Tag: philosophy

What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy?

What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy or REBT?

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, also known simply as REBT, is a type of psychotherapy and a philosophy of living created by the well-known and renowned psychologist Albert Ellis in the 1950s.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’s (REBT) roots are based on the concept that when we become upset, it is not the actual event taking place that upsets us, but rather the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, furious… and so on. In other words we are upsetting ourselves. Think of a recent example where you were upset or angry? What were you telling yourself about the situation? What were you ‘demanding’ of yourself…? Or someone else…?

The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago when he said: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

The Goal of Happiness

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

According to Albert Ellis (pictured left) and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the vast majority of us want to be happy.

Who wouldn’t? We all want to be happy whether we are alone or with others. We want to get along with others — especially with one or two close friends. We want to be well-informed and educated. We want a good job with good pay. We want to enjoy our leisure time…

Unfortunately, as most of us know, life doesn’t always allow us to have what we want or go in the direction we would like.

And life is so often ‘not fair’. Our goal of being happy is often compromised by, as Hamlet states so well, the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.’

However, when our goals are blocked we still have a choice: we can respond in ways that are healthy and helpful, or we can react in ways that are unhealthy and unhelpful.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes a belief, or a thought, healthy or unhealthy…

The ABC Model in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

Albert Ellis and REBT suggest that our reaction to having our goals blocked (or even simply the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by our beliefs. To illustrate this, Dr. Ellis developed a simple ABC format to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioural responses:

A. Something happens.
B. You have a belief about the situation.
C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

For example:

A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
B. You believe, “She has no right to accuse me. She’s a bitch!”
C. You feel angry.

If you had held a different belief, your emotional response would have been different:

A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
B. You believe, “I must not lose my job. That would be unbearable.”
C. You feel anxious.

The ABC model shows that A does not cause C. It is B that causes C. In the first example, it is not your employer’s false accusation and threat that make you angry; it is your belief that she has no right to accuse you, and that she is a bitch. In the second example, it is not her accusation and threat that make you anxious; it is the belief that you must not lose your job, and that losing your job would be unbearable.

The Three Basic Musts

Although we all express ourselves differently, according to Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), the beliefs that upset us are all variations of three common irrational beliefs. Each of the three common irrational beliefs contains a demand, either about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. These beliefs are known as The Three Basic Musts.

  1. I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.
  2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.
  3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.

The first belief often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. The second belief often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence. The third belief often leads to self-pity and procrastination. It is the demanding nature of the beliefs that causes the problem. Less demanding, more flexible beliefs lead to healthy emotions and helpful behaviors

Disputing

The goal of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. Changing beliefs is the real work of therapy and is achieved by the therapist disputing the client’s irrational beliefs. For example, the therapist might ask, “Why must you win everyone’s approval?” “Where is it written that other people must treat you fairly?” “Just because you want something, why must you have it?” Disputing is the D of the ABC model. When the client tries to answer the therapist’s questions, s/he sees that there is no reason why s/he absolutely must have approval, fair treatment, or anything else that s/he wants.

Insight

Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) contend that although we all think irrationally from time to time, we can work at eliminating the tendency. It’s unlikely that we can ever entirely eliminate the tendency to think irrationally, but we can reduce the frequency, the duration, and the intensity of our irrational beliefs by developing three insights:

  1. We don’t merely get upset but mainly upset ourselves by holding inflexible beliefs.
  2. No matter when and how we start upsetting ourselves, we continue to feel upset because we cling to our irrational beliefs.
  3. The only way to get better is to work hard at changing our beliefs. It takes practice, practice, practice…

Acceptance

Emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unfortunate and unpleasant. REBT helps you develop three types of acceptance: (1) unconditional self-acceptance; (2) unconditional other-acceptance; and (3) unconditional life-acceptance. Each of these types of acceptance is based on three core beliefs:

Unconditional self-acceptance:

  1. I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
  2. There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
  3. Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional other-acceptance:

  1. Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
  2. There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
  3. The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional life-acceptance:

  1. Life doesn’t always work out the way that I’d like it to.
  2. There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to
  3.  Life is not necessarily pleasant but it is never awful and it is nearly always bearable.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) Today

Clinical experience and a growing supply of experimental evidence show that REBT is effective and efficient at reducing emotional pain and is particularly effective for treating anxiety disorders. When Albert Ellis created Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in the 1950s he met with much resistance from others in the mental health field. Today, it is one of the most widely-practiced therapies throughout the world. In the early days of REBT, even Dr. Ellis did not clearly see that consistent use of its philosophical system would have such a profound effect on the field of psychology or on the lives of the millions of people who have benefited from it.