REBT is a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy that emphasizes identifying and challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs. It’s not just a form of therapy; REBT practitioners take a collaborative approach to help you get a handle on your emotions by changing how you think about them. In this way, REBT can be an effective treatment for anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, and other mental health conditions. But what does an actual REBT session look like? And how does it work? In this post, we will answer your questions.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of Cognitive Behavior Therapy that emphasizes identifying and challenging irrational thoughts and beliefs.
A client-centered approach to therapy, REBT focuses on the present moment, not the past. It encourages clients to take responsibility for their own lives and recognize that they have the power to change their behavior and achieve goals.
A typical session will start with the therapist asking you to think of a troubling situation in your life that is causing you distress.
The therapist will ask you to think of a troubling situation in your life that is causing you distress. If the therapist does not ask, it is up to you to bring up this topic.
You will then be asked for examples of your thoughts about this situation and how those thoughts make you feel. You might also be asked how these thoughts differ from other upsetting situations or why they bother you more than others do.
The therapist is looking for “should statements” in your responses. These are statements that begin with words such as: “I should…” or “I must…” For example:
“I should always be a good friend to others.”
“I should never make mistakes.”
These types of statements can lead to self-criticism and feelings of guilt and shame.
The therapist will then examine these thoughts with you, identifying the negative emotions that result from them.
This is a process of challenging your thoughts by asking questions and exploring alternatives to your beliefs. If you are overly worried about your job security, for instance, REBT therapists might ask: “What’s the likelihood that this will happen?” Or they may ask: “What else could be causing this situation to occur?” They may also try to identify ways in which you might have contributed to the problem yourself; e.g., perhaps there was something you could have done differently to improve things at work or keep yourself safe from harm no matter what happens in the future (e.g., by learning new skills).
The goal of this questioning is not just for clients’ mindsets to change but also their feelings and behaviors too so that they can move past those negative feelings and make better-informed choices in their lives rather than dwelling on them until they spiral out of control into depression or anxiety disorders such as panic attacks
Next, the therapist will work with you to come up with alternative thoughts that might lead to different emotions.
This can be done in several ways:
The client identifies their irrational beliefs by using the ABC method (Activating Events, Beliefs, Consequences). The therapist helps them look at the situation objectively and determine any irrational beliefs or assumptions they may have made that could explain why they are experiencing negative feelings.
The client uses their ABC sheet for each situation where they feel like their emotions don’t match what is happening around them. Then they work together with their therapist to challenge these beliefs through disputation (arguing against those ideas). After doing some research on how other people have successfully changed their thinking in situations similar to theirs, they create new cognitive strategies that would lead them towards more positive outcomes instead of negative ones.
This process continues until you have arrived at some thoughts and cognitions that the therapist believes are rational and helpful.
The goal of this process is to teach clients how to identify, evaluate, and change their thinking in order to help them deal with their problems more effectively.
During the next session, you will be asked which of these alternative thoughts lead to more reasonable or helpful emotions than your original ones did. This new information may reveal that some of your initial cognitions were irrational or unhelpful after all—the therapist may point out that they can lead to negative emotions like anger or sadness when applied consistently in situations where they would normally be appropriate (for example: “I’m going to fail this test because I am stupid!”). In other cases, however, it may become clear that some of your initial cognitions were actually rational after all—it just wasn’t clear exactly how these beliefs might apply until now (for example: “It makes sense for me not to study much if my professor hasn’t taught us anything yet…but maybe he has tested this material before? Maybe it just doesn’t make sense for me not to study much unless there’s no way around it. Maybe I should focus on studying what we’ve learned so far instead?).
Finally, your therapist might assign some exercises for you to try between sessions which will help reinforce the new thoughts and concepts discussed during the session.
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between REBT and CBT. One key difference is that with REBT, your therapist will encourage you to identify the negative thought, feelings, and behavior(s) and then work on changing them. They will also focus on helping you replace these negative thoughts/feelings/behaviors with more positive ones.
Another difference between the two therapies is that CBT focuses more heavily on identifying thoughts whereas REBT focuses more heavily on feelings (like anger).
Your therapist may assign some exercises for you to try between sessions which will help reinforce the new thoughts and concepts discussed during the session. These exercises are often designed in such a way as to strengthen your self-esteem while reducing self-defeating behaviors or beliefs
REBT practitioners take a collaborative approach to therapy, and it can help you get a handle on your emotions by changing how you think about them.
First, your therapist will help you identify the problem. Then the two of you will work together to find new ways of thinking about that problem. This might involve identifying irrational beliefs and questioning their truthfulness or validity. For example, if a person believes that they are “worthless” because they can’t meet a deadline at work, the REBT practitioner might challenge this belief by asking things like:
- Is it true that being late on one project means I am worthless?
- Is it true that everyone else thinks I’m worthless because I didn’t finish on time?
Once these questions have been answered, both client and counselor look for alternative beliefs that are more rational – for example: “It’s not unusual for people to miss deadlines; it happens sometimes.” This then leads to another round of questioning until an alternative belief is found which feels more realistic than the original irrational belief (i.e., “I am not worthless because I missed one deadline”).
We hope this has given you a good idea of what to expect when you go into an REBT session. It can be an eye-opening experience, but it’s also a meaningful one. We know that even the most stubborn of minds can be changed with the right approach.