The Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy by Albert Ellis

Jonah Lester
The Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy by Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis (1913 - 2007) was one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century and one of the most prominent figures in the field of psychology after his break with the psychodynamic school.


  • Brief history of the TREC
  • Functionality of the Rational Emotive Behavioral approach
  • TREC Mental Well-Being Goals
  • Negative emotions and positive emotions
    • Appropriate and inappropriate negative emotions
    • Appropriate and inappropriate positive emotions
  • The ABC of Emotions
  • Absolutist demands
  • Treatment with TREC

Brief history of the TREC

When he was forty, Ellis made a complete break with psychoanalysis, and began to refer to himself as a rational therapist. He developed a new type of more active, directive, and dynamic psychotherapy, in which the therapist was required to help the client understand that their conceptions contained beliefs that contributed to their emotional pain. With this new approach, Ellis tried to actively change self-defeating and rigid beliefs and behaviors of the person, demonstrating their irrationality due to lack of evidence. He believed that through rational analysis individuals would understand their irrational beliefs, and change them for more logical and rational ones. This is known as cognitive restructuring..

Ellis taught his new technique to other therapists and four years later formally exposed the first cognitive therapy, proposing that therapists help people by adjusting their thinking and behavior, as a treatment for thinking and behavior problems. Two years later Ellis published the book "How to live with a neurotic" in which he referred to his new method.

A few years later Ellis founded his own institute, the Institute for Rational Living, where he regularly offered seminars in which he invited a participant to the stage to discuss him. His method became famous for often taking a directive and confrontational style..

He was the creator of one of the theories that have revolutionized the fundamentals and methodology in the treatment of emotional and psychological problems, he earned a place of honor among the greatest psychologists. We are talking today about Albert Ellis and the TREC. Beginning of your path to the creation of rational therapy. Furthermore, he also relied heavily on modern and ancient philosophy and his own experiences to theorize about psychotherapy..

Functionality of the Rational Emotive Behavioral approach

Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy (RBT) is a pioneering form of cognitive behavioral therapy, which holds that people are not only upset by the unfortunate things (adversities) that happen to them, they often worry considerably about these things. When their goals and desires are frustrated, they feel anxious and depressed they act defeatist. Your environment contributes significantly to your agitated state, but your belief system, what you tell yourself about your unfortunate environment, is also crucial to your disorders..

Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy asserts that people can minimize their unhealthy and defeatist feelings and behaviors if they clearly see and realize their irrational beliefs, scientifically and realistically debate them, until they change them to simple preferences. they work on themselves to feel different and persistently act against irrational ideas.

TREC Mental Well-Being Goals

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy was first developed by Albert Ellis in the 1950s. Although Ellis had originally done work in the field of behaviorism, he later became convinced of the causal nature of cognitive processes. Specifically, he developed a behavior model that involves a continuous interaction between the environment and the internal state of mind..

It can be said that ERT is based on a few simple but important principles. These principles are:

  1. Thought is the main determinant of human emotions.
  2. Dysfunctional thinking is the main cause of emotional distress.
  3. Because we feel based on what we think, to end an emotional problem, we have to start by doing an analysis of our thoughts.
  4. Multiple factors, both genetic and environmental influences (education, etc.) are at the origin of irrational thinking and psychopathology.
  5. Despite the existence of past influences on psychopathology, Rational Emotive Therapy emphasizes the present influences, since they are responsible for the discomfort that has continued through time, despite the fact that past influences have ceased to exist. The main cause of emotional distress does not have to do with the way in which those beliefs or ways of interpreting reality were acquired but with the fact of continuing to maintain them in the present.
  6. Although beliefs can be changed, that change will not necessarily happen easily. Irrational beliefs are changed through an active and persistent effort to recognize, challenge and modify them, which is the task of Rational Emotive Therapy..

Negative emotions and positive emotions

Appropriate and inappropriate negative emotions

  • Inappropriate negative emotions are defined as those that make adverse conditions and frustrations worse and prevent the problem or cause of discomfort from being resolved. Among them are anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, and emotional pain etc. As we have seen, they are caused by irrational beliefs..
  • Appropriate negative emotions are those that tend to occur when human desires and preferences are blocked and thwarted, and help people to minimize or eliminate the problem. That is, they start us up to solve it. Among them are worry, sadness, anger, remorse, modesty and disappointment..

Rational Emotive Therapy helps people to replace their inappropriate negative emotions with appropriate negative emotions, so that, in a conflict situation, instead of feeling paralyzing anxiety, for example, they can feel only a concern that leads them to resolve the problem. trouble.

Appropriate and inappropriate positive emotions

  • Positive feelings can also be inappropriate. For example, the feeling of greatness or superiority is a positive emotion because it makes a person feel good. However, it is based on an unreal perception of oneself and in the long run will cause problems in relationships with others and rejection..
  • Proper positive emotions are the result of the satisfaction of human desires, goals, and ideals. They include love, pleasure, curiosity, happiness ...

The ABC of Emotions

Within the ERT theory the so-called ABCDE of emotions is defined, which represents the first five letters of our alphabet, but it is also the cornerstone of therapy, since it supposes its frame of reference.

The “ABCDE” of the TRE is as follows:

  1. Activating Event: Represents the Activating Event. That is, "A" represents reality, the events that happen around us and which (on numerous occasions) we wrongly accuse of being the origin of our emotions.
  2. Beliefs: Refers to the beliefs or value system of the individual. These include cognitions, evaluations, value systems and any other type of thinking through which we filter the reality that we perceive or, in other words, through which we see activating events (A). These beliefs can be rigid and absolute or flexible and adapted to reality, the former we call irrational and the latter rational.
  3. Consequence: Represents the emotional and behavioral consequences derived from beliefs B regarding the activating event A. The C's, or emotions derived from irrational and rigid beliefs B about negative A events, will produce emotional alterations and we call them inappropriate negative consequences, while that the consequences that follow rational thoughts regarding negative events we will call appropriate negative consequences (Crawford & Ellis, 1989).
  4. Dispute: Represents the energetic "Dispute" of irrational beliefs that are always behind all emotional disturbances. These irrational beliefs are deeply ingrained in our minds, hence the dispute must be energetic and continuous..
  5. Effective Rational Belief: Represents the substitution of the irrational idea for its rational equivalent in our system of values ​​and beliefs, in our personal philosophy. In most cases the difference between one and the other is very subtle and therefore difficult to find. Sometimes the difference is a matter of degree at the level of our preferences. In all cases the rational idea is more in line with reality than the irrational idea.

Absolutist demands

There are many and different types of irrational beliefs, since each person expresses them in a different and individual way, but almost all of them can be classified into three large groups from which all the others derive. These rigid beliefs involve maintaining three types of extreme demands or basic "MUST".

  1. Lawsuits about oneself. The "MUST" or rigid demands about oneself are manifested in statements such as: "I MUST do this or that or I will not be happy, I have to get the approval of others, especially if these people are meaningful to me, of otherwise, I couldn't bear it, they wouldn't respect me, etc. " The consequences of these types of lawsuits are anxiety, depression, shame and guilt..
  2. Lawsuits about others. The demands we make of others usually take the form: "You MUST treat me well, fairly, or else you are an absolutely despicable person, it would be terrible for me and I could not bear it." This type of belief leads to feelings of anger, rage, as well as passive-aggressive behaviors and acts of violence.
  3. Demands about the future, the world and living conditions. Absolute and rigid demands about the world and living conditions often take the form of beliefs such as: "the world SHOULD offer me a more comfortable life" or "My living conditions SHOULD be as I want it to be and if It's not like that, poor me, it's terrible, I can't bear it. " Such beliefs are associated with feelings of self-compassion, self-discipline problems, procrastination behaviors, and addictive behaviors..

Treatment with TREC

Rational Emotive Therapy is often used with success when it comes to disorders such as depression or any of the neuroses. In contrast, psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia have proven to be much more resistant. In fact, there is very little evidence that behavior-oriented therapies like this have any impact on schizophrenia..

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