This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 13 table of contents.

Ellis and Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Not everybody responds well to non-directive therapy, with its insistence that the direction for change come from the client. Some people seem to respond better to a direct challenge or specific advice. Such a person might respond well to the therapy of Albert Ellis. Ellis called his technique rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT).

Ellis was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1913. He lived in New York City from the age of four and received his PhD in Clinical Psychology in 1947. He practiced clinical psychology and psychotherapy full-time in New York City from 1952 to 1968. In a very active career, Ellis saw over 10,000 clients and published over 500 articles, often working from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily. He lived in an apartment above the REBT institute in New York and never retired, dying in 2007.

Ellis claimed high success rates using principles and assumptions almost opposite to Rogerian therapy. REBT is a short-term therapy, whereas nondirective counseling can go on for many months. Unlike Rogers, Ellis uses a directive or prescriptive approach. He did not wait for clients to arrive at their own solutions to problems. Instead, he pointed out problems immediately and insistently, refusing to let a client divert attention.

What causes "emotional dysfunctions" in Ellis's view?

Ellis believed emotional dysfunctions are related to self-talk. Self-talk was his label for the way a person's inner voice described situations. Self-talk determined a person's reactions to situations. Basic psychological dysfunctions are due to irrational modes of thinking expressed in irrational statements we make to ourselves, according to Ellis.


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