What is CBT and REBT

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Rational-Emotive Behavioural Therapy

What is CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or specifically, REBT. Albet Ellis developed the principle of REBT in the 50’s. He was an American psychologist. It was the first form of cognitive behaviour therapy. It is a practical and action-oriented approach for dealing with emotional, cognitive and behavioural problems. Its aim is to improve psychological wellbeing and personal growth.

REBT is based on the theory of human nature: everyone has basic goals in life, such as to work, to learn, to love, to enjoy life, but we often experience adversities (e.g. rejection, failure, discomfort) that thwart our goals.

Psychological consequences follow these adversities – such as feelings, thoughts and behaviours. REBT believes that people respond to adversities in positive/negative ways that are classified as healthy / unhealthy.


So you can respond to an adversity in a positive (rarely) or negatively healthy way – which serves your best interests. Or you can respond in a negative unhealthy way – which won’t be in your best interests.


Here’s and example

Imagine it was your birthday today and your goal is to enjoy your day. However, a loved one has forgotten all about it! (adversity). How might you feel? Feeling happy regardless is probably unlikely.

Maybe you might feel hurt and decide to sit and sulk for a while. You do this in the hope that your loved one notices and realises their mistake! People aren’t very good at reading each other’s minds so you might well be prolonging the agony.

This would be a negative and unhealthy response. A healthy negative response could involve feeling sorrow (sadness and disappointment) about the fact your loved one forgot your birthday. You might decide to tell them that they’ve forgotten, expressing your sorrow whilst being open to forgiveness and their apology. A slight blip but likely to be over quite soon. This reaction will help you on your way to your goal of enjoying the day.

What will your therapist do…

In REBT sessions your therapist will help you to identify unhealthy emotional responses to adversity. They will explore the thinking styles and beliefs that lead to this distress. Once a therapist has helped you identify these beliefs you will be shown how to challenge them in different ways. This can be done by replacing them with alternative beliefs which lead to healthier emotional states. Ultimately the goal of REBT is to help clients develop a philosophy and approach to living. This enhances their own health, happiness and personal welfare.

“REBT helps clients to understand and change problematic emotional, cognitive and behavioural responses to life’s adversities. Unhealthy negative emotional responses (along with their associated unhelpful ways of thinking and acting). These include are anxiety unhealthy anger, shame, guilt, hurt, depression, unhealthy jealousy and unhealthy envy. Anyone who is experiencing these unhealthy and unhelpful negative states can benefit from REBT. This is regardless of whether you have a mental health diagnosis or not. “

Dr Clare Churchman DClinPsy, MSc, BSc Oxford. Dr Clare Churchman is a BPS Chartered and HCPC registered Clinical Psychologist. She has over 10 years experience working with both children and adults in inpatient and community settings. Clare is trained in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapeutic treatment. It that helps patients understand the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviors. CBT is commonly used to treat a wide range of disorders, including phobias, addictions, depression, and anxiety.

If you would like to find out more about REBT please click here