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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy - REBT

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy - REBT is a type of behavior disorder treatment or therapy. REBT is a type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This article offers information and the pros and cons of using rational emotive behavior therapy.

The therapeutic approach now called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) was developed in 1955 by Albert Ellis—a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst—as a specialized type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It was a response to Ellis’s observation that the key to change for his clients was thinking differently about themselves and the problems they faced. It holds as a premise is that what people most want is happiness, and its goal is to reduce people’s emotional pain.

With the idea that people most desire happiness, Ellis linked this premise to an idea that can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Epictetus: the idea that becoming upset is not the result of events, but our beliefs about events. To demonstrate this, Ellis uses the ABC model, which shows a single event as A, multiple different beliefs as B, resulting in multiple emotional responses, C. Because A does not directly cause C, and because C is mitigated/caused more directly by B, Ellis focused on the role of B, the beliefs.

Ellis summed up the irrational beliefs (his term) that—either in this exact form or variations of this form—cause people problems in what he called “The Three Basic Musts.” They are as follows:

“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.”

Holding the first belief, or a version of it, is said to lead to anxiety, depression, guilt, and/or shame. Holding the second belief, or a version of it, is said to lead to rage, violence, and passive-aggressive behavior. Holding the third belief, or a version of it, is said to result in procrastination and feelings of self-pity. REBT addresses the problem of these beliefs by replacing them with unconditional self-acceptance, unconditional other-acceptance, and unconditional life-acceptance.

Based on the explanation of Ellis’s approach at the REBT network website, people who disagree with Ellis’s premise—that happiness is the main goal of life—may find this therapeutic approach problematic. Also, people who make a distinction between beliefs and facts that is different than Ellis’s (Ellis calls the response “She has no right to accuse me” in response to an unjust accusation a “belief” rather than, say, a “fact”) may also take issue with this therapeutic approach. In addition, people may find Ellis’s statement that “The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being” problematic, particularly in the case of people who have experienced child abuse and other serious, traumatic, and objectively damaging and harmful behavior from others.



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