Albert Ellis - REBT
by Saul McLeod published 2009
Albert Ellis (1961) proposes that each of us hold a unique set of assumptions about ourselves and our world that serve to guide us through life and determine our reactions to the various situations we encounter.
Unfortunately, some people’s assumptions are largely irrational, guiding them to act and react in ways that are inappropriate and that prejudice their chances of happiness and success. Albert Ellis calls these basic irrational assumptions.
Some people irrationally assume that they are failures if they are not loved by everyone they know - they constantly seek approval and repeatedly feel rejected. All their interactions are affected by this assumption, so that a great party can leave them dissatisfied because they don’t get enough compliments.
According to Ellis, these are other common irrational assumptions:
• The idea that one should be thoroughly competent at everything
• The idea that is it catastrophic when things are not the way you want them to be
• The idea that people have no control over their happiness
• The idea that you need someone stronger than yourself to be dependent on
• The idea that your past history greatly influences your present life
• The idea that there is a perfect solution to human problems, and it’s a disaster if you don’t find it.
Ellis believes that people often forcefully hold on to this illogical way of thinking, and therefore employs highly emotive, techniques to help them vigorously and forcefully change this irrational thinking.
Rational emotive behavior therapists have cited many studies in support of this approach. Most early studies were conducted on people with experimentally induced anxieties or non clinical problems such as mild fear of snakes (Kendall, Kendall & Kriss, 1983) but a number of recent studies have been done on actual clinical subjects and have also found that rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is often helpful (Lyons & Woods 1991).
REBT - Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
A major aid in cognitive therapy is what Albert Ellis called the ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs. The first three steps
analyze the process by which a person has developed irrational beliefs and may be recorded in a three-column table.
* A - Activating Event or objective situation. The first column records the objective situation, that is, an event that ultimately leads to some type of high emotional response or negative dysfunctional thinking.
* B - Beliefs. In the second column, the client writes down the negative thoughts that occurred to them.
* C - Consequence. The third column is for the negative feelings and dysfunctional behaviors that ensued. The negative thoughts of the second column are seen as a connecting bridge between the situation and the distressing feelings. The third column C is next explained by describing emotions or negative thoughts that the client thinks are caused by A. This could be anger, sorrow, anxiety, etc.
Ellis believes that it is not the activating event (A) that causes negative emotional and behavioral consequences (C), but rather it is that they interpret these events unrealistically and therefore have irrational belief system (B) that helps cause the consequences (C).
For example, Gina is upset because she got a low mark on a math test. The Activating event, A, is that she failed her test. The Belief, B, is that she must have good grades or she is worthless. The Consequence, C, is that Gina feels depressed.
* Reframing* - After irrational beliefs have been identified, the therapist will often work with the client in challenging the negative thoughts on the basis of evidence from the client's experience by reframing it, meaning to re-interpret it in a more realistic light. This helps the client to develop more rational beliefs and healthy coping strategies.
From the example above, a therapist would help Gina realize that there is no evidence that she must have good grades to be worthwhile, or that getting bad grades is awful. She desires good grades, and it would be good to have them, but it hardly makes her worthless. If she realizes that getting bad grades is disappointing, but not awful, and that it means she is currently bad at math or at studying, but not as a person, she will feel sad or frustrated, but not depressed. The sadness and frustration are likely healthy negative emotions and may lead her to study harder from then on.
How to cite this article:
McLeod, S. A. (2009). . Retrieved from
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