Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Young women having rational emotive behavior therapy with a therapist

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One of, if not the biggest component of the recovery process is the mental aspect. After all, it was the brain that told you that you needed more and more of the substance of abuse and it was your brain that told you that you needed your fix. Without reprogramming your brain so it no longer thinks that it needs the substance or substances, you can’t truly begin the recovery process. It’s why therapy is such a big part of the overall recovery process.

There are many different therapies out there that focus on the way your brain acts and behaves as it relates to addiction. One of those is known as rational emotive behavior therapy or REBT. On this page, we will discuss what REBT is, how the process works, and how it can benefit someone who is recovering from addiction.

What Is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

Rational emotive behavior therapy is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Developed by psychologist Albert Ellis, it is an action-oriented therapy that focuses on helping people cope with irrational beliefs and teaches them how to manage their thoughts, behaviors, and emotions in a healthier and more realistic way. Oftentimes, these irrational beliefs are what lead to the development of a substance abuse issue. Eliminating this way of thinking and the negative patterns that come with it can help greatly with the recovery process. 

What Issues Can Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Help With?

While rational emotive behavior therapy won’t help cure addiction directly, it can help with many of the mental issues that might have ultimately led to the development of the substance abuse issue. In fact, some of the mental health conditions that REBT can help with include:

  • OCD
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Depression
  • Disruptive behavior in children
  • Anxiety
  • Distress
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Psychotic symptoms

How Does REBT Work?

As we mentioned above, REBT was created by Albert Ellis in the 1950s. Ellis believed that most people were not aware that many of the thoughts and feelings they had towards themselves were irrational and, as a result, were negatively impacting the way they behaved in life. It was these thoughts, he believed, that lead people to suffer from negative emotions as well as self-destructive behavior, such as addiction or substance abuse.

Rational emotive behavior therapy was then designed to make people aware of their irrational thoughts as well as show them how those thoughts are affecting their daily lives. The theory is that by letting go of those negative thoughts and replacing them with more positive beliefs, the person can not only accept themselves for who they are better, but they can also live a happier life as a result. 

What Are Some of the Biggest Benefits of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

When Ellis came up with the concept of REBT, the idea was to create an action-oriented approach to psychotherapy. The goal was to get results by helping people manage their behaviors and emotions. Ultimately, through the use of REBT, a person can:

  • Improve their overall health
  • Improve their overall quality of life
  • Develop healthier social skills
  • Reduce or eliminate feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and distress

The ABC Model

The core concept being REBT is the ABC model. This model is used to show that ultimately we are solely responsible for everything we do in life, as well as the consequences of our actions. For example, someone who is suffering from addiction might say that someone made them drink or do drugs.

The ABC model is used to help show that person that in reality, nobody can make them do anything. In reality, they were offered said drugs or alcohol and they made the conscious decision to take it with the belief that it would make them feel better. 

ABC stands for:

  • A – Activating event
  • B – Belief
  • C – Consequence


What Should I Expect From REBT?

In most treatment centers, REBT is part of the much broader cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT. A typical REBT session will last for about an hour. During the session, you and the therapist will discuss what might have led to your addiction using the ABC method discussed above.

You will get to the bottom of what the activating event was that led you to drink or use drugs and then discuss how you convinced yourself that what you were doing was good as well as the consequences that resulted from you using. This can oftentimes feel overwhelming for the person participating in treatment which is why sessions tend to stay within that hour-long range.

During your first session, the therapist will likely discuss your goals as well as what you are ultimately looking to get out of therapy. They will also ask you to talk about the activating event or events that led you down the path to addiction in the first place as well as the event or events that took place that finally led you to seek treatment. While there might be some casual conversation sprinkled in, oftentimes the therapist will want to get right down to business.

Throughout treatment, it is likely that you will receive homework assignments including reading assignments as well as techniques and behaviors to try out in order to see what works best for you. 

How Can REBT Help With Addiction Recovery?

The mind can be a very powerful tool. Not only can it convince us that something is wrong, but it can also convince us that the only way to fix the issue is through the use of drugs and alcohol if it wants.

One of the ways that rational emotive behavior therapy can help when it comes to the recovery process is it can help get to the bottom of some of these irrational thoughts and beliefs that might have led to the addiction. It forces the person in treatment to look within themselves and take responsibility for their actions. It also helps instill the importance of acceptance both of one’s self, others, and the world around us. Additionally, REBT can work well in conjunction with other forms of therapy and treatment including:

  • 12-step programs
  • Medication management
  • Motivational management

How Effective Is It?

Rational emotive behavior therapy is widely accepted by those in the recovery field. As we mentioned earlier, it has been proven to be highly effective when treating mental health disorders such as OCD, depression, social anxiety, and many others. When it comes to depression and anxiety specifically, it can help with things like:

  • Challenging those irrational beliefs
  • Practicing acceptance
  • Separating the individual from their behavior
  • Identifying cognitive errors

Is There A Difference Between REBT and CBT?

While many places place REBT under the larger CBT umbrella, there are some distinct differences between the two. While both REBT and CBT focus on accepting and changing the irrational thoughts that lead to addiction, REBT places a larger emphasis on acceptance. Additionally, sometimes REBT will incorporate humor into the treatment as a therapeutic tool in order to lighten the mood and to get the person in therapy to let their guard down.

Acceptance is an essential part of substance use recovery. Without acceptance, it would be difficult to move on from past experiences and potential negative life choices. During treatment, people learn to accept their previous behavior and choices, keeping in mind how they are going to move forward with their lives. REBT helps people come to acceptance and helps them transition to a new healthy, fulfilling, and sober mindset. 

How Do I Know If Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Is Right For Me?

While REBT has proven to be highly effective, just like everything else in life, it might not be for everyone. For some, facing these irrational thoughts that they have might just be too tough. They might even feel like the therapist is being aggressive or confrontational. REBT is not a passive process, meaning it is only as effective as the person who is in therapy will allow it to be. 

When entering treatment, you will meet with a treatment professional who will evaluate you and your needs and create a custom treatment plan. At that time your treatment professional will likely recommend rational emotive behavior therapy or another form of behavior therapy based on what they feel will be most beneficial for you and your treatment. 

Want To Know More About Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

Without truly identifying and understanding the event or events that led to addiction, a person can not truly begin the recovery process. One of the most successful ways to do that is through the use of rational emotive behavior therapy. 

At Lifetime Recovery, we are proud to offer a wide variety of behavioral therapy options, including REBT. We believe no one should work through addiction and mental health issues alone. If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and feel that they could benefit from rational emotive behavior therapy, call us today. We want to help you get on the road to recovery and get back to enjoying a happy, healthy, and sober life.