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Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

EFPT Psychotherapy Guidebook chapter on Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Published onJun 23, 2019
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is an action-oriented psychotherapy that teaches individuals to identify, challenge, and replace their self-defeating beliefs with healthier ones that promote emotional well-being and goal achievement.

Brief historic overview

Albert Ellis

REBT was developed in 1955 by Dr. Albert Ellis. Dr. Ellis has been considered one of the most influential psychotherapists in history. Ellis' first major publication on Rational Therapy describes the philosophical basis of it as the principle that a person is rarely affected emotionally by outside things but rather by ‘his perceptions, attitudes, or internalized sentences about outside things and events', which he compares to the writing of Epictetus in the Enchiridion: "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them." Shakespeare, many centuries later, rephrased this thought in Hamlet: "There's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so."


A fundamental premise of REBT is that humans do not get emotionally disturbed by unfortunate circumstances, but by how they construct their views of these circumstances through their language, evaluative beliefs, meanings and philosophies about the world, themselves and others. In REBT, clients usually learn and begin to apply this premise by learning the A-B-C-D-E-F model of psychological disturbance and change (Fig.1). The A-B-C model states that it is not an A (adversity or activating event) that cause disturbed and dysfunctional emotional and behavioral Cs, (consequences), but also what people B (irrationally believe) about the A (adversity). A (adversity) can be an external situation, or a thought, a feeling or other kind of internal event, and it can refer to an event in the past, present, or future.

ABC Theory

The Bs (irrational beliefs) that are most important in the A-B-C model are explicit and implicit philosophical meanings and assumptions about events, personal desires, and preferences. The Bs (beliefs) that are most significant are highly evaluative and consist of interrelated and integrated cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects and dimensions. According to REBT, if a person's evaluative B, belief about the A, activating event is rigid, absolutistic, fictional and dysfunctional, the C (the emotional and behavioral consequence), is likely to be self-defeating and destructive. Alternatively, if a person's belief is preferential, flexible and constructive, the C (the emotional and behavioral consequence) is likely to be self-helping and constructive.

Through REBT, by understanding the role of their mediating, evaluative and philosophically based illogical, unrealistic and self-defeating meanings, interpretations and assumptions in disturbance, individuals can learn to identify them, then go to D, disputing and questioning the evidence for them. At E, effective new philosophy, they can recognize and reinforce the notion no evidence exists for any psychopathological must, ought or should and distinguish them from healthy constructs, and subscribe to more constructive and self-helping philosophies.[14] This new reasonable perspective leads to F, new feelings and behaviors appropriate to the A they are addressing in the exercise.

Main uses (indications)

  1. Addictions

  2. Anger and Related Disorders

  3. Anxiety Disorders

  4. Bipolar and Related Disorders

  5. Challenges Related to Daily Living

    • Social Skills and Assertiveness Deficits

    • Career & Lifestyle Changes

    • Procrastination

    • Relationship Difficulties

  6. Depressive Disorders

  7. Disruptive, Impulse-Control and Conduct Disorders

  8. Eating Disorders

  9. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender (LGBT)–Related Concerns

  10. Neurodevelopmental Disorders

  11. Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders

  12. Personality Disorders

  13. Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders


EBT and CBT in general have a substantial and strong research base to verify and support both their psychotherapeutic efficiency and their theoretical underpinnings. A great quantity of scientific empirical studies has proven REBT to be an effective and efficient treatment for many kinds of psychopathology, conditions and problems. A vast amount of outcome and experimental studies support the effectiveness of REBT and CBT. Recently, REBT randomized clinical trials have offered a positive view on the efficacy 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

Comment from an expert

“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” Albert Ellis

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” Albert Ellis

Comment from a trainee

“My favorite metaphor, which I have learned in my REBT training, is the one comparing life and the chess game. No matter how many bad moves you have played and what important figures you have lost, you should concentrate to choose your next move rationally. In the REBT our main focus is to learn our clients new way of thinking, so they could play their life chess game in a victorious way in future. I also like the great emphasize on unconditional self acceptance, because I think that it is the most important keeper of mental health. It helped me through my 4 year REBT training and life challenges (activating events)” Vladimir Djuric (Serbia, REBT psychotherapist under supervision)

Books, manual, videos, published online courses or international association

  • Ellis, A. (1994) Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy: Comprehensive Method of Treating Human Disturbances : Revised and Updated. New York, NY: Citadel Press

  • Ellis, A. (2004) Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: It Works for Me—It Can Work for You. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

  • McMahon, J., &d Vernon, A. (2010) Albert Ellis: Evolution of a Revolution: Selections from the Writings of Albert Ellis, Ph.D. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books.

  • Ellis, A. (2007) All Out! An Autobiography. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. Velten, E. (2010) Under the Influence: Reflections of Albert Ellis in the Work of Others. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press

  • Ellis, Albert (1962) Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. p. 54

  • Ellis, Albert (2001). Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Prometheus Books.

  • Dryden W., & Neenan M. (2003). Essential Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Wiley.

  • Ellis, Albert. (1994). Reason and Emotion In Psychotherapy, Revised and Updated. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publishing Group

  • Ellis, A. (2001). Feeling better, getting better, staying better. Impact Publishers

For more detailed bibliography and information the official Albert Ellis Institute site

Research possibilities

As evidence based psychotherapeutic method REBT offers many research possibilities which could be reached on research tab on the official site of Albert Ellis Institute.

In an Annex – For each country: - Links to Societies


Institut Francais de Therapie Cognitive Didier Pleux, Dr. of Psych. 2 Passage Chanoine Cousin 14000 Caen, France (Tel)(33) 231-500149 [email protected]


Institut fuer Kognitives Management, Stuttgart Milenko and Simona Vlajkov Eberhardstr. 4A, 70173 Stuttgart, Germany (Tel.) (49) 711-2363460 [email protected] [email protected]

Deutsches Institut fuer Rational-Emotive & Kognitive Verhaltenstherapie (DIREKT) e.V. Dieter Schwartz, Dipl.Psych. Burkhard Hoellen, Dipl.Psych. Muellersweg 14 D-97249 Eisingen Wuerzburg, Germany (Tel.) (49) 9306-3298 [email protected]


Hellenic Institute for Rational Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Psychotherapy Chrysoula Kostogiannis, Ph.D. Aristeidou 3 Marousi, Athens TK 15122 Greece (Tel.) 0030-210-6142110 [email protected]


Israeli Center for REBT Ruth Malkinson, Ph.D. 27 Gluskin St. Rehovot 76470, Israel (Tel.) (972) 8-9463165[email protected]

Susana Kigel, M.A. 6 Hashirion St. Nes Ziona 76041, Israel (Tel.) (972)8-9408108 [email protected]


Instituut voor Rationeel-Emotieve Training Drs. Wouter Backx Lange Herenstraat 41 Haarlem, Netherlands (Tel.) (31) 23-5328817 [email protected]


Romanian Center for Cognitive & REBT Daniel David, Professor, Ph.D. – Director Republicii St., No. 37, 400015 Cluj-Napoca, Romania (Tel/Fax) + 40 264 434141[email protected]


REBT Center Zorica Maric, Ph.D. Tatjana Vukosavljevic Gvozden, Ph.D. Cika Ljubina 15/5 11102 Belgrade Serbia (Tel.) 011 38111 3691303 [email protected]


INSTITUT RET Francesc Sorribes, Director Calle Aragon 224, 4-2 08011, Barcelona Spain (Tel.) +34 934541424[email protected]


Rasyonel Emotif Bilissel Davranissal Araştırma Danismanlik Merkezi Ltd. (Rational Emotive Cognitive Behavioral Research Counceling Center) (RE&CB Research and Counseling Center) Murat Artiran, MA Abbasaga Mh. Yıldız Cd. Nesteren Apt. 61/4 Besiktas Turkey (Tel.) (90 212) 327 02 33 (90 212 327 0 AEE) (Fax) (90 212) 327 02 34[email protected]

United Kingdom

The Centre for REBT University of Birmingham Jason Jones, Peter Trower and Richard Bennett Edgbaston Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom (Tel.) +44 (0)121 414 3763[email protected] [email protected]

Name and short presentation of the trainee (affiliation):

Chapter written by Milos Lazarevic and Vladimir Djuric, psychiatric trainees from Belgrade, Serbia

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