In This Article Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Specific Contributions to the Psychological Field
  • Limitations and Criticisms
  • Other “Classical” REBT Applications
  • New Frontiers and Developments

Psychology Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
by
Daniel David
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0147

Introduction

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is the first form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and was created by Albert Ellis. REBT theory is based on the ABC model, where A stands for activating events, B for beliefs, and C for various psychological outcomes. Based on REBT, psychological outcomes are not generated by A (the activating events), but by how one cognitively processes them. Rational beliefs refer to beliefs that have logical, empirical, and/or pragmatic support; in interaction with various A, they produce functional psychological consequences. Irrational beliefs refer to beliefs that do not have logical, empirical, and/or pragmatic support; in interaction with A, they generate dysfunctional psychological consequences. REBT theory is a motivational theory, part of the appraisal paradigm. Our desires/goals can be formulated rationally and/or irrationally. Some people formulate their desires/goals rigidly (e.g., “I must be loved by my wife and cannot accept if this does not happen”), with demandingness/DEM as a primary irrational appraisal. When DEM is not confirmed by A, secondary irrational appraisal mechanisms follow: (1) frustration intolerance/FI (e.g., “I cannot stand if what I think should happen doesn’t happen”); (2) awfulizing/catastrophizing/AWF (e.g., “It is awful if what I think should happen doesn’t happen”); and (3) global evaluation in the form of self-downing (e.g., GE/SD: “I am worthless if my wife does not love me as she should”), other downing (e.g., GE/OD: “My wife is damnable because she does not love me as she should”), and/or life downing (e.g., GE/LD: “Life is totally bad if my wife does not love me as she should”). The combination of primary and secondary irrational appraisals generates dysfunctional negative feelings, maladaptive behaviors, and/or unhealthy psychophysiological reactions. If DEM is confirmed by A, we experience dysfunctional positive feelings. Other people formulate their desires/goals flexibly, involving motivational relevance, flexibility, and acceptance (e.g., “I want to be loved by my wife, but this does not have to happen, and I am doing my best to be loved, but I accept that sometimes things do not happen the way I want them to happen”). When this flexible belief (i.e., preference/PRE) is not confirmed by A, secondary rational appraisal mechanisms follow: (1) frustration tolerance (e.g., FT: “I can stand if what I think should happen doesn’t happen even though it is a struggle for me to do so and I can still enjoy other things”); (2) non-awfulizing/nuanced evaluation of badness (e.g., BAD: “It is bad if what I think should happen doesn’t happen, but it is not awful and I can still try to enjoy other things”); and (3) unconditional acceptance in the form of self-acceptance (e.g., USA: “I accept myself unconditionally even if my wife does not love me”), other-acceptance (e.g., UOA: “I accept my wife as a human being even if she does not love me”), and/or life-acceptance (ULA: “Life is not totally bad if my wife does not love me”). The combination of primary and secondary rational appraisal mechanisms generates functional negative feelings, adaptive behaviors, and healthy psychophysiological reactions. If PRE are confirmed by A, we experience functional positive feelings. Once generated by the ABC process, a C (e.g., primary anxiety) can become a new A’ and thus a new ABC cycle begins, where B (e.g., “It is awful to be anxious”) represents meta-beliefs and C (i.e., anxiety about anxiety) represents secondary emotions/meta-emotions.

General Overviews

Ellis 1957 is a fundamental article in which the author set the foundation for what he called rational therapy (RT) (see also Ellis 1958). Then, Ellis’s seminal book Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy (Ellis 1962) legitimized the cognitive paradigm shift in the clinical field. Indeed, Albert Ellis is generally considered one of the main originators of the “cognitive revolution” in clinical psychology, paralleling and contributing to the cognitive revolution in psychology in general. Indeed, as a recognition of the role that Albert Ellis played in the cognitive revolution in psychology, the American Psychological Association awarded him both the Distinguish Professional Contribution to Psychology Award (1985) and the Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology Award (2013). In 1961 Ellis changed the name of RT into rational-emotive therapy (RET), to avoid criticism claiming that RT is “too rational,” and to reflect the new conceptualization of emotions outlined in this therapy (see Ellis 1962). In 1993 Ellis changed the name of RET into rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), to acknowledge the role of behavioral techniques and homework assignments in the therapy (see Ellis 1993), thus emphasizing the multimodal aspect of REBT practice. A last updated work on REBT by Ellis can be found in Ellis and Ellis 2011. Several recent key publications have updated REBT theory (David, et al. 2010) and practice (DiGiuseppe, et al. 2013) in the context of modern psychological research (see also David 2013 and David, et al. 2005).

  • David, D. 2013. Rational emotive behavior therapy in the context of modern psychological research. New York: Albert Ellis Institute.

    E-mail Citation »

    This study synthetically presents REBT theory and practice in the context of modern psychological research. It also frames the structure of the present REBT bibliography.

  • David, D., S. J. Lynn, and A. Ellis, eds. 2010. Rational and irrational beliefs in human functioning and disturbances; Implication for research, theory, and practice. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book offers an up-to-date comprehensive critical review and analysis of REBT theory. It also frames the structure of the present REBT bibliography.

  • David, D., A. Szentagotai, E. Kallay, and B. Macavei. 2005. A synopsis of rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT); Fundamental and applied research. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy 23.3: 175–221.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10942-005-0011-0E-mail Citation »

    This synopsis presents a critical analysis of REBT theory and practice based on modern cognitive sciences. It also frames the structure of the present REBT bibliography.

  • DiGiuseppe, R., K. A. Doyle, W. Dryden, and W. Backx. 2013. A practitioner’s guide to rational-emotive therapy. 3d ed. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This book offers up-to-date guidelines regarding REBT practice.

  • Ellis, A. 1957. Rational psychotherapy and individual psychology. Journal of Individual Psychology 13:38–44.

    E-mail Citation »

    Formulated for the first time an independent cognitive perspective in psychotherapy and clinical psychology (i.e., in the form of the ABC model), thus initiating a “cognitive revolution” in the clinical psychology/psychotherapy field. Although the term rational therapy was introduced by Ellis at various professional conferences (in 1956 at the American Psychological Convention in Chicago, for example), this is the article where this name was first published.

  • Ellis, A. 1958. Rational psychotherapy. Journal of General Psychology 59:35–49.

    DOI: 10.1080/00221309.1958.9710170E-mail Citation »

    This article further detailed the new development in psychotherapy, namely rational therapy.

  • Ellis, A. 1962. Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Lyle Stuart.

    E-mail Citation »

    This seminal book legitimized the cognitive paradigm shift in the clinical field (e.g., clinical psychology, counseling, psychotherapy). As relating to the “cognitive revolution” in the clinical field, the book played the role that Ulrich Neisser’s book Cognitive Psychology played for the “cognitive revolution” in psychology. The second edition was published in 1994. Although the name of rational-emotive therapy was presented by Ellis at various professional conferences, this is the book in which the name was first published.

  • Ellis, A. 1993. Changing rational-emotive therapy (RET) to rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Behavior Therapist 16:257–258.

    E-mail Citation »

    In this article Ellis argued why the name rational-emotive therapy was changed into rational emotive behavior therapy.

  • Ellis, A., and J. D. Ellis. 2011. Rational emotive behavior therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    E-mail Citation »

    This is a last updated work of Albert Ellis regarding REBT.

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