Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

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Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)is a theory of personality and a method of psychotherapy developed in the 1950's by Albert Ellis, a clinical psychologist. Ellis believes that when highly charged emotional consequences follow a significant event, the event actually does not necessarily cause the consequences. Instead, they are largely created by the individual's belief system. When undesirable emotional consequences occur, such as severe anxiety, Ellis believes that when irrational beliefs are effectively disputed by challenging them rationally and behaviourally the disturbed consequences are reduced. The goal of REBT, consequently, is to help clients examine and change their basic values - particularly those keeping them disturbed – and reduce underlying symptom producing propensities.

REBT views cognition and emotion integratively, with thought, feeling, desires and action interacting with each other. Ellis stresses that personality change can occur in both directions. Therefore the therapist can talk with people and try to change their mind so they will behave differently, or can help clients to change their behaviour and thus modify their thinking. REBT theorists believe that humans rarely change a profound self-defeating belief unless they act against it.

REBT holds that people are born with the potential to be rational as well as irrational. They not only have a predispositions to be self-preserving and actualize their potential for life and growth; but also to be self-destructive, and short-range hedonists. They avoid thinking things through, procrastinate, repeat the same mistakes, are superstitious, intolerant, perfectionistic, grandiose and avoid actualizing their potential for growth. They have a tendency to irrational thinking and self-damaging habituations, exacerbated by both culture and the family group. They rarely act without perceiving, thinking and emoting because these provide reasons for acting. Both normal and disturbed behaviour are functions of perceiving, thinking, emoting and acting.

To help change malfunctioning REBT uses a variety of perceptualcognitive, emotive-evocative, and behaviouristic-reeducative methods. It is highly cognitive, active-directive, homework assigning and discipline-oriented therapy; likely to be more effective in briefer periods, and with fewer sessions than other therapies.

REBT therapists do not believe a warm relationship between client and the therapist is necessary for effective personality change, although it is seen as desirable. Stress is placed on unconditional acceptance and close collaboration with clients, but therapists also actively encourage them to confront their behaviours and accept their inevitable fallibility.

A variety of therapeutic methods are employed - didactic discussion, behaviour modification, bibliotherapy, audiovisual aids and activity-oriented homework assignments, role-play, assertion training, desentitization, humour, operant conditioning, suggestion support and other techniques. Therapy is not just oriented to symptom removal except when that is the only way change can be accomplished.

To discourage undue dependence, therapists use hardheaded methods to convince clients to resort to self-discipline and self-direction REBT shows how activating events or adversities contribute but do not cause emotional consequences. Emotional consequences result from interpretations of events through the lens of unrealistic and over-generalized beliefs. In other words, the real cause of emotional upset lies in people and not in what happens to them. To assist in correcting their malfunctions, clients are presented with the following insights:

A. Self-defeating behavior follows from the interaction of adversity and an irrational belief system, resulting in disturbed consequences. B. Unless clients admit and face their own responsibiities for the continuation of dysfunctional beliefs they are unlikely to uproot them C. Only hard work and...
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