Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) may not jump out like cognitive-behavioral therapy, but it is a practice that has existed since the 1950s. It is seen as a psychological orientation created by Albert Ellis, and it focuses on your thoughts and beliefs. Ellis’ creation was a response to other therapeutic types that existed at this time. He believed that he could change the way therapy helped people.

During this span in the 1950s, many psychological theories were geared toward psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Albert began his career as a trained psychoanalyst, but his views started to shift when he saw that it could only address the surface of someone’s needs. He felt that in most cases, it only made their symptoms worse.

Albert believed that these therapies were incomplete because they did not cater to the thoughts of the patient. He thought it was a pattern of thinking that leads to the development of psychological issues like depression or anxiety. It soon became the main focal point in his orientation, which is viewed today as REBT.

Why are Beliefs Important in REBT?

Albert believed it was necessary to focus more attention on the thought process of patients. He took it a step further, however, and focused solely on their beliefs. In his vision, a belief followed two separate components:

  • The first stage he believed is the thought, which is how someone views a situation.
  • The emotional component is the second stage, which is how you will feel about a situation.

Albert saw that patients have several beliefs that will dictate their lives. He worked to separate those beliefs into two categories, which include:

  • Positive beliefs: These are beliefs that are accurate, valid, and factually based.
  • Negative beliefs: These beliefs are not accurate, and they are considered false or invalid.

A person with negative beliefs will feel worse, and someone that views their lives more positively will have a greater sense of well-being and feel much better. Albert wanted to find a way to develop more of these rational and emotive beliefs for people – this is where the name, REBT, originates.

The ABC Model of REBT

The focal point of REBT is a patient’s beliefs. REBT incorporates the idea that situations and events in our lives alone won’t lead to unwanted feelings or symptoms, but the person’s beliefs about the event lead them to the consequence. REBT is deep-rooted in acknowledging what you did wrong and making the right statement.

To get a better understanding of this point, REBT incorporates an ABC model, which can also be referred to as the ABC Theory of Personality. The theory goes as follows:

  • A: This is known as activating an event, which will trigger the start of a cycle. The activating event may be a person, place, thought, event, or thing. It can also be from the present, past, or future.
  • B: The belief that is held about the activating event.
  • C: The consequence of your beliefs – it can be thoughts, behaviors, or feelings.

Disrupting the Irrational Beliefs

According to the ABC model, the only way there can be an improvement in symptoms and functioning is if the person challenges their irrational beliefs.

person reaching out to another person's hand

When they do this, it reduces the negative influence the thought pattern has on their lives.

It will give them more room for rational thoughts to show up in their minds.

Ellis felt that each person would have some irrational beliefs, and it was nearly impossible to remove all irrational thoughts from their thinking process.

That wasn’t the goal – his goal was to dispute these beliefs by providing a reduction of significant contributors to unwanted feelings, behaviors, and thoughts.

The outcome would result in decreased symptoms. A process that disputes irrational beliefs breaks down into three steps, which includes:

  1. Detect: Prior to disputing an irrational belief, you must be aware of its presence. You need to gain an understanding of where it started and what role it serves. It can be accomplished by focusing on your reactions and thoughts to situations. You need to ask yourself why you feel this way.
  2. Debate: When you identify the belief, you must start weighing the evidence for the view. Is it accurate? Is it inaccurate? You need to defend both points to determine your perception.
  3. Decide: The final step is to decide if your beliefs are irrational or rational. You may wonder how to determine this, but you must note the consequences. Many of your feelings will lead to unwanted results, which are irrational.

How Does REBT Help in Addiction Treatment?

When someone is facing the daunting task of recovery for their addiction to drugs or alcohol, REBT will dive deep into many of the beliefs that urged you to use in the first place. REBT will provide you with the significance of acceptance in three ways:

  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Community Treatment
  • 12-Step Programs
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
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