Metropolitan State University
Albert Ellis was born into his Jewish family on September 17, 1913 in Pittsburgh where is father was a businessman. Growing up Ellis classified his parents as emotionally distant and barely showed mediocre affection to their children. His mother he describes as self-absorbed with a bi-polar affect, his father was mostly away on business. As a child Ellis suffered numerous health problems and hospitalized several time between the ages of seven and eight. During this time his parents provided little to no support, rarely visiting. Ellis was the eldest of three and took on the responsibility of caring for two younger siblings by purchasing his own alarm clock to wake on his own and dress them.
Ellis first obtained a degree in business from the City University of New York and had a brief career in business followed by one as a writer. This is where he discovered his talent for non-fiction writing and began to write about the field of human sexuality, which is the field he developed expertise in. Due to the few experts in this field Ellis was sought out for advice which led him to a change his career towards clinical psychology. In 1943, while pursuing his Ph.D. at Columbia University, Ellis started a part time private practice as there was no psychological licensing at the time. Upon completing of hit Ph.D. Ellis sought additional training in Psychoanalysis and began working with Richard Hulbeck who was a leading training analyst at the Karen Horney Institute. Ellis’ psychological models were influenced by the writings of Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, Harry Stack Sullivan and most of all Karen Horney. As his knowledge and experience grew in psychoanalysis he began to question its efficacy and scientific foundation and published articles commenting on the need for scientific support.
While continuing his part-time practice Ellis also worked full time as a psychologist for the state of New Jersey and became chief psychologist of the state in 1950. As his recognition grew as an advocate for sexual freedom he was refused many teaching positions due to his ‘controversial’ sex based writings. He defended publishers of sex materials, gays, and other alleged s0065 offenders in court which game him the distinction of the first prominent psychiatrist to advocate gay liberation. Although trying to modify his techniques Ellis was primarily still using Psychoanalysis.
Through Ellis’ practice he noted that essentially all people labeled as neurotic had the tendency to inititiate irrational and stringent thinking. He also observed that theoretically an intelligent person will act in ways that appear self-defeating and absurb and even though they are fully aware of the irrational behaviors they adamantly continue to maintain them despite the continued despair. This observation by Ellis went hand in hand with his reading on stoic philosophers who believed that destructive emotions were the result of errors in judgment and that a sage of person of “moral intellectual perfection” would not undergo such emotions. This meant that extreme, neurotic emotions are due to the individual’s perception of the situations not the situation itself.
In 1953 Ellis officially broke from psychoanalysis and began calling himself a rational therapist and by 1955 he named his new approach Rational-Emotive Therapy which required therapists to help clients understand and actively change their self-defeating beliefs and behaviors by highlighting their irrationality. He began teaching his new technique to other therapists which led to formally setting the first cognitive behavioral psychotherapy by suggesting therapists help change client’s behavioral methods, however at that time behavioral and clinical psychology was the dominant interest in experimental psychology so Ellis was accepted with hostility at professional conferences and through print. Despite this slow...