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
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
High frustration tolerance
Responsible risk taking
Rational thoughts are defined as flexible, adaptive, preferential
beliefs supported by reality and expressed as desires, likes and
Irrational Demands and
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
“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
Over generalizing: (Since my father raped me, all men
Jumping to conclusions: (Since he abused me, I must be a
Personalizing: (It’s my fault my mother married a violent
All or nothing thinking: (If you’re at all like my dad,
then you’re completely like him)
REBT uses an ABCDE format to teach the cause-and-effect linkage
between beliefs, adverse events, and emotional and behavioral
A = Adverse events or activating events.
B = Rational and irrational beliefs, ideas, thoughts
C = Emotional and behavioral consequences generated
by “A” and
D = Disputation of irrational beliefs.
E = End result or profound and “Effective New
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,
The desired end results from REBT include the following.
Reduction in demands
Decreased human worth evaluations
Decreased levels of emotional upset
Increases in frustration tolerance
Taking responsibility for emotions
Managing challenges through action and responsible risk taking
Cognitive, Behavioral and
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
Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania
Serving Philadelphia, Philadelphia Suburbs, and The Main Line