Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Current Status

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Current Status

Article excerpt

In this review of the current status of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), we consider two of Ellis's strategies that have helped preserve REBT's presence in the professional zeitgeist. We argue that REBT should be viewed as a unitary approach to cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) and outline its distinctive theoretical and practical features. We acknowledge the reciprocal influence that REBT and CBT have had on one another and provide three examples of such influence. Finally, we provide a brief summary of the current status of REBT research.

Keywords: REBT; CBT; research; Albert Ellis

Before we outline the current status of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), we want to consider and evaluate briefly two strategies employed by its founder, Albert Ellis, which have helped keep REBT at or near the forefront of the field of psychotherapy over the past 50 years. Without these strategies REBT might not have a current status for us to review.


Since establishing what is now known as REBT in the mid-1950s, Ellis was very successful at showing that REBT has a perspective on and can make a contribution to a wide range of theoretical and practical trends in the field of counseling and psychotherapy. Thus, Ellis has outlined the REBT position on such theoretical trends as constructivism (Ellis, 1990), existentialism (Ellis, 1977), humanism (Ellis, 1972a), objectivism (Ellis, 1968a), and postmodernism (Ellis, 1997, 2000). Practically, he has written about how REBT can be applied to all major therapeutic arenas: (a) individual, couple, family, and group therapy (Ellis & Dryden, 2007); (b) how it can be used with a broad range of clinical issues, including addictive behaviors, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, depression, morbid jealousy, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic disorder (Ellis, 2001); and (c) what its application is to such fields as emotional education (Ellis, 1971), encounter groups (Ellis, 1969), executive leadership (Ellis, 1972b), hypnosis (Ellis, 2001), and marathons and intensives (Ellis & Dryden, 2007). He has also written on the REBT perspective on a variety of therapeutic approaches such as abreactive therapy (Ellis, 1974), experiential therapy (Ellis, 1970), psychoanalysis (Ellis, 1968b), and reality therapy (Ellis, 1999), among others (Ellis, 1994). Whatever theoretical or practical trend was emerging in the field, one could be sure that Ellis would sooner rather than later offer an REBT slant on the trend. Not only would Ellis give the REBT position on the current issue, he would promote the REBT version of the issue and highlight this in his presentations and writings. He did this consistently over the years, the most current examples being postmodernism (Ellis, 1997, 2000) and acceptance (Ellis & Robb, 1994).

While this strategy has had the distinct advantage of keeping REBT's presence to the fore in the professional zeitgeist, it has been problematic in a field where the increasing emphasis has been on empirically supported treatments. While we will discuss the research literature later in the paper, we will say here that Ellis's keenness to show how REBT can be practiced with a broad range of clinical problems has not been matched by empirical evidence to support the scientific (rather than the practical) wisdom of doing so, although we are not suggesting that the former factor has caused the latter. The reality is that Ellis was not an active psychotherapy researcher and was not as successful as Aaron T. Beck at attracting such researchers to rigorously investigate his practical claims.


If the first strategy was used by Ellis to keep REBT's presence to the fore in the broader field of counseling and psychotherapy, his second strategy (what we have called the "two REBTs 'no-lose' argument") was designed to ensure that Ellis covered all bases within the more specific tradition of cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT). …

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