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REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy)

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is less widely known, but American psychologist Albert Ellis created it in the 1950s. The main focus of this psychological orientation is to focus on thoughts and beliefs and was a response to other therapies at the time. Ellis believed his model could help others in need. 

The first therapies created in this time were geared toward psychoanalysis and behaviorism. Albert believed that treatment in the ʼ50s could only address the surface of a person’s needs, and he felt that it made symptoms worse. 

He felt the therapy was incomplete because it did not cater to an individual’s thoughts. He believed it was a pattern of thinking that leads to the development of depression or anxiety. It slowly became the focal point of his orientation, which is known today as REBT. 

Why Are Beliefs Important in REBT?

Ellis believed you must pay more attention to the thought process of people, but he took it a step further and focused on a person’s beliefs. A belief followed two separate components:

  • The first stage is the thought, which is how you view a situation; and
  • The second stage is how you will feel about a situation

Ellis also saw that patients have many beliefs that determine their lives. He worked to separate those into two categories that include:

  • Positive beliefs: These are accurate, valid, and factually based.
  • Negative beliefs: These are not accurate, and they are invalid or false.

Someone with negative beliefs feels worse, while someone who views their lives positively has a greater sense of well-being and feels better. Ellis wanted a way to develop more of these emotive and rational beliefs for people, which is where the name, REBT, originates. 

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The ABC Model of REBT

REBT focuses on a person’s beliefs, and it’s deeply rooted in acknowledging what you did wrong. To understand this point better, REBT incorporates an ABC model. It is also referred to as the ABC Theory of Personality, which looks like:

  • A: This involves activating an event that may trigger the start of a cycle. Activating events can be a thought, person, event, or thing. It may also stem from the past, present, or future.
  • B: This is a belief activated by the event.
  • C: This is the consequence of those beliefs, which may be thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.

Disrupting the Irrational Beliefs

An Amytal pill being held between two fingers

The ABC model shows that the only way someone can improve their symptoms and functioning is if they challenge their irrational beliefs. By doing this, it will reduce the negative influence the thought pattern has on their life. It gives more room for rational thoughts to appear in their minds. 

Ellis taught that each person will have irrational beliefs and that it is next to impossible to remove all irrational thoughts. The goal wasn’t to remove all thoughts but rather dispute these beliefs by reducing factors that create unwanted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The outcome was meant to decrease symptoms. 

One of the processes to dispute irrational beliefs are broken down into three steps here:

  1. Detect: Before disputing an irrational belief, you need to be aware of its presence. You must gain an understanding of where it started and if it serves a role in your life. It may be accomplished by focusing your thoughts and reactions to situations. You must ask yourself why you feel like this.
  2. Debate: Upon identifying a belief, you need to start weighing the evidence. Is it inaccurate? Is it accurate? You must defend both points to determine the perception.
  3. Decide: The last step is to decide if these beliefs are rational or irrational. You might wonder how to determine this, but you need to note the consequences. Many of your feelings could lead to unwanted results, which is likely irrational

Does REBT Help In Addiction Treatment?

When someone is facing the long road of recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol, REBT will help them dive deeply into the beliefs that made them use in the first place. REBT provides them with acceptance. Addiction treatment may offer these as well:


Zoellner, L. A., Feeny, N. C., Eftekhari, A., & Foa, E. B. (2011, July). Changes in negative beliefs following three brief programs for facilitating recovery after assault. Retrieved from

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015, July 29). Addiction Science. Retrieved from

Chanell.baylor. (2019, April 26). Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT). Retrieved from

Turner, M. J. (2016, September 20). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Irrational and Rational Beliefs, and the Mental Health of Athletes. Retrieved from

Paris, J. (2017, May). Is Psychoanalysis Still Relevant to Psychiatry? Retrieved from

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