With REBT, it’s believed that emotional upset is largely caused and continued by irrational or sabotaging self-talk consisting of demanding and catastrophizing beliefs. The goal of REBT is to produce long-lasting and substantial emotional and behavioral change. This is accomplished by vigorously challenging ones’ internal irrational, sabotaging beliefs and mindset.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), is one of many models of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). REBT uses a “here and now” approach and a variety of cognitive, emotive and behavioral techniques

Dr. Albert Ellis Ph.D. founded Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in 1955. According to REBT, emotional upsets are influenced by biology, environment and social conditions, but are largely created and maintained by self-talk consisting of rigid demands and irrational conclusions. These demands are expressed as “musts”, ”shoulds,” “needs” and “oughts”. Irrational conclusions are expressed by “awfulizing”, “I can’t-stand-it is”, and damnation of self and others.

Optimal Mental Health
According to REBT, the following factors are necessary to achieve psychological health and optimal well-being.

  • Taking responsibility for your emotions

  • Scientific thinking

  • High frustration tolerance

  • Flexibility

  • Responsible risk taking

  • Creative pursuits

  • Unconditional self-acceptance

  • Enjoyable pursuits

  • Rational thinking

Rational thoughts are defined as flexible, adaptive, preferential beliefs supported by reality and expressed as desires, likes and wants.

Irrational Demands and Conclusions
In REBT, clients are shown how to detect, challenge, and replace their sabotaging or irrational philosophies and beliefs. REBT considers three kinds of demands to be the main focus of REBT. These are as follows.

  • I absolutely must under all conditions do important tasks well, and be approved by significant others or else I am an inadequate and unlovable person.

  • Other people absolutely must under all conditions treat me fairly and justly, or else they are rotten damnable people.

  • Conditions under which I live absolutely must always be the way I want them to be, provide me with immediate gratification, without requiring me to work too hard to change or improve them; otherwise it is awful, I can’t stand them, and it is impossible for me to be happy at all.

(Ellis & MacLaren, 1998, pp. 32-33)

In REBT, three main irrational conclusions are identified and challenged.

  • “Awfulizing”: (It is awful to be abandoned)

  • “I- can’t- standitis”: (I can’t stand being alone)

  • Damnation of oneself and others: (He’s rotten for leaving me. I must be worthless).

With REBT, cognitive distortions are uncovered and vigorously disputed.

Cognitive Distortions

  1. Over generalizing: (Since my father raped me, all men will)

  2. Jumping to conclusions: (Since he abused me, I must be a despicable person)

  3. Personalizing: (It’s my fault my mother married a violent alcoholic)

  4. All or nothing thinking: (If you’re at all like my dad, then you’re completely like him)

ABCDE Format
REBT uses an ABCDE format to teach the cause-and-effect linkage between beliefs, adverse events, and emotional and behavioral consequences.

A = Adverse events or activating events.
B = Rational and irrational beliefs, ideas, thoughts and cognitions
      About “A”
C = Emotional and behavioral consequences generated by “A” and
D = Disputation of irrational beliefs.
E = End result or profound and “Effective New Philosophies”.

Despite the assumption that “A” directly produces “C”, this is usually false. Instead, “B” functions as an intermediary between “A” and “C”, and can directly produce “C”. The client’s unique ABCDE sequence is revealed, discussed, and the client is asked,

  • “What are you telling yourself when you feel depressed?”

  • “What‘s going through your head while you're feeling hopeless and you don’t get out of bed?”

Desired Results

The desired end results from REBT include the following.

  • Reduction in demands

  • Decreased “awfulizing”

  • Decreased human worth evaluations

  • Decreased levels of emotional upset

  • Increases in frustration tolerance

  • Increased self-acceptance

  • Taking responsibility for emotions

  • Managing challenges through action and responsible risk taking

Cognitive, Behavioral and Emotive Techniques
REBT emphasizes cognitive methods, including empirical, functional and logical disputations, rational self-statements, referencing, and cognitive homework assignments. REBT emotive techniques are often dramatic, evocative and experiential methods that reinforce or facilitate positive gains from cognitive techniques. Examples include reverse role-playing, humor, and shame-attacking exercises. REBT behavioral techniques are designed to encourage action, and direct patients to modify their behaviors in order to change underlying beliefs. Behavioral methods include in vivo desensitization, skill training, and acting on rational beliefs.

Article by Susan Sacks, M.S.N. - Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy


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