How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Help You

By Nicole Beasley |Updated April 11, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Lauren Fawley , LPC

There are many forms of therapy; one that may be worth looking at, especially if you have irrational beliefs, is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). REBT is a therapy that relies on honesty from the therapist to help a person recognize and challenge irrational thoughts and act differently as a result.

What Is REBT?

REBT is a form of therapy that involves facing the rationality of some of your negative feelings. We all have doubts and fears, but some of them are just plain irrational and contradictory. For example, those who fear to die on a plane, but are perfectly okay with driving to the grocery store, are being irrational and contradictory. Commercial airplanes are the safest form of travel, while you have a much higher chance of dying while driving around your hometown.

If you have thoughts that are bringing you down, just how rational are they? Are you afraid of asking someone out? What's the worst they can do? Say no? The best-case scenario is you have a date, and that far outweighs the worst case.

If you don't apply for that job because you fear you're not qualified enough, why? What if you are chosen, or get close to being chosen? If you spend your time thinking you're not going to get a better job, it'll become a self-fulfilling prophecy, won't it?

You see what we mean. REBT focuses on thoughts or beliefs that can end up being self-destructive, and it tries to replace those thoughts with something more positive and rational. Humans can be creatures of irrationality; even the most skeptical of us can fall into irrational beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.

History Of REBT

REBT is the creation of Albert Ellis, a psychologist. In the mid-1950s, he presented his ideas, which he had been working on ever since he was young. Ellis had a fear of talking to the opposite sex, and he tried to conquer this fear by making himself talk to as many women as possible. This simple challenge evolved into what REBT is known as today.

He became a psychologist, and he did not like the ways he had to treat his patients. While he saw his patients become more self-aware, it didn't lead to the patients changing their behavior. To him, they were aware they had a problem but were still ignoring any solutions. So Ellis developed REBT, a form of psychotherapy based on how people view the world, and the irrational beliefs they may have.

Ellis was a hard worker. Even after he presented REBT, he continued to work on it and fine-tune it well into his 90s, until his death in 2007. Over a decade later, the therapy still carries on.

Easy As ABC

REBT has a principle known as the ABC model. The ABC model is based on Ellis's interpretation of how people see the world. He believed that people's understanding of certain events is what causes mental distress. The ABC model was designed to explain it. Stands for activating event, B stands for belief, and C stands for consequence.

Activating Event

This is the catalyst for your irrational belief. You see something happen. Let's go back to the fear of flying on a plane. Plane crashes rarely happen, but when they do, they're constantly covered in the media, making the problem seem worse than it is. This can be the activating event.


This is where your irrational beliefs come in. Because you saw the plane crash, you start to believe that every plane is at high risk of crashing. You think that the next plane you ride on is just one slip-up away from crashing in a fiery blaze.


This is where the consequences come in. Because you feel like planes are dangerous, you may avoid them whenever possible, and when you have to ride on one, you may be in a constant panic. It doesn't matter that the odds of dying in a plane crash are one in 11 million, while the odds of dying in a car crash are one in 5,000. You're still taking the car.

A consequence is an emotional response. It doesn't matter how irrational the beliefs are.

How REBT Can Help You

With that said, how does the REBT process work? While every therapist may have their way of doing it, here are the basic steps detailing how an REBT session may go.

Step One: Identify The Beliefs

To begin with, you must figure out what irrational beliefs or feelings are turning into the cause of your mental distress. These beliefs will make you want to do something or not want to do something. "I should" or "I can't" are common conclusions of irrational beliefs. A few irrational conclusions include:

  • I have to succeed at everything you do, or else I'm useless.
  • I can avoid life's challenges and live a perfect life.
  • I can't control my happiness.

These are just a few examples. If you believe these, you may live a life of regret, feel anxious, depressed, and have low self-esteem.

Step Two: Fight The Beliefs

Once you know what irrational beliefs you have, how can you clear them from your mind? While other therapists tend to help you through gentle talk, Ellis's approach was to be brutally honest. The therapist may be blunt about how irrational your beliefs are and use logic to debunk them.. If you want someone to be brutally honest and explain why you're wrong, REBT is right for you.

Step Three: Change!

Obviously, you're not going to change your irrational beliefs just because someone gives you a stern talking to. Instead, you have to be the one who changes your beliefs and takes down any irrational thoughts before they can bloom into something worse.

Your therapist will help you with the emotional responses that can sprout from irrational beliefs. You may need to meditate, write your thoughts in a journal, or change your lifestyle. The therapist may give you "homework" to help you out with your beliefs, or teach you self-help techniques. Whatever the case may be, you can change those beliefs and move on to a happier, healthier lifestyle.


With that said, how effective is REBT? Is it good for conquering your irrational fears and thoughts? With over 50 years of research, it has to be somewhat effective, right?

For many, REBT is quite an effective way to treat your fears, but it's not for everyone. The brutal honesty is refreshing for many clients who are tired of psychologists who are less directive. The bluntness of the treatment can be enough to make people snap out of their irrational beliefs and move onto a better life.

Other people in your life may not be so blunt. Your family may worry about hurting your feelings. Your friends may fear you'll leave them if you are exposed to their bluntness. However, an REBT therapist believes that a different type of honestly is needed for you to heal.

With that said, not every person likes the style of REBT. REBT has been criticized for focusing too much on bluntness rather than focusing on fixing the underlying problems. We say it's up to the person to decide. If you're looking for a new way of therapy, give REBT a try. Sometimes you even have to try different counselors until you find a good match for you.

How to Find an REBT Therapist

Look online or through your insurance company for a licensed professional with plenty of credentials and positive reviews to back them up. You should also find one who you're comfortable with. Bluntness is important when it comes to REBT, but some therapists will tone it down if you feel uncomfortable at first.

Seek Help!

If you have any irrational beliefs, feelings that don't make sense, or emotions that don't fit the situation, try seeking therapy. You can seek therapy in-person or online. offers licensed, qualified, affordable professionals for you to speak with from the comfort of your home, office, car, or wherever you happen to be.

Don't let your fears hold you back. Seek a therapist today, and they can tell you if your fears are rational or not. Most fears stem from irrationality or are highly exaggerated concerns. If you're ready to stomp them, give REBT a chance today.

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