“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
REBT was developed by Albert Ellis (1913-2007) and centralizes thought and beliefs in the creation and maintenance of distress. Ellis suggested that people contribute to their own suffering through the self-limiting beliefs they hold and that by shifting these beliefs one can make way for more productive functioning. Thus, it is not events themselves that produce distress but rather the beliefs that we hold about them.
Rigid beliefs about self and others are often learned in childhood and this contributes to the tendency to hold them as truths. Therapy aims at challenging the beliefs that may need to be unlearned in order to live a happy and productive life.
REBT emphasizes the cognitive aspects of dysfunction and uses thinking as a vehicle for positive transformation. It utilizes an A-B-C model for functioning. Adversities (A) impede functioning and produce Beliefs (B) about oneself and one’s limitations which in turn lead to Consequences (C). Consequences can include feeling bad about oneself, developing destructive coping strategies, and generally not functioning as well as one would like. However, when beliefs are positive and life-affirming, consequences can also include a greater sense of vitality, healthier coping, and greater confidence in oneself.
In REBT, therapy often involves challenging self-imposed limiting beliefs and rigid patterns of thinking. Extreme or absolute beliefs (often signified by the use of words like “must”, “should”, “always”, “never”, and so on) are noticed and contested such that beliefs are more nuanced and rational.
References: Ellis, A. Overcoming destructive beliefs, feelings, and behaviors: new directions for rational emotive behavior therapy. New York: Prometheus Books.
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