Rational emotive behavior therapy

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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is an active-directive, solution-oriented therapy which focuses on resolving emotional, cognitive and behavioral problems in clients, originally developed by the American psychotherapist Albert Ellis. REBT is one of the first forms of Cognitive Behavior Therapy and was first expounded by Ellis in 1953. Fundamental to REBT is the concept that emotional suffering results primarily, though not completely, from our evaluations of a negative event, not solely by the events per se. In other words, human beings on the basis of their belief system actively, though not always consciously, disturb themselves, and even disturb themselves about their disturbances.

The REBT framework assumes that humans have both rational and irrational tendencies. Irrational thought/images prevent goal attainment, lead to inner conflict, lead to more conflict with others and poor mental health. Rational thought/images lead to goal attainment and more inner harmony. In other words rational beliefs reduce conflicts with others and improved health.

REBT claims that irrational and self-defeating thinking, emoting and behaving are correlated with emotional difficulties such as self-blame, jealousy, guilt, Low Frustration Tolerance, depression, and anxiety. This is a view shared with some other well-known therapies, such as Re-evaluation Counselling and Person-centred counselling - as these both arose in the mid-50s, Ellis is thought to have had an influence on them. REBT is an educational and active-directive process in which the therapist teaches the client how to identify irrational and self-defeating tendencies which in nature are unrealistic, illogical and absolutist, and then to forcefully and emotionally dispute them, and replace them with more rational and self-helping ones. By using different methods and activities, the client, together with help from the therapist and in homework exercises, can gain a more rational, logical and constructive rational way of thinking, emoting and behaving. One of main objectives in REBT is to show the client that whenever unpleasant activating events occur in people's lives, they have a choice of making themselves feel healthily and self-helpingly sorry, disappointed, frustrated, and annoyed, or making themselves feel unhealthily and self-defeatingly horrified, terrified, panicked, depressed, self-hating, and self-pitying (Ellis, 2003).

As Albert Ellis says; "When people keep challenging and questioning their self-disturbing core philosophies, after a while they tend to automatically, and even in advance, bring new, rational, self-helping attitudes to their life problems and thereby make themselves significantly less upsettable", (Ellis, 2003).


[edit] View of the Human Mind

REBT posits that human beings are born with dual and innate potentials and tendencies towards both healthy and unhealthy cognitive-affective processes; On one hand, healthy rational tendencies, and the other hand, unhealthy irrational tendencies. Rational thinking, emoting and behaving, mean rationally, logically and pragmatically evaluating oneself, others and life as they really are, whereas irrational thinking distorts reality by misinterpreting it in a way that causes emotional and behavioral turmoil.

Albert Ellis sums up the cognitive-affective processes like this (Ellis, 2003): "REBT assumes that human thinking, emotion, and action are not really separate or disparate processes but that they all significantly overlap and are rarely experienced in a pure state. Much of what we call emotion is nothing more nor less than a certain kind—a biased, prejudiced, or strongly evaluative kind—of thought. But emotions and behaviors significantly influence and affect thinking, just as thinking. Evaluating is a fundamental characteristic of human organisms and seems to work in a kind of closed circuit with a feedback mechanism: Because perception biases response and then response tends to subsequent perception. Also, prior perceptions appear to bias subsequent perceptions, and prior responses to bias subsequent responses. What we call feelings almost always have a pronounced evaluating or appraisal element."

At the core of REBT is the A-B-C theory of personality. The A stands for an activating event, for instance by some type of challenging life situation. An example activating event might be a man being rejected by an attractive woman. The B then represents the evaluation (cognitive-affective-behavioral) of the activating event, causing an emotional consequence, represented by the C. If the evaluation "B" of the adversity "A" is rooted in an irrational core belief that for instance, the boy believes "Every attractive woman ABSOLUTELY MUST like me and treat me well, and it's always awful when they don't."), the consequence is likely to be unhealthy depression or anger. Alternatively, if the evaluation of the event is rational, and is rooted in the core belief "I strongly prefer that attractive women treat me well, but it's not awful/horrible when they reject me, just very unfortunate and sad. I therefore want to be treated well by attractive women, but I can stand it when they don't, because I will survive it, just not as happily") the consequence would probably be healthy feelings of sadness and frustration. Key to REBT thought is that the evaluation of the event, not the activating event itself, causes the emotional consequence; that by attaining a more rational evaluation of ourselves, others and the world, we are more likely to behave and emote in a more life-serving and proper way. Originator Albert Ellis points out, "People are born and reared with the ability to look at the data of their lives, particularly the negative things that happen to them against their goals and interests, and to make inaccurate inferences and attributions about these data."

Whence do our self-sabotaging irrational beliefs originate? REBT teaches that we learn some of them during our childhood, some from environmental factors, but largely that human beings have strong inborne biological tendencies (evolutionary factors are suggested) (Ellis, 2003). REBT differs from psychoanalysis in that it places little emphasis on exploring the past, but instead focuses on changing the current evaluations and philosophical thinking about our lives, others and ourselves. In addition, REBT also differs from the psychoanalytic perspective in that it does not explore the unconscious mind.

[edit] Psychological Dysfunction

One of the main pillars of REBT is that irrational patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving are the cause of much human disturbance, including depression and anxiety. REBT teaches that turning flexible preferences and wishes into grandiose absolutistic demands and commands will cause disturbances. Albert Ellis has suggested three core beliefs that cause disturbances (Ellis, 2003):

  • "I must be thoroughly competent, adequate, achieving, and lovable at all times, or else I am an incompetent worthless person." This belief usually leads to feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, despair, and worthlessness.
  • "Other significant people in my life, must treat me kindly and fairly at all times, or else I can’t stand it, and they are bad, rotten, and evil persons who should be severely blamed, damned, and vindictively punished for their horrible treatment of me." *:This leads to feelings of anger, rage, fury, and vindictiveness and lead to actions like fights, feuds, wars, genocide, and ultimately, an atomic holocaust."
  • "Things and conditions absolutely must be the way I want them to be and must never be too difficult or frustrating. Otherwise, life is awful, terrible, horrible, catastrophic and unbearable." This leads to low-frustration tolerance, self-pity, anger, depression, and to behaviours such as procrastination, avoidance, and inaction.

REBT then holds that an irrational belief system has strong tendencies to the following self-defeating components:

  1. Demands (or what Ellis calls musturbation)
  2. Awfulizing
  3. Low Frustration Tolerance
  4. People Rating
  5. Overgeneralizing

It is therefore the evaluative belief system, based on core philosophies, that is likely to create unrealistic, arbitrary, and crooked inferences and distortions in thinking. REBT therefore first teaches that when people in an unsensible way overuse absolutistic and rigid "shoulds", "musts", and "oughts", they will very likely disturb themselves. Essential to REBT is that most "isms" and dogmas are, by nature, unhealthy and self-defeating, and that absolutistic ways of thinking will, in most cases, create unnecessary disturbances. These inflexible philosophies are, therefore, better replaced with more flexible, un-dogmatic and self-helping attitudes. The healthy alternative to demandingness is therefore unconditional acceptance of humans -- not their behavior, but that which cannot be changed -- and rigorous, effortful problem solving.

Disturbed evaluations occur through overgeneralization, wherein one exaggerates and globalizes events or traits, usually unwanted events or traits or behaviors, out of context, while almost always ignoring the positive events or traits or behaviors. For example, awfulizing is mental magnification of the importance of an unwanted situation to a catastrophe, elevating the rating of something from bad to worse than it should be, to beyond totally bad, to intolerable, to a holocaust. The same exaggeration and overgeneralizing occurs with human rating, wherein humans come to be defined by their flaws or misdeeds: the person is bad based on bad behavior or bad traits. Frustration intolerance occurs when one percieves a task to be more difficult, tedious, or boring than they had wished, and subsequently exaggerate these qualities to the extent that they believe the task to be too difficult, overwhelming, more difficult than it ought to be or beyond their capabilities or level of endurance.

Many of these self-defeating beliefs are both innately biological and indoctrinated in early life, and may grow stronger as a person continually revisits them. By emotive, cognitive and behavioral methods the client learns to replace the absolutist and dogmatic musts with more flexible preferences, which are likely to cause healthier and more constructive emotions and behavior. The Rational Emotive Behavior therapist strongly believes in the rigorous application of the rules of logic, straight thinking, and scientific method to everyday life (Ellis, 2003).

REBT points out that irrational beliefs will often be obvious in how people talk to themselves. The therapist asking, "What are you telling yourself about...?" will usually reveal both irrational inferences, and, on closer examination, demands and exaggerated evaluations. The therapist is most interested in finding core beliefs and deep rooted philosophical evalutions. These are usually the causes of automatic negative inferences and higher level evaluative thoughts.

[edit] Mental Wellness

As would be expected, REBT argues that mental wellness results from a surfeit of rational ways of thinking, emoting and behaving. When a stressful activating event occurs, and the individual is interpretating the situation rationally (emotional, cognitive and behavioral), then the resulting emotional consequence is likely to be more healthy and self-helping. This does not mean a relatively undisturbed person never experiences negative feelings, but REBT does hope to keep debilitating unhealthy affect and behavior to a minimum. To do this REBT promotes a scientific, flexible, un-dogmatic, self-helping and efficient belief system.

REBT acknowledges that people in addition to disturbing themselves, also are innately constructivists. Because they largely upset themselves with their beliefs, they can be helped to examine, to question, to think about these beliefs and thereby to develop a more workable, more self-helping set of constructs than they possess when they come to therapy.

REBT teaches that:

  • Unconditional self-acceptance, other-acceptance and life-acceptance are of prime importance in achieving mental wellness.
  • People and the world are fallible, and that people need to accept themselves, life's hassles and unfairness and others "as is".
  • People consider themselves valuable just as a result of being alive and kicking; and are better off not to measure their "self" or their "being" and give themselves any global rating, because all humans are far too complex to rate, and all humans do both good and bad deeds and have both good and bad attributes and traits.

REBT holds that ideas and feelings about self-worth are largely definitional and are not empirically confirmable or falsifiable (Ellis, 2003).

[edit] REBT Therapy

As Albert Ellis says: "Humans, unlike just about all the other animals on earth, create fairly sophisticated languages which not only enable them to think about their feeling, and their actions, and the results they get from doing and not doing certain things, but they also are able to think about their thinking and even think about thinking about their thinking." (Ellis, 2003) This is quite essensial to the REBT thought. Ellis, also points out that "because of their self-consciousness and their ability to think about their thinking, they can very easily disturb themselves about their disturbances and can also disturb themselves about their ineffective attempts to overcome their emotional disturbances" (Ellis, 2003). In REBT terminology, this is referred to as secondary disturbances.

One of the most popular methods in REBT is forceful disputing. Recalling the A-B-C theory of personality, successful REBT adds steps D, E, and F. The D stands for disputing: the therapist helps the client to challenge the irrational belief (B). REBT teaching suggests that the therapist ask the client if there is any evidence for the belief, or what would be the worst possible outcome if the client were to give up that belief. In therapy the counselor may point out irrational beliefs, but he or she also teaches the client how to dispute them in day-to-day life outside of therapy and to give the patient homework exercises. The result of disputing the self-defeating belief and replacing it with a rational one yields an effective philosophy (E), and also a new set of feelings (F) which are not debilitating.

REBT acknowledges that understanding and insight are not enough. In order to significantly change the client, they almost always have to pinpoint their irrational philosophies and work hard at changing them to more functional and self-helping attitudes. They can do this in a number of cognitive, emotive-evocative, and behavioral ways, which is used in therapy. Although REBT teaches that the counselors better demonstrate unconditional other-acceptance, the therapist is not nessesarily encouraged to build a warm and caring relationship with the client. The therapist’s prime task is to aid the client in identifying and confronting irrational thinking, emotive and behavioral processes and replacing them with more rational ones.

REBT posits that the client has to work hard to get better, and this work may include homework assigned by the therapist. The assignments may include desensitization tasks, i.e. by having the client confronting the very thing the client is making himself afraid of. Often REBT focuses on specific problems and is used as a brief therapy, but in deeper problems longer therapy is promoted. Another factor contributing to the brevity of REBT is that the therapist helps the client learn how to get better through hard work, and help himself to get through future adversities. It holds that hard work, and hard work only, is the only way to get, and stay, better and not only temporarily feel better. An ideal successful collaboration between the REBT therapist and a client results in changes to the client's philosophical way of evaluating himself, others and his life, which is likely to yield effective results: The client's better move toward unconditional self-acceptance, other-acceptance and life-acceptance.

[edit] Limitations

Although REBT has some weaker research findings than pure CT and CBT, [citation needed] REBT as a cognitive-behavioral form of therapy has throughout many years of general research and outcome studies received a large degree of scientific testing, and substantial research has directly and indirectly confirmed its hypotheses. [citation needed]

[edit] References

  • Ellis, Albert (2001). Feeling better, getting better, staying better. New York: Impact Publishers, 2001. ISBN 1-886230-35-8
  • Ellis, Albert (2003). Early theories and practices of rational emotive behavior theory and how they have been augmented and revised during the last three decades. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 21(3/4)
  • Froggatt, Wayne (2005). A Brief Introduction To Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Third Edition, New Zealand Centre for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

[edit] Further reading

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

Rational emotive behavior therapy

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