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RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY (REBT)

 

Psychologist Albert Ellis, Ph.D. first articulated the principles of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in 1955. Albert Ellis was born in 1913 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but moved to New York at age 4. He was hospitalised numerous times during childhood, and suffered renal glycosuria at age 19 and diabetes at age 40.Because Ellis has suffered from these ailments for most of his life, his problems have inspired him over the years to find effective means of coping.

Ellis originally studied psychoanalysis and believed it to be the deepest form of psychotherapy. But later he came to the conclusion that analytical and dynamic psychotherapies are unscientific. He became dissatisfied with them as effective and efficient forms of treatment. In 1955 he combined humanistic, philosophical, and behaviour therapies to form what is now known as REBT. Today he is one of the world’s most influential psychologists and prolific authors.

REBT or Rational Therapy (RT) as it was known up to 1961, or Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) as it was known up to 1993 is a ‘particular conception of unhealthy and healthy psychological functioning including the methods required to reduce the former and increase the latter’ (Dryden & Neenan, 1996).

REBT is an action-oriented humanistic approach to emotional growth that stresses individuals’ capacity for creating, altering, and controlling their emotional states. REBT places much emphasis on the present – on currently held beliefs and attitudes, painful emotions, and maladaptive/dysfunctional behaviours that can sabotage a fuller experience of life. That is, REBT teaches people how to overcome problems and how to implement gratifying and realistic alternatives to current psychological patterns.

Ellis generally defines the client’s problems from the therapist’s framework (using “formal” rather than “informal” characterisations of the problem). So practitioners work closely with their clients, seeking to help uncover their individual set of beliefs (attitudes, expectations and personal rules) that frequently lead to emotional distress.

According to REBT theory at the core of emotional disturbance of humans is a biological tendency to transform desires, wants and preferences into rigid, dogmatic and absolute beliefs.

These take the form of

Musts, should’s ought to’s, have to’s and got to’s, e.g. the anxiety producing belief ‘I must pass my driving test’. Flowing from these absolutists beliefs are three major derivatives, awfulising; an unrealistic assessment of badness where negative events are viewed or defined as end of the world bad or more than 101% bad, e.g. ‘it would be awful if I didn’t pass my driving test.

Low frustration tolerance (LFT); the perceived inability to tolerate frustration or discomfort, e.g. ‘if I don’t pass my driving test, that will be intolerable’ and thirdly.

Damnation in various forms of self or others. Globally and negatively rating ones self or other based on a particular action or trait, e.g. ‘I am a failure because I failed my driving test’. These beliefs are called irrational because they generate emotional disturbance or unhealthy negative emotions like anxiety and depression and are unrealistic, illogical and interfere with the pursuit of goals and purposes. (Dryden, 1995a; Dryden & Neenan, 1996; Dryden, 1991).

Beliefs that are flexible and based on wants, desires and preferences are called rational because they are realistic, logical and help the individual in the attainment of their goals and purposes and usually reduce emotional disturbance and lead to healthy negative emotions like concern and sadness.

Flowing from these preferences (1 of 5) Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) are three major derivatives and helpful alternatives to the irrational beliefs: antiawfulising; negative events are placed on a continuum of 0 -99.9% badness where 100% bad does not exist as one can usually think of something worse, e.g. ‘it would be bad but not the end of the world if I didn’t pass my driving test’: high frustration tolerance; the ability to tolerate frustration or discomfort despite having one’s goals blocked, e.g. ‘if I don’t pass my driving test, that would be difficult but I can tolerate it’ and thirdly acceptance of self or other; humans as seen as fallible but worthy despite their traits or actions, e.g. ‘I don’t like the fact that I failed my driving test but I accept myself as a fallible human being and my worth does not depend on whether I pass or fail my driving test’. (Dryden, 1995a; Dryden & Neenan, 1996; Dryden,1991).

REBT theory posits that cognitions, emotions and behaviours are not independent of each other but interact and overlap, usually in complex ways and that these beliefs play the most significant role in creating emotional health and disturbance. (Dryden,1991). This is conceptualised through its ABCDE model of emotional disturbance and emotional health.

In the model, taken from (Neenan & Dryden, 1999):

A Activating event (actual or inferred, past, present or future occurrences, internal or external)

B Evaluative Beliefs that mediate the individual’s view of these events

C Emotional and behavioural Consequences largely determined by the individual’s beliefs about these events

D Disputing disturbance producing ideas, particularly irrational beliefs

E A new and Effective rational outlook

The new and effective rational outlook is maintained through rigorous work and behaviour in accordance with the new rationale.

REBT, as advocated by Ellis, should preferably be elegant and active-directive in style (Dryden, 1995a). Elegant REBT, also known as preferential or specific is defined in Dryden & Neenan, (1996) as follows:

Preferential REBT: seeks to effect a profound philosophic change in an individual’s attitude by uprooting her irrational beliefs and replacing them with rational beliefs. Features of specific REBT include understanding the role of flexible and rigid evaluation in largely creating, respectively, emotional health and disturbance; striving to accept oneself and others unconditionally as fallible human beings; seeking pervasive and long lasting change.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) rather than symptom removal; disputing the philosophical core of emotional disturbance rather than inferences derived from the must; keenly discriminating between appropriate and inappropriate negative emotions (depression and sadness).

Ellis (1962) maintains that REBT is appropriate for any kind of psychological problem, such as anxiety disorders, sexual problems and depression, but not for severe disorders. He also maintains that REBT helps clients to cure themselves in an elegant way because it can be incorporated into their way of life.

Some of the methods employed in elegant solutions include:

Cognitive assignments.

These are designed to help clients understand the REBT model and the functions that beliefs play in causing and maintaining psychological health and disturbance. They also provide ways of identifying and changing irrational beliefs.

Reading assignments.

These are designed to help clients gain understanding of REBT philosophies. According to Dryden (1995b), a large number of clients hold the belief that rereading articles helps them to automatically absorb REBT principles into their actions and emotions.

Listening assignments.

These are designed for clients whose primary modality is auditory as opposed to visual. Tapes from the Institute of Rational Emotive Therapy can be obtained. Also tapes of the therapy session can be listened to.

Imagery assignments.

According to Dryden (1995b), imagery assignments help clients make use of their cognitive and affective modalities. Clear images, he points out, are ‘affect laden when they embody inferences that are central in the client’s personal domain’. Imagery assignments are also used to help identify irrational beliefs about future events to help prepare clients for behavioural tasks.

Behavioural tasks.

The REBT therapist generally employs in vivo activity-oriented homework assignments. Clients are helped, for example, to stay with frustrating conditions to increase their tolerance to negative affect unpleasant conditions. Behavioural tasks are used with cognitive tasks to strengthen rational beliefs.

Emotive/Evocative tasks.

These tasks fully engage the clients’ emotions. They can be behavioural or imagery tasks. They are designed to be used with force and energy to help the client gain emotional insight.

In many ways, REBT practitioners use a combination of cognitive-emotive-behaviour methods to reveal to the clients their root antisocial and self-destructive philosophies, as well as what they can do to actively and exactly modify them. The goal becomes helping clients to accept reality, surrender their demandingness and compulsiveness, and maximize their freedom of choice to fulfil their human potential for growth and satisfaction (Ellis, 1962, 1988; Ellis & Grieger, 1986).

REBT and Hypnotherapy

Ellis (1986, 1993) has highlighted a number of similarities between hypnosis and elegant REBT. Both traditional hypnosis and REBT are:
“…highly active-directive, they emphasise homework assignments and in vivode sensitisation and urge clients to actively work against their low frustration tolerance (LFT) and self-defeating behaviours. Because of this degree of overlap between some of the basic theories and practices of REBT and hypnotherapy, Ellis sometimes hypnosis in his clinical practice.