Understanding Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is considered as the foremost example of a cognitive-behavioral approach. Albert Ellis, who founded the approach, emphasized our thoughts as the way to change our emotions and behavior. Ellis posits the ABC theory of self-disturbing: A for activating event, B for person’s beliefs, and C for emotional, behavioral and cognitive consequences that result from B.
According to Ellis, people contribute to their own psychological problems by how they interpret events and situations. However, clients can learn skills in the therapeutic process that help them to identify and dispute the irrational beliefs they may have.
REBT employs various forms of therapies. The main methods include individual therapy, group therapy, brief therapy, and marriage and family therapy, which utilize cognitive, emotive and behavioral techniques.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Major foci of REBT include self-interest, self-direction, tolerance of self and others, flexibility, self-acceptance, and scientific thinking. The assumption is that people who adopt this type of balanced thinking will experience a minimum of emotional disturbance. This reflects Ellis’ argument that psychological problems stem from the way people think about things.
He calls this the philosophy of “musturbation” which, he explains, is the core of much psychological trouble. This involves irrational ideas that are self-defeating. For example, a person might continually tell himself, "I must do things exceptionally well at all times." Internalized, self-defeating thoughts like this could make the person emotionally disturbed.
There is a twofold goal to help clients "disturb" themselves less emotionally in order to feel better and decrease emotional disturbances. People are able to work towards changing their irrational thinking and self-defeating effects. So the emphasis is on a philosophical restructuring of irrational beliefs that can result in long-lasting changes.
- coping with difficult life situations and feeling better when you are faced with them
- learning to control your emotions and destiny
- promoting scientific thinking, reason, and reality
- achieving profound philosophic change and radically new outlook on life
- taking full responsibility for your "upsetness"
- using strategies that can change your personality and is backed by objective, scientific experiments.
REBT is an action-oriented, practical approach to managing cognitive, emotional and behavioral disturbances. Through the use of REBT methods and techniques, individuals can develop a philosophy that leads to a more self-enhancing life.
Albert Ellis' A-B-C
A - Activating Events
B - Beliefs
C - Consequences
Facts, events, behavior, attitudes
The person's belief (B) about A causes C
There are emotional and behavioral consequences (healthy or unhealthy)
For example, a person experences depression after losing his job (A)
The person's belief about A is irrational and self-defeating
The feelings of failure result in the depression (C)
Loss of job
"I am a worthless person"
The person feels depressed
Dr. Michael Edelstein: Three Minute REBT
REBT and Issues of Diversity
REBT has a certain appeal from a multicultural perspective. In this approach, therapists function as teachers and clients focus on learning skills to deal with the problems of living. In this respect, REBT is especially appealing to those individuals in cultures who prefer, strong, directive counseling and an active counselor.
It is likely that cultures, where people want their teachers and advisers to be strong and authoritative, would be amenable to these approaches. However, clients in some cultures could find REBT’s direct disputation of their irrational beliefs, realistically, practically and pragmatically intimidating.
People from different cultures tend to appreciate the emphasis on cognition and action. REBT is especially effective for those who prefer a focus on reason and thinking. rather than affect or behavior to bring about a positive change in lives. However, since exploring client’s beliefs play an important role in the REBT approach, therapists need to be careful about challenging client’s beliefs, until they have a deeper understanding of the client’s cultural context.
“People are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.”— Albert Ellis
Methods and Techniques Used in REBT
REBT is multi-modal, that is, it uses of many therapeutic techniques including cognitive, emotive and behavioral. However, cognitive interventions are considered to be at the heart of therapy, which involves disputing (D) of irrational beliefs (IB) with vigor and force. The disputing process consists of three steps to detect, debate and discriminate.
According to Ellis, the most effective cognitive disputing methods to use falls under these three realistic, logical and practical headings. Strategies to dispute beliefs, realistically, show clients that there is no evidence to substantiate these beliefs. To dispute irrational beliefs logically is to help clients see their overgeneralization. While pragmatic disputation is to help clients recognize the practical consequences of their irrational beliefs.
The therapist has a presence in the treatment process using influence to effect changes and is seen largely as an educator who seeks to establish the best environment for clients to learn in. However, while REBT regards establishing an effective therapeutic bond between clients and therapists as important, it is not a necessary ingredient for successful therapy.
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Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life
REBT posits that people's emotional problems largely result from irrational beliefs. This approach focuses on reason and thinking rather emotion and behavior to bring about positive changes in lives. People can change their disturbances, by first recognizing the self-defeating beliefs, and then dispute them.
REBT uses cognitive, emotive, and behavioral methods to help clients minimize their irrational beliefs. Disputing and replacing self-defeating thoughts could help you to experience a better quality of life.
References and Further Reading
Dryden, W., & Ellis, A. (2001). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. In Dobson, K. S. (Ed), Handbook of cognitive-behavioral therapies (295-348). New York: Guilford Press.
Ellis, E. (2001). Rational emotive behavior therapy: Overcoming destructive beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Yvette Stupart PhD