Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is a highly effective Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).
At its heart is the idea of emotional responsibility – we are largely responsible for how we feel, and as such have the power to change our emotional responses to various stimuli and triggers. REBT tells us we can do this by identifying our irrational, unhealthy demands and beliefs about a given situation, then replacing them with healthy rational beliefs, then thinking and acting in accordance with these.
Sounds simple, right? In theory it is, but putting it into practice can be challenging (but rewarding).
Where did this theory come from? Initially, and largely, REBT was the invention of a man called Albert Ellis (1913-2007). Ellis was an American psychologist and considered to be one of the originators of the cognitive revolutionary shift in psychotherapy, and an early proponent and developer of cognitive-behavioral therapies.
We have written about Ellis’ transdiagnostic, humanistic and existential CBT model before, so in this blog, we wanted to explore the philosophy and methods of REBT through his own words to help illustrate how it can be such a force for change.
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”
Perhaps Ellis’ most famous quote, and one that encapsulates the core philosophy of REBT. It might seem easy to blame another for how you feel, but ultimately it is we who maintain our emotional states. That thing that someone did or said to you years ago? If you are still disturbed by it, chances are you are telling yourself something to keep you feeling that way. Why not choose to tell yourself something more true, logical and helpful?
“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
More often than not, our rigid, unhealthy beliefs can be traced back to one of these three main demands. It’s understandable we would want success, respect and an easy life. But is it true we ‘must’ have these things? Absolutely not. Change a demand into a preference and when we are inevitably denied it, we can more easily deal with it.
“When people change their irrational beliefs to undogmatic flexible preferences, they become less disturbed.”
There you go, Albert puts it much more succinctly than we did…
“By honestly acknowledging your past errors, but never damning yourself for them, you can learn to use your past for your own future benefit.”
Learning to accept ourselves as fallible, yet still worthwhile, human beings means we can then accept our faults whilst still acknowledging them as such, and find some self-compassion and forgiveness.
Unconditional world acceptance
“Even injustice has its good points. It gives me the challenge of being as happy as I can in an unfair world.”
We can accept that the world can sometimes be cruel, unjust and unfair. Demanding it should be otherwise will only lead to frustration, anger or despair. Only by accepting things as they are, and understanding what is within our control, can we think rationally and pragmatically about life, and make changes where we can.
Philosophical change first, then real-life change
“The trouble with most therapy is that it helps you feel better. But you don’t get better. You have to back it up with action, action, action.”
It’s called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for a reason. Ellis makes it clear that our thinking must change first, but without repeated, concerted behavioural change, we’ll never really be rid of what disturbs us. “Do or do not, there is no try”, as another wise being once said.
Tough love, the Albert Ellis way
“Neurosis is just a high-class word for whining.”
He didn’t pull his punches, did Albert. But sometimes hearing what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear, can cause a breakthrough. REBT asks its practitioners to look clearly and unflinchingly at what they are telling themselves, then ask ‘how true is this, and what do I get from believing it?’
You can find a lot more of Ellis’ pearls of REBT wisdom here, if you want further inspiration.
And if you’d like to learn more about putting REBT into practice, either as a client or as a qualified therapist, drop us a line at email@example.com.