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What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of psychotherapy that was developed by psychologist Albert Ellis in the 1950s. It is considered a type of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and focuses on helping individuals identify and change irrational beliefs that contribute to emotional distress and unhealthy behaviors. This blog post explores Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and why it benefits those recovering from mental health disorders.

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

At the core of REBT is the belief that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected. Ellis proposed that it is not the events or situations themselves that cause emotional distress but rather our interpretations and beliefs about those events. According to REBT, these irrational beliefs lead to maladaptive behaviors and negative emotions.

What is the goal of REBT?

REBT aims to help individuals identify and challenge their irrational beliefs through a process of cognitive restructuring. The therapist works collaboratively with the client to examine the evidence supporting their thoughts and to develop more rational and adaptive ways of thinking.

How does REBT work?

One of the critical concepts in REBT is the ABC model. It stands for Activating event, Beliefs, and Consequences. According to this model, an activating event triggers our beliefs, leading to emotional and behavioral consequences. Individuals can change the emotional and behavioral effects by identifying and disputing irrational beliefs. For instance, if a person receives a poor grade on an assignment, they may believe they are worthless. This belief may lead to feelings of depression and a reluctance to continue with the course. By reframing this belief, the individual can change their emotional and behavioral response and work towards improving their grade.

What techniques are used in REBT?

According to the ABCs, there are three main types of REBT techniques. Depending on both their past clinical experience and your symptoms, each therapist might use a slightly different combination of techniques.

Techniques for solving problems

The activating event (A) can be addressed with these strategies.

Often, they involve developing:

  • Ability to solve problems
  • Being assertive
  • Skills related to social interaction
  • Skills in making decisions
  • Resolving conflicts

Cognitive restructuring techniques

By using these strategies, you can change irrational beliefs (B).

The following might be included:

  • Techniques for rationalizing or logical reasoning
  • Visualization and guided imagery
  • Reframing events or looking at them from a different perspective
  • Irony and humor
  • Exposure to a fearful situation
  • Refuting irrational beliefs

Coping techniques

Irrational thoughts can lead to emotional consequences (C), which can be managed through coping techniques.

There are several coping techniques, including:

  • relaxation techniques
  • being hypnotized
  • meditation practices

Your therapist may also give you some work between sessions, regardless of their techniques. You can use the skills you learn during a session every day. For example, one method they might use is if you generally experience something that makes you feel anxious, they might ask you to write down how you feel and how your response made you feel.

Using REBT to address common irrational beliefs

Understanding the underlying beliefs that lead to psychological distress is crucial in the therapeutic process. Often, these are expressed as absolutes, such as “I must,” “I should,” or “I cannot.”

This therapy addresses many irrational beliefs, including:

  • Mistakes or misconduct committed by others that cause excessive upset
  • Having the view that to be valued and worthwhile, you must be perfect and successful at everything you do
  • A belief that avoiding life’s difficulties will make you happier
  • Having an uncontrollable sense of happiness; feeling that external factors dictate your happiness and joy

The hold of unyielding beliefs like these prevents us from responding psychologically to activating situations in a healthy way. Having rigid expectations leads to disappointment, recrimination, regret, and anxiety.

What benefits does REBT have?

REBT also emphasizes the importance of unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional other-acceptance. Ellis believed that individuals should strive to accept themselves and others as fallible human beings rather than expecting perfection. This acceptance helps to reduce self-condemnation and judgment, leading to greater emotional well-being. For example, if an individual makes a mistake, they should strive to accept that they are imperfect and not criticize themselves for the error.

In addition to cognitive restructuring, REBT incorporates various techniques and strategies to help individuals change their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. These may include role-playing, imagery, humor, and homework assignments. The goal is to empower individuals to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions and to develop healthier ways of coping with life’s challenges.

Is REBT effective?

Research has shown that REBT can effectively treat a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and relationship problems. It has also been used in various settings, such as schools, workplaces, and prisons. REBT is effective because it emphasizes an individual’s capacity to identify and change irrational beliefs and behaviors, thereby reducing psychological distress. It also encourages clients to accept themselves and focus on problem-solving.

Getting Started With Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

To begin REBT, it is essential to speak to your doctor about referrals to local or online mental health professionals. It is vital to find a therapist who is qualified in REBT to receive the best care. Once you have found a qualified therapist, you can begin the process of REBT. Your therapist will work with you to identify irrational beliefs, challenge them, and create alternative, more rational thoughts.

If you want to find an REBT therapist near you quickly, navigate our directory at LGBTQ and ALL. We have an extensive list of mental health providers in your area or online.


In conclusion, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that focuses on helping individuals identify and change irrational beliefs that contribute to emotional distress and unhealthy behaviors. By challenging and replacing irrational beliefs, individuals can develop more rational and adaptive ways of thinking, leading to improved emotional well-being. REBT offers practical tools and strategies to empower individuals to take control of their thoughts and behaviors, ultimately leading to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

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