What is Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT)?
ABC Home PageJim's Counselling DivisionRenata's Coaching DivisionSite mapLinks & Resources

Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT) is a new system of counselling, coaching and therapy which deals with the whole person, as a physical organism, as a social construction, and as an autobiographical story on legs.

CENT is an integration of systems of therapy originally developed by Dr Sigmund Freud, Drs Klein and Fairbairn, Dr Eric Berne, Dr Albert Ellis and others.  It is integrated and further developed by Dr Jim Byrne.

Dr Jim Byrne, January 2010


Click here to download: What is CENT?

What is Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy?

By Dr Jim Byrne - Copyright, 2014

November 2014

Key facts for potential clients


Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT) is a system of counselling, coaching and psychotherapy which I developed on the basis of having studied more than thirteen systems of therapy, and applying them for more than sixteen years.

If you are considering entering counselling with me, then what you need to know is this:

1. I aim to understand my clients as combined body-minds: people who have stresses and strains in their lives; who have particular diets (whether adequate or inadequate); particular approaches to physical exercise (whether good or bad); particular beliefs and attitudes (either helpful or unhelpful); particular abilities to relax, or to keep themselves tense (and how to make improvements); and so on.

2. I aim to identify my clients’ coping resources, or lack of coping resources; and to help them to strengthen themselves in the face of the stresses and strains they face on a daily basis.

3. I teach helpful approaches to stress; anger; anxiety; depression; self-confidence and self-esteem; couple communication; conflict management and relationship skills.

For a quick introduction to CENT counselling, please watch the following (6 minute) video clip, by clicking the screen that follows:


Or click THIS LINK*** 

I was originally trained as a Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist (REBT), which is the original form of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).

However, way back in 1968, I had first-hand experience of psychoanalysis, art therapy, group therapy, relaxation therapy; and I have also studied and worked with Gestalt and TA therapists.

I have been meditating since 1980, and using a range of approaches to positive thinking and mind management.

In the period 2004-7, after the collapse of the Albert Ellis Institute’s management system, I moved away from REBT, and began to focus more on Attachment Theory, Moral philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and various forms of Narrative therapy – though I still use the best elements of CBT/REBT in combination with more humanistic approaches to my relationship with my clients.


More detailed description of CENT for students and professionals

CENT Paper No.2 (a):

What is Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT)?

By Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright (c) 2009-2013/2014, Jim Byrne

(Updated 2012; 2013; and April 2014)


In this 25 page paper, Dr Jim Byrne describes the nature of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT).  He introduces the CENT models of the human mind; outlines the basic theory of CENT counselling, by summarizing the nineteen key features, or principles, which characterize this integrative system; lists the seven main models that are used to structure CENT counselling sessions; and ends by describing the CENT therapist's style. 

1. Introduction

"CENT sees humans as essentially story tellers, to ourselves and others, and storytellers who live in a world of narratives and scripts, which include reasonable and unreasonable elements, logical and illogical elements, and defensible and indefensible elements.  Humans often tend to push away (or repress) unpleasant experiences, to fail to process them, and to then become the (unconscious) victims of those repressed, undigested experiences.  CENT also sees adult relationships as being the acting out of childhood experiences with parents and siblings, because some part of those earlier relationships have not been properly digested and completed".  Extract from CENT Counselling: How to apply Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy in counselling and self-help, By Dr Jim Byrne.***

Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT) is a system of counselling and psychotherapy which helps clients to work on their brain-mind-body-and-relationships in order to reduce and control negative or painful emotions and behaviours, like anger, anxiety, depression, stress, self confidence and couple conflict.


CENT integrates Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Transactional Analysis (TA), Attachment theory, Zen Buddhist philosophy, moral philosophy, and some other cognitive, narrative and dynamic therapies. And CENT goes beyond those systems, to create some original cognitive-emotive techniques, models and perspectives.

CENT is not an eclectic system which has merely bolted elements of different counselling systems together.  It is a truly integrative system which began by revisiting the basic model of the human personality developed by Sigmund Freud and asking: How does this model link up with the ABC model?  What are the necessary implications of assuming that there is substantial truth in both models?  The same process was conducted with Transactional Analysis and cognitive science.  The resulting model was then compared with the implications of the Object Relations School.  Moral philosophy and Zen Buddhism were also interrogated in this process of model building.  That work of model building is described in Papers No.1(a)[1] and No.9[2].


In CENT counselling, we define ‘feeling’ as innate, and ‘emotion’ as a socio-cultural product of experience: “The terms ‘feeling’ and ‘emotion’, and ‘affect’ are used in many different senses in psychology.  A review of more than twenty theories of emotion reveals a plethora of widely diverging technical definitions.  These vary with the technique of investigation, the general theoretical framework, and the value-judgements of the psychologist.  Often, they are so diverse as to defy comparison let alone synthesis”.  Therefore, in CENT, we follow Sarbin in defining feeling as innate, and emotion as ‘narrative emplotment’ arising out of cumulative, interpretive, social experience.  Because emotion is narrativized, it can be changed in a therapeutic conversation.

Robert F. Hobson, Forms of Feeling: The heart of psychotherapy, Page 88. (10)


Before that system of integration of models was begun, I had studied thirteen different systems of counselling and therapy, including: Freud and Jung, Rogers and Perles, Behaviour Therapy theory and practice, Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, Reality Therapy and Transactional Analysis, Existential Therapy and Logotherapy, Multimodal Therapy and Cognitive-Humanistic Therapy; and also committed myself to the proposition that all systems of counselling and therapy that are designed to be therapeutic are broadly equivalent in terms of the outcomes achieved for the client, as argued by Wampold (2001)[3], and Messer and Wampold (2000)[4].

CENT evolved in phases.  1968 to 1980 was a kind of incubation of some core ideas, triggered by a partial Freudian analysis, combined with art therapy, music therapy, relaxation therapy, group therapy, and some others.  And 1980 to 1998 involved active exploration of various systems of therapy and self development (including Gestalt and Psychosynthesis, and autogenic training).  Then, 1999 to 2007 saw an intensification of thinking and learning about the core elements of the thirteen systems mentioned above.  And finally, over the past six year period - of developing and applying the emerging CENT model - a basic theory of human personality and psychological disturbance emerged.

Viewer Comments:

1. "This is absolutely excellent!!! I would like to learn (this system) or read a book about this model". - Taski, via YouTube. 28th December 2011

2. "This dude's amazing (and I) totally love his work". - PsychologyLover93

3.  "Wow, Dr, Jim...  Maybe you'll finally be the one to create a unified theory of psychology, or at least progress the development of one. That's what the field needs". - Fritz - By Dr Fritz Hershey - Psychologists in Private Practice - LinkedIn, 4th March 2014


This is the best book to begin to read on the foundations of CENT, and how it is applied in practice:


Cover.77.jpgCENT e-book No.2: CENT Counselling: How to apply Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy in Counselling and Self-help, by Dr Jim Byrne

This is a popular introduction to the theory and practice of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT), which is a highly effective new philosophy of life, and psychological system of therapy.

This book was designed to answer the most common questions asked by counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists, counselling and therapy students, counselling and therapy clients, and self-help enthusiasts, about the nature of CENT: how to learn it; and how to apply it in practice, to individual counselling, couple's therapy, and self management.

The main aim is to demonstrate CENT counselling in practice; and in the process you will learn something about how to integrate and apply CBT/REBT, Transactional Analysis (TA), Attachment Theory, Object Relations and Zen philosophy and Moral philosophy.

For further information on this book, please click here.


2a. Brief introduction to the CENT models of mind

After more than thirteen years of studying, exploring and developing models of the human mind (between 2001 and 2014), we concluded that tripartite (or three-part) models have more explanatory power than ‘binary (two-part) models’; and that both are preferable to the ‘black box’ model of behaviourism (and behaviour therapy).

In section 2b below, we outline the ego state model from Transactional Analysis, developed by Dr Eric Berne; and we have integrated that model with the id-ego-superego model of Sigmund Freud; and also with Freud's Eros/Thanatos model of the good and bad sides of the human individual.  The ego state model states that each of us, as grownups, can think, feel and act like we once did as a child - which is called 'being in Child ego state'.  WE can also think, feel and act like one of our parents, or another parent, once did, and which we internalized, and this is called 'being in Parent ego state'.  And finally, we each have a kind of logical/rational/reasoning place to operate from, and this is called 'being in Adult ego state'.  (More later). 


There are currently nineteen core principles of CENT counselling and therapy, and they are listed on this page.  However, not long ago there were only eleven principles, and at that time I made a little video clip introducing those eleven principles.  This is it:


Or click on THIS LINK TO WATCH.*** 


Feedback on the video clip titled: 'Eleven core principles of CENT counselling'

"I can't even begin to express my relief when I found this video. For the first time in my life, someone is talking sense about how human behaviour is developed over an entire lifetime. The bit about us never being able to truly see the external reality of the world, with our subjective experience of it colouring everything we do hit very close to home. I don't have to feel delusional. Nutrition, exercise, sleep are all huge factors to my overall mood on a daily basis. Why don't more people practice this method? I need to bring this up with my counsellor.

"I'm endlessly grateful for this helpful and informative video. Thank you so much!"  ProphetSong; posted at YouTube


Of course, the human brain-mind is the most complex entity in the known universe, and therefore any attempt to sum it up - to ‘simplify it’ - is fraught with difficulty and danger.  However, in the interest of making the management of mind accessible to counselling clients, we have to take some risks in summing up what we have learned about the human brain-mind. 

The most important tripartite models seem to have come from Plato, Freud and Eric Berne.  (However, the Hindu/Buddhist binary model – of the Elephant and Rider [which Freud translated into the Horse and Rider] – is also helpful, up to a point.  [It seems the Elephant and Rider model was first mentioned by Lord Krishna in the Maharabhata].  And Freud’s other model, [the binary distinction between the Life urge {Eros} and the Death urge {Thanatos}] also needs to be taken into account).

From the main elements of the tripartite models of Plato, Freud and Eric Berne, we infer that:

...To continue reading this document, please pay the fee of £2.49 for a downloadable copy of this 25 page paper - What is CENT? - by clicking the PayPal 'Pay Now' button that follows: