This week’s post will focus on REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy).
REBT was created by Albert Ellis in the 1950s. Ellis believed that although people may think events in life upset them, what actually causes the upset is their beliefs about the event. These beliefs lead to consequences, such as negative emotion. We cannot change the event, but we can change the belief about the event. This change can lead to more positive feelings. In this way, REBT can restore mental and emotional well-being.
Ellis believed that although people were capable of rational thought, their natural tendency was toward irrational thought. The good news is that people have the capacity to correct these thoughts. It is society, family, etc. that usually causes the individual to develop their belief system. Once the irrational beliefs are identified, new beliefs can be created and put in their place.
The REBT therapist believes in accepting clients as they are. Clients are encouraged to accept their reality. Perfectionism is the enemy.
Unlike psychoanalysis, or some of the other psychodynamically oriented therapies, REBT does not focus on the past. It is not important to resolve conflicts or feelings from the past. Rather, the REBT therapist is focused on the present. The past plays a role only in that it may have helped form some of the client’s irrational beliefs. Even then, why they were formed is unimportant from a pure REBT perspective. Rather, it may be comforting to the client to know that although their current beliefs are irrational, they are not “crazy” because they were based on real experience.
Process of Therapy
An REBT therapist will pay close attention to whenever clients use the words “must” or “should”, because it is likely that the client is making an irrational statement. The therapist will then help the client logically analyze the statement, usually asking for evidence or proof. When the client is unable to prove their statements, they then begin to question their irrational beliefs. At this point, the therapist can help the client formulate new beliefs.
The REBT therapist is generally very active and directive, and tends to give homework. Psychoeducation is utilized to empower the client to better understand themselves and why they are thinking irrationally. Bibliotherapy is also often employed.
Who can be Helped
Because REBT relies on cognitive processes, it generally is not recommended for those who may have limited mental functioning. This could include those detoxing from alcohol or drugs and those with brain injuries.
REBT may also be contraindicated for those clients who come from collectivist cultures because REBT stresses individuality. In addition, because REBT teaches that we can help ourselves accept circumstances we cannot change by changing our thinking, it may be of limited use with those clients who have experienced extreme discrimination. For these types of clients, a theory that is more social justice friendly would be appropriate, such as one of the post modern approaches.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,