Explained: Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy for Mental Health

It is a good form of therapy to deal with self-esteem issues, relationship problems, anxiety and depression.

3 min read
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Therapy for mental health uses many different treatment methods for different problems. In a series of articles, we’re talking about the widely used forms of psychotherapy. After Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Psychoanalytical Therapy, let’s look at another important and popular form of therapy – Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT).

It was founded by Albert Ellis when he started to see gaps in Psychoanalytical Therapy. Ellis was of the point of view that, “People are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things”. He believed that the way we think influences our feelings as well as our behaviours and that any irrational beliefs held by us about ourselves or the world will ultimately prove to be problematic.


Hence, the central aim of REBT is to help clients overcome and alter their illogical beliefs so that they may conquer any and all mental distress or psychological problems.

It is a good form of therapy for clients dealing with self-esteem issues, relationship problems, anxiety and depression.

Elis’ Theory

Elis was of the strong opinion that even though we blame external events and things as the source of our unhappiness and problems, it is actually our interpretation of the external events that causes internal discomfort and psychological distress. To explain this process more simply, he came up with what is known as the A-B-C Model.

  • A: is for the “activating event”, the events which have occurred to or around you which then in turn to lead you to think about your...
  • B: Beliefs. You question how you think and feel about the situation which then leads to...
  • C: Consequences, which are the emotional response to your held beliefs.

So, according to Elis and his theory although troubling events and situations can cause distress to us, to be able to truly understand their impact on us we must first understand our thoughts about those events and the emotions the thoughts give rise to.

It is a good form of therapy to deal with self-esteem issues, relationship problems, anxiety and depression.
One needs to first understand and replace irrational thoughts.
(Photo: iStock)

The Process of Therapy

It begins by first identifying and understanding the client’s underlying irrational thoughts. Most thoughts which are held under the “I must” or “I should” categories or any other absolute line of thought, might be irrational and hence problematic to ourselves. Some of the most common irrational beliefs usually held are:

“I must do well and get the approval of everybody who matters to me or I will be a worthless person.”

“I must be a high achiever or I will be worthless.”

“Nobody should ever behave badly with me and if they do I should condemn them.”

“I have no real control on my own happiness since it’s dependent on external forces.”

These and other inflexible beliefs limit our response to tough situations, which makes us feel helpless and anxious.

If we hold rigid expectations from ourselves or others without any room for mistakes then we will ultimately drive ourselves towards resentment, anxiety and disappointment.

Upon identifying these beliefs, together with the therapist the client works on replacing them with other more rational beliefs by challenging these irrational ones.

Elis advocates that the therapist be direct and even confrontational during this process rather than simply being warm and supportive. It can be very challenging for the client to identify and understand the implications of their irrational beliefs so a little bit of tough love might propel them into action and acceptance faster, though this of course depends a lot on the therapist as well as the client.

REBT helps the client understand that they do not have to live life in absolutes. It might be really nice to live a life wherein you never make mistakes and everyone always behaves exactly as they should, but it’s not very realistic.

The therapist helps you realise that the emotionally healthy way would be to be forgiving and compassionate towards mistakes. Clients are also encouraged to take up meditation, journaling, colouring or any other activity which soothes their emotions.

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Topics:  Depression   Mental Health   Psychotherapy 

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