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Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy | What is REBT | Psychotherapy

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

This therapy was first called Rational Therapy, later Rational Emotive Therapy, and then changed to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. It was first introduced in 1955 by Dr. Albert Ellis. Ellis drew from his knowledge of philosophy and psychology to devise a method which he believed was more directive, efficient, and effective.

One of the mains pillars of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is that irrational patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving are the cause of much human disturbance, including depression and anxiety. Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy teaches that turning flexible preferences and wishes into grandiose absolutistic demands and commands will cause disturbances. Albert Ellis has suggested three core beliefs that cause disturbances (Ellis, 2003):

“I must be thoroughly competent, adequate, achieving, and loveable at all times, or else I am an incompetent worthless person.”  This belief usually leads to feelings of anxiety, panic, depression, despair, and worthlessness.

Other significant people in my life must treat me kindly and fairly at all times, or else I can’t stand it, and they are bad, rotten, and evil persons who should be severely blamed, damned, and vindictively punished for their horrible treatment of me. This leads to feelings of anger, rage, fury, and vindictiveness and leads to action like fights, feuds, wars, genocide, and ultimately, an atomic holocaust.

“Things and conditions absolutely must be the way I want them to be and must never be too difficult or frustrating. Otherwise, life is awful, terrible, horrible, catastrophic, and unbearable”. This leads to low-frustration tolerance, self-pity, anger, depression, and behaviors such as procrastination, avoidance, and inaction. Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy then holds that an irrational belief system has strong tendencies to the following self-defeating components: Demands, Awful zing, Low Frustration Tolerance, People Rating, and overgeneralizing.

Strategies of Rational Emotive Therapy (REPT) 

Following are the strategies that are common in use, as the name suggests it includes:

Cognitive Techniques

Cognitive Techniques aims at teaching clients how to deal with self-statements so that they no longer believe them and encourage them to acquire a philosophy based on reality.

  • Rational Analysis:  It is the first step in REBT, analyses of specific episodes to teach the client how to uncover and dispute irrational beliefs. These are usually done in session at first; then, as the client gets the idea, they can be done as homework.

  • Disputing Irrational Belief:  It is actively disputing the client’s irrational beliefs and teaching them how to do this challenging on their own. The client go over a particular “must”, “should” or “ought” until they longer hold that irrational belief or at least until it is diminished in strength. Disputing with irrational beliefs can be done both by the therapist and the client.

  • Changing one’s language:  Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) contends that imprecise language is one of the causes of distorted thinking processes. Clients learn that “musts”, “should” and “oughts” can be replaced by preferences.

  • Reframing:  Another strategy for getting bad events into perspective is to re-evaluate them as “disappointing”, “concerning”, or “uncomfortable” rather than as awful or unbearable. a variation of reframing is to help the client see that even negative events almost always have a positive side to them.

Emotive Techniques

Emotive Techniques helps the clients to understand the value of unconditional self-acceptance and unconditional other’s acceptance, even though the behavior may be difficult to accept, they can decide to see themselves and others as worthwhile.

  • Rational-Emotive Imagery:  It is a form of intense mental practice designed to establish new emotional patterns by making the clients imagine themselves the worst thing that could happen, unhealthy and upset feelings, intense experience of feelings, and changing them to healthy and positive feelings. As clients change their feelings about adversities, they stand a better chance of changing their behavior in the real situation.

  • Role-Playing:  There are both emotional and behavioral components in role-playing. Clients can rehearse certain behaviors to bring out what they feel in a situation with the therapist in a presumed environment. The focus is on working through the underlying irrational beliefs that are related to unpleasant feelings.

  • Shame Attacking Exercise:  Ellis has developed an exercise to help people reduce shame over behaving in certain ways. When we stubbornly refuse to feel ashamed by telling ourselves that it is not catastrophic if someone thinks we are foolish. The exercises are aimed at increasing self-acceptance and mature responsibility.

  • Use of force and vigor:   It is a way to help clients go from intellectual to emotional insight. Clients are shown how to conduct forceful dialogues by reverse role-playing in which the therapist adopts the client’s belief and vigorously argues for it; while the client tries to convince the therapist that the belief is dysfunctional. It is especially useful when the client now sees the irrationality of a belief, but needs help to consolidate that understanding.

Behavioral Techniques

Behavioral Techniques are one of the best ways to check out and modify a belief by the act. Clients can be encouraged to check out the evidence for their fears and to act in ways that disprove them. The common techniques are:

  • Exposure:  Possibly the most common behavioral strategy used in REBT involves clients entering feared situations they would normally avoid. Such exposure is deliberate, planned, and carried out using cognitive and other coping skills.

  • Risk-Taking:  The purpose is to challenge beliefs that certain behaviors are too dangerous to risk when reason says that while the outcome is not guaranteed they are worth the chance.

  • Paradoxical Behaviour:   When a client wishes to change a dysfunctional tendency, encourage them to deliberately behave in a way contradictory to the tendency. Emphasis the importance of not waiting until they feel like doing it, practicing the new behavior even though it is not spontaneous will gradually internalize the new habit.

  • Delaying Gratification:  Delayed gratification or deferred gratification, is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.

Why Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT)?

Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) is widely used, such as

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Marital Difficulties

  • Poor interpersonal skills

  • Parenting failure

  • Personality Disorders

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

  • Eating-Disorder

  • Psychosomatic Disorder

  • Addiction

  • Impulse control disorder

  • Pain management

  • Antisocial Behaviour

  • Adjustment to chronic health problems.

If you feel you are also suffering from such kind of problems. Feel free to consult our therapist. Online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is also available on You can visit our clinic or can book an appointment online at


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