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What Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Is Not

REBT teaches you to be your own therapist.

REBT Is Not:

1 . A quick fix

2. Superficial

3. An end in itself

Let's begin with what REBT is: a comprehensive approach to psychotherapy based on Dr. Albert Ellis's pioneering work in its theory and practice. Beginning in 1956, Ellis changed the course of the psychotherapy movement from traditional therapy to the now widely practiced cognitive-behavioral therapies.

Since REBT's inception, Ellis has written over 80 books on the subject addressing a variety of emotional and behavioral problems and other therapy-related issues.

It is not:

1. An immediate cure. REBT is not a silver bullet nor is it one-trial learning. Internalizing a realistic view of yourself, of others, and the world instead is similar to learning a language in that it involves developing an entirely new perspective and requires practice, practice, and more practice.

2. Superficial. REBT teaches a profound philosophy of life. You learn an entirely new perspective on yourself, others, and the world; one of unconditional acceptance devoid of global evaluations. Rather than believing failing makes me a bad person, or Fred treating me poorly makes him rotten, or life's unfairness proves it's awful, terrible, and horrible, your revised view would be something like, my failure only proves at the very worst I'm an imperfect human who acts imperfectly, Fred's poor treatment of me means he's fallible, and life's hassles only prove my life will not be perfectly comfortable. This profound view will determine how you think, feel, and act for the rest of your life.

3. Exclusive of ancillary approaches. REBT involves more than simply eliminating musts and shoulds from your vocabulary and your thinking. It's a comprehensive approach and employing the problem-separation technique recommends addressing practical difficulties using problem-solving, experimentation, trial-and-error approaches to problems, meditation, imagery, risk-taking, shame-attacking exercises, and others.

4. An end in itself. REBT teaches a method for uprooting emotional and behavioral difficulties. It employs empiricism and logic, and teaches clients the scientific approach. This involves using questioning, hypothesis testing, and seeking evidence for one's beliefs. REBT is a means, a method for teaching clients how to achieve their own objectives.

5. Culturally or ethnically biased. REBT is appropriate for individuals of all cultures, backgrounds, religions, political, and spiritual orientations. It applies if you're an atheist, Christian, Jew, or even a Druid.

6. Intellectual. This usually means REBT engages our thinking but not our deep emotions. This misunderstands the anatomy of emotions. In fact, our emotions come from our thinking. Emotions arise from our intellectual functioning.

7. Based on childhood etiology. Since our emotions come from our current thinking, discussing the client's childhood experiences is largely irrelevant to helping them with their anxiety, depression, and anger. It's a waste of their time and money.

8. A process for uncovering the deep, dark unconscious. Freud popularized the fiction of a deep, dark unconscious where the heart of emotional problems resides hidden from view. It caught the imagination of therapists deceived by Freud's flair for the dramatic, the literary, and assurance of certainty. Even worse, he presented patient cases falsely claiming cures, as with Sergei Pankejef, "The Wolf Man." In reality, the cognitive basis of emotional disturbance is easily and credibly identified by the therapist. No hocus pocus involved.

9. The belief that feelings don't matter. REBT begins and ends with the client's emotions. The client seeks therapy for help with disturbing emotions and concludes when adaptive emotions are present instead.

10. Rigidly opposed to discussing a variety of childhood or other influences on the client's emotional disturbance. The influences of heredity, environment, family, and peers may be considered though not viewed as causative. REBT distinguishes between immediate proximal causes and distal influences.

11. Advocating ultra-rationalism or thinking 101 percent rationally. There is much to a life well-led apart from the rational and irrational. Music, art. love, and a beautiful sunset are a few.


Edelstein, M.R., & Steele, D.R. (2019). Three Minute Therapy. San Francisco, CA: Gallatin House.