What is Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy?

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is an action-based approach to cognitive therapy developed by a psychologist named Albert Ellis. This method aims to help individuals recognize their irrational beliefs, as well as learn to manage negative thoughts and behaviors in healthier ways. But what are the differences in REBT vs CBT therapy methods?

Primarily, REBT helps highlight how an individual’s basic irrational assumptions, whether about themselves or the world, can produce negative thought patterns. Once this has been addressed, an REBT practitioner can then begin to help their client develop and implement more positive thought patterns and healthier problem-solving skills.


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Rational Emotive Behavioral Theories

REBT primarily focuses on the connections between cognition, emotions, and behavior. More specifically, it observes the relationship between an individual’s perception of and beliefs about an event, and how this can shape their emotional responses to it.

Through addressing this relationship and building a clients self-esteem in managing their thought patterns, REBT can help with a numbers of issues, including:

  • Mental Health Problems
  • Eating Disorders
  • Adolescent Behavioral Issues
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Rational Emotive Behavioral Theories

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Techniques

There are several different methods in which REBT may address an individual’s negative beliefs and help to increase that person’s self-esteem as they re-form these patterns of thinking. These include:

  • The ABC Model
  • Disputation
  • Providing Insight & Promoting Behavioral Changes

The ABC Model

REBT therapy follows an ABC model, which teaches individuals to recognize how their core beliefs can have a negative impact on their interpretation of an event, and is as follows:

  • A: Activating Event. This refers to an event that occurs within an individual’s surrounding environment, usually of which may produce negative emotions.
  • B: Belief. This describes an individual’s thought patterns towards an event, which may include their automatic thoughts, as well as those that arise later.
  • C: Consequence. This refers to the emotional response an individual may have to an event and the negative beliefs they hold towards it.

Implementing the ABC Model

When using the ABC technique, an REBT therapist will use this therapy method to help clients identify an activating event that is causing them emotional disturbance. Once this has been accomplished, the individual is then guided in analyzing how their belief system may be the cause of their psychological distress.

This will typically involve addressing an individual’s core beliefs, and helping them to realize how these further produce negative emotions and thinking patterns. These may include:

  • Feeling responsible for and experiencing anxiety or embarrassment in response to other people’s actions.
  • Low self-esteem, and feeling like one has to be perfect and incapable of error in order to be valued or accepted.
  • Believing that one must constantly avoid difficult or unpleasant situations in order to be happy.
  • Believing that one’s happiness comes entirely from external sources and conditions, rather than from their own self-acceptance and sense of worth.


REBT aims to help individuals overcome self-destructive negative thought patterns, and better practice unconditional acceptance of oneself and others, as well as their healthy negative emotions.

However, this is not necessarily done through having therapists approach their clients with consistent warmth and positivity. Rather, they address these individuals with bluntness and honesty through directly challenging their negative thinking habits.

This is done through a process called disputation. With this approach, the therapist chooses one of their client’s core beliefs, and challenges them to re-think this idea from a completely different perspective. Through looking at this belief from an objective perspective, the individual can then more easily begin to deconstruct it.

Providing Insight and and Promoting Behavioral Changes

While it is important to know how to challenge one’s irrational beliefs,. this process is not an easy one, and can often trigger feelings of discomfort or uncertainty. However, REBT was developed to help individuals realize that they will not be successful or perfect with everything they do; and to believe so is irrational in itself.

When following this approach to therapy, individuals will be guided to focus on several ideas promoting unconditional self-acceptance, including:

  • Mistakes are a tool for growth and learning, not a testament to one’s worth or ability.
  • Everyone is prone to error, and it is as important to accept this ability to make mistakes in others as it is for oneself.
  • Life is a constant balance between the positive and the negative; if something is not going in one’s favor, this does not mean that it is not working out as it should be.

As individuals identify and evaluate their cognitive processes, it is not uncommon for strong emotional and behavioral responses to occur. Thus, this form of therapy will often encourage individuals to practice calming forms of self-reflection as well, including meditation, journaling, or forms of talking therapy.

What are the Benefits of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

When developing the REBT approach, Albert Ellis aimed to create a psychotherapeutic method of addressing negative feelings and beliefs that prioritized taking direct action. In doing so, he effectively provided a way for individuals to achieve life-long positive behavioral and emotional changes.

In particular, this model has been found to be helpful in treating a number of mental health conditions, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Social Anxiety
  • Psychotic symptoms

The REBT approach has also been found to be particularly effective in helping individuals address issues in various other aspects of life that extend past the realm of strictly just mental health. These may include:

  • Anger Management
  • Academic Performance
  • Sports Psychology
  • Social Interaction and Communication Skills
  • Burnout Management and Recovery


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What are the Downfalls of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

REBT, while effective, certainly has some drawbacks to it. For many individuals who participate in this form of therapy, it can feel particularly difficult to handle. After all, this process can be particularly confrontive as clients are guided to re-evaluate beliefs that may have become integral to their identity.

Particularly with the disputation process, the task of letting go of long-held beliefs can be extremely daunting, and may even feel impossible for some people. Thus, while REBT can produce positive change for those who engage in this form of therapy, it is not necessarily the most comforting or elegant solution to negative thinking and behavior.

Rather, it will be a blunt and often brutally honest intervention of one’s unhealthy habits. Of course, this is not done with the intent of causing the client discomfort or shame. This approach simply aims to provide individuals with clear constructive feedback on what behavior patterns are limiting them in life, and how these can be changed.

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a cognitive model of therapy that aims to address and change an individual’s self-destructive tendencies or negative thought patterns; these, of which, can often have drastic impacts on the individual’s emotional and physical well-being.

Cognitive therapy focuses on helping individuals recognize how automatic negative thoughts contribute to and worsen their emotional state, as well as intensify periods of depression and anxiety.

CBT practitioners aim to teach their client’s how to replace a negative thought pattern with more realistic and positive thoughts. As this is practiced more and more over time, these individuals often find they are more easily able to form positive thoughts and beliefs about themselves and the world.

Cognitive Behavioral Theories

Cognitive behavioural therapy follows several theories and principles in its approach to treating mental health disorders and cognitive distortions, including:

  • The idea that psychological problems are partially (if not predominantly) the result of an individual’s negative thoughts and beliefs about themselves and / or the world.
  • The idea that many of these unhealthy emotional and behavioral patterns are learned, whether from one’s upbringing, environment, past stressful experiences, or otherwise.
  • The idea that individuals struggling with a psychological problem can address the causing factors of these problems and learn better ways of coping with them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

CBT aims to not only identify an individual’s negative thought patterns, but to help individuals learn to overcome and prevent these thinking habits. This may be achieved through a number of different techniques, such as:

  • Journaling
  • Role-playing difficult situations
  • Developing self-soothing techniques
  • Finding mental distractions to help cope with unavoidable circumstances

Furthermore, this therapy method helps individuals in several other areas, including:

  • Identifying Negative Thoughts
  • Developing and Practicing New Skills
  • Setting Goals
  • Solving Problems
  • Self-Monitoring Skills

Identifying Negative Thoughts

Cognitive therapy emphasizes the importance of knowing how to recognize one’s thoughts and feelings as they are occurring, and what triggers resulted in these responses. While this process can be difficult, it is essential in an individual’s ability to understand how their reactions to external situations occur.

Once an individual has gained insight on their emotional and behavioral triggers and responses, their therapist can then begin to help them find healthy ways of managing these negative feelings.

Developing and Practicing New Skills

Having effective coping skills in place can be crucial in an individual’s ability to handle particularly difficult life circumstances. For example, those recovering from PTSD, or a substance use disorder, will need to know how to recognize situations or factors that may be triggering for them.

This can not only help them stay in-control and prevent a negative reaction (such as relapse in the case of someone recovering from addiction) should they arise, but may help individuals avoid them entirely.

Setting Goals

Whether struggling with a mental health or substance abuse disorder, a physical injury, or any other impairing condition, the ability to set and pursue goals is a critical part of an individual’s recovery process.

This is why CBT aims to help participants learn effective goal-setting skills as a key focus in its recovery approach. This is achieved in several ways, including:

  • Helping clients to identify an attainable goal.
  • Helping clients to distinguish between short- and long-term goals.
  • Helping clients to develop goals that are relevant to their specific problem, can be measured in their progress, and can be achieved within a certain time-frame.
  • Prioritizing the importance of focusing not just on the outcome of a client’s goal, but on the journey to get there, and the progress they make along the way.

Solving Problems

Cognitive therapy prioritizes a need to learn effective problem solving skills as a means of helping clients to better identify and solve life’s difficulties in healthy and productive ways. In the case of CBT, a therapist first will first help their client to identify what problem is currently causing them distress in their life.

Once this has been accomplished, both parties will then work together to come up with several possible solutions to this issue. Upon compiling this list, the strengths and weaknesses of each of these solutions will then be considered. Finally, after deciding which solution will be the most productive, the client can then begin taking guided steps in implementing it.

Self-Monitoring Skills

Learning how to take accountability and practice introspection are key elements in a cognitive therapy approach. Thus, CBT will often implement methods that can help individuals learn how to record and monitor their progress throughout the course of treatment.

This is often done through journaling, which can help with:

  • Tracking one’s behaviors and responses, whether positive or negative, to stressful events.
  • Recording physical and emotional symptoms that come up in response to certain events (usually those that are triggering or unpleasant in nature).
  • Taking note of one’s positive experiences and / or personal break-throughs throughout the course of treatment.

Monitoring oneself can be beneficial in many ways, primarily in helping a therapist to adjust their treatment approach for a specific client. However, these notes can also serve as a valuable reminder of their progress, as well as a resource for them to look back on during times of difficulty.


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What are the Benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive therapy approaches, including CBT, have been found to be effective in treating several issues, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Substance Use Disorders
  • Marriage concerns
  • Eating Disorders
  • Severe Mental Illness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Grief or Loss

Furthermore, CBT has been found to be helpful in improving many individuals’ functioning abilities, as well as their overall quality of life.

What are the Downfalls of Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

There are several aspects of CBT that may be challenging or unappealing for some individuals. A major factor, of which, is its heavy emphasis on a necessity for change; a concept that can be quite scary, and may even feel impossible, for many people.

Simply being aware of one’s negative thoughts and beliefs does not make the process of re-building them any easier. Thus, an individual’s ability to achieve this change will vary depending on what therapeutic approach works best for their needs.

For those who appreciate an extremely structured and instructional approach to overcoming problems, CBT will be a great match for them. However, for those who require a more open and self-directed means of growth, this may not be the best option for them.

Furthermore, there must be a genuine desire to change in order for any form of therapeutic treatment, let alone CBT, to be effective. There must also be a recognition that growth and healing is often not a linear progress.

Setbacks and mistakes are natural, and completely expected. However, for those who may become easily discouraged in their progress, a more compassionate and supervised approach to therapy may be best for them.

What are the Differences Between REBT & CBT?

Both CBT and REBT reflect elements of the cognitive triad model developed by Aaron Beck, which analyzes the relationship between distorted cognitions and personal well-being. In particular, it recognizes how one’s negative perceptions of themselves, the world, and the future often produce a limiting and unhealthy way of existing within their present reality.

Because of this, both CBT and REBT aim to help individuals overcome these thought patterns and achieve positive behavioral and emotional changes in their responses to difficult circumstances and situations.

The main difference between these two approaches is that REBT addresses its clients’ habits in a way that may be seen as more aggressive or confrontational than CBT. However, they also vary in several other ways, including:

  • The Practice of Unconditional Acceptance. Whereas CBT may focus more on promoting the positive qualities of an individual, REBT addresses the good, the bad, and the ugly, and encourages participants to accept all of these qualities as being worthy of love and acceptance.
  • Acknowledging Healthy Negative Emotions. REBT prioritizes helping clients to recognize certain negative emotions as being completely healthy and normal. Whereas CBT might focus on how to replace some negative feelings (such as anger) with more positive ones, REBT enforces a need to actively acknowledge and allow oneself to feel all of their emotions as they occur (so long as this is done is a way that is safe to both themselves and others).

REBT vs CBT: Which is More Effective?

In acknowledging the differences REBT vs CBT, it becomes clear that there is no easy way to determine which of these forms of cognitive therapy is more effective. After all, everyone has different needs and forms of learning.

Thus, it is ultimately up to an individual to determine which approach would work best for them. Of course, understanding what each of these methods are and how they help their clients achieve long-lasting positive change can help individuals decide between the two.

Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, we understand how difficult it can be to find effective treatment options, whether they be for substance abuse, mental health concerns, or otherwise. That is why our team is dedicated to finding treatment facilities and providers that are dedicated to meeting your personal care needs.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and are ready to find treatment options that can help you achieve positive change in all areas of life, we are here to help. Just by using our 24/7 hotline, one of our representatives can get you started on your journey to recovery. So don’t wait; call today, and take the first step on your path to achieving a happier, healthier, and sober you!


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