REBT/Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

Application areas: Depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, eating/sleeping problems, addiction.

Developed by: Albert Ellis in the 1950s.

This model of psychotherapy was originally known as Rational Emotive Therapy (RET).

The aspect of behavioural focus was introduced later to become Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT).

The model aims to manage cognitive, emotional and behavioural problems. Emphasis is on the role of unhelpful thinking styles which contribute to unhealthy feelings and actions.

REBT can help with attitude, feelings (such as despondency, fear, guilt, anger) and behaviour which affect functioning (such as addiction, aggression, problems with sleeping and eating).Typical of CBT models, REBT proposes that the clinician and client work collaboratively.

REBT employs what is known as the ABCDEF model. Undesirable emotions and behaviours are reduced by changing the thoughts and beliefs associated with a trigger or activating event, referred to as the “A” in this model.

REBT theorises that emotions are not caused by the actual events in people’s lives, but rather emanate from how an individual perceives, interprets, and evaluates these events.

A brief explanation of A-B-C-D-E-F theory

A stands for a perceived undesirable Activating Event.

B stands for the beliefs, or cognitions, that an individual has about the Activating Events. When this belief is deemed irrational (iB), the B becomes the focus of therapy.

C stands for the consequences that one experiences as a function of their beliefs (Bs) about the activating events (A). When C emanates rigidly from an iB, the C is experienced as unhealthy.

In the above ABC part of the model, people tend to think that A causes C, whereas according to REBT theory, it is the iB which results in the distress of the C.

The D,E, and F aspects of the model address the treatment mode and effects of the approach:

D: A technique called “disputing” is applied to help people see things in a more realistic way. A change in perception is central to the therapeutic approach.

E: When iB is replaced with a more rational, effective belief through the therapeutic process. A new belief about A is developed within the mind of the patient.

F: The developed new functional responses and feelings towards A.

Commonly used cognitive techniques may include:
• Modelling, referencing, cognitive disputing, bibliotherapy and psycho-educational assignments, proselytising, reframing.

Emotional techniques make use of:
• Imagery, coping statements, taped disputing, role playing, unconditional acceptance by therapist and self, encounter exercises.

Behavioural techniques include:
• Reinforcements, penalties, shame-attacking exercises, skills training, paradoxical exercises, relapse prevention, in vivo desensitisation, staying in difficult situations, acting on rational beliefs.

REBT therapists are active, directive and more confrontational in their approach. Homework is an integral part of the therapy.

Accredited training referenced in link below, and in SA at

Contact person: Dr Linda Eskell Blokland