Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) is a cognitive therapy based on the theory of personality proposed (1956) by Albert Ellis. According to Ellis, when an individual is faced with an activating event (A), their ability to achieve what they desire or aim can be bolstered or disturbed. In response to the event, their belief systems (B) get activated and are applied. Furthermore, they also go through the consequences (C), emotional or behavioural, because of the event. Together this is known as the A-B-C model of personality.
The A-B-C philosophy is applied to the process of therapy in REBT. In a therapy session an activating event (A) is identified which could be a situation or the way a person perceives the situation to be. The therapist along with the client identifies the irrational belief systems (B) and offers concurrent rational thinking patterns. REBT belief patterns are as follows1:
Non-dogmatic preferences: Using expressions such as “I WISH to win the marathon”, “I WANT to answer all the question on the interview
Evaluating bad elements: Using expressions such as “It’s unfortunate I didn’t score well”.
High frustration tolerance: “I don’t like to this task but I can stand it”
Not globally rating self or others: Considering oneself and other as fallible human beings
Dogmatic demands: Using absolutes for oneself like “I MUST win this marathon”, “I SHOULD be able to answer all the questions in the interview”).
Awfulizing: Using adjectives such as “This is HORRIBLE”, “This is an AWFUL mistake”.
Low frustration Tolerance : “I can’t stand being around him/her”
Self Rating Oneself/Others: “I’m a bad person”, “She/he is worthless”.
Learning to identify and modify irrational thoughts is a prime focus during therapy. This belief system is also imperative in bringing an effective change in the overall experiences than an individual has (C).
The following are additions to the A-B-C model during therapy:
- Disputing (D): After identifying irrational beliefs, clients are taught to dispute them using various methods, like using creative expressions, humour, etc.
- Effective: Dealing with issues in the belief system that helps clients to form an effective philosophy for adaptive living.
Assessment1 in REBT is done in two ways:
- Assessment of cognitions and behaviours
- Applying the A-B-C model to identify issues
Both these methods continue throughout REBT. Thus, at different junctions the therapist may re-assess cognitions and behavioural change and also identify irrational beliefs using these techniques. In addition, assessment through various psychological scales and tests is also encouraged to provide an in depth analysis of client issues. For example, Beck Depression Inventory, Beck Anxiety Inventory, etc.
- Cognitive: REBT allows a therapist to use a number of cognitive strategies to educate the client about the importance of rational thoughts. The cost benefit analysis is one example of such a technique that involves evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of behaviours so as to decide a course of action. REBT therapists help their clients to learn various problem solving methods like using creative expressions, humour etc.
- Behavioural: Various behavioural techniques are used in REBT to help clients deal with irrational beliefs. For example, rewarding a client with appreciation if the client is able to identify irrational beliefs and alters one’s behaviour accordingly.
- Emotional: Various emotive techniques applied in REBT aim at successful change in the belief system. For example, avoiding statements that use forceful words such as “must” or “should”.
As a cognitive approach, REBT has often been applied to different psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, etc. The emphasis on the belief system is what differentiates REBT with other psychotherapies in general. It helps clients to deal with issues actively and also helps in preventing further disturbances2.
1.Sharf, R. (2012). Theories of psychotherapy and counselling-concepts and cases. Belmont, CA:Brooks/Cole.
2.Dryden, W. (2009). Rational emotive behaviour therapy. East Sussex, UK:Routledge
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy