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ALBERT ELLIS
1913-2007
Table of Content

TABLE OF CONTENT..................................................................................................................................2
ALBERT ELLIS.............................................................................................................................................2
RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOR THEORY.........................................................................................4
GENERAL RULES........................................................................................................................................7
FROM SELF-DEFEAT TO RATIONAL LIVING; ....................................................................................................9
RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY....................................................................................11
PHILOSOPHICAL CONDITIONING.....................................................................................................11
IRRATIONAL IDEAS THAT CAUSE AND SUSTAIN NEUROSIS .....................................................12
CLINICAL IMPLEMENTATION OF REBT............................................................................................14
CASE.........................................................................................................................................................14
GOAL OF REBT..........................................................................................................................................15
CRITICISM..................................................................................................................................................17
CONCLUSIONS...........................................................................................................................................18
REFERENCES.............................................................................................................................................19

ALBERT ELLIS
Albert Ellis, Ph.D., was born in Pittsburgh on September 27, 1913, and raised in New
York City. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business from the City University of
New York in 1934. He also holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from
Columbia University, and has held many important psychological positions, including
chief psychologist of the State of New Jersey and adjunct professorships at Rutgers and
other universities. He is the founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), the
first of the now popular Cognitive Behavioral Therapies (CBT). In 1959 he established
the Albert Ellis Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission was to promote
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) as a comprehensive educative and
preventative theory. The Albert Ellis Institute promoted REBT theory and practice
through training professionals, paraprofessionals, and the public. Initially, he ran
everything from his private practice as a psychologist. He practiced psychotherapy,
marriage and family counseling, and sex therapy for over sixty years at the Psychological
Center of the Institute in New York.

Dr. Ellis served as president of the Division of Consulting Psychology of the American
Psychological Association and of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality; he
also served as officer of several professional societies including the American Association
of Marital and Family Therapy, the American Academy of Psychotherapists, and the
American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. He was a diplomat
in clinical psychology of the American Board of Professional Psychology and of several
other professional boards. Professional societies that have given Dr. Ellis their highest
professional and clinical awards include the American Psychological Association, the
Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, the American Counseling
Association, and the American Psychopathological Association.

He was ranked as one of the "Most Influential Psychologists" by both American and
Canadian psychologists and counselors. Dr. Ellis served as consulting or associate editor
of many scientific journals. He published more than eight hundred scientific papers and
more than two hundred audio and video cassettes. In 1971, the American Humanist
Association named Dr. Ellis as the Humanist of the Year. He authored or edited over
seventy-five books and monographs, including a number of best-selling popular and
professional volumes. Ellis died of heart and kidney failure on July 24, 2007.
RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOR THEORY
Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory begins with ABC!

A is for activating experiences, such as family troubles, unsatisfying work, early


childhood traumas, and all the many things we point to as the sources of our unhappiness.

B stands for beliefs, especially the irrational, self-defeating beliefs that are the actual
sources of our unhappiness.

C is for consequences, the neurotic symptoms and negative emotions such as depression
panic, and rage, that come from our beliefs.

Although the activating experiences may be quite real and have caused real pain, it is our
irrational beliefs that create long term, disabling problems. Ellis adds D and E to ABC:
The therapist must dispute (D) the irrational beliefs, in order for the client to ultimately
enjoy the positive psychological effects (E) of rational beliefs.
For example, “a depressed person feels sad and lonely because he erroneously thinks he
is inadequate and deserted.” Actually, depressed people perform just as well as non-
depressed people. So, a therapist should show the depressed person his or her successes,
and attack the belief that they are inadequate, rather than attacking the mood itself.

Although it is not important to therapy to pin point the source of these irrational beliefs, it
is understood that they are the result of “philosophical conditioning,” habits not unlike
the habit of answering the phone just because it rings. Further, Ellis says that we are
biologically programmed to be susceptible to this kind of conditioning.

These beliefs take the form of absolute statements. Instead of acknowledging a


preference or a desire, we make unqualified demands on others, or convince ourselves
that we have overwhelming needs. There are a number of typical “thinking errors”
people typically engage in, including...

1. Ignoring the positive,


2. Exaggerating the negative, and
3. Over generalizing.

I may refuse to see that I do have some friends or that I had a few successes. I may dwell
on and blow out of proportion the hurts I have suffered. I may convince myself that
nobody loves me, or that I always screw up.
ABC of Feeling’s and Behaviors

Alan A young man who had always tended to doubt himself, Alan imagined that other
people did not like him, and that they were only friendly because they pitied him. One
day, a friend passed him in the street without returning his greeting - to which
Alan reacted negatively. Here is the event, Alan’s beliefs, and his reaction, put into the
ABC format.

A. What started things off:

Friend passed me in the street without speaking to me.

B. Beliefs about A

1. He’s ignoring me. He doesn’t like me.


2. I could end up without friends for ever.
3. That would be terrible.
4. For me to be happy and feel worthwhile, people must like me.
5. I’m unacceptable as a friend - so I must be worthless as a person.

C. Reaction:

Feelings: worthless, depressed.

Behaviors: avoiding people generally.


Point of view from another person, someone who thought differently about the same
event would react in another way:

A. What started things off:

Friend passed me in the street without speaking to me.

B. Beliefs about A.:

1. He didn’t ignore me deliberately. He may not have seen me.


2. He might have something on his mind.
3. I’d like to help if I can.

C. Reaction:

Feelings: Concerned.
Behaviors: Went to visit friend, to see how he is.

These examples show how different ways of viewing the same event can lead to different
reactions. The same principle operates in reverse: when people react alike, it is because
they are thinking in similar ways.

GENERAL RULES
Everyone has a set of general 'rules’. Some will be rational, others will be self-defeating
or irrational. Each person’s set is different.

Mostly subconscious, these rules determine how we react to life. When an event triggers
off a train of thought, what we consciously think depends on the general rules we
subconsciously apply to the event.

Let us say that you hold the general rule:


'To be worthwhile, I must succeed at everything I do.’ You happen to fail an examination;
an event which, coupled with the underlying rule, leads you to the conclusion: 'I’m not
worthwhile.’

Underlying rules are generalizations. One rule can apply to many situations. If you
believe, for example:

'I can’t stand discomfort and pain and must avoid them at all costs,’ you might apply this
to the dentist, to work, to relationships, and to life in general.

Why be concerned about your rules? While most will be valid and helpful, some will be
self-defeating. Faulty rules will lead to faulty conclusions. Take the rule:

'If I am to feel OK about myself, others must like and approve of me.’ Let us say that
your boss tells you off. You may (rightly) think:

'He is angry with me’ but you may wrongly conclude: ‘This proves I’m a failure.’
And changing the situation (for instance, getting your boss to like you) would still leave
the underlying rule untouched. It would then be there to bother you whenever some
future event triggered it off.

Most self-defeating rules are a variation of one or other of the '12 Self-defeating Beliefs.’

To describe a belief as self-defeating, or irrational, is to say that:

1. It blocks you from achieving your goals and purposes;


2. It creates extreme emotions which persist, and which distress and immobilize
3. It leads to behaviors that harm yourself, others, and your life in general.
From Self-defeat to Rational Living;
Self-defeating Beliefs Rational Beliefs

1. I need love and approval from those 1. Love and approval are good things to
significant to me and I must avoid have, and I'll seek them when I can. But they
disapproval from any source. are not necessities. I can survive (even
though uncomfortably) without them.

2. To be worthwhile as a person I must 2. I'll always seek to achieve as much as I


achieve, succeed at what ever I do, and can, but unfailing success and competence is
make no mistakes. unrealistic. Better I just accept myself as a
person, separate to my performance.

3. People should always do the right thing. 3. It's unfortunate that people sometimes do
When they behave obnoxiously, unfairly bad things. But humans are not yet
or selfishly, they must be blamed perfect and upsetting myself won't
and punished. change that reality.

4. There is no law which says that things


4. Things must be the way I want them to have to be the way I want. It's disappointing,
be otherwise life will be intolerable. but I can stand it especially if I avoid
catastrophising.

5. My unhappiness is caused by things 5. Many external factors are outside my


outside my control, so there is little I can control. But it is my thoughts (not the
do to feel any better. externals) which cause my feelings. And I
can learn to control my thoughts.

6. Worrying about things that might go


6. I must worry about things that could be
wrong won't stop them happening. It will,
dangerous, unpleasant or frightening
though, ensure I get upset and disturbed
otherwise they might happen.
right now!

7. Avoiding problems is only easier in the


7. I can be happier by avoiding life's
short term; putting things off can make them
difficulties, unpleasantness, and
worse later on. It also gives me more time to
responsibilities.
worry about them!

8. Relying on someone else can lead to


8. Everyone needs to depend on someone dependent behavior. It is ok to seek help as
stronger than themselves. long as I learn to trust myself and my own
judgment.

9. The past can't influence me now. My


9. Events in my past are the cause of my current beliefs cause my reactions. I may
problems and they continue to influence have learned these beliefs in the past, but can
my feelings and behaviors now. choose to analyze and change
them in the present.
RATIONAL EMOTIVE BEHAVIOR THERAPY
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a comprehensive approach to psychological
treatment that deals not only with the emotional and behavioral aspects of human
disturbance, but places a great deal of stress on its thinking component. Human beings
are exceptionally complex, and there neither seems to be any simple way in which they
become "emotionally disturbed," nor is there a single way in which they can be helped to
be less-defeating. Their psychological problems arise from their misperceptions and
mistaken cognitions about what they perceive; from their emotional under reactions or
overreactions to normal and unusual stimuli; and from their habitually dysfunctional
behavior patterns, which enable them to keep repeating non adjustive responses even
when they "know" that they are behaving poorly.

PHILOSOPHICAL CONDITIONING
REBT is based on the assumption that what we label our "emotional" reactions are
largely caused by our conscious and unconscious evaluations, interpretations, and
philosophies. Thus, we feel anxious or depressed because we strongly convince ourselves
that it is terrible when we fail at something or that we can't stand the pain of being
rejected. We feel hostile because we vigorously believe that people who behave unfairly
to us absolutely should not act the way they indubitably do, and that it is utterly
insufferable when they frustrate us.

Like stoicism, a school of philosophy which existed some two thousand years ago.
Rational emotive behavior therapy holds that there are virtually no good reasons why
human beings have to make them selves very neurotic, no matter what kind of negative
stimuli impinge on them. It gives them full leeway to feel strong negative emotions, such
as sorrow, regret, displeasure, annoyance, rebellion, and determination to change social
conditions. It believes, however, that when they experience certain self-defeating and
unhealthy emotions (such as panic, depression, worthlessness, or rage), they are usually
adding an unrealistic and illogical hypothesis to their empirically based view that their
own acts or those of others are reprehensible or inefficient and that something would
better be done about changing them.

IRRATIONAL IDEAS THAT CAUSE AND SUSTAIN


NEUROSIS
Rational therapy holds that certain core irrational ideas, which have been clinically
observed, are at the root of most neurotic disturbance. They are:

1. The idea that it is a dire necessity for adults to be loved by significant others for almost
everything they do instead of their concentrating on their own self-respect, on winning
approval for practical purposes, and on loving rather than on being loved.

2. The idea that certain acts are awful or wicked, and that people who perform such acts
should be severely damned, instead of the idea that certain acts are self defeating or
antisocial, and that people who perform such acts are behaving stupidly, ignorantly, or
neurotically, and would be better helped to change. People's poor behaviors do not make
them rotten individuals.

3. The idea that it is horrible when things are not the way we like them to be, instead of
the idea that it is too bad, that we would better try to change or control bad conditions so
that they become more satisfactory, and, if that is not possible, we had better temporarily
accept and gracefully lump their existence.

4. The idea that human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on us by
outside people and events, instead of the idea that neurosis is largely caused by the view
that we take of unfortunate conditions.

5. The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly


upset and endlessly obsess about it, instead of the idea that one would better frankly face
it and render it non-dangerous and, when that is not possible, accept the inevitable.

6. The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face life difficulties and self responsibilities
instead of the idea that the so called easy way is usually much harder in the long run.

7. The idea that we absolutely need something other or stronger or greater than our self
on which to rely, instead of the idea that it is better to take the risks of thinking and acting
less deepen dently.

8. The idea that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all
possible respects instead of the idea that we would better do rather than always need to do
well and accept our self as a quite imperfect creature, who has general human limitations
and specific fallibilities.

9. The idea that because something once strongly affected our life, it should indefinitely
affect it instead of the idea that we can learn from our past experiences but not be overly-
attached to or prejudiced by them.

10. The idea that we must have certain and perfect control over things, instead of the idea
that the world is full of probability and chance and that we can still enjoy life despite this.

11. The idea that human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction, instead of the
idea that we tend to be happiest when we are vitally absorbed in creative pursuits, or
when we are devoting ourselves to people or projects outside ourselves.
12.The idea that we have virtually no control over our emotions and that we cannot help
feeling disturbed about things instead of the idea that we have real control over our
destructive emotions if we choose to work at changing the musturbatory hypotheses
which we often employ to create them.

CLINICAL IMPLEMENTATION of REBT


CASE
After becoming familiar with the client’s problems, the therapist presents the basic theory
of rational emotive behavior therapy so that the client can understand and accept it. The
following transcript is from a session with a young man who had inordinate fears about
speaking in front of the groups. The therapist guides the client to view his inferiority
complex in terms of the unreasonable things he may be telling himself. The therapist’s
thoughts during the interview are indicated in italics.
Client: My primary difficulty is that I become very uptight when I have to speak in front
of a group of people. I guess it’s just my own way inferiority complex.
Therapist: [I don’t want to get sidetracked at this point by talking about that
conceptualization of his problem. I’ll just try to finesse it and make a smooth transition to
something else.] I don’t know if I would call it an inferiority complex but I do believe
that people can in a sense bring on their own upset and anxiety in a certain kind of
situations. When you’re in a particular situation itself but rather the way in which you
interpret the situation what you tell yourself about the situation. For example, look at this
pen. Does this pen make you nervous?
Client: No
Therapist: Why not?
Client: it’s just an object. It’s just a pen.
Therapist: it can hurt you?
Client: No….
Therapist: it’s really not the object that creates emotional upset in people but rather what
you think about the object.[ hopefully, this Socratic like dialogue will the object bring
him to the conclusion that self statements can mediate emotional arousal.] Now this holds
true for …situations where emotional upset is caused by what a person tells himself about
the situation. Take, for example, two people who are about to attend the same social
gathering. Both of them may know exactly the same number of persons at the party, but
one person can be optimistic and relaxed about the situation, whereas the other one can
be worried about how they will appear, and consequently be very anxious. [I’ll try to get
him to verbalize the basic assumption that attitude or perception is most important here.]
So, when these two people walk into the place where the party is given, are their
emotional reactions at all associated with the physical arrangements at the party?
Client: No, obviously not.
Therapist: What determines their reactions, then?
Client: They obviously have different attitude toward the party.
Therapist: Exactly, and their attitudes the way in which they approach the situation
greatly influence their emotional reactions. (Gold fried & Davidson, 1994, pp. 163-165)

GOAL OF REBT
The goal of REBT is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs.
Changing beliefs is the real work of therapy and is achieved by the therapist disputing the
client's irrational beliefs. For example, the therapist might ask, "Why must you win
everyone's approval?" "Where is it written that other people must treat you fairly?" "Just
because you want something, why must you have it?" Disputing is the D of the ABC
model. When the client tries to answer the therapist's questions, s/he sees that there is no
reason why s/he absolutely must have approval, fair treatment, or anything else that s/he
wants.

Albert Ellis contends that although we all think irrationally from time to time, we can
work at eliminating the tendency. It's unlikely that we can ever entirely eliminate the
tendency to think irrationally, but we can reduce the frequency, the duration, and the
intensity of our irrational beliefs by developing three insights:

1. We don't merely get upset but mainly upset ourselves by holding inflexible beliefs.
2. No matter when and how we start upsetting ourselves, we continue to feel upset
because we cling to our irrational beliefs.

3. The only way to get better is to work hard at changing our beliefs. It takes practice,
practice, practice.

Emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is
highly unfortunate and unpleasant. REBT therapists strive to help their clients develop
three types of acceptance: (1) unconditional self-acceptance; (2) unconditional other-
acceptance; and (3) unconditional life-acceptance. Each of these types of acceptance is
based on three core beliefs:

Unconditional self-acceptance:

1. I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.

2. There is no reason why I must not have flaws.

3. Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less
worthy than any other human being.

Unconditional other-acceptance:

1. Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.


2. There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
3. The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any
other human being.

Unconditional life-acceptance:

1. Life doesn't always work out the way that I'd like it to.
2. There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to
3. Life is not necessarily pleasant but it is never awful and it is nearly always
bearable.
CRITICISM
REBT in general have a substantial and strong research base to verify and support both its
psychotherapeutic efficiency, effectiveness and its theoretical underpinnings. A great
quantity of scientific empirical studies has proven it to be an effective and efficient
treatment for many different kinds of psychopathology, conditions and problems. A vast
amount of outcome and experimental studies has shown to support the effectiveness of
REBT.

In general REBT is arguably one of the most investigated theories in the field of
psychotherapy and a large amount of clinical experience and a substantial body of
modern psychological research have validated and substantiated many of REBTs
theoretical assumptions on personality and psychotherapy. Some critiques have been
given on some of the clinical research that has been done on REBT both from within and
by others. For instance originator Albert Ellis has on occasions emphasized the difficulty
and complexity of measuring psychotherapeutic effectiveness, since many studies only
tend to measure whether clients merely feel better after therapy instead of them getting
better and staying better. Ellis has also criticized studies for having limited focus
primarily to cognitive restructuring aspects, as opposed to the combination of cognitive,
emotive and behavioral aspects of REBT. As REBT has been subject to criticisms during
its existence, especially in its early years, REBT theorists has a long history of publishing
and addressing those concerns.

Some have criticized REBT for being harsh, formulaic and failing to address deep
underlying problems. This have been cogently refuted by REBT theorists who have
pointed out that a careful study of REBT shows that it is both philosophically deep,
humanistic and individualized collaboratively working on the basis of the client’s point of
reference. Others have questioned REBTs view of rationality, both radical constructivists
who have claimed that reason and logic are subjective properties and those who believe
that reason can be objectively determined. In 1998 when asked what the main criticism
on REBT was, Albert Ellis replied that it was the claim that it was too rational and not
dealing sufficiently enough with emotions. Seen as a quite controversial figure in some
camps, Ellis has also received criticism that has arguably been more directed at him than
his psychotherapy. These include his use of four letter words and confrontational attitude.
In addition Ellis has himself in very direct terms criticized opposing approaches such as
psychoanalysis, transpersonal psychology. Prominent REBTers have promoted the
importance of high quality and programmatic research, including originator Ellis, a self-
proclaimed "passionate skeptic". He has on many occasions been open to challenges and
acknowledged errors and revised his theories and practices

CONCLUSIONS
The basic premise of rational emotive behavior therapy is that emotional suffering is due
primarily to the often non verbalized assumptions and demands that people carry around
with them as they negotiate their way in life. Demanding perfection from oneself and
from others is, Ellis hypothesizes, a principle cause of emotional distress. Expecting that
one has to be approved by every one and for every thing one does is another belief that
Ellis regards as irrational and that other writers have called unproductive or self
defeating. Therapy along rational emotive behavior lines involves the therapist’s
challenging these assumptions and persuading the patient that living a life without
imposing on oneself unattainable demands and goals will be less stressful and more
satisfying.
Several conclusions that can be offered on the outcome research on rational emotive
Rational emotive behavior therapy reduces self reports of general anxiety, speech anxiety
and test anxiety.
1. Rational emotive behavior therapy improves both self reports and behavior for
social anxiety.
2. Preliminary evidence suggests that rational emotive behavior therapy may be useful
in treating excessive anger, depression.
3. There is some preliminary evidence that rebt may be useful as a preventive measure
for untroubled people, that is, to help emotionally healthy people cope better with
everyday stress.
References

BOOKS:
1: Organizational Psychology by Steve M. Jex
2: Research in Psychology by C. James Goodwin
3: Understanding Psychology by Robert S. Goodwin
WEBSITES:
1: http://www.wikipedia.org
2: http://www.rebt.org
3: http://www.rebtnetwork.org
4: http://www.rational.org