Blog Post No.2
14th October 2021
Processing trauma in coaching vs counselling
By Renata Taylor-Byrne, Lifestyle Coach
Hello and welcome to this, the first original blog post on my new website, here at abc-coaching.org. (My previous post was a re-posting of an existing blog from my old website!)
The reason for splitting abc-coaching from abc-counselling is this:
Although I have substantial experience of counselling – including teaching counselling course for many years – I prefer to work in the coaching mode: which is present time; active-directive; practical solution focussed.
On the other hand, although my partner, Jim Byrne, has lots of experience of using coaching strategies, he prefers to work in a deeper, counselling-psychotherapy approach, which often takes him deep into the childhood emotions of his clients.
And, although Jim and I have common research roots – in the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Narrative Therapy – I prefer to practice Emotive-Cognitive Narrative Training, in a one to one coaching modality.
To illustrate the distinction further, let me present some extracts from our recent book on trauma, to which I contributed a number of chapters:
Extract from Chapter 4(A): Sleep, stress and trauma
In this chapter, I explored…
… “the role of sleep in recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I will investigate the importance of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep for the processing of traumatic memories. And I will list a range of self-help remedies for sleep disturbances, which will hopefully help you to get the quality and quantity of REM sleep that you need in order to process your childhood, and later, traumatic memories (or other complex PTSD symptoms).
Undigested and repressed traumatic experiences from childhood can continue to haunt people, even when they are mature adults, and cause real unhappiness for them, as they experience nightmares, sleep disturbances, and flashbacks; or any of the symptoms described in the footnote below: (Brindle, et.al. 2018). And childhood trauma predisposes adults (like soldiers in war zones, and victims of rape, etc.) to a greater likelihood of adult-onset trauma: (Insana et.al. 2012).
Furthermore, anticipatory fear of distressing dreams can cause insomnia.
Sleep experts, medical doctors and psychological researchers have found that there is one part of the sleep process which has a crucial role to play in the healing of people suffering from these traumatic nightmares, and other trauma-related sleep problems. Their findings have been invaluable for many people, and they are summarised in this chapter. Finally, recommendations to enable high quality sleep to take place are described and the dangers of sleep-blocking substances are explained.”
…End of extract.
Extract from Chapter 4B: 4.1: Physical exercise and emotional wellbeing
Part 2 of Taylor-Byrne and Byrne (2017) was about the relationship between physical exercise and emotional well-being; and the power of exercise to reduce the incidence of anxiety, anger and depression.
Sitting down for long periods of time is now recognized as being linked to both physical disease and emotional disorders.
When we get up and move around, we force our lungs to draw in more oxygen, which is good for us; and we force our lymphatic drainage system to work, which eliminates toxins from our bodies.
Thirty minutes of brisk walking per day is the minimum that we recommend to lift your mood and reduce your feelings of anxiety or anger. And walking near trees and/ or a body of water is also very good for health and mood.
…End of extract.
Extract from Chapter 5: Diet, nutrition and resilience
“…In our emotive-cognitive embodied-narrative therapy theory, we see all of these elements of lifestyle – diet and nutrition; physical exercise; sleep quality and quantity; muscular tension and release – as interactional to such a degree that it is not possible to say which one should be addressed first; or which one is ‘foundational’.
For example, if you allow any aspect of your lifestyle factors to deteriorate, then it will have an impact on all of the others, in a relatively short period of time.
However, having considered their arguments, we believe that the only really important point to take from Kaplan and Rucklidge’s book – The Better Brain (2021) – is this:
“The conclusion we draw from this line of post disaster research is that providing micronutrients to survivors appears to reduce psychological distress to a clinically significant degree. These three different examples of traumatic events illustrate the powerful effect nutrients can have in (trauma) recovery and improving resilience”. (Rucklidge and Kaplan, May 2021).
And the scientific explanation for these effects are that, when we are under a lot of stress, in the present, or when reliving a traumatic memory, our body needs more nutrients than normal to build the biochemistry of emotion-regulation required by our body-brain.
So, if you want to be resilient in the face of future stressors, and you want to be able to cope with traumatic memories (as a stressing/ straining load on your body-brain-mind), then it makes sense to examine your diet, eat mainly unprocessed whole foods of high nutritional value, avoid nutrient-poor foods (like highly processed fast foods [or ‘junk foods’]), and to take particular nutritional supplements to support brain and nerve function.
…End of extract.
Extract from Chapter 9: Progressive muscle relaxation for trauma recovery
…” Part 2: How to practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
By Renata Taylor-Byrne
“We are not helpless victims of circumstance. We can do much to heal ourselves from illness, and to live vibrant, happy lives.”
Brownstein (2006, Page 26.)
Finally, we come to the part where we teach you how to do PMR in your own home, under your own steam.
Please see the guidelines which follow:
How to do the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique
Here are some brief guidelines for doing the PMR exercises:
Choose a place where you can be alone for 15 – 20 minutes, for daily practice. Make sure that the room is quiet, and warm enough; and there are no loud sounds to distract you.
Please read the following guidelines before you begin:
…End of extract.
Extract from Chapter 14: Meditation and mindfulness
By Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne, 2021
Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne and Jim Byrne, 2019-2021
According to Science Daily, (2011), Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structures in eight weeks.
Mindfulness meditation is one of several body-brain-mind exercises promoted by Dr Bessel van der Kolk, with his trauma surviving clients. In his 2015 book on the body’s role in trauma recovery, he writes about one of the best known approaches to mindfulness meditation, like this:
“Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers in mind-body medicine, founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre in 1979, and his method has been thoroughly studied for more than three decades. As he describes mindfulness, ‘One way to think of this process of transformation is to think of mindfulness as a lens, taking the scattered and reactive energies of your mind and focusing them into a coherent source of energy for living, for problem solving, for healing’.” (Van der Kolk, 2015; Page 209).
What is meditation, and how can you do it?
Meditation involves sitting quietly, ‘doing nothing’. It is a simple process of paying attention to your breathing, and letting your thoughts settle down and letting your mind become peaceful.
…End of extract.
I also contributed material to other parts of this book on trauma, including some ideas on controlling your “bad inner critic” – which is that critical voice in your head which puts you down and undermines you when you behave less than perfectly, and which is often particularly strong in victims of trauma (meaning abuse or neglect).
So that is a flavour of the very practical, immediate, here-and-now elements of trauma recovery strategy which I like to work with. If you like the sound of what you have read above, then you can get a low-cost eBook copy of our book on trauma recovery, or you can consult me for coaching on the practical aspects of trauma recovery!
That’s all for now. Best wishes,
 Common PTSD symptoms include: Inappropriate feelings of guilt or shame; Physical symptoms, like headaches, dizziness, chest pains and stomach aches; Relationship problems; Problems with attention and concentration (dissociation); Problems controlling your emotions; Avoiding family and friends; and so on.
 Brindle, R. C., Cribbet, M. R., Samuelsson, L. B., et.al. (2018). ‘The Relationship between Childhood Trauma and Poor Sleep Health in Adulthood’. Psychosomatic Medicine, 80(2), 200–207. Online: https://doi.org/10.1097/ PSY. 00000000 00000542
 Insana, S. P., Kolko, D. J., & Germain, A. (2012). ‘Early-life trauma is associated with rapid eye movement sleep fragmentation among military veterans’. Biological psychology, 89(3), 570–579. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.01.001
 Rucklidge, J. and Kaplan, B. (2021). ‘Nutrition is the foundation of resilience’. An article online: https://www.madinamerica.com/2021/05/nutrition-foundation-resilience/. Accessed in June and July 2021.