In a slight case of acronym overkill, Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is a form of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) that takes a simple-yet-cunning approach to mental wellness.
Developed in the mid-1950s by a New York psychotherapist called Albert Ellis, REBT predates the other popular form of CBT (known as Cognitive Therapy and developed by the psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck) by about 10 years.
Both forms of CBT are equally valid and equally effective. My MSc from Goldsmith’s is in rational emotive and cognitive behaviour therapy, and I teach both forms of CBT at the College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies, but my preference is for REBT as I think it’s by far the more effective of the two.
It follows a philosophy (developed by an Ancient Greek philosopher called Epictetus) that it’s not the things in life that disturb you, but the beliefs you hold about those things that disturb you.
REBT follows the ABCDE model of psychological health in which activating events (A) trigger beliefs (B) that cause consequences (C). These beliefs are challenged and disputed (D) to help promote a more effective (E) and rational way of looking at that original activating event.
So, if you’re thinking, feeling, or acting in a way that you don’t like, but don’t seem to be able to change, REBT helps you to identify and challenge the unhealthy beliefs that you hold in the face of that event, whilst at the same time helping you to identify and re-enforce a series of much more helpful and rational beliefs. Change your beliefs and you change the way you think, feel and act.
After all, it’s not always possible to change what has happened to you, but it’s always possible to change what you tell yourself about it.
Both forms of CBT are considered the ‘gold standard’ of treatment (i.e., the first, best choice), for the treatment of anxiety disorders, stress, anger-management, depression and more.