Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Rational emotive behavior therapy

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Rational emotive behaviour therapy:
How can REBT help to change our emotions?
Parodyfilm.svg[How Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy can help change our emotions Go to a 3 min. audiovisual overview of this chapter.]
Albert Ellis: In 2007 was named by Psychology Today as the greatest living psychologist (David & Szentagotai 2013).


  • Anxiety, panic, depression, anger, and fear observed as avoidance, are all emotions regularly requiring professional therapy
  • Developed by Albert Ellis in the mid 1950's, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) was the first of the cognitive behaviour therapies (CBT) and it continues to be one of the major CBT approaches (Bond & Dryden 2000).
  • After practicing psychoanalysis with Freud Ellis came to see many flaws with this approach and decided to go re-investigate links he had witnessed between psychology and philosophy, an interest he enjoyed in his youth
  • He found inspiration from the work of Marcus Aurelius, Confucius , Buddha and Epictetus who inspired Ellis by stating "Men are not disturbed by things but by the view they take of them" (Ellis & Joffe Ellis, 2010, p. 27).

Foundational theories and principles[edit]

  • In addition to the philosophies from the past, REBT also has influences from many contemporary philosophies.

General semantics[edit]

  • REBT adapted principles from Alfred Korzybski, the founder of General Semantics. Some of the adapted semantics include: teaching clients to stop overgeneralising, aims to have people stop stating all-encompassing judgements about the self or others and instead judge the behavior, additionally, Korzybski formulated the concept of secondary symptoms such as anxiety about being anxious and being depressed about being depressed.

Humanistic perspective[edit]

  • Although the psychoanalyst is considered the expert they also are to treat the client with unconditional positive regard, provide teaching in unconditional positive regard (22) for the self, others and life

ABC Theory[edit]

  • REBT states that we experience emotions based on the beliefs and understandings we have about ourselves, others and life or the world (Dryden 2010).
  • Explain ABC theory
  • Explain rational and irrational thinking (19),
  • REBT disagrees with the psychoanalytic assumption that if a client discovers how their neuroses developed they will be able to recover from emotional disturbance (20). Instead REBT claims the individual can the differences between the functional and dysfunctional choices at B and this is when facilitated by an effective psychotherapist.

Interconnectedness of thoughts, emotions and behaviours[edit]

  • REBT holds that thoughts, emotions and behaviours are all are interactional, all impact each other.
  • Healthy and unhealthy reactions to A. If A is thought to to be bad, one could either respond with a healthy reaction e.g. I don't like that that has happened but I will try something different or an unhealthy reaction e.g. I can't stand that that has happened I/he/life is no good.

Three basic musts[edit]

  • The three basic musts suggested by REBT to be the foundation of suffering from emotional disturbance are: I must always perform well or else I am no good. Others must treat me well or they are no good and the world or life must always treat me well or life is no good.
  • Emotional results from musts

Unconditional acceptance[edit]

One of the main contributors to depression, anxiety, hostility and rage is a lack of self-acceptance (USA), other-acceptance (UOA) and life-acceptance (ULA).

  • Unconditional self-acceptance
  • Unconditional other-acceptance
  • Unconditional life-acceptance

Rational and irrational thinking, and cognitive distortions[edit]

  • As previously mentioned, a person can either react with healthy or unhealthy thoughts


  • Good deal of humor (Ellis & Joffe Ellis, 2010)
  • REBT is multi-modal and has integrated aspects from cognitive, emotive and behavioural therapies as can be seen in the following therapeutic techniques.

The D and E of ABC theory[edit]

  • Disputing dysfunctional irrational beliefs
  • Effective new philosophy
  • One of the most effective techniques is to dispute irrational beliefs (Ellis 1974)
  • REBT uses a range of techniques, It is acknowledged to be very demanding with the client required to put in commitment and hard work in order to change their thought patterns (Rait, Monsen and Squires 2010)
  • REBT aims to have clients label emotions and describe whether they are rational (Rait, Monsen and Squires 2010)
  • Aim is to have the client gain unconditional self-acceptance and to become self-sufficient, not relying on the counsellor and needing to return for the same problem after therapy is completed (Ellis & Joffe Ellis, 2011).

Cognitive, Emotive and Behavioural techniques[edit]

  • 26

Work and practice[edit]

  • 25
  • Homework (25 and Dryden, 1995)

REBT as a way of life[edit]

  • As REBT was founded from understandings conceptualised from philosophers from the past it is conceivable understandings from this practice can be used to promote psychological well-being and emotional stability.
  • Similarities between REBT and Buddhism (Holt & Austad, 2013)
  • Beara (2015)

Empirical support for REBT affecting emotional change[edit]

  • REBT has not had the large numbers of studies in support of its efficacy as CBT has due to... (Ellis & Joffe Ellis, 2011, p. 113)
  • However as REBT principles are closely paralleled with CBT as evidenced by Aaron T Beck supporting the clinical hypotheses of REBT (Ellis & Joffe Ellis, 2011, p. 114)


  • A blending of Albert Ellis's favored aspects from historical eastern philosophies and contemporary psychology
  • ABC theory asserts that If one profoundly changes irrational thoughts it will have a profound effect on behaviour and emotions.

See also[edit]

REBT on Wikipedia website


Beara, V. (2015). The contribution of REBT in addressing the givens of existence. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 33(2), 179-197. doi:10.1007/s10942-015-0209-8

Bond, F. W., & Dryden, W. (2000). How rational beliefs and irrational beliefs affect people's inferences: An experimental investigation. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 28(1), 33-43.

David, D., & Szentagotai, A. (2013). Per Aspera Ad Astra: 100 years since the birth of Albert Ellis. From shadow to the mainstream. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, 13(2A), 441-443.

Dryden, W. (2010). What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)?: Outlining the approach by considering the four elements of its name. The Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist, 13(1), 22-32.

Ellis, A. (1974). Technique of disputing irrational beliefs (DIBS). New York: Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy.

Ellis, A., & Joffe Ellis, D. (2011). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Farley, F. (2009). Albert Ellis (1913–2007). American Psychologist, 64(3), 215-216. doi:10.1037/a0015441

Holt, S. A., & Austad, C. S. (2013). A comparison of rational emotive therapy and Tibetan Buddhism: Albert Ellis and the Dalai Lama. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(4), 8-11. doi:10.1037/h0100959

Rait, S., Monsen, J. J., & Squires, G. (2010). Cognitive behaviour therapies and their implications for applied educational psychology practice. Educational Psychology in Practice, 26(2), 105-122. doi:10.1080/02667361003768443

Sears, S., & Kraus, S. (2009). I think therefore I om: Cognitive distortions and coping style as mediators for the effects of mindfulness meditation on anxiety, positive and negative affect, and hope. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 561-573. doi:10.1002/jclp.20543

External links[edit]

Interview with Dr Debbie Jofffe Ellis, Albert's wife

Article about Ellis and REBT on the Albert Ellis Institute website