HPX-A1: Defining counselling

Defining counselling

There is an overlap between many of the best systems of counselling, life or lifestyle coaching, and psychotherapy.  The common factor is this: The coach/counsellor/therapist has a good understanding of the client as a whole body-brain-mind-environment complexity, which needs to be treated holistically.  Counsellors listen, but they also problem-solve with their clients.  They empathise, and they also advise.  They understand how you are wired up emotionally.  How your thinking, feeling and behaviour are interconnected.  How your diet and exercise practices affect your body-brain-mind.  A good series of counselling/coaching sessions involves not just a change in your thinking, but also in the neurology which underpins your thinking-feeling-action tendencies.  When psychotherapy and counselling are successful, the result is that you get a re-wired brain-mind, and a new life script.

A potent counsellor/coach relates to you in such a way that you come away with a new set of feelings about yourself, your significant others, and your life.

A good counsellor for you would be somebody who understands where you are stuck in your life, and how to help you to find a way out of your current difficulties, frustrations, and painful emotions. We have decades of experience helping people from all walks of life to solve their problems and achieve their goals.

Counselling offers a private, secure ‘space’ in which to reflect upon the life and circumstances of the client: “What is meant by ‘a space’ in the context of counselling?  What kind of space is this?  It is a space that exists both in the life of the person who wishes to talk about a problem, and in the relationship between that person and their counsellor.  One of the (main ideas) is that it is important to understand people as living their lives within a personal niche that they have made for themselves (with social shaping – JB) within their own society and culture.  This niche, or personal world, can at times be hard to live in – things go wrong.  Counselling is a space outside of the person’s everyday life, in which they can stand back from their routine and reflect on what they might wish to do to change things to make them better”.

John McLeod, Counseling Skill, Page 4. (93).


Counselling and the road less travelled:

honetpieIf you are stuck in a very bad place, mentally or geographically or socially, then you need to know that change is possible.  Improvement in your inner and outer life is possible.  Not effortlessly or immediately, but ultimately, and with some effort on your part.

We (Renata and Jim) each began our lives in very difficult circumstances (one much worse than the other), and we have both been on difficult, long-term journeys to get to where we are today. we have faced many personal challenges, and defeated them.  We have studied and trained to be professional problem solvers, and helpers of suffering others.

In the process, we have studied many systems of coaching, counselling and psychotherapy, and personal and professional development, which taught us some helpful maps of the world, and powerful skills, and how to move from one inner world to another.  From stress to relaxation; from despair to hope; from anger, anxiety and depression to happiness and contentment. And we teach what we have learned to our coaching, counselling and psychotherapy clients.

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachThe first lesson is to take responsibility for getting out of your current difficulty (even if you did not cause it!)

The second is to face up to the difficulty of making change happen; of creating a better life for yourself.

The third lesson is to make a commitment and take action to improve your life circumstances.

♣ You may be contemplating some change in your life, and just want an opportunity to discuss you thoughts, feelings and potential actions.  We can help with that.

♣ You may be planning a way forward, and need some support to carry it through.

♣ You may be ready to take action, and need some support to make it happen, and to sustain your change process.

♣ Or you may be unclear about what you could possibly do to improve your happiness and life satisfaction, and need to get some guidance on what could be possible.

Call one of us today – Jim or Renata – to discuss making an appointment to explore what is possible for you in terms of creating a better future, or cleaning up a painful past. Or learning to feel happy in your skin in the present moment. As soon as you make that appointment, things can begin to change in your life; to unfreeze and to flow. Hope emerges, and you begin to move towards your goal of a better life, or the cleaning up of some problem that spoils your happiness.

Jim & Renata's logo
ABC Coaching and Counselling Services

We can help you with our unique system of holistic counselling and lifestyle coaching. We can help with emotional, behavioural or relationship problems, at home or in work.

Do not give up on yourself and on your life.  Do not settle for a miserable life of unfulfilled dreams.  Aim high, and believe in the possibility of a better tomorrow.

We are here to help!

⊕ Dr Jim Byrne: Email drjwbyrne@gmail.com


⊕ Renata Taylor-Byrne: Email renata@abc-counselling.org


Telephone7.gifOr call us today: 01422 843 629 (Or 44 1422 8943 629 from outside the UK)

We can see you in Hebden Bridge, or we can work over the phone. (Jim also offers Skype and email counselling options).

Do not settle for a limited little life of misery and unfulfilled dreams.  Create the life you want, and then work at making it happen.


Dr Jim’s Counselling and Psychotherapy Division.***


Jim’s scale of fees.***


Renata’s Lifestyle Coaching-Counselling Division.***


Renata’s scale of fees.***


To find your way around this website, please see our

Site Map.***


Dr Albert Ellis was a highly persuasive but damaged individual, who took his own opinions at face value, and launched them into the world as ‘facts’: one such ‘fact’ being that 80% of all human disturbance was genetic, determined by inherited genes!  However, this claim is patently false, now that the research on the Human Genome has been completed.  As Dr Oliver James writes: “For twelve years now, the Human Genome Project has been taking large groups of people who all share a specific problem, like depression or hyperactivity, and comparing their genes with an equivalent group without the problem.  Very little genetic difference has been found.  At most, so far, it explains only 5 to 10 percent of almost all illnesses that have been studied.  This even goes for rare and extreme problems, like schizophrenia (with symptoms like delusions and hallucinations).  Scientists have been able to look at over a million genetic locations in each individual.  Yet 90 to 95 per cent of the differences between different groups – schizophrenic versus non-schizophrenic, for instance – is not genetic.  Since all the most plausible genetic loci have been scanned, it now seems very likely that this will be the final conclusion of the Human Genome Project.  The implications are huge.  The role of genes in emotional health is probably negligible, even non-existent in many cases – just 5 to 10 per cent.  It looks as if genes have been largely removed from the great Free Will versus Determinism debate.  …, a world of possibilities opens up”.

Oliver James (2014) How to Develop Emotional Health.  Pages 6-7. (96)


In E-CENT counselling, we see our client as a socialised individual who is carrying a life-script, a story of how their life is, has been and will be in the future.  People live into those stories, but they can also change them, with some effort, and create a new vision of a better tomorrow, into which they can then live.  Of course, what they do in terms of lifestyle also affects how they feel, so that must also be taken into account during counselling.

Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne, April 2017


Introduction to our system of counselling, lifestyle coaching and embodied narrative therapy

Hello and welcome! Our approach to coaching, counselling and psychotherapy is holistic, and takes account of the body, brain, mind, and environment of our client.

Let us begin by looking at the ‘stories in our minds’:

“Narrative therapy” is based on the idea that we are born into a world of stories: legends, fairy-tales, family myths, cultural beliefs, and so on.  We also embellish those stories in our own way, using the elements into which we were born, and our feelings and inferences about our experiences.  Those stories are stored in the non-conscious basement of our brain-mind, and they run our lives without our ever being aware of them.

“Embodied narrative therapy” refers to an approach to counselling, coaching and psychotherapy which accepts that our stories drive our livesbut we insist that the state of our bodies supports or undermines our possibility of sustaining a self-empowering narrative.

If we don’t get enough sleep; or we eat a sugary, grain based diet; or we put ourselves under excessive stress; then our story will tend to become one of personal weakness, vulnerability and low frustration tolerance.

“Cognitive therapy” is based on the idea that we are upset by our “automatic thoughts’ about our experiences.

But “Emotive-Cognitive Therapy” (our system) is based on the idea that we were born as feeling beings, and we learned how to manage our feelings and emotions in our family of origin, depending upon the emotional intelligence (or emotional unintelligence!) of our parent(s).

For these reasons, we have developed a whole-body-brain-mind-environment approach to counselling, (lifestyle) coaching and psychotherapy.

If you want help with any aspect of your emotional, behavioural or relational functioning in the world, then we can most likely help you to do the detective work to track down the root causes or your problems, and to help you to identify potential solutions.  We can also teach you how to maximise the chances of implementing those changes, against the resistance of your current habits! 🙂

Contact us today for an initial consultation:

Dr-Jim-Self-AcceptanceDr Jim Byrne




renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachRenata Taylor-Byrne




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


How we can help: The ABCs of problems and solutions which can be helped with E-CENT counselling, coaching and therapy include the following:

We can help with a whole range of issues, problems and challenges, such as: Anger management, anxiety and panic, assertive communication, attachment problems, attitude change, behaviour therapy, CBT and post-CBT therapies, couples therapy, and many other issues, problems, challenges and concerns…

For more, please go to Homepage Extension 7B: Problems and Solutions


For further information, please email either

Jim: jim.byrne@abc-counselling.org;


Renata: renata@abc-counselling.org


Because we are body-brain-mind-environment-wholes, it is important to focus on the foundations of what keeps us physically and emotionally healthy – like a healthy diet, regular physical exercise, and so on.  But do not overlook the simplest change that produces the biggest impact on your body-brain-mind: correct breathing:


Who are we?

Next we would like to introduce ourselves, and tell you what we do; and then we will present some insights into our own system of Holistic Counselling and Lifestyle Coaching.


About your counsellors

We (Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne) have studied more than a dozen systems of counselling[5], coaching and psychotherapy, over many years, and not one of them takes adequate account of the fact that we are body-minds, and that our bodies are strongly affected by what we eat, and whether or not we exercise, and whether or not we attend to the health of our gut bacteria.

We are:

1. Dr Jim Byrne:


honetpieMy name is Jim Byrne.

I have a doctoral degree in counselling (DCoun) from the University of Manchester, UK (2002-2009).  A master’s degree in education (MA(Ed)) from the Open University, UK (1991-1994). And a diploma in counselling psychology and psychotherapy (DipCPPsych-Rus) from Rusland College, Bath, UK (2001-2003).

I also have two certificates in Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (RE&CBT), from the Albert Ellis Institute, NYC, with the University of Birmingham (November 2005); and the old Institute for REBT, in Bristol, UK (November 1999).

I practice a system of counselling which integrates the best and most useful elements of the fifteen or so systems I have studied, including CBT, Attachment theory, Affect regulation theory, Object relations theory, Person-centred counselling, Transactional Analysis, and many others.  (My system is called Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy, or E-CENT counselling for short.  What is E-CENT counselling?***)  E-CENT counselling also incorporates insights into the body-brain-mind link.  So we deal with the whole client, and not just with their ‘mind’.

…For more about Dr Jim, please go to the About Dr Jim Byrne page.***


2. Renata Taylor-Byrne:

renata-taylor-byrne-lifestyle-coachHello, and welcome to this page about my background experience and qualifications.

My name is Renata Taylor-Byrne, and I am a qualified and accredited coach/ counsellor. I have an honours degree in Psychology from the Open University; a Diploma in Stress Management; and Diplomas in CBT, Coaching, and Nutrition; as well as certificates in REBT and Transactional Analysis.  My main specialism is Lifestyle Coaching, whereby I help individuals to review their self-management approach to life, including their stress management strategies; communication style (assertive, passive or aggressive); diet, exercise program, relaxation strategies; self-esteem and self-confidence; relationship skills; plus personal and professional goal setting and goal achievement.

I was introduced to personal and spiritual development issues by my father, from the age of fourteen years, when he introduced me to the philosophical ideas of Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, L. Ron Hubbard, Sufism, Zen and a number of other disciplines.

…For more information about me, please go to the About Renata Taylor-Byrne page.***


Whether you are a potential counselling client, or a curious counsellor:

…For more, please go to Homepage Extension No.1: Background.***


E-CENT counselling teaches that there are many helpful perspectives on life, some of which come from moderate Buddhism and some from moderate Stoic philosophy: One of those perspectives was popularised in the 1980s by M. Scott Peck.  This is it: “Life is difficult.  This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.  It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it.  Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult.  Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters”.

Scott Peck (1983/1990) The Road Less Travelled: The new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. Page 13. (101).


Why is counselling, coaching and psychotherapy important anyway?

Jim has been writing about the importance of counselling and therapy in his new book (critiquing REBT/CBT), which is almost complete.  Near the beginning of the Preface he wrote this:

…Before I introduce myself and the book’s content, I would like to explore why we have any kind of counselling or psychotherapy at all.


The human condition

Every human being is born into a pre-existing reality; a family (most often; but sometimes a family-substitute, like an institution). In this family, the individual learns what to think, long before they have any chance to consider how to think.  (This has advantages and disadvantages.  The most obvious advantage is that the family gets to pass on its morality and social conventions.  The most obvious disadvantage is that the family gets to pass on its prejudices and neuroses!)

We are born into a family which is located somewhere on a (normally very steep) social-economic pyramid, which determines our ‘class position’, normally for life: (though a few individuals ‘escape’ into adjacent social classes – but not many, not often, and not much!)

Our parents may be emotionally intelligent or emotionally unintelligent – or somewhere in between, along a continuum. If we have the misfortune to be born to emotionally unintelligent parents, then we will fail to learn to name our emotions; to understand them; to manage them well; to understand the emotions of others; and/or to communicate with others about emotional issues.

Depending upon where on the social-economic pyramid we are born, and how emotionally healthy or damaged our parents happen to be, we will experience more or less stress and strain in our lives; which is directly linked to how anxious or depressed we tend to be on an ongoing basis.  And if, further, our early development involves exposure to individuals who are either sadistic or sexual perverts, we may be grievously damaged psychologically, perhaps for life! (We do, however, remain malleable [at least to some degree], and so there is always some hope of having a remedial experience and of cleaning up our damaged past).

However, no matter where we are ‘thrown’ into this messy life (on Earth), one thing is clear: Our life will be difficult, at least some of the time. This is the fundamental reality of human existence!

Counselling clients may often feel split, and in mental turmoil, with little idea of how to proceed.  They are caught in an inner battle which was originally analysed and explained by Dr Sigmund Freud: “(Sigmund Freud) demonstrates how the battle between instinctual urges and the inhibiting external world, a battle that begins in childhood, changes its character with the progressive building up of the psychic personality.  He divides the latter into an instinctual unconscious id (or ‘it/thing’ – JWB), a rationally oriented ego (or sense of self – JWB), and an ethical-moral, critical agency, the super-ego (or ‘over-I’ – JWB), which develops on the basis of identifications (with mother, father, teachers, etc. – JWB).  The circumstance that each of these inner agencies pursues its own goals leads to the insight into the dynamic aspect of mental life … (or why we experience) … psychic conflict”.

Anna Freud (2005) The Essentials of Psycho-Analysis. Page 3. (103)


Coping with suffering

Because of this fundamental reality of human suffering, we humans have a long history of trying to find ways to ameliorate our suffering.  Over the centuries, we have used religious rituals; spiritual quests; mind altering drugs (like peyote; opium; alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, etc.); sublimation, in art, crafts, nature studies; distraction and diversions (like football, mountain climbing, etc.); acting out our distress (e.g. by passing it on to others in the form of domination and aggression); or by avoiding social contact altogether.

Buddhism and Stoicism are long-term expressions of the human desire to find ways to moderate or reduce or avoid human suffering.  However, they both have three fundamental flaws:

(1) Both of these systems are, to some degree, caught in a paradox.  For they desire to avoid the results of desire!  They seek to evade the consequences of evasion of aversive experiences.

(2) They both exaggerate the degree to which individuals are responsible for their own emotional upsets!  (It is not that we have no responsibility.  But our responsibility begins (normally) after the event of the emotional upset, and not beforehand).

(3) They set up impossible standards of indifference to suffering for ordinary humans to follow! (And, at the end of the day, with the possible exception of Socrates, Jesus and the Buddha, we are all very ordinary, relative fragile humans!


So suffering, and the desire to escape from suffering, are key elements of the human drama, and key elements of every attempt to develop a therapeutic solution to the human condition. Suffering is, it seems, unavoidable!

E-CENT counselling teaches that life is difficult, but that you have to face up to the difficulty – to both experience it and reframe it – in order to make it ‘go away’:  “What makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one.  Problems, depending upon their nature, evoke in us frustration or grief or sadness or loneliness or guilt or regret or anger, or fear or anxiety or anguish or despair.  These are uncomfortable feelings, often very uncomfortable, often as painful as any kind of physical pain, sometimes equalling the very worst kind of physical pain.  Indeed, it is because of the pain that events or conflicts engender in us that we call them problems.  And since life poses an endless series of problems, life is always difficult and is full of pain as well as joy”.

Scott Peck (1983/1990) The Road Less Travelled: The new psychology of love, traditional values and spiritual growth. Page 14. (104)


Theories of emotional suffering

The outstanding questions are these: Can suffering be reduced, or moderated?  And if so, then how can this be done best?

Freud thought psychoanalysis could produce some improvement, but his patients could not hope to achieve anything more than to “transform neurotic misery into common unhappiness“.  Freud’s theorizing is very patchy and eclectic, so it is possible to find different ‘Freud’s’ in the many volumes of his writing.  The one I find most ‘Freudian’ is the one who says neurosis is the price we pay for civilization. And that human disturbance is not caused not by what happens in the family of origin so much as it is caused by the phantasies children have about their parents.

And Alan Watts went a bit further than Freud, on the subject of the impact of civilization, when he said that the loss of the natural spontaneity of little children is the acceptable price we pay for the undoubted benefits of civilization.

After Freud, the neo-Freudians and post-Freudians, including people like Melanie Klein, continued to blame the client for their phantasies about their parents.

Then John Bowlby changed the direction of this discourse – but only after decades of resistance by the Freudians – to one in which children are shaped by their family of origin; and they develop secure or insecure attachment to their parents depending upon how attentive and caring their parents objectively are – quite separate and apart from any fantasies or interpretations the child brings to the party.

In America, alongside the growing tendency of disturbed middle class individuals to seek psychoanalysis, especially in the big cities, like New York, there also arose a strong behaviourist movement, which ignored what goes on in the brain-mind of the client, and focused exclusively on their behaviour.  Later, with the development of cognitive psychology, the behaviourists became increasingly neo-behaviourist, believing that ‘something like thinking’ goes on inside the brains of their lab animals.

Lots of other fragmentations began to appear, including the updating of Freud by Erickson and Berne and others.

And then, Albert Ellis, in the 1950’s, stepped into the breach between neobehaviourism and psychoanalysis, and introduced his own system of therapy, based on his understanding of Stoicism, Buddhism, and the stimulus-organism-response model of neo-behaviourism.

Out on the West Coast of America, in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, Rogers and Perls were practicing their own new approaches to counselling and therapy, at Big Sur.  Rogers’ novelty was that, instead of blaming the client, he blamed the parents.  But perhaps blaming is the wrong game to be in.  Perhaps understanding, informing and ameliorating would be the way to go.

A counsel of resilience and persistence: “We may be unfortunate victims of circumstance, illness or terrible grief, but the human spirit is extraordinarily indomitable.  Stephen Hawking, who you might say has been dealt the trump card when it comes to unfairness, expressed it brilliantly: ‘Remember to look at the stars and not down at your feet… be curious, and however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  It matters that you don’t just give up’.”

Sally Brompton (106)


Long suffering and short suffering

To try to bring this fragmented movement back to my original focus on human suffering, I would like to jump now to the innovation which was, though not strictly a system of therapy, a big part of the self-improvement movement of the 1970’s and ‘80’s: Erhard Seminar Training (est).

One of the most relevant things Werner Erhard said about human suffering was this: “I hate long-suffering stuff!”

And that was also part of the motivation of Eric Berne and Albert Ellis in developing their own approaches to what would eventually be called ‘brief therapy’.  They disliked the long-term nature of psychoanalysis, which seemed (to them!) to be inefficient.

Unfortunately, to achieve his system of brief therapy, and to avoid long-suffering stuff, Albert Ellis adopted the injunction: “Forget the god-awful past!”

Fortunately for him, nobody embarrassed him by asking him: “How precisely could I go about forgetting my traumatic childhood?”

I say this would have been embarrassing for him because it would have given him a choice.  He could either:

(1) Try to bluff his way out by trying to teach the client how to engage in denial, repression, avoidance, distraction, and all the other defence mechanisms that we know do not work! Or:

(2) Tell the story of his own childhood, and how he dumped his suffering during his many hospitalizations, one of which occurred around the age of six years, when he was in hospital for about ten months with hardly any visits or comforting from his mother or father!

But if you read Byrne (2013), you will see that Ellis’s attempts to dump his childhood suffering rebounded on him later in life, and distorted not only his relationships with women, but also his system of counselling and therapy, making it cool, detached, and incapable of emotional empathy with suffering clients.

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)


But why, precisely, does denial and repression of past emotional pain not work?  Because, as Werner Erhard reminded us, ‘Whatever you resist persists!  To whatever degree you resist (anything from your past) to that degree you get stuck with it!’

Erhard’s full statement (somewhat paraphrased) was this: I hate long-suffering stuff!  I’m for short suffering.  And what I know about short suffering is this.  You have to face up to your suffering from the past. To complete your experience of it.  To allow it to be absolutely.  And thus to burn it out.

Albert Ellis never faced up to his suffering from the past, and thus he was never able to help any of his clients to achieve a full form of short-suffering.  Ellis’s form of short-suffering could only deliver a hard, cold form of extreme Stoical coping; and not a post-traumatic form of more-complete healing!

I also hate long-suffering stuff.  And my way of achieving short-suffering as a road to more-complete healing for my clients is:

(1) To teach them six ways to re-frame any experience of suffering in the present moment; and:

(2) (Once they know how to reframe any such experience) To help them to dig up their buried traumatic experiences from the past (which must be at least two years in the past!), and to process them, complete them, and burn them out.


Suffering exists. And we all seek to ameliorate it to some degree. Some of our strategies work.  And some do not work.  REBT works as a form of extreme Stoical denial of pain.  But our system of E-CENT provides clients with the possibility of going through some short-suffering, and coming out the other end of the process with a more completely healed heart-mind-body-life!

(See Byrne, 2011/2016)[i].

For more extracts from Jim’s new book, please go here: The Most Serious REBT/CBT Error: Emotional disturbances are not all in the individual mind!


[i] Byrne, J. (2011/2016) Completing your experience of difficult events, perceptions, and painful emotions. E-CENT Paper No. 13. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

Brief extract from Byrne (2011/2016):  The core of the techniques of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) is built around the concept of “reframing your experience” of life, so that it will show up in a more tolerable and bearable way than if you frame it illogically and unreasonably.  However, sometimes a client may have a problem buried in their past, about which they know nothing, and this buried problem – this ‘denied pain’ – is the main driver of their current depression, anxiety, panic, or anger.  With these kinds of archaic problems of repression, we use techniques related to the concept of “completing” that archaic experience.  Pages: 7.