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How Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) is Used in Treatment

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It is common to believe that when events take place, they cause reactions. But there could be a piece in this process that we’re overlooking: it could be our beliefs – not the events – that are the causes of how we react. Rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) focuses on how beliefs affect our reactions.​​​

What is Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy?

REBT maintains that it is not events that create behaviors and emotions. Instead, it is our views and opinions about the events that cause how we behave and feel.​​​1 Also, REBT makes a distinction between rational and irrational beliefs. REBT explains how we feel and behave in response to negative events that are either healthy or unhealthy. Irrational (unhealthy) beliefs weaken mental health because they lead to:

unhealthy negative emotions

a large number of harmful mental conditions

a range of dysfunctional behaviors

The goal of REBT is to reduce irrational beliefs and promote rational beliefs.

REBT is regarded as the earliest cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) by mental health professionals. In the 1950s, Dr. Albert Ellis developed REBT and did so to fill in the gaps he saw in psychotherapy.

How Does REBT Work?

REBT uses a simple “ABC” framework:

A = adversity (an activating event)

B = beliefs

C = consequences (emotions and behaviors)

REBT is effective because it is a simple and easily remembered way to understand what comes before emotions and behaviors. REBT enables individuals to realize:

It’s not the events that happen around them (A) that cause their dysfunctional reactions (C).

It’s their irrational beliefs (B) that cause their dysfunctional reactions (C).

Therefore, people can control how they respond to misfortune and harship, because they have control over their own beliefs.


A misconception with REBT is it relies too much on changing the thinking process. Specifically, its main goal is to change irrational beliefs by cognitive techniques. Changing irrational beliefs is not the goal. Rather, REBT strives to turn unhealthy feelings and behaviors (consequences) into functional ones. A wide variety of cognitive and non-cognitive methods are used to achieve this.​​​2


In 2018, researchers looked at 50 years of REBT studies to review its effectiveness. They reviewed 84 articles that compared REBT to other therapies. Researchers found that REBT has a significant impact on outcomes and irrational beliefs. ​3

Where Can I Find REBT?

Everlast Recovery Centers use REBT as a part of our comprehensive programs to treat drug and alcohol addiction. Our trained and experienced staff use REBT and other therapies to produce better outcomes for our clients. Call 866-DETOX-25 today to get started.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5028385/
  2. http://albertellis.org/rebt-therapy-in-the-context-of-modern-psychological-research/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28898411

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