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

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

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

Dr 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 disturb-ability 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 core principles of Stoicism , which are built into REBT/CBT, and finds that they do not stand up to scrutiny!


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.

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 philosophising 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!

For more information about this book, please click this link: A Major Critique of REBT.***


It is madness to deny the impact of the social environment upon the body-brain-mind of the client.  It is madness to blame the client for their emotional disturbances.  And it is madness to copy the delusions of a first century Roman slave, instead of being informed by the research evidence of modern social psychology, neuroscience, and interpersonal neurobiology!


All of the following papers, which are critical of REBT, have been incorporated into the book described above: A Major Critique of REBT.

Articles and papers on the theory and practice of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT)

PapersOnREBTHere is a selection of the articles and papers in which I explored and investigated the strengths and weaknesses of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, over a period of years:

Byrne, J. (2009) Rethinking the psychological models underpinning Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). E-CENT Paper No.1(a).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Brief extract: Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) arose out of Dr Byrne’s attempts to reconcile Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) and certain other elements of therapy systems that he found useful: commencing with Transactional Analysis (TA), Zen philosophy, and later, attachment theory.  It was also shaped by his discovery of some limitations of certain aspects of REBT theory.  However, much of the foundations of REBT still serve as important elements of E-CENT.  Pages: 24.  Available online: Complex ABC Model of REBT***

Byrne, J. (2009) Beyond REBT: The case for moving on.  E-CENT Paper No.1(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Brief extract: For a good number of years, Dr Byrne 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 “Why must life be fair?”  These seemed to be ‘harmless therapeutic tools’, but the time would come when they would be applied socially as guides to action or non-action.  The author was finally awoken to this danger by widely circulating reports of the way in which Dr Ellis was treated in the final years of his life by some of his former colleagues; and by counter claims of immoral behaviour by Dr Ellis.  Pages: 10. Available online: Beyond REBT: The birth of E-CENT***

Byrne, J. (2011) Additional limitations of the ABCs of REBT.  E-CENT Paper No.1(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENTBrief extract: E-CENT has problems with the simple A>B>C model of REBT, and we have evolved a more complex model of the ABCs, which are in line with Dr Albert Ellis’s more complex thinking from 1958-1962. The simple A>B>C model is useful and helpful, if used cautiously.  It isan oversimplification of what happens in human functioning.  It asserts that (1) something happens (at point A); then (2) the individual adopts a belief about it (at point B); and finally (3) this results in an emotional and behavioural response (at point C).  Actually, human functioning is much more complex than this.  Pages: 15.  Available online: Further problems with the ABCs of REBT***

Bond&Dryden2Byrne, J. (2011)  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).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Brief extract: This paper was originally written as ABC Occasional Paper No.7, and published six years before the first E-CENT paper above, in August 2003. This document was designed as the first of several inquiries into the nature and veracity of Bond and Dryden’s (1996) critique of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). (See also E-CENT Paper No.1(a) above).  The author was convinced that REBT could be effectively defended against these criticisms, and that the work of Dr Albert Ellis could be shown to be beyond reproach.  In practice, this document identified some conceptual errors on the part of Drs Bond and Dryden, but also some ambiguous formulations of his ideas by Dr Albert Ellis.  Pages: 90. Available online: Conceptual errors of Bond and Dryden (1996)***

Byrne, J. (2010) Fairness, Justice and Morality Issues in REBT and E-CENT. E-CENT Paper No.2(b).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Brief extract: 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 also 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 in discounting claims of unfairness by a client, the therapist runs the risk of road-blocking their communication.   Pages: 41.  Available online: Fairness, Justice and Morality in REBT and E-CENT*** 

Byrne, J. (2010) Self-acceptance and other-acceptance in relation to competence and morality. E-CENT Paper No.2(c).  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Brief extract: Dr Byrne’s stance on acceptance is this: “I do not accept you (or anybody else) unconditionally.  There is no law of the universe that says I must do so!  And there may be a virtual law of the universe that says I must respond (relatively) vengefully whenever anybody treats me unfairly, according to Haidt (2006).  Instead of offering individuals Unconditional Acceptance, E-CENT therapists offer One-Conditional Acceptance: ‘I will accept you totally without reserve, no matter how incompetently or inefficiently you act or think, so long as your are committed to living a moral life.  That is an absolute condition of our relationship.”   Pages: 44. Available online: One-conditional self acceptance***  .

Byrne, J. (2011) 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..  Brief extract: This paper is written in the form of an open letter to Dr Albert Ellis, and this is how I defined my goals for the writing of this document: (1) to honour your value as a human being, and as a great psychotherapist, who helped me, and perhaps tens of thousands of others, to get over their emotional disturbances – through your therapy sessions, books, videos, audio programs, public lectures, and (in my case) personal letters and emails; and: (2) to clarify some of the ways in which I have moved on from REBT into the somewhat overlapping territory of E-CENT.Pages: 18.  Available online: An open letter to Albert Ellis about REBT and E-CENT theories*** 

Byrne, J. (2012) 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.  The author explores his association with Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT); outlines some of its strengths; summarizes the main weaknesses and deficiencies in REBT; and looks at the role of Goals in human disturbance.  He also explores the concept of ‘human emotional needs’, which is not considered valid in REBT; explores some refinements of the A>B>C model; illustrates aspects of the complex A>B>C model; and critiques the typical structure of an REBT session. He then advocates restoring the Stimulus>Organism>Response model to replace the A>B>C model; outlines the E-CENT session structure; and contrasts the 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).  Available online: Reviewing some strengths and weaknesses of REBT.***

Byrne, J. (2012) My final farewell to Dr Albert Ellis: An open letter.  E-CENT Paper No.23.  Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Just as on previous anniversaries of the death of Dr Albert Ellis, I feel the need to communicate with that part of Al which is still stuck in my mind.  I am striving to achieve completion with that part of him, and I believe I have finally achieved it with this open letter.  Just as on previous anniversaries of the death of Dr Albert Ellis, I feel the need to communicate with that part of Al which is still stuck in my mind.  I am striving to achieve completion with that part of him, and I believe I have finally achieved it with this open letter.  Available online: Final Farewell to Albert Ellis…***



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,
    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.


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