Rational emotive behavior therapy vs. cognitive behavioral therapy

Mental health and substance abuse disorders are both a result of and the cause of a person’s perception of his or her reality. Emotions such as anger, stress, depression, fatigue and worry are all derived from one’s perceptions of the world around him or her. If the beliefs change and the idea a person has of the world can be altered, his or her everyday life can too. Two of the main forms of therapy that work to help changes people’s thoughts and beliefs to help them deal with mental health disorders and addiction include Rational emotive behavior therapy and Cognitive behavioral therapy.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a biopsychosocial explanation of behavior causation originally developed by Dr. Albert Ellis. REBT holds that behavior is caused by a combination of biological, psychological and social factors. The basic premise of REBT is that most human behaviors and emotions are based on personally held beliefs about other people and one’s biological make-up. According to REBT, in order to determine personally held beliefs about oneself and the world, one must determine inferences made about himself or herself, other people, places or things, as well as his or her personal evaluations and ratings or the world around him or her.

Dr. Albert Ellis’s ABC model illustrates the interlink of one’s behavior, thoughts and world beliefs. The structure of this model wasn’t meant as a linear one, but instead cyclical because the theory states that one’s worldviews determine behaviors and actions in response to adversity. When adversity arises, one’s worldviews are modified to include what was learned or perceived by the event, which then triggers emotion, thoughts and behavior. The cycle then continues as one’s poor behavior can cause adverse events and appropriate behavior can prevent adverse events. The ABC model is as follows:

A: Adversity or event

B: Beliefs/ thoughts of the truth of the event/ worldviews

C: Consequent behavior/emotion/action

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a derivative of Dr. Albert Ellis’ rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) model. It emphasizes the repetition of how people’s worldviews or beliefs influence the way they respond to adversity, as well as how adversity will influence their worldviews, thoughts and behaviors (Walen et al., 1992).

According to the Beck Institute, the goals of CBT are to assist individuals with obtaining remission of their disorder and prevent relapse. The CBT modality is instructive in that it teaches the patient cognitive, behavioral and emotional regulation skills in an effort to encourage the patient to be self-sufficient and self-serving on his or her road to recovery and wellness.

CBT sessions solidify the importance of setting goals and meeting them. The time frame enforces action and willingness on the patient’s part so that he or she is active in the therapy process from the beginning. In essence, this sets a standard for the patient and allows him or her to work on time-management skills, personal responsibility of CBT worksheets and homework assignments, goal setting and goal achieving (Beck Institute 2014).

The exercises used in CBT for controlling thoughts include the following:

  • Identify the negative thought: Keep track of when stressors arise, as well as what feelings and thoughts are brought about by the stressor. Identify physical state of mind, such as being fatigued, hungry or tense
  • Stop the negative thought: Verbally state “STOP” and identify whether the thought is rational and whether there is concrete evidence to support the thought
  • Challenge the negative thought: Is the negative thought based on past events? Is there evidence to support the validity of the negative thought? How can the situation be perceived differently? Try an opposite approach to thinking

The use of both REBT and CBT can help individuals overcome negative thinking patterns and the behaviors they cause which in turn can help them deal with mental health disorders or substance use. If you or a loved one would like more information on inpatient or outpatient treatment services for mental illness or general wellness, you can call the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline at 855-653-8178.