by Nick Jones – REBT Counsellor in training
Training to become a CBT / REBT counsellor is ostensibly all about learning how to help others better deal with the things that disturb them. But it’s almost impossible to study REBT and learn the methodology of facilitating change in others without being changed yourself.
It begins, as it does for clients, with learning about the notion of emotional responsibility, the Albert Ellis ABC model and how your beliefs, rational or otherwise, are largely responsible for how you feel. Whether you’ve had REBT yourself in the past or happen to be learning it all for the first time, being in such close intellectual proximity to these ideas cannot help but begin to change the way you think, and how you begin to understand that you can really manage your own emotions.
This change is also positively encouraged. Throughout the Diploma in CBT / REBT, students like myself are encouraged to keep structured ‘reflective journals’ (in fact they are a required part of completing the course). In these journals you record and reflect on the emotional experiences you have whilst studying the course. These can include your feelings of concern (or anxiety) triggered by the rigours of the course (all perfectly natural, everyone experiences this!) through to perhaps more personal issues which you may decide to examine through the newly discovered lens of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.
As well as simply recording these experiences and emotions, you are asked to further examine them as a client would. Emotions are clearly identified through an interrogation of the cognitive consequences and action tendencies, and beliefs are articulated, whether healthy and rational or unhealthy and irrational. You are encouraged to work through an issue over several months and journals, allowing you to apply what you are learning as you go and so further developing your skills and knowledge.
The advantages of this are several: you get to familiarise yourself with new concepts, ideas and processes; you soon realise you are not alone in your worries and concerns about learning something new (we all, without exception, wrote about the act of learning REBT itself); you become adept at taking an issue through the entire ABCDE model, from identification to disputation and integration, and perhaps most importantly, if you’re prepared to be a little bit brave, you can take some real-life issues that you be troubled by (you’re encouraged not to choose anything too major on your own) and by working through them methodically as a counsellor-in-training, you may find you achieve some new and much sought after clarity and peace in your life. This not only makes you a more emotionally balanced person, it also has the added benefit of empirically confirming the REBT model does work, and that by learning these skills you really will be able to go on to help others, as well as yourself, further down the line.