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Albert Ellis’ Rational-Emotive Behavioral Theory. Albert Ellis Brief Biography. Born 1913…Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Graduated w/ Ph.D. Columbia University 1947 Taught at Rutgers 1948-49 Initially trained as a psychoanalyst @ Horney Institute.

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Albert Ellis’ Rational-Emotive Behavioral Theory

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albert ellis brief biography
Albert Ellis Brief Biography
  • Born 1913…Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Graduated w/ Ph.D. Columbia University 1947
  • Taught at Rutgers 1948-49
  • Initially trained as a psychoanalyst @ Horney Institute.

Began developing RT (Rational Therapy-now called REBT) around 1955 because he was disenchanted w/ psychoanalysis; he thought it was too inefficient.

  • Has published hundreds of books and articles.
  • Founded Albert Ellis Institute in NYC and now there are institutes around US and world.
  • Turned 90 in September 2002 an still going strong.
rational emotive behavioral therapy rebt overview
Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) Overview
  • REBT is a philosophically-based, humanistic approach that emphasizes individuals’ capacity for creating their own self-enhancing and self-defeating emotions.
  • Ellis borrowed from philosophy. Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher said, “People are not influenced by things but their view of things.”
  • REBT holds that an individual’s belief system affects whether s/he attains maximum pleasure and self-actualization. Happiness is the goal of all human beings.
  • REBT is a theory of how people (who want happiness) can inadvertently create personality and emotional disturbance.
  • ABC Model

A = activating event (actual event, thought or image)

B = belief(s) about the event

C = emotional and/or behavioral consequence

  • ABC Model is used to help people understand the B-C connection and suggests that people are influenced by what they tell themselves. An ABC form is typically used. People initially only see the A-C connection (John made me angry… I am depressed because I didn’t get my raise)
example of an activating event
Example of an Activating Event
  • John comes home from work one day and his wife tells him that she is leaving him for someone else. How do you think John feels?
sample emotions and thoughts
Sample Emotions and Thoughts
  • Depression

“I’ll never find someone as wonderful as her.”

“I’m a loser.”

  • Anger

“That *$*%$ has no right to leave. I’ve given

her everything.”

  • Happiness

“Thank God she is leaving. I will be rid of a big


“Now I can get on with my life.”

other important rebt ideas
Other Important REBT Ideas
  • Ellis thinks people are born with the potential to think rationally and irrationally.
  • Emotional disturbance comes largely from irrational thinking (elevating our desires to demands).
  • The REBT therapist helps clients to develop a more “rational,” non-demanding philosophy and thinking style.
  • REBT theory holds that if a person can think more rationally (especially in the face of negative events), s/he will suffer less emotional disturbance and act in less self-defeating ways. Rationality is the key to achieving goals.
appropriate and inappropriate negative emotions
Appropriate and Inappropriate Negative Emotions
  • Rationality leads to appropriate rather than inappropriate negative emotions in the face of adversity. Appropriate (-) emotions assist us to act in our best self interest. Inappropriate (-) emotions are self-defeating.

Sadness (I lost something I cared about) rather than depression (I’m bad…no good)

Remorse (I did something I am sorry for) rather than guilt (I did something I should be damned for)

Concern (I need to take care of this) rather than anxiety (I will never be able to handle this )

definition of rational thinking
Definition of Rational Thinking
  • Empirically consistent with reality
  • Logical
  • Goal-facilitating
  • Non-absolutist (flexible)
  • Preferential (expresses a desire not a demand)
definition of irrational thinking
Definition of Irrational Thinking
  • Can’t be empirically validated and/or is inconsistent w/ confirmable reality
  • Illogical
  • Blocks goals
  • Dogmatic instead of flexible
  • Demand rather than preference

(Ellis calls this musturbation)

three core demands musts that contribute to making people miserable
Three Core Demands (Musts) That Contribute to Making People Miserable
  • Self-Demands- I must do well and/or be approved of by significant others.
  • Other Demands- I must be treated fairly by others…Others are damnable if they don’t treat me fairly.
  • Demands of the World/Life Conditions- Life conditions must be absolutely the way I want them to be.

When your beliefs are irrational, you also tend toward irrational conclusions.

four irrational conclusions
Four Irrational Conclusions
  • Awfulizing: person believes and acts like some situation is more than 100% bad.
  • I-can’t-stand-it-itis: person believes s/he can not be happy or endure a situation if something exists that they are demand not exist.
  • Damnation: person is highly critical of self, others or some life condition (one example of this would be global self-rating)
  • Always and never thinking: person insists on absolutes (e.g., that they will always fail or never be approved of by significant others)
three rebt insights
Three REBT Insights
  • Beliefs, not events, cause disturbance. We remain disturbed by adhering to irrational beliefs.
  • We keep re-indoctrinating ourselves w/ these beliefs thereby perpetuating our disturbance
  • It will take hard work to revamp/restructure our misery-producing beliefs.
techniques used by therapist to reduce or eliminate irrational thinking
Techniques Used by Therapist to Reduce or Eliminate Irrational Thinking
  • Active disputation –asking questions in Socratic Style

Why is ______________ so terrible or awful?

Where is it written that you can’t stand the situation?

Is there another way you can think about this?

What is preventing you from doing so?

Why must you have it this way?

What is the worst that can happen if you give up this belief?

What is the best that can happen?

techniques used by therapist to reduce or eliminate irrational thinking15
Techniques Used by Therapist to Reduce or Eliminate Irrational Thinking
  • Homework: REBT clients are asked to do homework assignments like ABC sheets, bibliotherapy, use humor, etc.
  • Emotive Techniques: such as role playing, shame attacking exercises, rational emotive imagery
  • Behavioral Techniques: use relaxation protocols, operant conditioning and reward, and self-monitoring etc.
rebt personality theory
REBT Personality Theory
  • REBT is a theory of personality disturbance (and change) as opposed to being a developmental theory of personality.
  • Ellis has a “hereditarian” bias. He states that 80% of the variance of human behavior rests on biology and only 20% on environmental training. REBT Insight 3 stems from this idea.
  • Although REBT is incomplete as a development theory, Ellis does have some thoughts.
rebt developmental theory
REBT Developmental Theory
  • Ellis believes that human beings start developing ideas, expectations and hypotheses about themselves and the world in the first two years of life. These are vague and do not lead to many consistent predictions.
  • From age 2-5 and further into childhood, the child gets better at predicting relationships in the environment.
  • Ellis also says that infants have rational behaviors (e.g., sucking and crying out when in discomfort) that are self-preservative, but these seem largely instinctive.
  • Children develop rational ideas from age 6 onward (e.g., pleasure is good; pain is bad).
rebt developmental theory18
REBT Developmental Theory
  • Probable first irrational idea of childhood is “Because pain is so bad, I can’t stand the feeling.” This leads to low frustration tolerance (LFT).
  • Second likely irrational idea comes from self- evaluation of performance: “I should be doing better than I am doing and I am bad because I am not doing better.” This leads to self-downing.
  • These are tentative hypotheses that need further elaboration and research.
3 tenets
3 Tenets

Ellis 3 basic tenets:

  • People don't just get disturbed by events, but by the *perception*. B-C connection.
  • No matter when you developed your belief, you still believe it.
  • There is no way but work and practice the rest of your damn life!