In 1955, a man named Albert Ellis introduced a new form of therapy called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, or REBT. REBT is a type of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which seeks to change patterns of thinking or behavior. CBT can be used for everything from sleeping disorders, relationship problems, anxiety and depression, and drug or alcohol addiction. It focuses on a person’s cognitive processes, meaning their thoughts, images, beliefs, and attitudes.
Ellis based his approach on an experience from his own life. As a younger man, he had an extreme fear of talking to women. He decided to visit a nearby park every day for a month and pushed himself to talk to 100 women. Eventually, his fear lessened significantly. During his work as a clinical psychologist, he noticed that although his patients could identify their underlying problems, they often were not able to change their behavior. By changing the way people think – specifically when they have irrational fears – he reasoned that they could overcome their problems.
According to Ellis, people blame outside factors for their problems when really it is our interpretation of events that need to be addressed. He developed what he called the ABCDE model: A – Activating Event: Something happens in the environment around you. B – Beliefs: You hold a belief about the event or situation. C – Consequence: You have an emotional response to your belief. D – Disputes or Arguments: You recognize your irrational belief and work to overcome it. E – New Effect: When you have overcome the irrational belief, you will begin to notice positive effects.
The first step in REBT is to identify the irrational thoughts or beliefs. Then you challenge those irrational beliefs. Finally, you gain insight and learn how to respond rationally to your fears.
Although this process can be done with a counselor or therapist, you can also do it at home with a journal or workbook. Here are some exercises to try:
- Dysfunctional Thought Record. Keep track of your irrational thoughts and the date and time they occurred. Note the emotions that you felt. Come up with alternative thoughts that are more positive. Write down the outcome.
- Consequences Analysis. Identify a problem you’re struggling with. Think about what your goals are. Write down the short term consequences of continuing with your thoughts or behavior, including pleasures, comforts, losses, and harms. Identify long term consequences and rate their importance. Consider the best possible long term outcome.
- Positive Belief Record. Write down your old belief and then come up with a new one to take its place. List evidence that supports the new beliefs and challenges the old one. Include your own experiences, things you’ve heard from others, or anything that comes to mind.
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