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.
SOME PRACTICAL DEFINITIONS OF COUNSELLING
by Dr Jim Byrne
Updated: 3rd May 2013
In 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.
Dr John McLeod described counselling like this: "Counselling is a wonderful twentieth-century
invention. We live in a complex, busy, changing world. In this world, there are many different types of experience
that are difficult for people to cope with. Most of the time we get on with life, but sometimes we are stopped in our
tracks by an event or situation that we do not, at that moment, have the resources to sort out". If we cannot find
ways to sort this out in our family, with our friends, or with a priest or doctor, etc., then "Counselling is a really
useful option at these moments". John McLeod, An Introduction to Counselling, 2003.
Here is my basic video description of counselling:
counsellor may also see a couple, especially a married or cohabiting couple, to help them with their relationship. And
some counsellors help whole families to work on their relationship problems. See also my Couples Therapy page.
Good enough counsellors provide a healing relationship for their counselling clients: How
can counselling relationships help the client to grow and have better relationships in the real world? "In the
world according to Bowlby, our lives, from the cradle to the grave, revolve around intimate attachments. Although our
stance toward such attachments is shaped most influentially by our first relationships, we are also malleable. If our
early involvements have been problematic, then subsequent relationships can offer second chances, perhaps affording us the
potential to love, feel, and reflect with the freedom that flows from secure attachment. (Counselling and) psychotherapy,
at its best, provides just such a healing relationship".
Wallin, Attachment in Psychotherapy, 2007, page 1 (3)
Review: (This) is a highly intelligent book which treats the reader as an intelligent
inquirer. I have recommended the book to other professionals, such as lawyers, who deal with counsellors and counselling.
I have put it on my reading lists in the post-graduate counselling degrees conducted at my University. At the same time, I
have recommended it colleagues who boast years of experience.
McLeod covers mainstream
approaches to counselling such as psychodynamic, person-centered, CBT, systemic, feminist and narrative. He recognises that
conselling approches do not come from nowhere, but reflect specific socio-cultural context. His engaging accounts of these
contexts and of the individuals who articulated approaches which grew from them, provide a solid base from which to consider
each theoretical development. At the same time, McLeod is interested in what elements tie counselling together. What are the
root metaphors used by most counsellors most of the time?
McLeod is also deeply
interested in counselling as an ethical pursuit. He is concerned with the nature of social and interpersonal power and with
the moral principles which should guide theory and practice. He covers research, supervision, training and skills acquisition,
the politics of counselling and the nature of counselling organizations. He even ventures into predictive statments for the
next fifty years.
This book is an impressive achievement. The amount of information
and the breadth and depth of ideas is deceptive because each chapter reads so well.
have been in the business for twenty five years. I couldn't put it down!
Counselling Blog: Every week, I write a ‘counselling blog', which looks at various aspects of counselling
in general, and especially the core theories of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT), and CENT Couples Therapy.
Please take a look and see what you think: here: The Counselling Blog.***
The main aim
of this book is to spread happiness. Not just any old hedonistic happiness, excitement, or
thrill seeking; but rather pro-social, moral, sustainable happiness, in line with the insights of Positive psychology, Buddhist
psychology, Stoic philosophy and various forms of Rational and Narrative therapy, and the two major systems of writing therapy
(the scientific and the artistic).
In this book you will find a twelve week program
which is designed to help you to manage your life in such a way that you can reduce your unhappiness and increase your happiness.
You will learn simple techniques that can produce almost immediate improvements that will astound you.
Counselling is concerned with a number
of different tasks. These can be summarized as follows: "The term ‘counselling’ includes work with
individuals and with relationships, which may be developmental, crisis support, psychotherapeutic, guiding or problem solving
… The task of counselling is to give the client an opportunity to explore, discover and clarify ways of living more
satisfyingly and resourcefully”. (BAC, 1984, cited in McLeod, 2003).
CENT view of counselling is that, most often, counselling is concerned with "...helping the client to come to terms
with past or present reality, and often a very unpleasant reality from the client's past". (Byrne
2011a and 2011b)*.
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
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.
Counselling takes place in a confidential
meeting, in a quiet room, and is subject to a code of ethics which specifies what the counsellor can and cannot morally
do in that context. (See the Accreditation and Ethicspage). Of course, we have to 'bite the bullet' and acknowledge that, in the past, there have been cases
of a few unscrupulous counsellors and therapists exploiting and abusing their clients (mainly financially and sexualy).
Potential clients of counselling and therapy should be warned of this possibility, so they can defend themselves better against
this small possibility. See Personal Safety in Counselling.***
Here is an illustration of a counsellor and client engaging in
As practiced by Jim Byrne,
counselling and therapy (and coaching) amount to helping the client to identify the source of their emotional or behavioural
problems, so that they can come to terms with whatever aspect of reality they are resisting; and/or
to refine their understanding of their practical problems; and/or to clarify their goals in relation to some developmental
challenge; and/or to overcome their emotional, behavioural or relationship difficulties or problems. To understand how he
operates as a counsellor is to perceive him as a "(relatively) wise philosopher who teaches what he has used to heal
his own life"; and to facilitate the client's exploration of their own issues and needs, and to arrive at conclusions
or solutions that resolve their problems and move their lives forward.
In this manual, I want to do two things: (1) To present a basic understanding of the Rational-Emotive
Behaviour Therapy (REBT/CBT) approach
to dealing with anxiety’; and (2) To provide a set of exercises for you to do so that you can learn how to analyze your
problems with anxiety; identify solutions; and implement those solutions so as to eliminate your anxiety.
In that way,
you can become your own “counsellor”, in the area of anxiety and fear, because you can learn to fix your own emotional
and behavioural problems.
There are, of course, different approaches to counselling, with some being quite passive, listening
forms of counselling; while others are more analytical of the sources of the presenting problem; and others quite philosophical
and into teaching the client the philosophical wisdom of the ages.
'Theory and Practice of Counselling
is a very thorough introduction to the whole subject a knowledge of which is useful if not essential in the health, occupational
family and personal development sectors, as well as many other caring professions' - The Psychologist
Nelson-Jones' book has become so much a part of the counselling theory literature; it is hard to imagine discussing the topic
without reference to it. This Third Edition gives testimony to its continued value. It is hard to fault this book, its readability
and detailed referencing, alone, will mean that it will suit a wide readership? If you have to buy only one book on counselling
and therapy, this is it' - Professor Philip Burnard, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Nelson-Jones takes this complex subject and explains the whys and hows of each different type of therapy about as well as
it can be done. There is no better introduction' - Amazon Review
'This book will be useful
to the student, one book to cover all the course topics; to the practicing counsellor, to improve their work and to the lecturer,
who wants to learn how to explain theories simply to their students. Richard Nelson-Jones writes in a way that makes it hard
to put down, a compliment more often associated with fictional rather than academic books. Do not worry about the price it
will save you buying three other similar books' - Amazon Review
Professor Mick Cooper from the University of Strathclyde talks
about his existential approach to counselling, which involves a concrete exploration of day to day challenges, and how to
tackle them and cope with the inevitable hassles and difficulties. He advocates 'focusing on the concrete'.
is now a well researched and documented argument that all systems of counselling and psychotherapy are broadly equivalent
in terms of the outcomes they achieve. Ever since Smith and Glass
(1977) produced their meta-analysis on the subject, there has been a strong and growing body of research evidence
that all systems of counselling and therapy produce broadly equivalent outcomes, and that the outcomes are produced by ‘common
factors', such as the nature of the relationship, and the promotion of re-thinking and re-deciding. (Wampold and Messer).
 Smith, M.L. and Glass, G.V. (1977) Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcome studies, American Psychologist,
 Wampold, B.E. (2001) The Great Psychotherapy Debate: Model, methods, and findings. Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. And:
Wampold, B.E., Ahn, H., and Coleman, H.K.L. (2001) Medical model
as metaphor: Old habits die hard. Journal of Counselling Psychology, 48, 268-273.
 Messer, S. and Wampold, B. (2002) Let's face facts: Common factors are more potent than specific therapy
ingredients. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice. 9: 21-25.
Carl Rogers was the father
of non-directive counseling, in the USA, where he could not practice more active forms of psychoanalysis or psychotherapy,
because he did not have a psychology degree. He therefore created a system which depended upon active listening to help
the client to clarify their own issues, and extending three core conditions towards the client: genuineness; empathy and non-possessive
Professor Robert Elliott of the University of Strathclyde talks to the Counselling
Channel's Niall O'Loingsigh about the Person Centred approach of Process Experiential Emotion Focused Therapy.
The Cognitive (CBT) Rational (REBT) Approach to Counselling and Therapy
The CBT/REBT approach is probably the most active-directive, and educative, of the counselling approaches.
Here is an example of a satisfied client describing her experience of CBT counselling for grief at the loss of her husband.
This book offers both a wide range of critical perspectives from around the world, and substantial
responses to them. It represents the first attempt to engage in print with the controversies and complexities that have exercised
- sometimes painfully - the therapy and counseling world, as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has risen to such cultural
prominence as Western governments take a serious interest in the psychological therapies as instruments of public policy-making."Against
and For CBT" will be essential reading for psychotherapists, psychoanalysts and counselors of each and every approach
who are concerned with understanding the phenomenon that is 'CBT and its discontents'. It will be core reading both on IAPT/CBT
and contrasting modality training courses that wish to encourage critical engagement with the meaning and cultural context
of therapeutic help in the modern world.Professor Andrew Samuels writes: 'This welcome new collection - provides us with many
cogent and convincing arguments for, at the very least, questioning the epistemological underpinnings and the methodological
validity of the 'evidence-based' ideology in which CBT and its supporters have become accustomed to basking - This splendid
new book - promises to open up a crucial and long-overdue dialogue, and introduce the associated 'battle for the soul' of
therapy work itself'. Professor Stephen Palmer writes: 'CBT is constantly developing , aquiring and integrating new ideas,
many underpinned by research, and adapting to the requirements of the day. Unlike some approaches, it is not moribund, nor
held back by dogma. Its commonsense, pragmatic approach will continue to have wide appeal, regardless of how it is viewed
within the counseling and psychotherapy professions.
Long before the REBT approach was created, in the period 1957-'62,
by Dr Albert Ellis, a highly creative form of counseling and therapy was created by Dr Eric Berne. This was Transactional
Analysis (TA), which took Freud's concept of the 'ego' and broke it down into some existential states, which he called the
'Parent', the 'Adult, and the 'Child', ego states. Berne understood human functioning in terms of social transactions,
and the measure of neurosis was the nature and intensity of the psychological 'games' that an individual played.
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Impact Therapy, (created by Professor Ed Jacobs at the University of West Virginia, by integrating
REBT, TA and Gestalt Therapy), is a highly active form of counselling and therapy. This is how Ed describes the work
of the Impact Therapist:
"There are a number of different ways
to be impactful using Impact Therapy. Impact therapists help clients clarify their issues, help them increase awareness
and understanding, and help them discover important things about themselves. Impact therapists also give support, provide
encouragement, and give permission. Also, impact therapists help client make decisions or help them stick with a decision
once the decision has been made, and they help clients dispute their irrational and self-defeating beliefs. The impact
therapist is always thinking about what the best way is to make the session helpful and impactful". Page 54, Impact
Therapy, by Ed Jacobs, Florida: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.
I have been trained in REBT/CBT, plus TA, behavioural, psychodynamic and humanistic processes (thirteen systems
in all) - and my counselling and therapy work was supervised by Dr Ed Jacobs (for three years, up to February 2011).
I see my work as a combination of
an empowering relationship and a teaching/learning encounter. For some schools of counselling, the relationship is primary.
‘Pilgrim (1997) describes psychotherapy as a
“type of personal relationship entailing a series of negotiated meetings containing conversations" (p. 97). The
central feature of psychotherapy is defined by Holmes and Lindley (1989) as "..... the use of a relationship between
therapist and (client) - as opposed to pharmacological or social methods - to produce changes in (thinking), feeling and behaviour".
These more universal definitions tend to focus upon the relationship. A definition reflecting the unique social role of psychotherapy
is offered by Smail (1987). He describes it as a situation where people are offered the rare opportunity to pursue the truth
about themselves and their lives. This is without the threat of blame and disapproval and without the risk of offending or
hurting the person to whom they are revealing themselves. Although these definitions emphasise different aspects, all indicate
how central the relationship is to any understanding of the practice of psychotherapy’. Neil Scott Gordon (2000, March).
The purpose of this book is to teach the reader what stress is, and how to combat it. It is written in the form of a
self-help manual, with spaces for self-reflection exercises. However, it could also be used by counsellors, counselling students,
and interested others, as a means to learn, understand and present the CENT approach to Stress Management
in counselling, coaching and therapy contexts.
Here is an illustration of a role played
counselling session using the relational approach:
theory suggests that the quality of care given to each of us by our parents in the first few years of life determines our
'attachment style' for all future relationships - whether secure or insecure. By analogy, we can say that a client
in counselling and therapy needs a 'nurturing parent' relationship with their counsellor or psychotherapist, based on sensitivity
and concern, care and attention. It is not sufficient to relate to the client as a 'thinking machine'. Non-possessive
love is a key component of counselling and psychotherapy.
This book - which was created after the death of Dr Albert Ellis - begins by enquiring into the
case for integrating cognitive therapy and psychodynamic therapy. It is a scholarly consideration and examination of
the models that underlie the system of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), and the ways this author gradually expanded
that system by incorporating elements of Transactional Analysis, Gestalt Therapy, and, later, attachment theory and object
relations theory. That scholarly level of the book is underpinned by the personal and professional experience of the
author. This author uses his own difficult life history to investigate and explore models of the human mind and theories
of counselling and psychotherapy which are at the growing edge of counselling psychology. However, underneath this academic
and theoretical level, there is a painful, personal narrative of childhood suffering. What you will gain from this book
is a huge infusion of creative ideas about how to rethink counselling and therapy practice post the narrative and the emotional
Byrne, J. (2010) Therapy after Ellis,
Berne, Freud and the Buddha: the birth of Cognitive Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT).
HebdenBridge: The Institute for CENT.
All systems of counselling and therapy are broadly
equivalent in terms of outcomes achieved by clients
For a number of years, I misunderstood the implications of the findings of Smith and Glass (1977), who found
that all the therapies they investigated were "broadly equivalent", in that they each produced significant gains
for the client. So, although the results tend to be listed hierarchically, and REBT is in the second position on their list,
this variation in scores is not in itself sufficiently significant to place REBT in a league separate and apart from the therapies
lower down the list. And there is now broad consent, in some research quarters, that all the major therapies that are designed
to be therapeutic are broadly equivalent in their effectiveness. (See in particular the work of Professor Bruce Wampold). Therefore, it might be more productive to look at how and what we could each learn from the other,
rather than competing in a zero sum game.
Here is the abstract from Smith and Glass (1977)
Meta-analysis of psychotherapy outcome studies, *American Psychologist*, September 1977, 752-760:
"Results of nearly 400 controlled evaluations of psychotherapy and counseling were coded and integrated
statistically. The findings provide convincing evidence of the efficacy of psychotherapy. On the average, the typical therapy
client is better off than 75% of untreated individuals. Few important differences in effectiveness could be established among
many quite different types of psychotherapy. More generally, virtually no difference in effectiveness was observed between
the class of all behavioral therapies (systematic desensitization, behavior modification) and the non-behavioral therapies
(Rogerian, psychodynamic, rational-emotive, transactional analysis, etc)". Page 752.
their conclusion, Smith and Glass say this:
"The results of research demonstrate
the beneficial effects of counseling and psychotherapy. Despite volumes devoted to the theoretical differences among different
schools of psychotherapy, the results of research demonstrate negligible differences in the effects produced by different
therapy types. Unconditional judgements of superiority of one type or another of psychotherapy, and all that these claims
imply about treatment and training policy, are unjustified". Page 760.
In the UK there are 99 organizations representing counsellors, and each of
them varies somewhat in their emphasis on what counsellors do. Forty-six of those counselling organizations are (or have been
- directly or indirectly) in negotiations with the British government about professionalization of the field.
of those forty-six organizations, the BACP, defines counselling as follows:
takes place when a counsellor sees a client in a private and confidential setting to explore a difficulty the client is having,
distress they may be experiencing or perhaps their dissatisfaction with life, or loss of a sense of direction and purpose.
It is always at the request of the client as no one can properly be 'sent' for counselling".
attentively and patiently the counsellor can begin to perceive the difficulties from the client's point of view and can help
them to see things more clearly, possibly from a different perspective. Counselling is a way of enabling choice or change
or of reducing confusion. It does not involve giving advice or directing a client to take a particular course of action. Counsellors
do not judge or exploit their clients in any way". (Source: BACP website - http://www.bacp.co.uk/education/whatiscounselling
This is a particularly 'non-directive' and 'non-interventionist' approach
to defining counselling. Much of this definition would be acceptable to many counsellors in the UK today, although clarifying
options for clients is increasingly common, and helping them to reach decisions of
their own. For example, in the Egan Model (or the Skilled Helper model) of counselling, the central questions are:
1. Where are you up to right now?
2. Where are you trying to get to?
3. What actions could
you take to bridge that gap between where you are and where you want to be?
And, again in the
Egan model, the counsellor helps the client to see beyond their 'blindspots', and to identify their resources.
And, in the Reality Therapy model, the questions are:
1. What do you want?
2. What are you doing (or have you been doing) to get what you want?
3. Let's evaluate
how well that is going.
4. Let's produce a new plan, (if the current one is not working well).
The CENT counselling approach goes well beyond this type of intervention, in recommending: meditation, critical thinking
skills training, the study of REBT and TA models. CENT also focuses on the relationship as a 'secure base' for the client;
and we use sensitivity and emotional availability as expressions of caring for the client. (See 'What is CENT counselling?, here)
In addition, we have the concept of "therapy", which comes from the Greek word for "healing".
And counselling and therapy, which overlap significantly, can be said to be in the business of "healing the life"
of the client. Or helping the client to "heal themselves". No attempt to distinguish counselling from therapy has
been particularly successful, and it is best to see "counselling and therapy" as a unified field of endeavour. (See:
Nelson-Jones, 2002, Essential Counselling and Therapy Skills, pages 4-5).
And as Ed Jacobs says: "Impact therapists feel free to have a wide range of responses, including reflection,
clarification, questioning, summarizing, probing and teaching". (Page 61).
As practiced by
Jim Byrne, counselling and therapy (and coaching), amount to helping the client to identify the source of their emotional
or behavioural problems; and/or to refine their understanding of their practical problems; and/or to clarify their goals in
relation to some developmental challenge; and/or to overcome their emotional, behavioural or relationship difficulties or
problems. To understand how he operates as a counsellor is to perceive him as a "(relatively) wise philosopher who teaches
what he has used to heal his own life, and to gain mastery over his own affairs". But he does this
with one eye on the emotional component of the relationship with the client. And he is increasingly concerned with questions
to do with how securely or insecurely the client is attached to significant others, and how to help them to develop secure
attachments in all their significant relationships. To clarify this emphasis on feeling, emotion and affect, here is
a final clip: What is Counselling? Part 2:
To support our public educational role, please make a donation:
The relationship between counsellor and client: Attachment theory in counselling and psychotherapy
Returning to the section of Chapter 7 of Dr David Wallin's book on Attachment in Psychotherapy, entitled Relational Processes and Developmental Desiderata, I want to give further consideration
to what we can learn from this section that would help counsellors and therapists to know what to do to help their clients
to feel more secure in their relationships, inside and outside of therapy.
Firstly, we can say
that attachment theory has identified what is essential for healthy psychological development of every individual:
(a) Initially, Dr John Bowlby gave emphasis to the idea that the parents should be accessible
to the child at all times of need; and:
(b) Later on, he emphasized that parents must be responsive
as well as accessible. (This change was prompted by the research findings of Mary Ainsworth, who described the importance
of the parents' sensitive responsiveness to the child's nonverbal signals).
Secondly, when babies
receive the attention they crave, they prove to be less needy than those babies who do not receive sensitive responsiveness
when they cry. From this I infer that client's who get the kind of attention they need, will move on through their therapy
much quicker, and more surely, than those clients who meet with cool and less responsive therapists.
Attachment theory suggests that collaborative communication is about getting to know the mind of another human being.
(We may not consciously know that that is what is happening, and we might not use those verbal labels, but that, it seems,
is what is nonverbally, and non-consciously, happening).
The client needs to know which of their statements or actions produces which responses in the therapist. The therapist
must be transparent in showing the contingency (or dependence) of a particular response upon a particular stimulus
from the client. This is what helps the client to construct a model of ‘what is going on' in the mind of the other,
reflected in their own mind.
Fourth, it seems important to help the client to "feel felt"
- that is, to see their nonverbal affective behaviours reflected in the nonverbal affective responses of the therapist.
If the client cries, the therapist may reflect this by showing a sad face, ‘marked as' a reflection.
Therapeutic communication needs to be collaborative - or shared - as well as contingent (each stimulus is shown a
specific response; and each response produces a new reflection). In this process of collaboration and revealing the
connections between stimulus and response, the therapist must aim for a high level of affective attunement: or ‘getting
the client's emotional state' and reflecting it back in a different register.
This process of
providing affectively attuned responses to the client, which helps them to feel felt, probably depends upon intuitive right-brain
communication, which depends less on words than on reading faces and body language, and responding with a good reflection
of what is sensed. There is recent research from Germany that seems to suggest that this might be best facilitated by
the kind of ‘mindfulness' which comes from having the therapist practice regular meditation. (Footnote)
When a client gets repeated experiences of this kind of emotionally attuned responsiveness,
this may generate positive expectations of ‘feeling felt' - feeling understood and accepted by others - which may sediment
into a secure model of a sensitive relationship; a working model of secure attachment. Or, as David Wallin puts it,
"such experiences are lessons in how to have a comfortable and effective relationship - with oneself and one's emotions
as well as with others". (Page 107).
Of course, we must not create unrealistic expectations
here. Counsellors and therapists, like mothers and fathers, are imperfect and error-prone humans. We cannot always
‘get it right' for our clients. But we should aim high. We should aim to get close to understanding where
our client is coming from 5 times out of every 6; and we should learn how to track down and resolve any misunderstandings
that arise between us. Clients can learn from us that misunderstandings can be resolved, and "distress can be weathered
because it can be relieved", as David Wallin puts it.
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ABC Coaching and
Counselling Services - Hebden Bridge - West Yorkshire - UK
27 Wood End, Keighley Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8HJ, UK
Telephone 01422 843 629 (or 44 1422 843 629 from outside the UK)
Services available by telephone and email all over the world. "Helping individuals to overcome
their emotional, behavioural and relationship problems; and to be more effective in their public performance roles".
Promoting happiness and personal effectiveness.
Unless otherwise stated on these pages, all material appearing on this website is copyright (c) Jim Byrne
and/or Renata Taylor-Byrne, 2003-2012
this site you will find lots of information about coaching, counselling and psychotherapy services to help with all kinds
of emotional, behavioural and relationship difficulties and problems; and public performance difficulties. Counselling,
coaching and psychotherapy in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, UK; and all over the world via the telephone system and by
ABC Coaching and Counselling services is the home of Cognitive
Emotive Narrative Therapy (CENT) - which is an integration of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Transactional Analysis
(TA), Narrative therapy, Attachment theory, Zen Buddhist philosophy, Stoic philosophy, Moral philosophy, and several other