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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) developed by psychologist Albert Ellis. REBT is an action-oriented approach that’s focused on helping people deal with irrational beliefs and learn how to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in a healthier, more realistic way.

When people hold irrational beliefs about themselves or the world, problems can result. REBT helps people recognize and alter those beliefs and negative thinking patterns in order to overcome psychological problems and mental distress

How Does Rational Emotive Therapy Work?

According to REBT, our cognition, emotions, and behavior are connected.

In order to understand the impact of events and situations that people encounter throughout life, it’s essential to look at the beliefs people hold about these experiences and the emotions thatarise as a result of those beliefs.

The main goal of REBT is to help people respond rationally to situations that would typically cause stress, depression, or other negative feelings. When faced with this type of situation in the future, the emotionally healthy response would be to realize that it is not realistic to expect success in every endeavor. All you can do is learn from the situation and move on.

Main Beliefs

Rational emotive behavior therapy operates under a few main beliefs. The three main beliefs of REBT are:

You are worthy of self-acceptance no matter what even when you struggle or make mistakes; there is no need for shame or guilt.

Others are also worthy of acceptance, even when their behavior involves something that you don’t like.

Negative things will sometimes happen in life, and that doesn’t mean that things are happening in a way they shouldn’t be. Life is not positive all of the time, and there’s no rational reason to expect it to be.

ABC Model

A core concept of REBT is the ABC model. This model explains how, while we may blame external events for our unhappiness, it is our interpretation of these events that truly lies at the heart of our psychological distress.

"ABC" is an aronym for:

A: Activating event, which is when something happens in the environment around you

B: Belief, which describes your thoughts about the event or situation

C: Consequence, which is your emotional response to your belief

During REBT, your therapist will help you learn how to apply the ABC model to your daily life.

If you’re feeling depressed due to a conflict in your relationship, for example, a rational emotive behavior therapist may help you identify the activating event for your problem before encouraging you to figure out which beliefs led to your negative feelings. They would then work with you to change those beliefs and, ultimately, your emotional response to the conflict.

Common Irrational Beliefs Addressed With REBT

An important step in the therapeutic process is recognizing the underlying beliefs that lead to psychological distress. In many cases, these are reflected as absolutes, as in "I must," "I should," or "I can’t."

Some of the most common irrational beliefs addressed in rational emotive behavior therapy include:

  • Feeling excessively upset over other people’s mistakes or misconduct
  • Believing that you must be perfectly competent and successful in everything to be
  • valued and worthwhile
  • Believing that you will be happier if you avoid life’s difficulties or challenges
  • Feeling that you have no control over your own happiness; that your contentment and joy are dependent upon external forces
  • Holding unyielding beliefs like these makes it almost impossible to respond to activating situations in a psychologically healthy way. Possessing rigid expectations of ourselves and others only leads to disappointment, recrimination, regret, and anxiety.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Techniques

A couple of different techniques can be used during rational emotive behavior therapy.


One step toward changing your beliefs is undergoing a process called disputation.

Disputation is meant to teach you life-long skills to help you manage your emotional response and overall mental health.During disputation, your therapist will challenge your irrational beliefs using direct methods. They may question your beliefs head-on, causing you to rethink them, or they could ask you to imagine another point of view that you haven’t considered before. While each therapist may approach disputation differently, challenging your beliefs is part of the process. Ellis suggested that rather than simply being warm and supportive, therapists need to be blunt, honest, and logical in order to push people toward changing their thoughts and behaviors.

Targeting Emotional Responses

An important part of the REBT process is learning how to replace your irrational beliefs with healthier ones. This process can be daunting and upsetting, and it’s normal to feel some discomfort or to worry that you’ve made a mistake.

While REBT uses cognitive strategies, it focuses on emotions and behaviors as well. In addition to identifying and disputing irrational beliefs, therapists and clients also work together to target the emotional responses that accompany problematic thoughts.


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