REBT focuses on the connection between thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It emphasizes on thoughts, judgements, decisions, and actions using treatment methods that include education, suggestion, persuasion, and homework to develop a rational belief system to substitute for a flawed, addiction-focused belief system.
A fundamental premise of REBT is that humans don’t actually get emotionally disturbed by unfortunate circumstances, but by how they construct their views of those circumstances through their language, beliefs, meanings, and philosophies about the rest of the world, themselves, and those around.
In order to better understand REBT, we need to take a closer look at how the therapeutic process itself works:
- Identify the Underlying Irrational Thought Patterns and Beliefs
The first step is to identify the irrational thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that cause psychological distress. These are generally reflected as absolutes, such as “I must,” “I cannot,” and so on. Some of the most common irrational feelings and beliefs include:
- Feeling excessively upset because of other people’s mistakes or misconduct.
- Believing that you cannot be valued if you are not 100% competent and successful in everything.
- Believing that if you avoid life’s difficulties or challenges you will be happier.
- Feeling that your happiness and contentment are beyond your control and are dependent on external forces.
Holding such irrational beliefs makes it almost impossible to respond to situations in a psychologically healthy way.
- Challenge Irrational Beliefs
Once the client has identified the irrational beliefs, the next step is to challenge them. For this to succeed, the therapist will dispute them using direct and even confrontational methods. Rather than being warm and supportive, the therapist is blunt, honest, and logical in order to push the clients into changing their thoughts and behaviors.
- Gain Insight and Recognize Irrational Thought Patterns
REBT can be a daunting process for clients, as facing irrational thought patterns can be difficult for anyone, especially because accepting them as unhealthy is no easy feat. Once the irrational beliefs have been identified, actually changing them can be an even more challenging process.
While it is normal for anyone to feel upset upon making a mistake, the goal of REBT is to help people respond to these situations in a rational manner. It is also important to recognize that while REBT utilizes cognitive strategies in helping clients, it focuses on emotions and behavior as well. Thus, therapists and clients also work together to target the emotional responses that accompany problematic thoughts, and clients are encouraged to change unwanted behaviors through meditation, journaling, and guided imagery.