Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a time-limited form of psychotherapy or talk therapy.
Engaging with REBT sessions can help you to identify negative and self-defeating patterns of thoughts and feelings. You will also discover how to challenge the validity of those feelings, allowing you to replace the flawed thoughts with healthy and more productive beliefs.
What is REBT?
Rational emotive behavior therapy is an approach developed by psychologist Albert Ellis in the 1950s.
REBT was largely inspired by the work of the Stoic philosophers. The central tenet of rational emotive behavior therapy is that events do not cause behaviors and emotions directly. According to REBT, your beliefs about those events prompt behavioral and emotional responses.
Rational emotive behavior therapy is a precursor to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). REBT can also be considered a specific form of CBT.
This form of therapy helps you to identify irrational beliefs and self-defeating thought patterns liable to trigger behavioral and emotional issues.
Once your therapist has helped you to identify these flawed and negative patterns, they will guide you toward replacing those thoughts and beliefs with more rational alternatives.
Research shows that REBT can be beneficial for people grappling with many issues, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Mood disorders like depression
- Alcohol use disorder
- Substance use disorder
- Eating disorders
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Anger management
You will work closely with your therapist to explore the faulty beliefs and inflexible patterns of thinking that cause problems in your life. The therapist will help you to establish that those thoughts and beliefs are irrational. They will also point out how those self-defeating thought patterns are holding you hostage and potentially harming you.
Therapy continues with a variety of mental exercises designed to help you eliminate (or at least reduce) those negative thoughts and behaviors. Rather than a simple exercise of subtraction, though, you’ll replace the unhealthy thoughts with constructive and self-accepting thoughts that will help you attack life feeling much more positive.
Rational emotive behavior therapy harnesses many tools and methods. Some of these include:
- Reframing your thinking
- Positive visualization
- Self-help manuals
- Audio-visual guides
You can also expect homework assignments to reinforce what you have learned in theory by putting it into practice in a real-world setting.
Examples of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Underpinning rational emotive behavior therapy is the premise that people usually want to do well in life. Most people want to achieve their goals and achieve lasting happiness.
Regrettably, irrational thoughts and flawed thinking can sometimes impede those desires. Rigid and questionable beliefs can strongly impact how you perceive events, situations, and circumstances. The influence of negative thoughts is almost always negative in terms of your resultant thoughts and actions.
To contextualize this, imagine you have been dating someone for a month or two. You send them a message which you can see they have read. Hours pass with no reply. By the next day, there is still no reply to your message.
In this situation, common catastrophizing thoughts might include:
- They are ignoring me
- They no longer want to see me at all
- Maybe I did something wrong
- Relationships never work out in the end
- I will always be alone
The above example highlights the core principles of rational emotive behavior therapy. These principles are known as the ABCs of REBT.
The ABC model involves the relationship between activating events (A), beliefs (B), and the consequences (C).
In our example:
- A is the lack of reply.
- B refers to the belief that the person doesn’t want to see you anymore or that you have done something wrong.
- C expresses the distressing emotions stemming from that flawed belief – worthlessness, for instance.
Applying the techniques of REBT to the above scenario would help you to reframe how you think about the lack of reply. Perhaps they were busy or maybe they simply forgot to reply. Even if the person has lost interest in seeing you again, that doesn’t point to anything wrong on your part. Similarly, no break-up automatically leads to a life spent alone.
Who Created Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?
Albert Ellis, a psychologist ranked as the second most influential psychotherapist, developed rational emotive behavior therapy.
Ellis trained in psychoanalysis and briefly practiced the discipline. Soon, though, Ellis became disillusioned with the weaknesses of the psychoanalytic approach, specifically the passive nature of the method and its relative lack of success. Ellis began developing his psychotherapeutic approach.
When Ellis first presented this approach in 1956, it was labeled rational psychotherapy.
The method emphasized a more active and direct approach to treatment than psychoanalysis provided.
Pioneering the cognitive revolution and cognitive-behavioral therapies, Albert Ellis’s contributions go beyond the founding of rational emotive behavior therapy.
Goals of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
REBT has one overarching goal: to help you to develop a more positive outlook through restructuring and reframing any irrational thoughts and beliefs you might hold.
This approach to therapy can also help you to reduce or eliminate self-defeating, stressful behaviors like disordered eating, procrastination, and aggression.
Your REBT therapist will help you to restructure your thoughts to change your feelings and your behaviors using the following techniques, each of which corresponds to the ABCs. Therapists may employ a different array of techniques depending on your symptoms and their clinical experiences. These are the main REBT techniques:
- Cognitive restructuring
- Coping techniques
Problem-solving techniques can help you tackle the activating event (A).
Common strategies include working on these areas:
- Social skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Conflict resolution
- Decision making
Your REBT therapist will help you to change any irrational beliefs (B) through the following approaches:
- Reframing (looking at events from a different perspective
- Guided visualization
- Rationalizing or logical techniques
- Disputing any irrational thoughts
- Exposure to feared situations
By helping you to implement better-coping techniques, your therapist will help you to manage the consequences (C) of any irrational thoughts you may have more efficiently.
Some of the most common coping techniques used in rational emotive behavior therapy include:
Your therapist will help you to apply the skills you learn in sessions to your daily life. This is achieved through homework assignments. The therapist may ask you to write down an example of countering something that typically induces feelings of anxiety with a more positive response and explain how this made you feel.
REBT At The District Recovery
Here at TDRC, psychotherapy like REBT is at the core of all our treatment programs. We can help you fight back against alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, mental health disorders, or co-occurring disorders with our outpatient programs offering evidence-based treatments alongside holistic therapies.
We provide gender-specific rehab here at The District, giving you a distraction-free environment in an outpatient setting. For those requiring more structure and support, we deliver IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). A PHP is full-time outpatient treatment and offers the most intensive treatment you’ll find outside of residential rehab.
In addition to psychotherapies like REBT, CBT, and DBT, you will have access to the following therapies:
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Counseling (individual and group)
- Family therapy
- Adventure therapy
- Vocational development