair; of courage and cowardice; and of the alchemical power of curiosity and perseverance”. For a Free Extract, please go to Metal Dog – Dr Jim Byrne’s autobiographical novel.***


E-CENT Counselling focuses on the whole person – body-brain-mind-environment.  We care about your diet, exercise program, relaxation, life balance, and various other factors.  For example, we do not overlook your philosophy of life: “Anybody can read philosophy uncritically, and believe what they read.  But we must develop the ability to critically evaluate what we read.  For example, when Epictetus writes (in the Enchiridion) that people are not upset by their experiences of life, but rather by their evaluations of those experiences, it is important to know the contrary view from Epicurus, which teaches us that ’the cry of the flesh’ to be free from hunger, cold and thirst, is far louder than our weak, little mental evaluations of hunger, cold and thirst!”

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, Creator of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) – January 2017


Renata’s Lifestyle Coaching Division

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachHello and welcome to my lifestyle coaching and counselling services information page.

My name is Renata Taylor-Byrne, and I am here to help you if you need any assistance with problems of everyday living.  Perhaps you are angry, anxious or depressed about the state of your life, your relationships, or your career.  Perhaps you need to become more self-confident, more relaxed in the face of life’s stresses, or more skilful at setting and achieving your goals.

You might be struggling to lose some weight; to give up sugar or alcohol addiction; to communicate more effectively with your loved ones; to manage stress better; or to be more successful with colleagues and others in work or in business. Or to restore balance to your life.


“What you eat; how you exercise, meditate and relax; how you manage your life stressors and your relationships; and your general philosophy of life:  All of these factors, and more, go into my assessment of your life, and my guidance for action, using my Lifestyle Coaching approach to solving your problems of daily living!”

Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach-Counsellor, October 2016



What I offer

For more than thirty years, I’ve been teaching a range of important personal development and self-management skills. These include, but are not restricted to:

# Stress management skills;

# Assertive communication skills;

# Habit change skills;

# Public speaking skills;

# Confidence-building skills; and:

# Exercise and dietary self-management skills.

During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of watching hundreds of people grow and develop, to flourish as individuals, because of this work we did together.

“What”, you might be wondering, “would I gain from learning some of these skills from Renata?”


…For more information about Renata’s coaching and counselling services, please go to Renata’s Lifestyle Coaching Division.***


In E-CENT counselling and psychotherapy theory, we teach our clients that the body is primary; that the innate emotions are prior to our cultural beliefs, thoughts and perceptions.  “(René) Descartes defined us as thinking, abstract souls… (But) Merleau-Ponty’s aim was to correct this erroneous view and … to emphasize the inseparability of body and mind, of thinking and perceiving… We cannot divide a person into a mental and a physical part, because the two are de facto inseparable.” Havi Carel, Illness, Page 25.

Our comment: Therefore, a purely ‘talking cure’ is not holistic enough; not complete enough; not adequate enough.  We need counselling and therapy approaches which include a knowledge of diet, exercise, self-talk, relaxation, meditation, relationship security, political awareness, philosophical healing, and much more besides.


natajim-coaching-counsellingA counselling revolution

Counselling, coaching and psychotherapy are about to undergo a revolutionary upheaval, on a par with the ‘nutrition-based psychiatry’ revolution which is currently going on, and the ‘affect regulation’ revolution which is turning CBT on its head.


Although Dr Albert Ellis and Dr Tim Beck argued that our emotional distress is caused by our own thoughts and beliefs, in E-CENT counselling we argue that emotional disturbances are multi-causal phenomena.  Some of the causal factors determining our emotional state include diet, exercise, gut bacteria, self-talk (or self-story), environmental restimulation of feelings from the past, relaxation, meditation, current relationships, historic relationships, and general environmental stressors, etc.  Here is a brief insight into the gut-brain-emotion axis:

“Anyone who has ever felt nauseous or lost their appetite because of grief, fear or shock, knows that stress has an impact on the gut.  It has been more than a decade since animal studies began making the correlation between stress and changes in gut microbes.  The connection between stress, depression and anxiety is well established, and dozens of studies are now looking at how these conditions affect bugs in the gut.  The big questions – such as which comes first, the microbe shift or the depression – have yet to be answered. Because it’s a two-way street, though, it looks as if correcting the gut microbiome (or gut bacteria population, variety and balance JWB) could be a new way to treat depression”.  (Footnote: Dinan, T.G. and Cryan, J.F. 2013, Sept; 25(9): Pages 713-719: Melancholic microbes: a link between gut microbiota and depression?  Available online).

Quotation from: Celeste McGovern (2017) Bugs in the system. What Doctors Don’t Tell You, Jan 2017, Pages 28-36).


Comment: Our way of understanding this new research is this: Food is probably going to prove to be the best medicine for emotional distress (all other things being equal – including general stress level, current relationships, historic relationships, regular physical exercise, sleep pattern, and so on.  Holistic. Holistic. Holistic!)  And supplementation with friendly gut bacteria, combined with eating the right kinds of foods will prove to be important.  Big Pharma’s drugs for emotional distress have proved to be a social disaster, with hugely damaging side-effects, and a distraction from the real causes and cures!



Of course, we are not suggesting that ‘talk therapy’ is now completely redundant.  But rather, that talk therapists need to understand the client as a body-brain-mind-environment whole, which is just as much a product of diet and exercise as it is of family history and psychological ‘habits of mind’.

To take one example, the so-called ‘self’ of the client can be defined in a number of different ways.  One useful distinction is between the ‘somatic self’ and the ‘autobiographical self’.  Most systems of counselling and therapy are equipped to deal with the autobiographical (or narrative) self of the client, but not of the somatic self.  The somatic self is the body-based sense of being ‘this one here’. And the feelings associated with this state – of being this one here – are driven by how well this body has rested recently – in terms of sleep and relaxation. Whether it is well-hydrated.  Whether it has been fed a nutritious diet, with adequate levels of essential vitamins and minerals.  Whether it has been exposed to excessive sedentary activity, or is well exercised.  And whether it has its ‘sympathetic’ (stressed) or ‘parasympathetic’ (relaxed) nervous system switched on!

All potential counselling clients should make sure they choose a counsellor who can relate to them as a whole body-brain-mind-environment complexity.

And, all counsellors currently practising should take a look at re-training to become an Holistic Counsellor / Lifestyle Coach.***


…For more, please go to Homepage Extension No.2.***