REBT: The limitations and errors in this system of counselling and psychotherapy

Updated on 8th March 2021

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The book that reveals the fundamental, simplistic falsehoods at the heart of REBT

Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookMany of this author’s criticisms of REBT apply equally to all forms of CBT which utilize the ABC model of human disturbance.

The ABC model asserts that nothing intervenes between a Difficult Experience (A) and an Emotional/Behavioural Response (C), apart from a Belief (B).  But it is clear that a drunken man responds differently to a Difficult Experience than does a sober man (and alcohol is NOT A BELIEF); a sleep-deprived woman responds differently to a Difficult Experience than does a well-rested woman (and sleep is NOT A BELIEF); a child who eats too much junk food responds less well to a Difficult Experience than does a child who eats a healthy diet (and junk food is NOT A BELIEF). A well rested body responds better to a Difficult Experience than a tense body (and rest is NOT A BELIEF).  And so on.

It clearly follows from this review – of the kinds of physical variables which affect, or largely determine, the C (or emotional and behavioural Response) of an individual going through a Difficult Experience (A) – that the the B (or Belief) is far from being the ONLY factor shaping or determining a person’s Response!

Thus the ABC model – which is not only the core of REBT/CBT; but its very foundation – is false to facts!

A person who is in the Habit of responding badly to a particular kind of Difficult Experience – because of the way they were raised – will predictably respond badly to a repeat of that kind of Difficult Experience (all other things being equal!)  Whereas, a person who responds well to a particular kind of Difficult Experience – because of the way they were raised (by particular role models) – will predictably respond well to a repeat of that kind of Difficult experience (again, all other things being equal).

Humans are creatures of habit; and those habits are products of their nature in the context of their historical, social, environmental experiences.  They do not ‘choose to upset themselves’; and they do not ‘tell themselves’ things which upset them.  The reality is so much more complex than the simplistic (ABC) schema laid out by Albert Ellis, and followed by Aaron Tim Beck.

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Of course, some ‘bright spark’ is likely to point out that “…An Experience is simply the interaction of a Belief and a Happening”.  But this overlooks the very point I’m trying – repeatedly – to make, which is this:

An Experience is something that happens Inside a Whole Body-Brain-Mind; and the state of the Body-Brain-Mind is a function of diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, life-balance (work/rest/play), current stressors, historical stressors (including early childhood stressors) which are encoded in the whole body-brain-mind); PLUS the philosophy of life of the individual (which is socially shaped; largely non-conscious; and which drives habitual ways of behaving.  And so on.

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If you want to understand the importance of diet/nutrition and physical exercise in determining a person’s level of emotional response to a stressor, then you need to read our book: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression using nutrition and physical activity.***

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If you want to incorporate advice and support on lifestyle factors – including diet/nutrition, physical exercise , and sleep science – into talk therapy, then you could benefit from reading our book:  Lifestyle counselling and coaching for the whole person: Or how to integrate nutritional insights, physical exercise and sleep coaching into talk therapy.***

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And we have a list of more than 20 published titles on our bookstore: ABC Bookstore Online UK.***

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Front cover3 of reissued REBT bookDr Byrne begins by showing that Dr Ellis was wrong on two major counts:

Firstly, Ellis’s claim that there is a difference in degree of disturbability of humans and other animals, and that the cause of that difference is the existence of language, and the capacity that provides to humans to think about their experiences, and to think about their thinking.  Dr Byrne presents scientific evidence to refute this line of reasoning by Dr Ellis.

And secondly, Ellis’s claim that he had evidence (in the form of a foundational case study) that people are upset by their thinking, plus their thinking about their thinking.  In a line by line analysis of the relevant text from Dr Ellis’s 1962 book, Dr Byrne destroys the basis of this false claim.

Byrne then explores the value and veracity of some of the more extreme, core principles of Stoicism , which are built into REBT/CBT, and finds that they do not stand up to scrutiny!

Here is a little video clip in which I talk about some of these issues:

There are at least seven key errors in the foundations of REBT, many of which overlap CBT practice.

These systems of therapy are enjoying a short-lived popularity which will end in tears. (The Swedish government have already evaluated their massive investment in CBT, and found that it made not one jot of difference to the target it was supposed to hit: [getting workers off incapacity benefit, and back into work]. The British government should follow suit.  ‘Evidence-based’ should mean that evidence of efficacy is actually collected – rather than ‘inferred’ – by impartial evaluators – and published!)

If you are an REBT or CBT therapist, then you need to review the content of this book, to understand the errors at the heart of this system of philosophizing about human emotional and behavioural disturbances.

And if you are a student who is considering using some elements of REBT in your future counselling or therapy work, then you need to read this analysis.  You need to know that it is based on some serious errors which, it is not too strong a claim to state, are forms of madness!  (The precise form of madness underpinning REBT is what I call ‘Extreme Stoicism’ – the elements of Stoicism which assume that a human being can learn to live like a rock or a lump of wood; to ignore pain and sorrow; to agree that ‘nobody can harm them’; to agree that they are not upset by the horrible things that happen to them, but rather by their Silly Beliefs!  And that they choose to upset themselves! [Total madness!])

Update: With effect from 31st January 2020, this book is available as a low-cost Kindle eBook, for the following outlets:

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Amazon.com, US+
 
Amazon Spain
 
Amazon Japan
 
Amazon Mexico
 
Amazon France

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Amazon UK + Irl
 
Amazon Italy
 
Amazon Brazil
 
Amazon Australia

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Amazon Germany
 
Amazon Netherlands
 
Amazon Canada
 
Amazon India

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And it it also available as a paperback, from Amazon outlets, as below:

Amazon US and worldwide
 
Amazon Canada
 
Amazon Germany
 
Amazon Spain
 
Amazon Japan

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Amazon UK and Ireland
 
Amazon France
 
Amazon Italy
 
Amazon Singapore

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End of page one. For more, please go to REBT’s limitations and errors; Page 2.***

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2 thoughts on “REBT: The limitations and errors in this system of counselling and psychotherapy

  1. I’d love to read more about your criticism of REBT. I don’t like the way REBT dehumanizes people for not living up to the stoic ideal. I also don’t like that REBT takes literally the metaphor of mental illness and treats suffering as a disease. I recently posted some clips of Szasz and Ellis debating to my blog, https://freethoughts.blog/2018/02/23/thomas-szas-vs-albert-ellis-is-mental-illness-a-myth/.
    It is so obvious that Ellis lacks the ability to think outside of the box or in abstract terms. I think you are correct in that he found a religion that worked for coping with life and applied it to the rest of human suffering.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. RET brings artificial difference in thought and emotion. Thought need not be precede emotion always as REBTs believe. Emotion is powerful force and can be precede action due to habitual force. People who are emtional oreiented could not get much help from REBT.

    Like

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