Exploring Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy

Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a treatment approach for individuals dealing with anxiety or other emotional challenges. It helps them stabilize cognitive and behavioral problems as they learn how to analyze and form healthy, helpful thought patterns. Dr. Albert Ellis created REBT following the similar treatment Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in 1955, with both therapies helping individuals improve problematic thoughts and challenging behaviors. REBT examines irrational or toxic thoughts as they play a major role into our behaviors, reactions, and patterns. Ellis notes there are 3 main insights of REBT worth noting, which, according to Science Direct are:

  1. “People are innate constructivists and by nature, teaching and, especially, self-training they contribute to their own psychological dysfunction. They create as well as acquire their emotional disabilities.”
  2. “People usually, with the “help” and connivance of their family members, first make themselves disturbed when they are young and relatively foolish. But then they actively, although often unconsciously, work hard after their childhood and adolescence is over to habituate themselves to dysfunctional thinking, feeling, and acting. This is mainly why they stay disturbed today. They continue to construct dysfunctional beliefs.”
  3. “Because of their natural and acquired propensities to strongly choose major goals and values and to insist, as well as to prefer, that they must have achieved them, and because they hold these self-defeating beliefs and feelings for many years, people firmly retain and often resist changing them. Therefore, there usually is no way for them to change but work and practice–yes, work and practice–for a period of time.”

How Is REBT Useful For Addiction Treatment?

Similar to CBT, patients focus on the present moment and are able to redirect harmful thoughts to rational ones, minimizing the effects of irrational beliefs. REBT focuses on strategies and techniques that enhance conflict resolution, self-awareness, tolerance and cooperation, and social awareness with specific methods. Depression and anxiety have both been linked to negative thoughts and irrational beliefs, and REBT has been shown to restructure thought patterns that can manifest as:

  • Addictive behaviors/compulsions
  • Fears/Phobias
  • Aggressive behaviors
  • Poor eating habits
  • Procrastination
  • Guilt/Shame/Rage
  • Depression
  • Self-harm
  • Anxiety/Social anxiety
  • Demanding behavior or attitudes
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Distress

Patients in therapy for addiction or co-occurring disorders may find REBT helpful in becoming more mindful when anxious or depressive thoughts occur. Patients can also gain self-awareness in monitoring thoughts and feel empowered as they transform their beliefs and behavioral patterns.

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Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy Techniques For Addiction Treatment

Albert Ellis constructed different theories for REBT. One main theory, the ABC theory for REBT, comes from the idea that people are blaming external events for their emotions. REBT prefers people put the focus on their beliefs about the event, with the ABC model working as a guide for helpful thought patterns, which are:

  • A-Activating Event: This is the event that occurs. It can be in the form of adversity. 
  • B-Beliefs: This includes the beliefs in response to the event that occurred.
  • C-This is the emotion-filled response to the belief about the event. These can manifest as depression, anxiety, and feelings of rejection, for example.

Modern updates to this model include D (disputes) for disputing arguments against irrational beliefs and E (effects), which come from the effect of disputes resulting in new emotions and behaviors. REBT is also helpful in replacing rational beliefs in place of irrational ones. An example of this may be journaling destructive thoughts, or replacing them with positive, grounding ones in the form of a mantra.

Another method provides cognitive restructuring techniques to patients battling consequences of irrational thinking. These techniques minimize irrational beliefs and help create logical ones. Individuals can use imagery or visualization to undermine negative thoughts that surface. They can use humor to destress, or use coping techniques like meditation to deal with consequences of negative thoughts. They can also dispute irrational thoughts by asking themselves questions to be aware of why they have certain beliefs.

Similarities In CBT And REBT

REBT and CBT are similar, and some experts have coined REBT as a type of CBT. Albert Ellis created Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy and contributed much to CBT via the ABC model. His driving motive was to encourage mindfulness. Additionally, CBT offers the same opportunity for mindfulness and control of one’s thoughts and behavior in useful and helpful ways. Both CBT and REBT encourage meditation, goal setting, journaling, and guided imagery as relaxation and healthy coping skills. As a result, both therapy types can help with anxiety, depression, grief, low self esteem, stress, addictions, panic attacks, anger, phobias, and other conditions.

Differences In CBT And REBT

Despite similarities, both offer unique differences. Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy encourages humor as a stress reliever in addition to meditation and other tools. CBT does not offer this, as CBT stresses mindfulness is more structured with methods. REBT focuses more on self-love and acceptance, via dismissing self-judgment in place of compassion. CBT also views anger as a healthy emotion, where REBT maintains anger has a “commanding and philosophic core” according to Psychology Today. This means CBT doesn’t get to the root of anger in the same way REBT does. REBT also has confrontative methods, allowing individuals to deeply connect with thoughts and emotions in a direct manner.

Get The Treatment You Deserve

Finding treatment can seem overwhelming. There’s support available. If you or a loved one needs access to REBT or CBT in relation to addiction, there is hope. Contact a treatment provider for more information.