Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is psychotherapy that guides people in understanding how their thoughts and actions start with their beliefs. Without making this very important connection, they may continue to engage in harmful behaviors, including engaging in substance abuse.
While it is not as familiar in name, like cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, REBT has been around since 1955, when American psychologist Albert Ellis developed it. According to The Albert Ellis Institute, REBT is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy that offers a practical approach to addressing and managing cognitive and emotional disturbances.
The Albert Ellis Institute explains that “REBT is an action-oriented psychotherapy that teaches individuals to identify, challenge, and replace their self-defeating beliefs with healthier ones that promote emotional well-being and goal achievement.”
Ellis’ method was one of the earliest types of cognitive therapies available, reports VeryWell Mind.
Psychology Today writes that he believed most people are not aware that their thoughts about themselves are irrational. It is these thoughts, he said, that will influence how they behave in situations and relationships.
According to the REBT Network, the psychotherapy “is based on the premise that whenever we become upset, it is not the events taking place in our lives that upset us; it is the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, enraged, etc.”
These self-defeating beliefs must be released before positive change can occur. When healthy and productive thoughts are attained, then behavior improves.
REBT can help people with anxiety, depression, guilt, and inappropriate anger, and other negative or unwanted emotions. It can even help with everyday matters, such as whether one should eat healthy or unhealthy.
How To Identify Irrational Thoughts, Feelings, And Beliefs
Figuring out what’s rational and what’s not requires us to take a step back and look at ourselves perhaps objectively. Ellis identified a dozen or so variations of disempowering beliefs that people have. He believed them to be extreme, and in some cases, exaggerated. The REBT Network shares these 12 beliefs, and you can view them by clicking here.
Among them are:
- The idea that life would be easier if we could avoid hardships and responsibilities.
- The belief that things are catastrophic just because life isn’t going our way.
- Becoming upset over problems and issues that belong to other people.
- Believing that you have to be thoroughly perfect and competent to be successful.
- Thinking everyone is going to like you or love you.
As the REBT Network highlights in its article, an idea or notion is irrational if it:
- Distorts reality
- Is illogical
- Blocks you from reaching your goals
- Promotes unhealthy emotions
- Results in self-defeating behavior
These lists can help you get started on your journey to exploring what kinds of beliefs you have about yourself and others, and life in general. If any of these sounds familiar, it may be time to consider making changes that support sound thinking and prosperous living.
The ABCDE Model
To understand the process of REBT, Ellis developed an ABC Model to explain the link between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. This model may also be referred to as the ABCDE Model as well, which is explained below. PositivePsychology.comexplains the model as:
Activating Event. This is an event that happens to or around someone.
Belief. The belief forms after, or as a result of, the event.
Consequence. Beliefs lead to consequences. As PositivePsychology.com explains, rational beliefs lead to healthy consequences; irrational ones lead to unhealthy consequences.
Disputation. This is the stage where a negative belief must be challenged and turned into a rational belief.
Effective New Belief. In this step, a person adopts new beliefs that lead to favorable outcomes. Healthy beliefs lead to healthy consequences.
Why Disputing Irrational Beliefs Is Important
The disputation step of the ABCDE Model is important to understand. The process of disputing an irrational or self-defeating belief contains three steps as outlined below:
Detect: Before one can dispute a harmful belief, it must be acknowledged that the belief exists. REBT helps people understand how and when their beliefs started and the roles these beliefs play in their lives.
Debate: Once the belief is identified, evidence surrounding the belief must be considered and then evaluated. Is it accurate? Asking questions such as this can help clarify the perception concerning the belief.
Decide: Here, in this last step, it must be decided if a belief is rational or irrational. Before this can be determined, consider the consequence of the belief being evaluated. If the consequence is unfavorable, then the belief likely will lead to an unwanted result.
How REBT Can Help People In Recovery
Practitioners of REBT work with clients one-on-one to help them realize the set of beliefs they have that cause emotional distress. Clients are then taught techniques they can use to help solve the challenges they face. The methods used are designed to help them change their negative beliefs into helpful ones.
For people in recovery, taking the time to consider the influence of negative thoughts on behavior can keep them focused on making better choices. Rationally looking at flawed thinking can also empower people to take actions that benefit them.
For example, a person who’s dealing with a great deal of stress, or maybe even boredom, may want to drink alcohol or do drugs to “take the edge off.” For the short-term, using substances may provide just the escape one is seeking. However, the thought that this actually will solve the problem is irrational. In actuality, it likely will make the problem worse.
People who stop using addictive substances, but return to them as a coping mechanism, are straying away from the goal of leaving substance use behind. They’re also putting themselves at the risk of having a relapse, a reality that can quickly turn dangerous and deadly.
People in recovery can identify troubling thoughts, and work diligently toward changing them. This likely will lead to a change in behavior, which increases their chances of recovering from addiction.
REBT can also help people in recovery accept themselves, accept others, and accept the world as it is. All of these can help us see things in a realistic light, and make it easier to know when something is or is not in our control. REBT also works well with other approaches to addiction treatment, including: