Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach geared towards empowering individuals to confront their irrational beliefs head-on and acquire the necessary skills to effectively manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Unquestionably, when individuals harbor irrational beliefs about themselves or the world around them, it can lead to a plethora of difficulties. However, REBT steps in as a transformative tool, enabling individuals to identify and modify these beliefs and negative thinking patterns.

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By doing so, they can overcome psychological problems and find relief from mental distress. In summary, REBT is an action-oriented therapy that equips individuals with the essential tools to address their irrational beliefs, fostering a healthier and more realistic approach to their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

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How Rational Emotive Therapy Works?

REBT emphasizes the interconnectedness of our thoughts, emotions, and actions. By examining the beliefs individuals hold about their life experiences and the subsequent emotions that arise, we can gain a deeper understanding of how events impact us.

The primary objective of REBT is to assist individuals in cultivating rational responses to situations that typically trigger stress, depression, or other negative emotions. In such circumstances, an emotionally balanced reaction entails recognizing the inherent fallacy of expecting unmitigated success in every endeavor. Instead, individuals are encouraged to embrace the notion of learning from the situation and moving forward.

What Are the Principles of REBT?

REBT is rooted in the concept that individuals generally strive for success and happiness in life. However, irrational thoughts and emotions can often hinder their progress. These distorted beliefs have a tendency to negatively influence their perception of circumstances and events.

Imagine this. You texted your partner trying to make up for a fight that happened between the two of you. It’s been several hours since you texted them, they’ve seen it but they haven’t replied yet.

At this point, you may:

- Start believing that they are deliberately ignoring you because they’re done with you.

- Worry that what you did may be irreparable.

- Convince yourself that relationships never work out and that you will be alone for the rest of your life.

Keeping this example in mind let’s look at the ABCDE Model of Emotional Disturbance

The ABCDE Model of Emotional Disturbance

A - Activating Event/ Adversity
This is an event that causes you to form an irrational belief, such as being ignored by the person you love. It is the first step in developing an irrational thought because these thoughts are made in your mind to help you deal with the event.

B - Irrational Belief

The B here stands for the irrational belief that is formed to help you cope with the activating event. In this case it might be thoughts like, “I’m a horrible person, I don’t deserve love anyway.” Although this is hurtful and is probably not the reason behind your partner talking to you, it is still more comforting than not having any idea as to why they aren’t. Irrational beliefs are extremely easy to develop.

C - Emotional and Behavioral Consequences

The third element encompasses the outcomes resulting from an irrational belief. Irrational beliefs invariably yield consequences, which can manifest as emotional, behavioral, or a combination of both. Which in this case might lead you to believe that you are just undeserving of love and probably give up on even trying to mend things.

D - Disputes or Arguments

Eventually, you may become aware of the detrimental impact of an irrational belief you hold. As you observe the decline in your self-confidence and the emergence of negative self-perceptions, you begin to engage in a process of challenging that irrational belief. If you are working with a therapist, they can assist you in constructing counterarguments against the belief and gathering evidence that contradicts it. For instance, they may help you recognize that having an extraordinary spouse indicates that you cannot be a "loser" as your irrational belief suggests.

E - New Effect

Finally, after countering these irrational thoughts with more rational ones, you will find yourself open to more positive outcomes and thoughts.

What Techniques Are Used in REBT?

In REBT, there are three primary categories of techniques that align with the ABCs. The specific combination of techniques employed by a therapist may vary slightly based on their individual clinical background and their particular symptoms.

Problem-solving Techniques

These approaches aim to tackle the activating event (A) and involve efforts to enhance:

  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Assertiveness
  • Social skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Conflict resolution skills

Cognitive Restructuring Techniques

These techniques assist you in modifying irrational beliefs (B).

  • Applying logical or rational reasoning
  • Utilizing guided imagery and visualization
  • Adopting a different perspective through reframing
  • Employing humor and irony
  • Exposing yourself to feared situations
  • Challenging and disputing irrational thoughts

Coping Techniques

Coping strategies can aid in effectively managing the emotional repercussions (C) of irrational thoughts.

Such coping techniques might involve:

  • Utilizing relaxation techniques
  • Exploring the benefits of hypnosis
  • Engaging in meditation practices

How Does REBT Compare to CBT?

The relationship between REBT and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been a topic of debate among experts. While some view REBT as a subset of CBT, others argue that they are distinct therapeutic approaches.

Although CBT and REBT share foundational principles, they possess notable differences. Both methods aim to assist individuals in accepting and changing irrational thoughts that contribute to distress. However, REBT places additional emphasis on the aspect of acceptance.

Albert Ellis, the creator of REBT, refers to this component of treatment as unconditional self-acceptance. It involves actively avoiding self-judgment and acknowledging that human beings, including oneself, are prone to making mistakes.

One aspect that sets REBT apart is its utilization of humor as a therapeutic tool. This approach incorporates elements like cartoons, humorous songs, or irony to encourage individuals to adopt a less serious perspective or consider alternative viewpoints.

Another distinguishing feature of REBT is its focus on addressing secondary symptoms. These secondary symptoms can manifest as anxiety about experiencing anxiety or feeling depressed due to having depression. REBT works to tackle these additional layers of distress.

In summary, while REBT and CBT share similarities, they also exhibit distinct characteristics. REBT places particular emphasis on acceptance, employs humor as a therapeutic technique, and addresses secondary symptoms experienced by individuals.

Conditions REBT Can Help With?

REBT has garnered empirical support for its efficacy in addressing various conditions, such as:

  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Anxiety and Distress
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Disruptive behavior in children
  • Psychotic symptoms

Moreover, REBT has demonstrated promise in the realm of sports psychology, where it can assist athletes in confronting and transforming irrational beliefs that may detrimentally affect their mental well-being and performance.

Benefits of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

REBT was conceived by Ellis with the aim of developing an action-oriented psychotherapeutic approach that yields tangible outcomes through the management of emotions, cognitions, and behaviors. Research findings consistently indicate the effectiveness of REBT in reducing irrational beliefs and facilitating behavioral changes.

Similar positive outcomes are observed in the realm of sports psychology, where REBT demonstrates the ability to diminish irrational beliefs and alleviate anxiety among athletes.

In summary, REBT encompasses a range of behavioral benefits, including:

- Reduction in feelings of anger, anxiety, depression, and distress

- Enhancement of overall health and quality of life

- Improvement in academic performance and social skills

The effectiveness of REBT is well-documented and provides individuals with valuable tools for personal growth and emotional well-being.

How Do I Find a Therapist Who Does REBT?

Finding a therapist can be a daunting task, but we’re here to help with that. Our experts are trained in several psychotherapeutic approaches with specialization in treating various mental health illnesses through holistic treatment programs. We also advise asking people you know for referrals which may help you find someone suitable. 


What are the 3 basic musts for REBT?

The three basic "musts" in REBT are: 

1. The demand for approval. 

2. The demand for success. 

3. The demand for comfort.

What does REBT work best for?

REBT is effective for various mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, anger issues, low self-esteem, and irrational thinking patterns.

What are the types of disputes in REBT?

The types of disputes in REBT include logical disputing, empirical disputing, and pragmatic disputing.

What are the 3 main beliefs of REBT?

The three main beliefs of REBT are: 

1. The belief in the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. 

2. The belief in the impact of irrational beliefs on mental health. 

3. The belief in the power of disputing and challenging irrational beliefs.

How is REBT applied to counseling?

REBT is applied to counseling by identifying and challenging irrational beliefs, promoting rational thinking, and developing effective coping strategies.

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