School of Applied Studies
Definition of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy and it's Strengths and Limitation
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is based on the concept that emotions and behaviours result from cognitive processes and that it is possible for human beings to modify such processes to achieve different ways of feeling and behaving (Froggart, 2005). It is a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which primarily emphasize on changing irrational beliefs that causes emotional distress into thoughts that are more reasonable and rational (Boyd, 2007, p. 183). REBT is based on the understanding that whenever we become upset, it is not the events that took place in our lives that upset us, it is the beliefs that we have in us that cause us to become depressed. Irrational behaviour here would include becoming angry about a situation that has not yet happened, expressing emotions exaggeratedly, maintaining unrealistic expectations (a misinterpretation of what is happening and is not supported by the available evidence) and are seem to be illogical in their thinking. Rational behaviors on the other hand are behaviors which portray logical thinking and do not involve emotions when making decision, often having realistic expectations. This paper thus provides an overview of the use of REBT together with its' strengths and limitations
REBT is used to help people changes their irrational or illogical ways of thinking to a more rational thinking and behaviours. The ABC model is used to help clients understand how their thoughts, feelings and behaviours are related. A stands for 'activating events, or adversity that acts to block goal attainment, B represents the beliefs or attitude, both rational and irrational that the individuals holds regarding that activating event and C connotes the emotional and behavioral consequence or reaction of the individual to A as a result of holding particular beliefs at B (Ellis, 1996). Consider an example of a student who has failed his or her examination. The failure that he or she encounters is the activating event. This would then cause the student to behave and think irrationally such that he or she would believe that the failure was due to his or her low intelligence or worthlessness. This would thus lead to consequences such as depression and feeling anxious whenever he or she is taking the examination. These reactions could, in turn result in avoidance of classes or withdrawal from school. In REBT, the therapist would dispute the student's belief that his or her incompetence or worthlessness was the cause of his or her bad grades. The therapist would help the student to adopt more effective behaviors and beliefs, such as the belief that the poor grade is simply a reflection of course difficulty or the student's inadequate preparation, rather than a measure of the student's worth as a person (Ellis & Blau, 1993).
For that example mention above, the strength of REBT would lies in its simplicity. REBT takes into consideration the developmental level of the individual (an important aspect when dealing with teenagers). The youth may not view REBT as a form of psychotherapy due to its direct approach, didactic style and it relies much on empiricism. Where other models of therapy come across as mysterious and intimidating to teenagers, REBT is exactly the opposite (Ellis & MacLaren, 1998). This shows that with REBT, teenagers would find it more comforting to let out their emotions and feelings thus allowing greater communication between the therapist and client.
The other strength of REBT, particularly for teenagers, would lies in its nonexistence of moral and/or judgmental viewpoint. For example, if a teenager commits a crime, others would view them as a bad person. A REBT therapist, on the other hand, would most likely assure the individual that even if he or she has committed a crime, it does not mean that he or she is a bad person. This approach can be very reassuring to a teenager who is has get used to being judged for what they do, rather than for who they are. According to Boyd and Grieger (1986), REBT is hypothesized to exceed the effectiveness of other cognitive-behavioural treatments by virtue of promoting unconditional self-acceptance and reducing 'secondary problems' such as self-criticism about having problems. This means that with the use of REBT, individual, including teenagers, will gain greater self esteem and increase confidence level as REBT helps them to think rationally and be more optimistic in their way of life. Thus, the use of REBT for a teenager who may be contemplating suicide is logical, pragmatic and employs techniques which are developmentally congruent with the teenager.
REBT has shown to work in both individual and group counselling settings. As REBT teaches clients to monitor thoughts and modify their thoughts, feelings and behaviours, it thus teaches clients to help themselves (Moore, 2009). This means that REBT has the capability of helping others to think positively and adopt a rational way of thinking. Moore (2009) also states that the success of REBT has been seen in the low relapse rates, compared to drug treatment in the absence of any accompanying therapy. The duration of REBT therapy is short and thus therapeutic goals are frequently achieved within 10 or 20 sessions. This shows that with the use of REBT, clients will undergo a shorter period of time to produce results as compared to other therapy.
While there is much potential strength to REBT, it does has its' limitations. Limitation of REBT can be due to its' confrontational nature. Not all clients will be comfortable with the confrontational style and would be frightened off by this kind of therapy (Gregoire & Jungers, 2007). This means that clients would find it hard to communicate with the therapist as REBT is a direct and confrontational type of therapy thus it needed the client to be more open in their conversation with the therapist. Many people find it hard to be open when it comes to revealing their feelings and emotions. Thus, this could be a limitation of REBT.
Another potential limitation of REBT would involve the misuse of the therapist's power by imposing ideas of what constitutes rational thinking. Ellis (2001b) acknowledges that clients may feel pressured to adopt goals and values the therapist sells rather than acting within the framework. This means that in REBT, clients would be expose to what the therapist feels to be philosophically right and it may not necessary to be what the clients value or practice in his or her life. This may be a problem for the clients as they feels they have to follow what the therapist deems to be right.
Group REBT do have its limitations too. Weinrach (1990) has indicated that REBT has the capability of rubbing individuals the wrong way. For an example, in a group therapy, group members can easily, out of overzealous and ignorance, misled other members and at times even present them with harmful directives and views. They can give low or poor level solutions, for example, continuing to show disturbed people 'practical' methods they can use to make themselves more successful rather than what deeper philosophic changes they can make in their disturbance-creating outlook (Ellis, 1996). This means that in a group REBT, members in the group can direct other group members into a wrong path, often leading into failure. Thus, the use of REBT has failed in such a situation when the group cannot compromise and work with one another to produce results which benefit each other.
In conclusion, REBT has both its strengths and limitations. Not all individual can get used and be accustomed to the type of therapy REBT is. Some may think that it is not the best therapy that can be adopted in counselling sessions while others may find it beneficial as it helps them to feel better and also to value their life even more. The success of REBT can be consider subjective as different people would react to REBT differently. However, despite it's limitation, REBT has been proven to be a success and is considered to be one of the best therapy out of the many therapy existed.
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