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Emotional Wellbeing: 3 Proven Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy Techniques

July 20, 2020

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“People are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.”

– Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis! Since we have started with his quote, let me give you a brief introduction about him and about how he is related to ‘Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’. Albert Ellis was a renowned psychologist who developed Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in 1955. He believed that the way people feel is mainly influenced by how they think. It then became his fundamental assertion of REBT. His innovative and straight forward approach to his work left an impact on the therapy world and contributed to many effective therapies available today. 

In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy – its meaning, theories, and techniques. Before we move on to the details, let me first explain to you what REBT means. 

What is Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)?

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, as the name suggests, is an approach that helps individuals identify, and change, their irrational thoughts, and emotions. It evolved as the original form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, practiced widely. Albert Ellis believed that most of the people are not aware that many of their thoughts are irrational and negatively affect their relationships and situations. These negative thought patterns could also lead to emotional and behavioural issues. As a result, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy replaces unhealthy emotions and thoughts with a set of rational and more productive beliefs. By letting go of negative emotions, and replacing them with positive ones, one can accept himself and live a happy life without any fear. 

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Let’s understand this with the help of an example: 

“Mr. X, Sales Executive, is a new employee of a multinational company, and his job role requires him to network with multiple clients. However, he is not comfortable in starting a conversation and always thinks that he lacks business etiquette. He worries that he might fumble to make his introduction, will miss, or slip out on words while talking. Mr.X gets too anxious if he were to approach somebody and strike a conversation. Eventually, he avoids talking to his clients out of his fear, and that was the reason why he did not perform well in his last job. He did not want to repeat the same mistake, so he visited his therapist. The therapist then explained to him that the main problem was he was putting a lot of pressure on himself to make an introduction. The awkwardness, lack of confidence, anxiety is all in his head, therefore, affecting his beliefs and behaviors. The therapist then works on replacing his negative emotions in affirmations and healthy emotions. He suggests, before Mr.X meets a new client, he should repeat to himself “It’s not a big deal if I goof up in the introduction. I must cover up for it in the following conversations”. Although more efforts and practice are required to come out of it, various REBT approaches can help to rebuild affirmations and positivity.  

That is how Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy can replace your irrational and unhealthy emotions into rational and productive beliefs. 

I hope this example helped you understand the meaning of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Now let’s move a step forward and understand the principles of this therapy as developed by Albert Ellis. 

The ABC of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. 

Based on the notion that we create irrational thoughts and beliefs in our head that affect our day-to-day behaviour, Albert Ellis established three guiding principles of REBT. 

I will be using the same example from above to help you understand the ABC Model better. 

A – Activating (or Adverse) Events 

An activating or adverse event is something that triggers an irrational belief in your mind. It is the first step in developing an unpleasant emotion towards the situation. In the example given above, the moment Mr.X started to think that he lacks confidence or gets anxious while striking a conversation, it was an activating event for him. 

B – Irrational Belief 

Irrational beliefs form in response to the activating event. In simple terms, it is a belief that you use to support your situation. When Mr.X did not find it comfortable in making a conversation with his clients, he sat back and thought he is not good with it and will not be able to do a good job again. Although it is a hurting and self-demeaning thought, it can surprisingly be more comforting than not going ahead and approaching the client. And hence, it is rightly called as Irrational Belief. 

C – Emotional and Behavioural Consequences

This principle refers to the consequence of this irrational belief. Naturally, if we have irrational beliefs, there will always be emotional or behavioural negative consequences or both. In the example above, due to Mr.X’s belief that he is under-confident in talking to his clients, it made him think that he did not approach the client appropriately, and hence could not perform well in his last job. 

Thus, Ellis’s ABC Model can be extremely helpful in identifying and tracking down the growth of irrational beliefs and hence giving an outline of how to challenge and replace the negative thoughts. 

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Now let’s have a look at the REBT techniques. 

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy Techniques

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy can use multiple techniques that best suit the individual. However, there are three main techniques in REBT that correspond with Albert Ellis’s ABC model. The therapist might use a combination of these techniques or maybe club them with different ones, depending on his experience and knowledge, and the patient’s symptoms.  

1. Problem Solving Techniques

The problem-solving technique helps the client address the A of the ABC Model. Once the event is activated, this technique makes the patient work to develop – 

  • Conflict resolution skills
  • Social Skills
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Decision-Making Skills
  • Assertiveness

2. Cognitive Restructuring Techniques

This technique helps the patient change his irrational beliefs or any negative thoughts. This technique includes exercises based on the following – 

  • Disputing Irrational Beliefs
  • Using Humour and Irony
  • Logical or Rationalizing Techniques
  • Reframing
  • Facing Your Fears
  • Guided Imagery or Visualization

3. Coping Techniques

Coping techniques come into the picture when a client cannot change the event and is struggling even after using rational thinking. Then the following steps are taken to address the issue –

  • Breathing Exercises
  • Meditation
  • Hypnosis
  • Relaxation
  • Mindfulness

As you read in the introduction of this article, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy is originally a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Despite this, there are certainly differences between the two approaches. Continue reading to know the difference between the two. 

And if you are unaware of what Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) means, don’t worry! You can read more about it through this other informative article on Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Mental Wellbeing. 

Differences Between REBT and CBT 

Both REBT and CBT help you accept and change irrational thoughts that cause emotional and behavioral consequences, but they have several key differences: 

  1. In REBT, the approach modifies the client’s underlying core beliefs. Whereas in CBT, it modifies the client’s current behaviour.
  2. REBT focuses on evaluating the irrational beliefs, and negative emotions, while CBT focuses on changing the client’s behaviour. 
  3. The REBT approach is more close-ended, confrontative, and persuasive, while the CBT approach is more open-ended, structured, and reflective. 
  4. CBT places more emphasis than REBT on helping clients discover and identify their misconceptions for themselves. 
  5. In REBT, the therapist is usually the ‘Teacher’ whereas, in CBT, the approach is more oriented to be collaborative.

Effectiveness of REBT

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy developed years and years ago, but it is still in use by psychologists and therapists around the world. However, the question is, is REBT effective? Well, as per the 2017 review of 84 published articles on REBT, it was concluded that Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy is a valid treatment that can help with social anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. It can also help people manage specific behavior like shyness, under confidence, excess approval seeking, etc. This therapy is also an effective method to help people challenge their irrational thoughts and encourage them to replace their negative emotions with positive, healthy, and constructive ones. This is a life-enhancing tool for people who face these kinds of issues.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

I hope you enjoyed reading my article and got the necessary information you were looking for in your read. Have you gone through Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy or are planning to go for one? Do share your experiences in the comments below. I would be happy to know them. 

If you found this article interesting and want to go deeper into this topic, I would suggest you a great book from one of my favourite teacher and healer Albert Ellis  :


AC Life


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