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The Albert Ellis ABC Model

Updated on February 6, 2020
raymondphilippe profile image

Hi, I am Raymond. I picked up psychology after my banking career as a personal interest.

Albert Ellis Quote
Albert Ellis Quote | Source

Albert Ellis ABC Model

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: A Therapist's Guide, 2nd Edition (The Practical Therapist)
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: A Therapist's Guide, 2nd Edition (The Practical Therapist)
Updated resource for practicing therapists from the father of rational therapy. Modern cognitive-behavioral therapy has its roots in the rational approach created by Ellis in the 1950s. Now known as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Ellis’s systematic integrative approach has grown and matured into a powerful mainstream psychotherapy.
 

Albert Ellis’s Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy: REBT

Albert Ellis stood at the basis of one of the most prominent psychotherapy methods in the rich history of psychology.

He was to become known as the founder of (REBT), Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy.

At the age of 93, he passed away in New York City in 2007.

He tutored and oversaw hundreds of up and coming therapists at his own Institute in New York. Each year he provided didactic guidance for thousands of others.

Albert Ellis is often portrayed as cold, aloof, and harsh by people who have known him. He ordinarily invested little time in relationships.

Ellis began his professional career as one of the many psychoanalysts. Later on, he renounced its strong focus on early-life influences and its long, drawn-out therapeutic process.

In the 1950s, he developed his own cognitively oriented program. This program eventually became known as REBT or RET.

These developments could well have been the first step towards the cognitive change in psychotherapy. It culminated with cognitive methods coming to an influential position in contemporary treatment. Just like the increasing commanding position of cognitive psychology in the world of psychological science.

REBT has stayed prominent worldwide. A large number of therapists in a large number of countries practice it daily. Articles and books on Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy are also frequently written. A broad public reads and uses them for self-help purposes.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy. In this treatment you gain insight into your thinking patterns: you investigate how your thoughts are related to your feelings and behaviour. Then you will learn how to turn thoughts that give unwanted feelings into thoughts that do give you desired feelings.

What is the Ellis ABC Model?

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the American Dr. Albert Ellis developed RET. The A-B-C model forms the basis on which RET was built. The letters ABC are abbreviations for the terms: The Activating Event, The Belief and The Consequent Emotion.

Albert Ellis believed in a rational approach to psychotherapy.

His method became the basis of what is now known as cognitive therapy or talk therapy. Therapists use it to treat people with depression, anxiety, and other related disorders. But professionals, for instance, also use it in schools.

The ABC Model refers to three components of experience in which a person can find out if his or her belief system is distorted.

ABC Model

A Activating Event ...................... Situation

B Beliefs ......................................Thoughts

C Consequences .........................Behavior and/or Emotions

The A is the activating event

This event is the one we encounter and objectively describe.

The B is the belief

That is, what you believe is the truth about the event.

The C is the consequent emotion.

This consequent emotion is the result of the feelings that you experience as a result of the event.


A Guide to Rational Living

An Example Of Using The ABC Model

Imagine you find yourself in situation A.
And in that situation you are suffering from a certain behavior or emotion, C.

For example:

A: You have to give a important presentation next week
C: Emotion: nervousness, tension.
Behavior: procrastination. You're not going to prepare it, but in the meantime you're constantly struggling to deal with it.

Your emotions and behaviour are a natural consequence of the situation you find yourself in. After all, the fact that you have to give that presentation makes you so nervous.

Your reasoning is correct to the extent that if you didn't have to give the presentation, you wouldn't be nervous at all.

But it does not have to be the case that giving a presentation leads to immense nervousness and procrastination.
There are other people - perhaps even co-workers - who are not nervous at all about giving a presentation. On the contrary, they do prepare themselves well.

So in the same situation - A - a different outcome (behaviour/emotion) is possible. That's what this example illustrates.

That implies that your reaction does not stem directly from the situation. There is another step in between, namely your thoughts/beliefs (B) in and about the situation. These thoughts cause the behaviour and the emotions.

This intermediate step of thoughts takes place very quickly and to a large extent subconsciously. That is why you often do not realize that you have all kinds of thoughts in a situation like this. Let alone that those thoughts cause the unwanted behavior. You will have to become aware of these thoughts if you want to track down the cause of your unwanted behavior or feeling.

According to Albert Ellis, many people interpretate situations in a dismal and hopeless manner. Consequently, these people tend to be depressed or anxious more often. Some people, on the other hand, seem to be able to assess most situations in a manner that rarely makes them experience any extremes of negative emotions. They seem to be able to balance themselves emotionally most of the time.

Ok let's go back to the presentation example one more time.

What kind of thoughts can go around in your head that make you so nervous that you don't prepare for the presentation? For example:

  • Oh dear, soon I won't know what to say and I'll loose my cool before people I know!
  • If I prepare myself I get nervous and I can't stand being nervous.
  • I pretend I don't have to give that presentation, then I don't have to worry about it.
  • Suppose I don't do it right, then everyone will laugh at me.

It's only natural that you get nervous with thoughts like that in your head!

What would those others, who don't freak out like that, think in the same situation?

For example:

  • Exciting, I get to give a presentation. With good preparation, I'm going to make something of it!
  • It's great to be able to share with others what my thoughts are.
  • I do find it a bit scary, but that's okay too, right? It'll only make me sharper.
  • If I can't remember the text for a second, that's annoying, but I'll figure it out.

These thoughts do not cause serious nervousness. They do cause a kind of tense expectation, but that's normal for a presentation, isn't it?!

When we work this out in an A-B-C-scheme it looks something like this:

You

A: You have to give a presentation next week

B:

  • Oh dear, soon I won't know what to say and I'll loose my cool before people I know!
  • If I prepare myself I get nervous and I can't stand being nervous.
  • I pretend I don't have to give that presentation, then I don't have to worry about it.
  • Suppose I don't do it right, then everyone will laugh at me.

C: Emotion: nerves, tension
Behavior: procrastination. You're not going to prepare it, but in the meantime you're constantly worrying.

Your co-worker

A: You have to give a presentation next week (at your study programme or at work).

B:

  • Exciting, I get to give a presentation. With good preparation, I'm going to make something of it!
  • It's great to be able to share with others what my thoughts are.
  • I do find it a bit scary, but that's okay too, right? It'll only make me sharper. If I can't remember the text for a second, that's annoying, but I'll figure it out.

C: Emotion: tense expectation
Behaviour: prepare well

The same situation A leads to different types of behaviour and emotions. And these differences are caused by the thoughts, B.

The Advantage Of Using The Abc Model

A big advantage of this model is that your thoughts are yours although the situation isn't always. Some presentations you just have to do. But your thoughts are yours and you can influence them yourself. You can achieve this with the RET: replacing old, non-constructive thoughts with new effective thoughts. And that puts you in control.

Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis abc model
Albert Ellis abc model | Source

Cognitive therapy allows people to understand their thought processes better. This helps identify distortions and misconceptions in thinking in a more realistic manner.

It is true that many of us spend a lot of effort and time thinking about how we are perceived. But nevertheless, we usually spend little time trying to understand the logic behind our thoughts.

In cognitive therapy, people are told to practice the techniques daily. As a result of this practice, they can immediately identify their thoughts and process them in a healthier manner when confronted with a situation. But don't be alarmed. You do not have to analyze every thought you have in every situation you find yourself in.

The Ellis ABC model should only be used in situations where the risk of distortion is greater.

Than you can examine stressful events that happen to you by looking at them using the A+B=C equation to help you see how what you thought and believed about a situation and how it led to the way you felt and the level of stress you experienced.
Changing your self-talk to a less pessimistic, less rigid, more positive thinking style will help you cope more effectively and make you more able to deal with the challenges you encounter.

Cognitive Therapy?

Have You Ever Been Treated With Cognitive Therapy?

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Albert Ellis Doing REBT with Jeffrey Guterman

Albert Ellis Quiz

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Albert Ellis Quote

albert ellis abc - what is cognitive behavioral therapy - psychotherapy
albert ellis abc - what is cognitive behavioral therapy - psychotherapy

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2008 Raymond Philippe

Comments

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    • raymondphilippe profile imageAUTHOR

      Raymond Philippe 

      7 weeks ago from The Netherlands

      Thank you Zura for your thumbs up.

    • Zura Khan profile image

      Zura Rubab Khan 

      2 months ago from Pakistan

      Keep up the good work!

    • profile image

      akbar 

      8 years ago

      a perfect idea indeed

    • profile image

      c.c 

      9 years ago

      I have only recently heard about the ABC model, and think it makes perfect sense, i constantly know remind myself of our my beliefs, effect my consequences.....

    • drdemarco profile image

      MyTherapist 

      10 years ago from New York

      I write an REBT-influenced blog at http://drdemarco.tumblr.com and am a therapist in New York (http://mytherapist.info/drdemarco)

    • donotfear profile image

      Annette Thomas 

      10 years ago from Northeast Texas

      I recognize that this is a problem with myself. It's difficult dealing with the hurt feelings, wanting to believe in your heart that it's not the way you think it is, but constantly arguing with yourself the contrary. I plan to study this more.

    • profile image

      Ann Medina 

      10 years ago

      it is really good that you view things in other perspective rather tahn conforming with teh world's perspective. Thanks to Dr. Albert Ellis. God bless more the Psychotherapy

    • profile image

      yiyizhu 

      11 years ago

      It is a good theory!

    • stevelast profile image

      stevelast 

      11 years ago

      Great description of cognitive therapy. The truth is though that when the boss criticises you know he dares not praise you in case the next time you ask for promotion or a pay rise! It is the way of the world!

    • profile image

      teamplayer1906 

      11 years ago

      This is the first time I have heard of this model. It so important to stay even keeled throughout life. Enjoy the good times and no the bad times will not last too long.

    • Barbara6 profile image

      Barbara6 

      11 years ago from Gainesville, FL

      great hub! Cognitive therapy always intimidated me, so thanks for breaking down the three steps of Ellis' method. And I'm with diverdown - the TV has got to go!

    • diverdown profile image

      diverdown 

      11 years ago from Dallas

      Stay balanced - stay positive, and turn off the news - in fact just ditch the TV altogether.

    • BlueSkyBright profile image

      BlueSkyBright 

      11 years ago

      I have never heard of the Ellis ABC Model before. You have to be positive in life!

    • profile image

      dunnston 

      11 years ago

      Very good way to look at things - I could actually take some of this advice from time to time, I think everyone could

    • yojpotter profile image

      yojpotter 

      11 years ago from Iloilo City

      I agree with you..it is very important to perceive things in a positive way...so that you can think of the solution to the problem and won't feel deppressed.

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