How Does Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Work?

How Does Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Work?

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In the realm of psychological therapies, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) stands as a powerful and effective approach that aims to help individuals gain control over their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. 

Do you know? As per the report, Statistics show that about 10% of the US population is suffering from a drug and/or alcohol dependency.

This article is about the intricacies of REBT, providing insights into its fundamental principles, the way it operates, REBT vs. CBT, and its overall effectiveness.

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is an approach to psychology that was created in the middle of the 20th century by psychologist Albert Ellis. This therapy method focuses on a person’s core beliefs and thought patterns to help them understand and control their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

At its core, REBT is based on the idea that our emotional responses are not only caused by things that happen outside of us but also by how we interpret and think about these things. In other words, our emotional responses are not caused by the events themselves, but by how we see and think about them.

REBT focuses on the role that irrational beliefs play in making people feel bad and act in unhealthy ways. Most of the time, these irrational beliefs are extreme, negative, and don’t make sense. 

For instance, if someone thinks that to be good, they have to be liked by everyone, they might feel a lot of anxiety when they think someone doesn’t like them.

What are the principles of REBT?

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is built on the idea of the ABC Model. This model gives us a way to think about how our thoughts, feelings, and actions in response to outside events are connected. 

Let’s go through each step of the ABC Model:

A for Activating Event:

In the ABC Model, the letter “A” stands for “Activating Event.” It is a situation, event, or trigger in a person’s life that comes from the outside. 

It could be as simple as getting feedback from a coworker, having a setback, or going through a tough situation. The event that sets off the emotional and mental process is called the “activating event.”

B for Beliefs:

The “B” is for “Beliefs.” After the activating event happens, a person interprets and evaluates the event based on their beliefs, assumptions, and thought patterns. These beliefs can be either true or false. 

Rational beliefs are logical, balanced, and objective interpretations, while irrational beliefs are distorted, extreme, and unrealistic. These beliefs affect how we feel and act in the future.

C for Consequences:

The letter “C” stands for “Consequences.” Once a person sees an event through the lens of their beliefs, it affects how they feel and what they do. Emotional consequences are how the interpretation makes someone feel, which can be anything from anger and sadness to anxiety and happiness. Behavior consequences are the actions or reactions that people do because of how they feel.

This ABC Model shows how an outside event can change a person’s beliefs, which then change their feelings and actions. 

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) uses this model as a tool to help people understand the link between their thoughts, feelings, and actions, and to challenge and change their irrational beliefs into ones that are more logical and balanced. It gives people the tools they need to improve their emotional health and find better ways to deal with problems.

The Process of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

The Process of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a systematic approach designed to help individuals identify and change irrational beliefs that contribute to negative emotions and maladaptive behaviors. 

Here’s a detailed look at the steps involved in the REBT process:

Assessment and Identification of Irrational Beliefs:

The first step in the REBT process involves assessing the individual’s emotional and behavioral challenges. Therapists work with clients to identify specific situations or triggers that lead to distressing emotions and behaviors. Through open dialogue, therapists help clients become aware of their thought patterns and beliefs associated with these situations.

Collaborative Goal Setting:

Once irrational beliefs are recognized, therapists and clients collaborate to set achievable goals for therapy. These goals often center around developing healthier emotional responses, adopting rational thought patterns, and engaging in more adaptive behaviors.

Cognitive Restructuring:

The heart of REBT lies in cognitive restructuring. Therapists guide clients through the process of identifying irrational beliefs and disputing them. Clients learn to challenge these beliefs using evidence, logic, and rational thinking. This step helps individuals gain a new perspective on their beliefs and replace them with more balanced and realistic alternatives.

Skill Building and Coping Strategies:

REBT equips individuals with practical skills and coping strategies to implement rational thinking and healthier behaviors. Clients learn techniques to manage their emotions, reduce anxiety, and constructively handle challenging situations. These skills are essential for implementing the changes discussed in therapy.

Homework Assignments:

An integral part of REBT is the incorporation of homework assignments. Clients are encouraged to practice the skills learned during therapy in their daily lives. This might involve applying rational thinking in real-life situations, challenging irrational beliefs, and observing the resulting emotional and behavioral changes.

Progress Review and Adaptation:

As therapy progresses, therapists continuously review the client’s progress. This step ensures that therapy remains tailored to the individual’s needs and challenges. Therapists make adjustments to the therapeutic approach based on the client’s response and progress.

Reinforcement and Long-Term Application:

The ultimate goal of REBT is to empower individuals to apply the principles and skills learned in therapy to their everyday lives. By consistently practicing rational thinking, disputing irrational beliefs, and utilizing coping strategies, individuals can maintain their progress and continue to improve their emotional well-being.

Gradual Termination:

As clients get better at controlling their emotions and finding ways to deal with them, the therapy slowly moves toward an end. Therapists work with their clients to help them feel confident that they can handle their feelings and actions on their own, even without regular therapy sessions.

Ongoing Self-Maintenance:

Following the completion of formal therapy, individuals are encouraged to engage in ongoing self-maintenance. This involves regularly reviewing and applying the techniques learned in therapy to handle new challenges and maintain emotional balance.



Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) are two popular therapeutic approaches that share similarities but also have distinct differences. 

Here’s a closer look at the differences between REBT vs. CBT:

Focus and Approach:


In REBT, there is a lot of focus on finding and questioning irrational beliefs that cause emotional pain and bad behavior. It tries to replace these irrational beliefs with more reasonable ones so that people can better control their emotions and act in healthier ways.


CBT focuses on finding negative thought patterns and cognitive distortions that lead to emotional and behavioral problems and changing them. It also uses behavioral interventions to help people change their behavior and exposure therapy to help people with certain fears and worries.

Targeting Beliefs:


REBT focuses on irrational beliefs, which are often called “musts,” “shoulds,” and absolutist thoughts. The goal of the therapy is to change these irrational beliefs through logical thinking and careful examination.


CBT does deal with negative thought patterns, but unlike REBT, it doesn’t only focus on irrational beliefs. It includes a wider range of errors in thinking, such as overgeneralizing and exaggerating the worst-case scenario.

ABC Model:


The ABC model (Activating Event, Beliefs, Consequences) is a core concept in REBT. It explains how an external event triggers irrational beliefs, leading to emotional and behavioral consequences. Disputing and changing these beliefs is a central goal.


REBT is based on the idea of the ABC model, which stands for “Activating Events, Beliefs, and Consequences.” It shows how an outside event can cause irrational beliefs, which in turn have emotional and behavioral effects. The main goal is to argue against and change these ideas.

Philosophical Basis:


REBT is strongly influenced by philosophical principles, particularly the philosophy of Stoicism. It encourages individuals to accept life’s uncertainties and challenges and to change their responses through rational thinking.


CBT is rooted in behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology. It emphasizes empirical research and evidence-based practices to identify and modify cognitive processes that contribute to emotional distress.

Therapeutic Techniques:


REBT uses methods like arguing against irrational beliefs, changing the way people think, and teaching people how to deal with emotional problems by using rational thought.


CBT uses a wider range of methods, such as cognitive restructuring, behavioral experiments, exposure therapy, and skill-building exercises, to deal with both wrong ways of thinking and bad patterns of behavior.

Therapeutic Style:


REBT can be more directive and confrontational, with therapists actively challenging and disputing irrational beliefs to help people change.


In CBT, therapists and clients often work together to find and change negative thought patterns. They do this through open conversation and problem-solving.


Golden Road Recovery, a top mental health and addiction treatment center, knows that Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) has the power to change people’s lives by promoting emotional health and helping them on their way to recovery. 

Golden Road Recovery uses REBT as part of a whole-person approach that includes evidence-based therapies, experienced professionals, and a supportive environment to help people overcome emotional problems and make changes that last.

By working with skilled therapists, clients at Golden Road Recovery learn the power of rational thinking, challenge irrational beliefs, and set themselves up for long-term emotional growth. 

Contact us and the center is committed to providing holistic, evidence-based care that gives people the tools they need to overcome problems and look forward to a better future.

FAQs on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Q: Can REBT be used alongside other therapeutic approaches?

A: Yes, REBT can be integrated with other therapeutic methods, allowing for a comprehensive and tailored treatment plan.

Q: How long does REBT typically last?

A: The duration of REBT can vary depending on individual needs and progress. Some individuals may experience improvements in a few sessions, while others might engage in longer-term therapy.

Q: Is REBT suitable for children and adolescents?

A: Yes, REBT can be adapted for children and adolescents, addressing their unique cognitive and emotional development.

Q: What role does the therapist play in REBT?

A: The therapist serves as a guide, helping clients navigate their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors while providing support, guidance, and expertise.

Q: Can individuals learn REBT principles on their own?

A: While self-help resources are available, working with a trained therapist maximizes the effectiveness of REBT by providing personalized guidance and feedback.

Q: Is REBT only effective for specific mental health conditions?

A: REBT has shown efficacy in treating a wide range of mental health challenges, making it a versatile approach for various emotional and behavioral difficulties.

License Number: 191000AP
Effective Date: 06/01/2021
Expiration Date: 05/31/2025

License Number: 191000AP
Effective Date: 06/01/2021
Expiration Date: 05/31/2025

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