E-CENT Institute Homepage

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Welcome to the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)

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:

Human-bodies“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, thought, 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!


E-CENT logo 1 red lineThe Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) was established in March 2007, by Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne.  (Contact: dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org).

The core mission of the institute is to create the most comprehensive, complete model of holistic counselling and psychotherapy, which takes account of the fact that humans are body-mind-environment wholes, which are shaped as much by the greater economic context, and the food they eat, as they are by their philosophies of life, or their early childhood experiences.

In addition to reviewing the importance of diet, exercise, self-talk, relaxation, meditation, relationship security, stress management strategies, and so on; we have also set out to review the most prominent and most promising models of the human body-brain-mind, created by the major philosophers and psychologists, from the time of the Buddha and Plato to modern times.

These include the models of Plato, Aristotle, Freud and the post-Freudians; Ellis and the cognitive-behaviourists; Attachment theory, Object relations, and Affect regulation theory; Interpersonal neurobiology; Transactional Analysis, moderate Zen Buddhism and moderate Stoicism; Moral philosophy; social psychology and cognitive science; and many other useful ideas and theories.

For a summary of our approach to counselling the whole client, please see our new (2018) book: Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.***

And if you would like to get a qualification in Lifestyle Coaching/Counselling, with the emphasis on diet and nutrition, plus physical exercise, then we can help:

The CPD Certificate in Holistic Counselling and Lifestyle Coaching

CPD Certificate, Lifestyle CCBy popular demand, we now offer a certificate of continuing professional development, which teaches you how to work with clients who have emotional or life problems linked to their poor lifestyle choices in the areas of nutrition and physical activity.  For more information, please click the link below:



E-CENT counselling and psychotherapy theory emphasises the integrity of the body-brain-mind-environment of the ‘socialised individual’.  We do not buy into the Western capitalist creation of the ‘separate individual’, the ‘free floating mind that wills its own destiny’.  “Instead of artificially separating mind and body, Merleau-Ponty emphasised the centrality of the body and gave an account of how the subject inhabits it.  This more organic and biological view of the human being as a human animal (which also has culture, sociality and a meaning-endowed world) sees the body as the seat and sine qua non of human existence.  To be is to have a body that constantly perceives the world through sight, touch, smell and so on. … Human existence takes place within the horizons opened up by perception”. From: Havi Carel, Illness, Page 26.


Dr Jim’s comments: Of course Havi Carel does not here clarify the fact that perception is itself mainly non-conscious and habit-based – dictated by past experiences!  But this is still a step up from the Western notion of the free-floating ‘mind as self’, or ‘self as mind’.  We are body-brain-mind-environment wholes; and we are strongly affected by our economic and political contexts – so promoting greater social inequality harms humans!  Ignoring economic deprivation harms humans!  Treating humans as ‘assets’ harms the world!  These are important, current, moral and political issues!


We work very hard to promote awareness of the links between diet, exercise, relaxation, meditation, on the one hand, and the quality of our mental functioning (including values attitudes, beliefs, self-talk, inner-dialogue, and so on) on the other.

Nata-and-Jim-hols-10001.jpg.w300h192The aim of all these efforts is to ensure that Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) has the most useful and well-informed  model of the human body-brain-mind-environment to guide our counselling and therapy activities.

So, in addition to being a secure base for our clients; and teaching them more empowering ways to think (or rather, to perceive-feel-think [or ‘perfink’], and to manage their emotions; we also introduce them to: Meditation; relaxation; physical exercise; balanced diet; vitamin and mineral supplementation; and other important elements of body-mind hygiene.

Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne, March 2018


“Our research and practice, over recent years, have led us, step by step, away from the relatively simple world of the ‘talking cure’, into the much more complex world of the whole-body-brain-mind-environment of the social- and socialised-individual, who is the real client in what has become Holistic Counselling and Lifestyle Coaching.  This is an epoch-shattering development!”

Jim Byrne and Renata Taylor-Byrne, Founders of the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)


Update 2018: This year we have celebrated the eleventh anniversary of the creation of the Institute for E-CENT.  In that time we have written and published 28 papers on various aspects of E-CENT theory, plus ten books, which apply E-CENT theory to various problems, such as how to be happier, how to reduce stress, how to manage your own writing therapy, and so on.  We have also produced 55 video clips on various aspects of E-CENT.

The Institute for E-CENT arose out of the philosophical crisis in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), in 2004-7, and it is the first post-REBT/CBT institution to set about the challenge of resolving the tension between logical imperatives and moral imperatives.  This we set out to do through the development of Emotive Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)***, which also incorporates moral philosophy and critical thinking at its very foundations.

We have also been involved in wrestling with the tensions between the social-cognitive view of the individual-brain-mind and the emotive view of the socialized-brain-mind.  In the process, we have incorporated a good deal of attachment theory and affect regulation theory into E-CENT.

And we have written 17 additional papers on models of body-mind, on the New Writing on E-CENT page.***


E-CENT counselling and therapy is holistic, seeing the client as a socialised-body-brain-mind with innate drives and urges, which have encountered various positive and negative experiences, at home and in school (and at work).  We consider it important to help the client to review their diet, exercise regime, self-talk (or inner dialogue), family life, current relationships, work and career, as well as feelings, thoughts and behaviours.  We also promote physical relaxation and meditation, and mindful awareness.

Dr Jim Byrne.


Cover, full, revised 7- Feb 13 2018The therapeutic functions of E-CENT are natural outgrowths of our integration of body-mind-relationships-attachment-environment.  This has been explored in our publications, which are available here (books)***, and here (papers)***.

The second integration that we took on, and have largely completed, is the integration of the individual self and the social network, through the modelling of mother-child interactions, and the investigation of narratives and discourses of community development and personal connection and responsibility.  This work was begun in a couple of E-CENT papers, and then brought together in our book on Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy,***

The third integration that we have undertaken is the integration of the Freudian, the Bernian and the Ellisian models of the human psyche, into a new model of mind, in which: the body, (diet and exercise [plus relaxation and meditation]); the brain, (brain food, blood sugar, and brain/mind development); the environment, (relationships, right livelihood, living conditions); personal narratives, (stories, scripts, frames, beliefs, attitudes, values); and a sense of “something bigger than the self”, (a spiritual practice, or a community involvement); are all treated as potentially equal contributors to personal happiness and mental tranquillity.  Again, all of this has been incorporated in our latest (2018) book: Lifestyle Counselling and Coaching for the Whole Person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy,***

Over the past eleven years, a great deal of work has been done towards taking our mission forward.  Dr Byrne has written more than twenty-seven papers and, together with Renata Taylor-Byrne, ten books have been published on some of the key questions in Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT). And those books and papers can be found and purchased from the E-CENT Publications pages, here for papers*** and here for books***.


Today, this work continues. For example, on our new page, New Writing on E-CENT.***


Membership of the Institute

is open to counsellors, psychotherapists, counselling psychologists, social workers, youth workers, and students and supporters of those disciplines which are in sympathy with the E-CENT approach.  See the Membership Services page for details – or email dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org***.

The CPD Certificate in Holistic Counselling and Lifestyle Coaching

CPD Certificate, Lifestyle CCBy popular demand, we now offer a certificate of continuing professional development, which teaches you how to work with clients who have emotional or life problems linked to their poor lifestyle choices in the areas of nutrition and physical activity.  This award is available all over the world via distance learning.

For more information about this award, please see the Certificate in Lifestyle Coaching and Counselling.***

Or email dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org for a brochure.


If you like the content of this page, please share it with your favourite social networking group (e.g. at Facebook, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn, etc.)…

E-CENT counsellors teach the following lesson to their clients: We have to manage our ‘self’ in order to lean towards the Good Side and to avoid Evil.  Why is this the case?  Because: “’Humanity’ does not exist.  There are only humans, driven by conflicting needs and illusions, and subject to every kind of infirmity of will and judgement”.

Prof. John Gray (2003) Straw Dogs: Thoughts on humans and other animals.  Page 12. (3)




Contact: dr.byrne@ecent-institute.org



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 and coaches currently practising should take a look at re-training to become an Holistic Counsellor / Lifestyle Coach.***



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