Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)- Definition & Techniques
What do you get when you take Albert Ellis and have him merge cognitive techniques with behaviorism? Why REBT, of course! Learn more about the application of rational emotive behavior therapy in this lesson.
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Albert Ellis and REBT
Imagine a young man who is afraid to talk to women he doesn’t know. He would really like to meet someone special, and he realizes that this fear is limiting his opportunities. Then, the young man had an idea! He went to a botanical garden near his apartment every day for the next month and forced himself to talk to 100 different women during this time.
The young man was turned down for a date by all 100 women, but he did accomplish something. His fear of rejection by women was not as strong as it had been, and he no longer had a great fear of talking to them. He had overcome one of his strongest emotional struggles.
This young man’s name was Albert Ellis. He went on to become a well-known therapist who developed similar cognitive behavioral techniques used in his rational emotive behavior therapy.
Rational emotive behavior therapy was one of the first cognitive behavior therapies. It is also known as REBT. It is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that emphasizes reorganizing cognitive and emotional functions, redefining problems, and changing attitudes in order to develop more acceptable patterns of behavior.
Merging Cognitive & Behavioral Approaches
Ellis’ concept of REBT began as simply rational emotive therapy (RET). You will sometimes hear the two used interchangeably because of this. During his early work as a psychotherapist, he noticed that a person would improve their situation much more quickly when they changed their way of thinking about themselves and their problems.
Therefore, his initial approach centered on the reorganization of the way a person structured their thinking about life. He wanted a person to adopt a more rational way of thinking about a problem or about a situation so that they would feel a different emotional response.
While working on this technique, Ellis made another observation. When a person employed a behavioral intervention to help them change their way of thinking, they could improve their situation with an even faster rate of success.
In this way, REBT was developed out of a blending of cognitive and behavioral techniques. Ellis’ technique is still sometimes used as RET without a behavioral component.
The Therapeutic Experience
The process of REBT involves a collaborative effort between the therapist and client to change irrational beliefs. Insight alone does not lead to change but helps clients see how they are sabotaging their own lives and what they can do to change. Because REBT is essentially a cognitive and directive behavioral process, an emotional bond between the client and therapist is not necessary. In fact, Ellis believed that too much warmth and understanding could be counterproductive to the therapeutic process by creating dependence on therapist’s approval.
The therapist helps clients see how they have incorporated many irrational beliefs into their lives. They demonstrate to the client how they are keeping emotional disturbances active by continuing to experience these irrational beliefs. Once these irrational beliefs are properly recognized, they help the client to find ways to modify their thinking and find a more rational philosophy for life to prevent future problems from arising.
The client takes an active role in restructuring their thoughts after they have accepted that their irrational beliefs are responsible for negative emotions or behaviors. They learn how to apply logical thought to their lives, participate in experiential exercises, and do assigned behavioral homework.
A-B-C Framework & Therapeutic Techniques
The A-B-C framework , a tool used for visualizing a client’s feelings, thoughts, events, and behaviors, is central to REBT.
The A-B-C framework is like a flow chart showing the interaction of the various components like this:
A represents the activating event. This event is followed by B, a belief. This belief will then have an emotional or behavioral consequence, labeled as C. If the belief is irrational or followed by negative consequences, according to REBT it would need to be changed. This change takes place by introducing a disrupting intervention, labeled as D. Essentially, D is the application of methods to help clients challenge their irrational beliefs. This intervention will be followed by E, some new effect that occurs. This new effect leads to a new feeling, labeled as F. By following this process, a person can choose to change a negative A-B-C cycle and replace it with a more positive cycle of emotions and behaviors.
The techniques used to create the disrupting intervention can be widely varied and are based on the unique needs of each client. REBT is multimodal and integrative, so it may use or combine intervention techniques that are cognitive, emotive, or behavioral.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Ellis’ REBT brings two main strengths to the therapeutic table. First is its focus on an integrative and comprehensive approach to treatment. Using REBT allows a therapist to employ numerous cognitive, emotive, and behavioral techniques to enhance the process of change in a client. REBT’s second major strength is its focus on teaching clients a way to continue therapeutic change on their own, without the direct intervention of a therapist. This prevents the client from becoming excessively dependent on a therapist and fosters independence and control in their lives.
Weaknesses of REBT include the lack of importance placed on past experience, and it has lack of a softer side or spiritual dimension. REBT is a very straightforward, confrontational, solution-based type of therapy. As such, it must be able to be a good fit with the needs and personality of both the therapist and the client.
Rational emotive behavior therapy , or REBT , developed by Albert Ellis, was one of the first cognitive behavior therapies. It is a form of cognitive behavior therapy that emphasizes reorganizing cognitive and emotional functions, redefining problems, and changing attitudes in order to develop more acceptable patterns of behavior. REBT was developed out of a blending of cognitive and behavioral techniques.
The A-B-C Framework is central to REBT. It is a tool used for visualizing a client’s feelings, thoughts, events, and behaviors and is similar to a flow chart showing the interaction of the various components.
REBT is multimodal and integrative, so it may combine intervention techniques that are cognitive, emotive, or behavioral.
The process of REBT involves a collaborative effort between the therapist and client to change irrational beliefs.
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