Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a cognitive-behavioral approach to treatment developed by Dr. Albert Ellis in 1955.
According to this therapy, emotional and behavioral ailments are the result of irrational thoughts, assumptions and beliefs. This therapy identifies those problematic and erroneous ideas and replace them with more rational, reality-based thoughts and perspectives.
REBT- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy since its inception, has flourished and spawned a variety of other cognitive-behavior therapies. Its effectiveness, short-term nature, and low cost are major reasons for its wide acceptance and popularity.
The goal is to help clients develop a rational philosophy that will allow them to reduce their emotional distress and self-defeating behaviors. A number of techniques are used in this active approach, such as rational-emotive imagery (in which clients imagine themselves thinking, feeling and behaving in ways they would like to think, feel and behave in real life), role-playing, homework assignments, desensitization, and assertiveness exercises. The goal is freedom from emotional upheaval and a more authentic and joyful engagement in life.
How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Works?
Recalling the A-B-C theory of personality, successful REBT therapy adds steps D, E, and F. The D stands for disputing: the therapist helps the client to challenge the irrational belief (B). REBT teaching suggests that the therapist ask the client if there is any evidence for the belief, or what would be the worst possible outcome if the client were to give up that belief. In therapy the counselor may point out faulty beliefs, but he or she also teaches the client how to dispute them in day-to-day life outside of therapy. The result of disputing the self-defeating belief and replacing it with a rational one yields an effective philosophy (E), and also a new set of feelings (F) which are not debilitating. Although REBT teaches that the counselor should demonstrate unconditional full acceptance, the therapist is not encouraged to build a warm and caring relationship with the client. The counselor’s only task is to aid the client in identifying and confronting irrational beliefs and replacing them with rational ones. The therapist usually is not even interested in the past events which are the source of the irrational belief; all that matters is getting rid of that belief in the present.
REBT distinguishes between practical problems and emotional problems. Practical problems are actual events and situations that are problematic, whereas emotional problems are reactions to such events and situations that are inappropriate, inaccurate (overreactions or underreactions), and actually or potentially harmful.
Strengths and weaknesses of REBT with suicidal adolescents
Some of the potential strengths of REBT and its application to suicidal youths would be its simplicity. REBT seems to be a model which takes into consideration, developmental levels – an important ingredient when working with teenagers. REBT, in some respect, may not seem like psychotherapy from the teenager’s perspective, due to its direct approach, didactic style, and reliance on empiricism. Where other models of therapy come across as mysterious and intimidating to teenagers, REBT is exactly the opposite.
Weinrach (1990) has indicated that REBT has the capability of rubbing individuals the wrong way. Another criticism, or to be more accurate, a misconception regarding REBT, is its failure to discuss the emotionality aspects of emotional disturbances (Garcia, 1977 ; Satzberg, 1979). REBT has also been lambasted for being a model for tough-minded individuals. In A New Guide to Rational Living, Ellis (1961) corroborates this idea that he/she has a right to decide what to do with his/her life. Surprisingly, Ellis (1961) suggests that one address suicide forthrightly and also with the addition of what Ellis refers to as causal humor. This type of approach may or may not be effective with adolescents. Yet, some may suggest it lacks the necessary degree of empathy to efficiently work with suicidal patients.