Albert Ellis – A wounded psychotherapist

The most thorough critique of Rational Therapy currently available:

A critical review of the childhood of Albert Ellis and the impact of his suffering on the shape of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

‘A Wounded psychotherapist’ is a critical enquiry by Dr Jim Byrne.  It is an analysis of both the childhood of Dr Albert Ellis (the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy [REBT]), and how some of those childhood experiences most likely gave rise to certain features of his later philosophy of psychotherapy.  If you have ever wondered what the roots of REBT might have been, then this is the book for you.  it explores the childhood difficulties of Albert Ellis, and links those difficulties forward to the ways in which REBT was eventually shaped.  It also identified the strengths and weaknesses of REBT, and proposes an agenda for reform of this radical system of psychotherapy. Available now from Amazon, in two formats:

Paperback: for as little as £6.66 GBP

Kindle: for as little as £6.89 GBP

Buy it now: A Wounded Psychotherapist: The childhood of Albert Ellis, and the limitations of REBT/CBT

Amazon in the US Amazon in UK (and Ireland)
Amazon in Canada Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Germany Amazon in France
Amazon in Japan Amazon in Australia

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Book Review – by Dr Meredith Nisbet:

“I learned so much about human nature reading your book about Ellis. I also learned from your book about Jim Byrne. The similarities are obvious. The differences are where most of the learning comes. You overcame your childhood experiences; he lived with his experiences, but the differences were that he needed help to conquer his experiences, but he never was able to “normalize” as you did. I’d like to hear your comments on what made the difference for you  – something within you or the people who helped you? Was his problem something he missed or didn’t think he needed. I think it was more the latter. What do you think?”

Posted online at: https://plus.google.com/111130736298745377633

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Response from Dr Jim Byrne: “Hi Meredith, I suspect Albert Ellis’s pain was more intense than mine.  He was more thoroughly dismissed and abandoned than I was. And he managed to avoid a breakdown, which meant he could limp on.  I could not avoid the breakdown, so I had to rebuild myself from the foundations upwards!”

Of course, the word ‘breakdown’ is too dramatic here.  It was more a case of failing to function socially in the groove in which I had been hiding for the previous four years. And so I had to be rescued by a system which took me out of that groove, and introduced me to a range of news ways of seeing and feeling the world.  I have written about these developments in my autobiography: Metal Dog – Long Road Home!***

front-cover2And even more important than this, if you read Daniel Wiener’s authorized biography of Albert Ellis – (Albert Ellis: Passionate Skeptic, Praeger, 1988) you will find that Ellis failed to do any substantial acceptance of his childhood suffering, and therefore he could not do any processing of all that emotional trauma.  On the other hand, I wrote the Story of My Origins, and the Story of my Relationship (with my mother, mainly), in which I processed most of my childhood pain, and those stories have also been incorporated into my autobiography: Metal Dog – Long Road Home!***

But long before I could write my extensive autobiography, I wrote two ‘training analyses’, or ‘self analyses’, in two papers, which I recently published in the form of an eBook.  Here are the details of that book:

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There is an extensive page of description of my book about my two training analyses – which is titled ‘Healing the Heart and Mind‘.  Here are some brief extracts:

“Was this 61 year journey worth the effort?

To find out how I processed my story of origins, and my story of my relationship with my mother – and how you could process and resolve your difficult stories from the past – please click the Amazon link that serves your area of the world:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon.it Amazon.nl
Amazon.ca Amazon.com.au Amazon.co.jp Amazon.de
Amazon.es Amazon.fr

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And now, back to my book about the Childhood of Albert Ellis:

A revolutionary book on the childhood of Albert Ellis and the impact of his suffering on the shape of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)


Wounded psychotherapist‘A Wounded psychotherapist’
is a thoroughly researched and tightly argued book by Dr Jim Byrne.  It is an analysis of both the childhood of Dr Albert Ellis (the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy [REBT]), and how some of those childhood experiences most likely gave rise to certain features of his later philosophy of psychotherapy.

If you have ever wondered what the roots of REBT might have been, and how valid they are, then this is the book for you.  it explores the childhood difficulties of Albert Ellis, and links those difficulties forward to the ways in which REBT was eventually shaped.

It also identified the strengths and weaknesses of REBT, and proposes an agenda for reform of this radical system of psychotherapy. To read more, please go to: A Wounded Psychotherapist: Albert Ellis’s childhood and the strengths and limitations of REBT.***

Or buy the book in paperback or eBook format here:

 

Paperback: for as little as £6.66 GBP

Kindle: for as little as £6.89 GBP

Buy it now: A Wounded Psychotherapist: The childhood of Albert Ellis, and the limitations of REBT/CBT

Amazon in the US Amazon in UK (and Ireland)
Amazon in Canada Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Germany Amazon in France
Amazon in Japan Amazon in Australia

~~~

REBT and Albert Ellis’s major errors

Part 1: Summary of our critique of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

by Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

In the 2010 Kindle edition of my book (on Therapy After Ellis, Berne, Freud and the Buddha – which is currently not available, because of rewriting and editing), we announced that we accepted the core concepts of REBT.  Since then, some of those core concepts have fallen apart in our hands.  Let us then review a quick summary of the flaws in REBT, about which we have already published articles or papers.

Paper1fornewREBTpage1.In Byrne (2009e)[i], we expanded the simple ABC model of REBT into a Complex Model, in which we added back the body.  Ellis’s system treated disturbed clients as ‘floating heads’, filled with ‘irrational beliefs’ – and he failed to take adequate account of the fact that we are body-minds-linked-to-social-environments.  And that therefore our diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, quality of social relationships, (as well as self-talk – or inner dialogue) and many other factors, played a role in supporting us or undermining us in the face of environmental stressors.

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2. In the summary of Byrne (2009f)[ii], we wrote about the importance of moral language, including the words ‘should’ and ‘ought’.

This is what we wrote: “It is argued that, because the ‘demanding words’, including ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘ought’ are essential to our ability to construct a moral argument and conduct a moral discourse, we cannot justify developing a system of therapy which tries to eliminate all use of should and must.  We must learn to distinguish between different uses of ‘demanding words’, including logical imperatives and moral imperatives.”  For a good number of years, we had failed to notice that REBT was strongly (if unintentionally) advocating that people ignore social norms regarding moral judgement.  For example, Dr Ellis’s repeated references to the claim that “Hitler was not a bad man!”  And his challenge to his clients who presented ‘unfairness issues’: “Whymust life be fair?”  And his denigration of the very useful moral word – “must” – by coining the expression, “musturbation”. Or “should-ing on yourself”, which was meant to be evocative of the distasteful “shi**ing on yourself!” These seemed to be relatively harmless ‘therapeutic tools’ for a long time; but the time would come when they would be applied socially as guides to action or non-action. This author was finally awoken to the dangers of these developments by widely circulating reports of the ways in which Dr Ellis was apparently mistreated (‘unfairly’) in the final years of his life by some of his former colleagues; and also by the fact  that his former colleagues counter-alleged acts of ‘immoral behaviour’ by Dr Ellis himself.

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SecondREBTPaperfornewpage3. In Byrne (2011a)[iii] I wrote about REBT’s insensitivity to clients, and the core technical error. We made the following five key points:

(a) In a video clip that I made on 7th July 2009 –  which was available at YouTube, for a number of years – I argued that it was wrong to tell a highly distressed client that they are causing their own emotional upset by the things they are “telling themselves”.  It is wrong because it is totally lacking in empathy for the suffering of that individual.  And it is also technically wrong.

(b) In what way is it technically wrong?  Well, it is wrong because it asserts that “people are not upset by what happens to them”.  This is not so.  People are upset by what happens to them – especially when what happens to them involves intense pain or violation of their personal space.  But the precise degree of intensity of their upset is a function of their philosophy of life – or their attitude – as it applies to their disturbing experiences.  Not every individual will respond in quite the same way, but most people will respond pretty strongly to being physically or sexually assaulted, shot at, or stabbed with a knife, and so on.

(c) The REBT approach is also wrong because it discounts the fact that the client is largely non-conscious most of the time, and that the client responds automatically, tacitly, to the noxious stimulus, or any other incoming visual, auditory or kinaesthetic stimulus..

(d) In E-CENT we argue that, it is only after the client has been shown what non-conscious attitude (or belief, or frame) is most probably (or highly likely) causing their upset, that the client candecide to choose to try to change their emotional wiring, or to leave it as it is.  But even if they choose to change it, this is not perfectly automatic or immediate.

(e) If REBT is to acquit itself of the charge of being insensitive and technically wrong, then REBT theorists are going to have to make corrections to the simple A-B-C model.

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ByrneonBond&Dryden19964. In Byrne (2011b)[iv], I was still trying to rescue REBT from its detractors.  I worked very hard to defend REBT, and the ABC model, from attack by Bond and Dryden (1996).  If anybody wants to see how hard I worked to rescue REBT, and Dr Ellis, then this is the paper to look at.  It is long, laborious, technical, detailed, and clearly driven by a strong commitment to saving Ellis and REBT.  But, even though I was emotionally committed to saving REBT, this was the main paper in which the system began to unravel.  This paper was an updated version of an earlier paper from 2003, and it had already moved me into a ‘parallel universe’ to official REBT.  Here is the most important piece of my conclusion:

Extract: In this paper on the conceptual errors of Bond and Dryden (1996), I have considered their interdependency principle, and find that these authors were wrong to exclude the possibility of bidirectional causation between feelings and thoughts [or limbic system and frontal lobes]). They were helped into error by some ambiguous statements by Ellis (1962), but more especially Ellis (1994).However, when I checked out the meanings of the ambiguous statements in Ellis (1994) I found that his claims were broadly defensible, although he exaggerated the degree to which ‘A’s’ (or experiences) and ‘B’s’ (or beliefs/attitudes) and ‘C’s’ (or outputted emotions and behaviours) influence each other, because he did not take sufficient account of the time line, and he did not have the advantage of using a visual model of the components of the ABCs.

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Fairness&Justice5. In Byrne (2010a)[v] I critiqued the REBT stance on fairness, justice and morality.  By contrast with Albert Ellis’s approach, I argued that an E-CENT therapist cannot ignore problems of social injustice.  It would be immoral for a therapist to always assume their clients are wrong in claiming that they are being treated unfairly.  It could have a detrimental effect on the well-being of an individual to have their just claim for fairness dismissed out of hand by their counsellor or therapist; and it could also damage society, since there is no Chinese wall between the counselling room and the street, and what counsellors advocate today with their clients may become “street wisdom” tomorrow!  Furthermore, in discounting claims of unfairness by a client, the therapist runs the risk of road-blocking their communication, which will damage the therapeutic alliance.

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6. In Byrne (2010b)[vi] I moved on to Ellis’s concept of ‘unconditional self- and other-acceptance’, which we do not accept in E-CENT – mainly for moral reasons. Here are the four most important points in that paper:

(a) Ellis thought that we each should accept ourselves unconditionally.  He would insistently demand to know, from his clients: “Even if you go out and kill a few people, how could that make you bad?” (But of course, it would actually make you a culpable criminal, and an immoral, untrustworthy human being!) For Ellis, even Adolf Hitler was not a bad man, “because he loved his dog; he loved his mother; and he loved his girlfriend”.  This is clearly an esoteric form of madness, which once passed as humorous banter inharmless counselling sessions, but today it increasingly looks likethe ravings of an amoral autistic.

(d) In E-CENT theory, we have developed the concept of one-conditional self-acceptance.  We maintain that it is appropriate for you and I to accept ourselves wholeheartedly in the face of our inefficiencies and our ineffectiveness; and also in the light of our poor general judgements.  However, we say it is not okay for you and I to accept ourselves when we have committed a moral transgression against one or more persons; unless and until we apologise, show remorse, make amends, and commit to avoid that immorality in the future.

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7. In Byrne (2011c)[ix] I summarised my progress to that point, in an open letter to the deceased Albert Ellis, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of his death.  Nothing new was added at that time; though some of my earlier critiques were somewhat clarified.

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(a) In Byrne (2012a)[x] I looked at the role of Goals (G) in human disturbance.  What I concluded was this: That Ellis’s model, which has a fixed place for the G, is false.  Humans do bring goals to their daily experiences, but they are not necessarily always fixed or rigid.  We can modify our goals in the light of experience, even as the experience is unfolding; and we can create new goals as we go along. We do this non-consciously and automatically, but somewhat flexibly.

(b) I also explored the concept of ‘human emotional needs’, which is not considered a valid concept in REBT. Albert Ellis was opposed to the idea that humans have ‘emotional needs’, and he felt, instead, that all our apparent needs were actually wants.  This is not the case.  Elsewhere I have argued that we do not need to be loved in order to merely survive.  But if we want to thrive, then we need to love and be loved. (See Epstein, 2003[xi] and Lewis et al 2001[xii]). See Appendix B for out Emotional Needs Assessment Checklist.

(c) In Byrne (2012a) I also critiqued the typical structure of an REBT session, because the GABCDE model cannot take the whole client into account, because there is no place in this rigid model for diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, meditation, socio-economic factors, quality of relationships, etc. (See Lieshout, 1997)[xiii].

(e) In addition, I outlined a (since abandoned) E-CENT session structure. In chapter 6 above, I clarify the fact that we do not have a fixed structure, but rather we respond to the issues that the client brings to counselling; and we are guided by many models and processes, which have to be put together in a ‘just in time’ manner by the counsellor as he/she learns about the client’s body-mind. This arose out of our experience over the past six years, in which it became obvious that an arbitrary structure simply got in the way of ‘getting the client’s story’, and finding a unique way forward!

(f) Also in Byrne (2012a), I contrasted the REBT process of ‘disputing irrational beliefs’ with the gentler, less conflictual process of ‘re-framing the problem’, which is used in Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy (E-CENT); for example in the use of the Six Windows Model (see Chapter 3).

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PapersOnREBT[i] Byrne, J. (2009e) Rethinking the psychological models underpinning Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). E-CENT Paper No.1(a).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Studies.

[ii] Byrne, J. (2009f) Beyond REBT: The case for moving on.  E-CENT Paper No.1(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[iii] Byrne, J. (2011a) Additional limitations of the ABCs of REBT. E-CENT Paper No.1(c). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online at: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[iv] Byrne, J. (2011b) On the Conceptual Errors of Bond and Dryden (1996): or how to scientifically validate the central hypotheses of REBT. E-CENT Paper No.1(d). (Originally published as: Occasional Paper No.7, by ABC Coaching, in February 2003). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[v] Byrne, J. (2010a) Fairness, Justice and Morality Issues in REBT and E-CENT. E-CENT Paper No.2(b). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications. Available online@ https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[vi] Byrne, J. (2010b) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. E-CENT Paper No.2(c). Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Studies. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

ecent-logo3[vii] “Ethical stance” in Stoic philosophy does not have the modern meaning of social morality.  It is about the individual’s self-chosen stance towards life – including their personal definition of right and wrong. See the Introduction by D.A. Rees, in Aurelius, M. (1946/1992) Meditations. Trans. A.S.L. Farquharson.  London: Everyman’s Library.

[viii] Haidt, J. (2001) The emotional dog and its rational tail: a social intuitionist approach to moral judgement. Psychological Review, 108(4): 814-834.

Haidt, J. (2003). The moral emotions. In R.J. Davidson, K.R. Scherer, & H.H. Goldsmith (Eds.), Handbook of Affective Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 852-870.

Haidt, J. (2006) The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting ancient wisdom and philosophy to the test of modern science. London: William Heinemann.

Dr Jim's photo[ix] Byrne, J. (2011c) Some clarifications of the parting of the ways: An open letter to Dr Albert Ellis, on the fourth anniversary of his death. E-CENT Paper No.12. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[x] Byrne, J. (2012a) Reviewing some strengths and weaknesses of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) – and outlining some innovations. E-CENT Paper No.22. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT. Available online: https://ecent-institute.org/e-cent-articles-and-papers/

[xi] Epstein, S. (2003) Cognitive-experiential self-theory of personality. In Millon, T., and Lerner, M. J. (eds), Comprehensive Handbook of Psychology, Vol. 5: Personality and Social Psychology(Pages 159-184). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons.

[xii] Lewis, T., Amini, F. and Lannon, R. (2001) A General Theory of Love. New York: Vintage Books.

[xiii] Lieshout, C.F.M. van (1997) Social development. In Andreas Demetriou, Willem Doise and Cornelius van Lieshout (eds) Life-span Developmental Psychology. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons. Page 275.

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The most thorough critique of Rational Therapy currently available:

A critical review of the childhood of Albert Ellis and the impact of his suffering on the shape of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

‘A Wounded psychotherapist’ is a critical enquiry by Dr Jim Byrne.  It is an analysis of both the childhood of Dr Albert Ellis (the creator of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy [REBT]), and how some of those childhood experiences most likely gave rise to certain features of his later philosophy of psychotherapy.  If you have ever wondered what the roots of REBT might have been, then this is the book for you.  it explores the childhood difficulties of Albert Ellis, and links those difficulties forward to the ways in which REBT was eventually shaped.  It also identified the strengths and weaknesses of REBT, and proposes an agenda for reform of this radical system of psychotherapy. Available now from Amazon, in two formats:

Paperback: for as little as £6.66 GBP

Kindle: for as little as £6.89 GBP

Buy it now: A Wounded Psychotherapist: The childhood of Albert Ellis, and the limitations of REBT/CBT

Amazon in the US Amazon in UK (and Ireland)
Amazon in Canada Amazon in Italy
Amazon in Germany Amazon in France
Amazon in Japan Amazon in Australia

~~~