REBT stands for Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy or Training. It is an active, psychoeducational process, based on the philosophy that our behaviours and emotions are caused, not by external events, but rather by the view we take of these events.
According to REBT, an event is only upsetting if you see it as upsetting. This makes sense when you consider that we don’t get upset about things that have happened until we know that they have happened.
The way we view events usually follows a familiar pattern. That’s because our opinions are stored up, waiting to be triggered by the events that take place.
These stored opinions are called beliefs and we have millions of them. They enable us to make sense of the world and to make quick decisions without having to rack our brains every time we encounter a familiar situation.
Beliefs can be considered like software in a computer. A computer will perform differently when it has different software installed – even if you are pressing the same sequence of keys. Its output is not caused by its input – it is caused by how the software processes the input.
According to REBT, the disturbing emotions we feel – anxiety, anger, depression etc – are caused by our beliefs about the situation in which we are in. So too are our behaviours – speaking too fast, shouting, crying – these actions will follow from whatever we believe about the circumstances we are in.
The strength of the feeling we have, is related to the strength of the belief we hold. For example, a person who believes that it is preferable, but not essential, for colleagues to be on time for a meeting may not be disturbed or only slightly annoyed if someone is late. But were they to believe that others absolutely must be on time, then they will inevitably get angry or resentful when their colleagues are tardy.
REBT defines this latter type of belief as irrational. Beliefs are considered irrational when they are:
- inflexible and rigid,
- inconsistent with reality,
- inconsistent with the principles of logic,
- blocking you from achieving your goals.
According to REBT, if you experience self-defeating emotions or behaviours, it will be because you are holding (often without knowing it) irrational beliefs.
The good news is that we can uncover and change our beliefs if we decide to.
The goal of REBT is do the following:
- Acknowledge the link between your beliefs, emotions and behaviours
- Determine whether your beliefs are rational or not
- Replace irrational beliefs with rational beliefs
- Integrate these rational beliefs into your belief system so that they operate automatically.
The end result of this process is that events which were once inevitably accompanied by unwanted behaviours and emotions, no longer trigger these results.
Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy was designed by Dr Albert Ellis in the mid-1950’s. It is an internationally recognised psychological methodology and is supported by training, literature and research.