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

About Albert Ellis and REBT

Reflections upon some features of Ellis and his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

By Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling

20th July 2016

Introduction

Ever since the death of Albert Ellis, in July 2007, we have posted some annual, reflective thoughts on his life, around the date of his death.

This year, my main conclusions are these:

Wounded psychotherapist1.Albert Ellis was seriously neglected by his parents – at times virtually abandoned to his fate, as when he spent almost ten months in hospital on his own, at the age of just six years.

2. He seems to have saved himself from the emotional pain of these experiences by engaging in denial of his feelings and needs.

3. When he became a teenager, and discovered Stoic philosophy, he latched on to extreme Stoical denial of the impact of the environment on human beings – especially in his adoption, and promotion, of the statement from Epictetus to the effect that “people are not affected (emotionally) by what happens to them!”

4. I found Ellis’s (extreme Stoical) philosophy of life appealing in 1992, when I was going through a major career crisis. I was slipping into anxiety and depression, and his philosophy reminded me to “be strong”! That seemed to me to be a good thing, for a good number of years.  And I could not at that time see any downside to his philosophy.

(a) From him, I learned to accept myself as being OK, even though my career and income were falling apart. (It would be a few years before I realized that his promotion of ‘unconditional self- and other-acceptance’ was a form of dangerous amoralism).

(b) From him, I learned to refrain from describing my dire circumstances as ‘awful’, ‘terrible’, or ‘horrible’ – even though they were actually, in terms of the strict dictionary definitions, awful, terrible and horrible! However, my circumstances were not 100% bad; and I learned that from Dr Tom Miller, an acolyte of Dr Ellis.  (In effect, Ellis [through his writings and audio program {Albert Ellis, Live at the Learning Annex}] taught me to be indifferent to my needs and my feelings of suffering.)

(c) From him, I learned to give up demanding that I not be going through a career and financial crisis, when I was actually going through a career and financial crisis. (This is a good move, philosophically, unless it is exaggerated. And the exaggeration that I [rightly or wrongly] learned from Ellis was to Be Strong, and not expect any sympathy or support from anybody; since Ellis implies that if I am upset about my career crisis, then I am ‘choosing to upset’ myself! And since, I now realize, I also have the driver, Be Perfect, I set out to perfectly implement Ellis’s extreme Stoic ‘Be Strong’ injunction).

(d) I also learned from Ellis that I ‘can stand’ being in a career crisis when I am in a career crisis.  I don’t think that was a major revelation to me, since I have survived a most awful childhood and early adulthood by keeping on keeping on, no matter what life threw at me!

Ellis-on-love-Pt25. I became disillusioned with Ellis’s approach to life in 2005-07, when he was fighting to get restored to his therapy work and to the board of his institute; from which he had been removed by a majority of his board. I began by fighting his corner for him, which gave me some degree of privileged insights into the Ellis camp’s thinking. We (as a group) were unable to form a moral statement in Ellis’s defence, because Al had taught us to eschew all ‘should-s’ and ‘must-s’.  It would have been hypocritical of us to say that our client’s (‘should’) avoid using the words should and must, but then to use it ourselves to say, “Al Ellis should not be being treated so cruelly by his former colleagues!”

6. Furthermore, Ellis proved, in practice, not to be such a great Stoic after all, and he went to court in New York City to say that “his colleagues had unfairly dismissed him, which they should not have done” – even though he was profoundly disinclined to allow any of his (or our) clients to complain about the unfairness of life; or to ever use should-s or must-s about anything!

7. On both sides of the conflict, within 45 East 65th Street (the Albert Ellis Institute), the much vaunted concept of ‘unconditional acceptance of others’ simply fell apart. Neither side seemed able to apply this ‘sacred principle’ to any significant degree – and certainly not consistently and exclusively! I witnessed examples of both sides condemning and damning the other side.

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8. So I became disillusioned, and began to develop some new approaches to my own therapy, and my own philosophy of life. Initially, these involved a kind of ‘reformed REBT’, but this gradually became greatly reduced, as I found more and more flaws in Al’s theory. And eventually I began to develop my own system of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) – which is centred around the whole human being as the basis of happiness and unhappiness – including how well the body-mind is fed, exercised, watered, related to, housed, and linked to others supportively or otherwise.  (In Al’s theory, the individual is essentially a ‘belief machine’, which is conscious of its belief-choices in every moment, and therefore responsible for upsetting itself!)

9. Further down this page, you will find references to a range of papers that I wrote, mainly between 2009 and 2012 or so. Those papers were very detailed, and were serious attempts to make sense of the mess that Albert Ellis had made in creating REBT.

Dr Jim's photo10. At some point I realized that Albert Ellis could not produce a system of counselling and therapy which provided a secure base for his clients – because he had an avoidant attachment style. He could not produce a system of therapy in which the client is allowed to process their undigested experiences from their childhood (and their family of origin in general) because Al Ellis had not completed his own psychoanalysis – his own self-analysis. He had simply buried his pain, and kept it buried through extreme Stoical denial. (I will illustrate this claim in just a few moments!)

11. I was recently made aware of some of the features of this aspect of Ellis, when I was reading through three books:

Real-Albert-EllisFirstly, I was leafing through a book about Ellis, published in 1990, which is a collection of anecdotes (from 1988 – on the occasion of his 75th birthday) by his colleagues, students and friends[1].

On page 38, a section titled ‘Bruised but unbowed’ begins.  It is clearly a eulogy about his ability to ‘be strong’ in the face of all kinds of adversities.  There are five eulogies, each of which shows that Albert Ellis aims to be a kind of ‘superman’, displaying superhuman powers, and ignoring his reasonable human needs and feelings.

Cal Merrifield describes how Al fell down the stairs into the basement of a hotel where he was due to make a public workshop presentation.  He fractured his collar and broke his insulin bottle.  But he insisted on delivering the workshop presentation anyway, with his arm in a sling, and with only a moderate painkiller to cope with the injury.  Not content with this victory, he took a flight to St. Luis, without attending to his fracture, and conducted another workshop.  “Later he flew to Detroit, for an operation to set his collarbone” writes Merrifield, emphasizing the need for an operation, so we will understand just how superhuman Al was being when he stuck to his Be Strong driver.

Jeffrey Zeig writes about how Al sprained his ankle before he was due to speak at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference.  But Al was not fazed by this misfortune, and made his presentations from a wheelchair.  (Be strong!)

Yasutaka Kokubu wrote (from Tokyo) about how Al had eaten too much raw fish “and he was badly sick because of his hiatal hernia and had to consult a physician.  But, guess what?  He ignored his need to take time out, and “conducted an all day workshop and a lecture that night”.

Richard Schneiman also writes about Al’s battles with the effects of a hiatal hernia.  Al was resting on a bed in a side room when a group of students descended upon him to see if he would run a group therapy session for them.  “Al really needed to rest”, says Schneiman; but, guess what?  Al ignored his own needs, and attended to the needs of the student group.  (From this and earlier examples, I infer that Albert Ellis was driven by these injunctions: Be strong!  Ignore your own needs!  Ignore your own feelings!)

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Personality-adaptations-Joines-StewartSecondly, I’ve been reading a book on personality adaptations, by Vann Joines and Ian Stewart (2008)[2]. This book describes six archetypal ways in which individuals are believed to adapt to their family of origin.  I have one client at the moment who fits the ‘Creative-Daydreamer (Schizoid)’ type; and while reading through this profile (page 83 to 87) I came across two statements that reminded me of things I knew or suspected about Al Ellis:

(a) “They were fearful of making demands on their parents because they didn’t think their parents could handle the demands.” Ellis was adamant that ‘demands’ were to be avoided! “They learned to be supportive of others but ignored their own needs.” He became a therapist, but neglected himself.  “They often wait until they are really stressed before attending to their needs.  In short, they were emotionally neglected as children and tried to be strong and do without.  They are the true stoics”.  (Page 85).

(b) “They equate being stoic with being good, so they become critical of themselves when they have needs.  They were neglected as children and believe that if they had really been OK they wouldn’t have had those needs in the first place.” Instead of resenting his parents for not visiting him in hospital when he was four and six years old, Ellis lets them off the hook totally, and choses to deny his feelings of abandonment instead.

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Affect-regulation-theory-Daniel-HillThirdly, I’ve been reading Daniel Hill’s book on ‘affect regulation theory’ – or how humans learn to manage their emotions (or affects)[3]. In short, we learn to manage our emotions – the primary process of emotion management – in our mother’s arms, and around her skirts, in the first couple of years of life.  Albert Ellis (and I) had dismissive, avoidant mothers.  Mine was over-controlling, at a distance; while his was abandoning and neglectful. Out of these kinds of relations with mother (called, by Hill and others, ‘object relations’) comes “A strategy of hyper-independence, stoicism and resigned/passive coping (which) promotes an attachment relationship of mutual, proximal isolationism, and avoidance of conflict.  Such mutual distancing” – (by mother and child – and later romantic partners – JWB) – “and avoidance of negative affect (or negative emotions) are peacefulness to a fault. It is a common arrangement in avoidant-avoidant marriages and a danger to be guarded against in avoidant-avoidant therapeutic dyads”. (Page 177).

“Depending upon the degree of impairment, the avoidant personality suffers a range of alexithymia” – (the sub-clinical “inability to identify and describe emotions in the self”) – “and lack of responsiveness to others’ affect (or emotion) states”.  This is the condition which Albert Ellis displayed, and which some of his colleagues described as his ‘slight Aspergerish tendency’.  It is a form of lack of emotional empathy, and (according to Hill, 2015), “insensitivity to one’s own and others’ affect states”, and “…a core anxiety of being overwhelmed by affect (or emotionality)”. (Page 178).

I share – or rather, shared – this kind of tendency with Ellis – saw a fellow traveller in him; identified with him; and followed him slavishly until I woke up.

I have done a lot of work on my own emotional intelligence since 2007, and split from Ellis’s mildly autistic, left-brain dominant rationality. 

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Blue-logo712. Ideally, you should read this piece in conjunction with some of the papers listed further down this page. And I have written a lot more about the emotionally impoverished and neglected childhood of Albert Ellis, and the likely effects of this neglect, in my book on his childhood (see below).

That’s all for now.

Best wishes,

Jim

Dr Jim Byrne, Doctor of Counselling, Professional counsellor and psychotherapist, and Executive Director of the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT)

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[1] DiMattia, D. and Lega, L. (eds) (1990) Will the Real Albert Ellis Please Stand Up? New York: The Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy.

[2] Joines, V. and Stewart, I. (2002/2008) Personality Adaptations: A new guide to human understanding in psychotherapy and counselling.  Lifespace publishing: Nottingham and Chapel Hill.

[3] Hill, D. (2015) Affect Regulation Theory: A clinical model.  London: W.W. Norton & Company.

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The book that reveals the fundamental falsehoods at the heart of REBT/CBT

Cover444Many 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!

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!

Get this book today, if you want to eliminate these errors from your own thinking and your own work.  Or you want to avoid learning them in the first place.  This book will also inform you of the importance of fairness and morality in counselling and therapy, and improve your capacity to think about the human body-brain-mind, and the true causation of emotional disturbances.

Get the book here, now:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia Amazon Netherlands Amazon Germany
Amazon Italy Amazon India Amazon France
Amazon Spain Amazon Brazil Amazon Japan

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Wounded psychotherapistA revolutionary book on 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 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.***

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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.

Self-acceptance-too-far(b) We can never test Ellis’s concept of unconditional self-acceptance, since most of us want to accept ourselves, even when we’ve acted immorally – but we normally (if we are lucky) also have a (private) guilt-inducing conscience.  But we can test Ellis’s concept of unconditional other-acceptance, to see how well it works in practice. In working with angry clients, Ellis would insist that they should unconditionally accept the people who maddened them.  He had no patience for the client’s complaints about others – insisting with one client (still available on video tape) that his associates could not possibly hurt him, or make him feel anything – “except perhaps with a baseball bat”.  This is an example of extreme Stoic ideology, which insists that “nobody can harm me, because they cannot change my ethical stance[vii] in life”.  But when Ellis was removed from office (in 2004), and removed from the board of the institute that he’d formed, (in 2005), he did not unconditionally accept his adversaries.  He said he wanted their leader “dead, dead, dead”; he sued them all for “unfair dismissal”; and in his inner circle, his adversaries were called “The Bastards”.  (According to the official theory of REBT, they should have been called “Those people, who we accept unconditionally, but whose recent behaviour is bad, but they’re okay!”) Extreme Stoicism is easy in the speaking of it; but almost impossible in the living of it under adverse conditions!  And that is because there is a huge false assumption in the basement of extreme Stoicism – and that assumption is that we can define conventional definitions and descriptions of harm out of existence!  This will work okay (as a form of denial and self-delusion) unless and until somebody steps up to you with the intention of harming your seriously.  Then you remember to yelp! And you remember to yelp because, in reality, ‘harm’ describes something which has the effect of hurting you, physically, emotionally or symbolically.

Moral-philosophy(c) In this paper (Byrne, 2010b), I related the idea of unconditional self-acceptance (USA) to some of the most important concepts of moral philosophy, including the ideas of praise and blame.  I then related all of these ideas to the newly emerging field of study of ‘moral emotions’, and I showed that Albert Ellis was (at least theoretically) in the ‘ethical rationalist’ tradition created by Jean Piaget (1952, 1954), which holds that moral judgements are driven by linguistic reasoning, rather than by emotional intuitions (as argued by Haidt, 2001, 2003, 2006[viii]).  I argue that Ellis was ‘theoretically’ an ethical rationalist because, in practice, he is not actually a moralist of any description, being mainly a pragmatic promoter of prudence rather than moral codes and rules.  He expressly forbids all forms of the moral imperatives: should, must, have to, got to, need to, ought.  And he insists that nobody should ever be blamed for anything.

(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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Goals&theABCs8. In 2012, I looked at the role of goals and human needs, and clarified the weaknesses of REBT theory in those two area.  At a certain point in the evolution of REBT, the ABC model had been elaborated further into the GABCDE model, where G = Goals; D = Disputing irrational beliefs; and E = Effective new philosophy (which is a set of pre-specified ‘rational beliefs’).

(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-CENT-imago(d) I then advocated restoring the Stimulus> Organism> Response (SOR) model to replace the A>B>C model; because, in the SOR model, the O is the whole organism, which is clearly impacted by diet, exercise, sleep quality, self-talk (or inner dialogue), relaxation, socioeconomic circumstances, environmental stressors in general, quality of relationships, and so on.

(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.

~~~

The book that reveals the fundamental falsehoods at the heart of REBT/CBT

Cover444Many 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!

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!

Get this book today, if you want to eliminate these errors from your own thinking and your own work.  Or you want to avoid learning them in the first place.  This book will also inform you of the importance of fairness and morality in counselling and therapy, and improve your capacity to think about the human body-brain-mind, and the true causation of emotional disturbances.

Get the book here, now:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia Amazon Netherlands Amazon Germany
Amazon Italy Amazon India Amazon France
Amazon Spain Amazon Brazil Amazon Japan

~~~

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-ellis‘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.***

~~~

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-CENTPaper 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 imoral 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).  HebdenBridge: 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).  Heben Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT.  Brief extract: This paper was origianlly 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…***

~~~

The book that reveals the fundamental falsehoods at the heart of REBT/CBT

Cover444Many 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!

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!

Get this book today, if you want to eliminate these errors from your own thinking and your own work.  Or you want to avoid learning them in the first place.  This book will also inform you of the importance of fairness and morality in counselling and therapy, and improve your capacity to think about the human body-brain-mind, and the true causation of emotional disturbances.

Get the book here, now:

Amazon.com Amazon.co.uk Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia Amazon Netherlands Amazon Germany
Amazon Italy Amazon India Amazon France
Amazon Spain Amazon Brazil Amazon Japan

~~~

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.***

~~~

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

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