What is counselling?


What is Counselling, and how is it practiced?

by Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

Updated on 21st December 2021

Counselling is a chance to rethink your feelings, and to re-feel your experiences; and to digest what needs to be digested, and then move on.

Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2014-2021



Jim and the Buddha, 2In simple terms, counselling involves one person (the counsellor) helping another person (the client) to work through some difficult or painful emotional, behavioural or relationship problem or difficulty.  That is the form of individual counselling.

In practice there are probably almost as many definitions and descriptions of the process called ‘counselling’ as there are theorists who have written on this subject.  At one stage, the number of systems of counselling and therapy was said to be more than 400.  So narrowing down our definition to manageable proportions is going to be our major challenge.


Defining Counselling: At its simplest, counselling is a process of listening and responding, and clarifying problems. At its most complex, counselling becomes a form of re-parenting, or emotional re-education… However, given that there are at least 400 different forms of counselling/ psychotherapy, any definition is going to be a gross generalization!


If you were not able to take notes from the video clip above, then here are the notes I made as a script to record the video.  Of course, I embellished it as I went along, but the core ideas to be presented were these:

1. To counsel somebody is to help in a way that emphasizes the needs and goals of the person asking for help.

2. The modern world is full of stresses and strains, and this accounts for the rise, growth and popularity of counseling.

3 Counselling can be defined in many ways, from one school of thought to another.

(a) In the person centred school of thought, it is about the capacity of the client to change their self concept, in the context of the three core conditions of genuineness, empathy and non-possessive caring;

freud-on-dreams(b) In the psychodynamic approach, counselling is about helping the client to understand their own non-conscious urges and habits, including where they come from in their childhood, and helping them to change in the here and now;

(c) In the cognitive-behavioural approach, counselling is about helping the client to identify their negative or unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, and to change them to something more self-helping and self-supporting.

4. Because counselling has its roots in psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, the arts and religion, it is not surprising that it takes diverse forms.  But those forms also reflect the strength of counselling in being highly adaptable to different cultural and historical contexts.

5. The common ground between each of the numerous schools of counselling is the focus upon assisting an individual, through a helpful relationship, with their problems of everyday living.  All forms of counselling offer the client an opportunity to be heard and understood by an informed helper, who cares about their goals and their emotional pain.


BlueLogo13CIf you would like to experience the process of counselling with Dr Jim Byrne, then please see his range of services at The ABC Counselling and Psychotherapy Division.*** 


On the other hand, you could consult Renata Taylor-Byrne, to sample her approach to counselling-coaching, which she calls Lifestyle Coaching.***


Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person:

Or how to integrate nutritional insights, exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.

Front cover, Lifestyle Counselling, 2020By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne

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 will show 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.

Paperback and eBook versions.


Holistic Counselling in Practice:

front cover holistic couns reissuedAn introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy

This book was the original introduction to our whole body-brain-mind approach to counselling and psychotherapy.

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)

Paperback and eBook versions

Learn more.***


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