Welcome to the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)
The Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) was established in March 2007, by Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
This Institute was established after the death of Albert Ellis, the creator of Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). Jim and Renata had been keen supporters of Albert Ellis from around 1992. However, they had always combined REBT with Transactional Analysis – (because REBT did not have a convincing or helpful theory of personality) – and also with Gestalt therapy and other systems.
However, when Albert Ellis died, in 2007, after three years of internecine conflict – within the Albert Ellis Institute – Jim and Renata naively thought they could take forward “the best of Albert Ellis’s ideas”. But the more they worked at trying to validate the core of REBT, the more it fell apart in their hands.
Eventually, Jim wrote A Major Critique of REBT, which effectively dismantled the Extreme Stoic foundations of REBT – and marked the end of their association with rational and cognitive therapy, and the simplistic ABC model of human disturbance.
Distinguishing Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) form REBT/CBT
By Dr Jim Byrne
The most fundamental difference between E-CENT theory and REBT/CBT theory is their models of human disturbance.
Albert Ellis, the creator of REBT, and the grandfather of general CBT, rejected the simple Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR) model of neobehaviourism, and Freud’s It/Ego/Superego, and substituted his own simple ABC model.
The simple SOR model assumed that, every time a stimulus impacted an organism, an adaptive response, based upon prior conditioning, was emitted or produced. If a person saw something which had previously frightened them, then they would respond with fear. But if the same stimulus had previously angered them, then they would respond with anger.
The simple ABC model dumped the role of experience, conditioning, and habit formation, and replaced those experiential psychological processes with a single concept: Beliefs!
I have produced an extensive critique of the ABC model of REBT, in my main book on REBT, which is ‘A Major Critique of REBT’.
For more information, please see my blog post about Distinguishing Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) form REBT/CBT***
Moving on from REBT, Jim and Renata produced a book on Holistic Counselling in Practice, which integrated their revised philosophy of life – based on moderate Buddhism and moderate Stoicism, combined with: Attachment theory; Affect Regulation theory; Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB); Narrative therapy theory; and some insights into the body-brain-mind’s dependence upon diet, exercise and sleep for optimal mental and physical functioning.
Holistic Counselling in Practice:
An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy
Cover design by Will Sutton
By Jim Byrne DCoun FISPC
With Renata Taylor-Byrne BSc (Hons) Psychol
This book was the original introduction to Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT), which was created by Dr Jim Byrne in the period 2009-2014, building upon earlier work from 2003. It is of historic importance, but it has been superseded by Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person, introduced below.
What is E-CENT Counselling?
E-CENT counselling is one of the newest, most comprehensive systems of holistic counselling. But this is something of a paradox, because, as John McLeod writes: “There are no new therapies.” (From page ix of McLeod 1997/2006). Of course, what he means here is that most new systems of counselling are a result of experiencing and knowing about older systems of counselling, which coalesce and mingle and transform and evolve over time.
For example, E-CENT theory has some of its roots in the teachings of the Buddha, and the moderate teaching of the Stoic philosophers; though I also have criticisms of both of these schools of thought.
I have reviewed models of mind from Plato and Freud, and John Bowlby and the post-Freudian ‘object relations’ tradition[i].
And I have incorporated many ideas from the very latest thinking in affective neuroscience and interpersonal neurobiology. I stand on the shoulders of giants!
Furthermore, as argued by Hill (2015), in describing other innovations, I am participating in the development of “major advances in psychotherapy”, via the “integration of disciplines”. (Page 98). It should be stated quite clearly, however, that I am critical of as many aspects of those disciplines as those I favour! I am wary of taking anything on board too readily, without adequate testing and critical analysis. And I encourage you to do the same!
Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person:
Or how to integrate nutritional insights, exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.
By Dr Jim Byrne, with Renata Taylor-Byrne
(Cover design by Charles Saul)
This book has been found in practice to be very helpful to counsellors and psychotherapists who want to understand the role of lifestyle factors in human disturbance. 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 shows counsellors how to incorporate lifestyle coaching and counselling into their system of talk therapy. Also, it will help self-help enthusiasts to take better care of their own mental and physical health, and emotional well-being.
Adding back the body to the model of humanity
E-CENT counselling theory is about the whole individual client – the body-brain-mind-environment – and not just the mind of the client. It involves integrating the body-mind of the social-individual with their social environment.
It arose out the integration of various pre-existing theories and models of counselling and therapy – including the rational-emotive; cognitive-behavioural; emotive/ psychodynamic; and person-centred approaches. Plus attachment theory; and moral philosophy; narrative analysis; and some moderate Buddhist and Stoic ideas. Our ultimate aim was to integrate – as potentially equal contributors to personal happiness and mental tranquillity – the following elements:
(a) The body, (diet and exercise [plus relaxation and meditation]);
(b) The brain, (brain food, blood sugar, and brain/mind development);
(c) The environment, (relationships, right livelihood, living conditions);
(d) Personal narratives, (or stories, scripts, frames, beliefs, attitudes, values, which were learned from family and society); and:
(e) A sense of “something bigger than the self”, (a spiritual practice, or a community involvement).
How to Control Your Anger, Anxiety and Depression:
Using nutrition and physical activity.
By Renata Taylor-Byrne, and Jim Byrne
(Cover design by Charles Saul)
This book argues that talk therapy is insufficient on its own. Changing your philosophy of life will not control your emotions, unless you also attend to your diet and exercise needs.
It is now increasingly being argued, by cutting edge scientists, that the root cause of physical and mental health problems is inflammation in the body, especially in the guts. The concept of leaky gut giving rise to leaky brain is increasingly being verified; and very often the causes of anxiety, depression and anger are to be found in the client’s diet; or their lack of physical exercise. Of course, sometimes the main cause of human disturbance is that stress levels are too high; or coping resources are too low; or the individual has an unrealistic or unhelpful philosophy of life. Or the individual did not get a good experience of how to manage their emotions in their family of origin. But it is also true that sometimes, the main problem is lack of physical exercise, or sugary diet, or caffeine, or inflammation in the guts and brain.
By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne
The basic theory of E-CENT counselling and therapy
The basic theory of E-CENT begins with the relationship between the archetypal new baby and its mother. This is (for the baby) a feeling relationship. And the baby stores, in permanent memory, beyond conscious awareness, every emotionally significant event in that most fundamental relationship. This relationship between mother and baby gives rise (in the baby’s body-mind) to emotionally-coloured expectations, attitudes, and ways of seeing itself and the world, which shape the later life of the child. The ‘sea’ in which the child swims is ‘the sea of emotionally significant language’ and the common currency of that language is the ‘story’. (Of course, those stories are about ‘something’ – real, concrete – and not just sounds in the air. And none of those concrete forces that is reflected in our social stories is the question of power; physical power – the power to hurt or be hurt physically; and emotion power – the power to love or hate another, and to be loved or hated by another).
We grow up imbibing stories about ‘the nature of reality’ from our mothers, fathers, siblings, peers, family relatives, teachers, and so on. In most of the stage directions, we will tend to find lines for ourselves which put us in ‘bit parts’; ‘supporting cast’; ‘timid crowd member’. Thus some of us, and perhaps most of us (at least some of the time), will find ourselves justifying the playing of bullying roles in some of our stories.
The key conceptions of the human individual which are held by E-CENT counsellors are as follows. Each of us is:
(a) primarily a social body/mind;
(b) which has innate affects/feelings; and the potential to develop good and bad tendencies, and:
(c) which accumulates interpretative, emotionally-significant experiences – in the form of schemas, scripts, stories and frames (or ‘ways of seeing the world’) – which are stored in non-conscious forms; and:
(d) which manifest in Parent, Adult and Child forms of thinking/ feeling/ behaving (or perfinking/acting). And:
(e) The ‘emergent I’ in each individual has internalized ‘Working Models’ (or ‘templates’) of relationship (from their social encounters with mother, and others in their family of origin) which dictate the patterns and limitations of relationships to which they will gravitate and be attracted in their adult lives.
(Another way of saying this is that: The social/emotional intelligence of the socialized individual is determined by their experience in their family of origin, and this sets the upper and lower limits of their ability to relate to others – all other things being equal. [Of course, it is possible to meet new ‘curative’ individuals, such as lovers or counsellors, who can begin to help the individual to reform and reshape their Internal Working Models of relationship, and to raise their social/emotional intelligence – but this involves hard work, and it is by no means guaranteed to happen!]).
The Bamboo Paradox: The limits of human flexibility in a cruel world – and how to protect, defend and strengthen yourself
Finding the Golden Mean that leads to strength and viable flexibility, in order to be happy, healthy and realistically successful
By Dr Jim Byrne.
With contributed chapters by Renata Taylor-Byrne
The Institute for E-CENT Publications: 2020
Are human beings like bamboo? Are we designed to withstand unlimited pressure, stress and strain? Is our destiny to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘flexible working arrangements’?
We live in a world in which there are dark forces that wish us to forget that we are fleshy bodies, with physical and mental needs; and physical and mental limitations; and to be willing to function like mere cogs in the wheels of somebody else’s financial or technological empire.
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) has played into this narrative, and given it philosophical support, by promoting a form of Extreme Stoicism in the name of therapy and wisdom, which it patently is not. (General Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [CBT] also supports this agenda, but to a lesser degree, or in a less obvious way! And some forms of Extreme Buddhism also advocate ‘detachment’ from material concerns, such as the need for a balanced life!)
In this book, I review the research that we have done on the limits of human endurance, and the determinants of that endurance – as well as identifying a viable philosophy of life – which will help you to optimize your strength and flexibility, while at the same time taking care of your health and happiness.
If you want to take good care of yourself in the modern mad-market, you could benefit from studying this book. It will provide you with both a compass and a suit of armour which will support you with the challenges and battles you will inevitably face.
Our holistic approach
While CBT and REBT use the ABC model, which assumes that almost nothing but the clients beliefs/thoughts intervene between their experience and their emotional/behavioural responses, we use a much more complex model, as follows:
The illustration below shows how we present the holistic SOR model to our clients.
As indicated in that illustration, E-CENT theory takes a holistic view of the client as a social-body-mind, with a habit-based character and temperament, living in a particular social and physical environment, with stressors and supports.
The client has a personal history which is unique to them; plus some social shaping that extends to their family, and some to their community; some to their nation/race/gender, etc.
This illustration should be read as follows: Column 1 – ‘S’ = (or equals) A stimulus, which, when experienced by an O = Organism (in our case a human), may activate or interact with any of the factors listed in column 2; and this will produce an R = Response, as shown in column 3.
To be more precise: The holistic SOR model states that a client (a person) responds at point ‘R’, to a (negative or positive) stimulus at point ‘S’, on the basis of the current state of their social-body-mind.
– How well rested are they? How high or low is their blood-sugar level (which is related to diet)?
– How well connected are they to significant others (which is a measure of social support)?
– How much conflict do they have at home or at work? What other pressures are bearing down upon them (e.g. from their socio-economic circumstances; physical health; home/ housing; work/ income; security/ insecurity; etc.)
– And how emotionally intelligent are they? (Emotional intelligence is, of course, learned, and can be re-learned!)
Within the Holistic-SOR model (in the figure above), in the middle column, what we are aiming to do is to construct a balance sheet (in our heads) of the pressures bearing down on the client (person), and the coping resources that they have for dealing with those pressures.
So this is a historical-social-stress model. It is not a purely ‘cognitive distortion’ model; nor a purely ‘biological/ sexual urges’ model; nor a purely ‘prizing and listening’ model.
Available from today – 21st April 2020:
Cutting through the Worry Knot!
How to Reduce and Control Your Anxiety Level: Using a whole body-brain-mind approach
And without using drugs, alcohol or escapism!
By Dr Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne
Anxiety is not a disease; not a mental illness. Anxiety is part of our normal, innate, mental signalling system which tells us what is happening to us, and what to do about it. That is to say, it is part of our emotional wiring. Our emotional intelligence.
Trying to get rid of anxiety with drugs is like hanging two overcoats and a duvet over your burglar alarm when it goes off. The burglar alarm is designed to give you helpful information, which you can then use to guide your action. Should you check to see if a burglar has got into your house? Or call the police? Or realize that you’d mismanaged your alarm system, and that you should therefore switch it off?
Once you understand anxiety correctly, it becomes as useful as a burglar alarm; and you can learn how to manage it correctly.
When you buy a burglar alarm, it comes with a little Instruction Book about how to set it; calibrate it; monitor it; reset it; and switch it on and off.
You should have got just such an Instruction Book about your anxiety alarm, from your parents, when you were very young – and some people did. But if your alarm goes off at all times of day and night, in unhelpful ways, then I guess you were one of the unlucky ones who did not get your Instruction Book. This book contains your Instruction Book, plus lots of other backup information, which will help to make you the master of your anxiety, instead of its quaking slave.
Don’t let your anxiety “burglar alarm” reduce your life to misery. Learn how to use it properly!
E-CENT theory continued…
Once we have established rapport, and worked on a contract and a specific focus, we move on to the detailed work of processing the client’s communications about their concerns.
Process = The process of E-CENT counselling can have formal and informal aspects; including: discussion and questions; or the use of questionnaires to explore possibilities. And/or the use of a range of models and techniques and strategies, as described and explored elsewhere.
And the process tends to vary considerably from one client to another, as each client is unique. Although there is no one right way to begin, one fairly typical or common approach could be to:
- Explain the H-S-O-R model, and then:
- Explore the details of the client’s Diet, Exercise, Sleep patterns, Self-talk, Relaxation/Meditation (as first priorities) – if appropriate.
- Then, explore the client’s relationships (current and historic), as the next priority – if appropriate.
This elucidation sometimes involves the use of explicit questionnaires, but more commonly we stick to informal questioning about: Diet and vitamin supplementation; Exercise routine and frequency; Sleep quality and duration; and Relaxation and/or meditation practice. Also: What’s going on at home, and/or in work? What has changed recently? And assessment of emotional needs and their satisfaction.
This is just one of several models that we have developed in the process of evolving E-CENT theory.
The Institute offers training in the following subjects:
– Health Coaching (Nutrition and Exercise)
– Lifestyle Coaching (Nutrition, Exercise and Sleep)
– Anger Management Coaching
– Stress Management Coaching
– Couples Therapy
We offer three levels of training in each of the subjects above:
– A Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Certificate, of 30 hours duration
– A one-year, part time, distance-learning Professional Certificate Course
– A two-year, part time, distance-learning Professional Diploma.
For information about any of these courses, please email email@example.com.
We offer a range of books on subjects related to self-help and counselling here:
And we offer counselling, coaching and psychotherapy here:
We also have published a range of papers and articles as the original foundation of our philosophy of life, and our philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy. Please see: E-CENT articles and papers.***
- What is E-CENT Counselling?
- Books on E-CENT and personal effectiveness
- E-CENT Articles and Papers
- New Writing on E-CENT Counselling
- E-CENT Blogs
- E-CENT Counsellors
- Holistic Counselling Book
- Site map
- Links and resources
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, exercise and sleep, 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 and other nutrients. 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 and coaches who are currently practising should take a look at incorporating Lifestyle Counselling into their own system of talk therapy, by undertaking some re-training to become a Holistic Counsellor / Lifestyle Coach.***