Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).  It has been applied to various mental disorders, e.g., anxiety, anger, depression, personality disorders, eating disorders, etc.  REBT was created by Dr. Albert Ellis.  Al Ellis was originally trained as a psychoanalyst and began practicing psychoanalysis in New York City.  After working with his patients for some time, he became dissatisfied with the lack of progress they were making.  At this point he decided to return to his long-term passion, philosophy, to see if the wisdom there could benefit clients.

He developed the ABC model of emotional disturbance largely based on the work of philosophers who emphasized the role of beliefs and thinking in influencing emotional states.  The REBT ABC model is an acronym that stands for Activating Events, Beliefs, and Consequences.  Consequences include both emotional consequences and behavioral consequences.  REBT therefore conceptualizes emotional disturbances like anxiety, as a result of the combination of  an activating event, e.g., imagined impending financial crisis and one’s beliefs about the activating event, the self, life and the future, e.g., I shouldn’t have to deal with such a crisis and I can’t tolerate things that are so stressful.

REBT therefore emphasizes the role beliefs people hold in the present over historical events.  This was a major shift from psychoanalysis that was practiced at the time, where early childhood events and relationships with parents were the focus.  It also meant the REBT therapist was very active and directive in therapy sessions, asking direct questions to initially assess what beliefs may be involved in causing the emotional disturbance and then eventually challenging the beliefs that were identified as irrational, in order to reduce the emotional pain of anxiety.  Again this active and directive approach was also a major deviation from psychoanalysis where therapists traditionally primarily listened for large portions of the sessions and for many sessions before offering analysis of what had been observed.