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Understanding Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Updated on March 5, 2017
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Dr. Yvette Stupart is a clinical counselor and educator. She gives insights on how to experience emotional health and relational well-being.

You can find solutions through REBT stategies.
You can find solutions through REBT stategies. | Source

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is considered as a foremost example cognitive – behavioral approach. Albert Ellis, the founder of the approach, emphasized the thoughts as the way to changing 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 the way they interpret events and situations.However, clients can learn skills in the therapeutic process, that help them to identify and dispute irrational beliefs that they 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)

Albert Ellis

Major foci of REBT include, self-interest, self-direction, tolerance of self and other, 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.

The twofold goal of REBT is 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 philosophical restructuring of irrational beliefs that can result in long lasting changes.

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
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy helps client to identify irrational beliefs, teach them to dispute these beliefs, and substituent logical and rational ones.

Dr. Michael Edelstein: Three Minute REBT

REBT and Issues of Diversity

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) approach has 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.

REBT can help to change irrational self-defeating messages to more self-enhancing self-talk
REBT can help to change irrational self-defeating messages to more self-enhancing self-talk | Source

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 effective therapeutic bond between clients and therapists as important, this is not a necessary ingredient for successful therapy.

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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 disputing 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 better quality of life.

Reference 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.

© 2013 Yvette Stupart PhD

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    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      The philosophy of “musturbation” is an expression I have not heard before. Made me smile, but it makes sense. It is really a challenge to fully accept the whole concept about changing by thinking. We cannot teach it enough. Thanks and Voted Up!

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      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

      MsDora , according to Albert Ellis Ellis, "musturbation" is the irrational belief that things "MUST" be a certain way. For example, I might say, "I MUST be approved or accepted by my colleagues at work." Of course, such beliefs, will bring emotional disturbances, so they should be disputed and replaced with more rational beliefs.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 4 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Interesting hub about a type of cognitive therapy that seems currently less popular as compared to Beckian CBT.

      I've always found elements of it - such countering a "demand" philosophy to life - very helpful and relevant for some depressed patients.

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      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Thanks for stopping by. Although Beck's Cognitive Therapy and Ellis' REBT both focus on the role of cognitive processes on feelings and behavior, there are differences in emphasis especially in the techniques utilized. For example, REBT employs challenging and debating to help clients let go of their irrational beliefs. In contrast, Beck's Cognitive Therapy helps clients to identify certain patterns of thinking called "schemata," but uses a more collaborative approach, which facilitates clients' playing a more active role in treatment.

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