Rational Emotive Therapy
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Rational emotive therapy (RET) is a therapeutic method in psychology developed by Albert Ellis in the 1950s. After practicing traditional psychoanalysis for years, Ellis became convinced of its inefficiency. A new approach, he believed, was needed if psychologists were to actually help their patients get better.
Rational emotive behavior therapy was first pioneered in the 1950s by Albert Ellis and is premised on the belief that it is not situations and circumstances in our lives that cause us to experience emotional reactions - sadness, anger, anxiety, joy, etc. - but rather the beliefs we hold that cause us to experience these emotions. Therefore if a certain event occurs to us, we may feel differently depending on how we feel about that event and the circumstances that surround it.
The ABC format demonstrates this:
- A is when something happens
- B is your belief about the situation
- C is your response
Depending on B, C will change; contrary to popular belief, it is really B which is the determinant of C, not A. Ellis also described 3 basic musts, irrational beliefs that most people hold about what the world "must" offer them, but which often don't work out that way. He felt that helping people change their beliefs about these musts would go a long way toward promoting their happiness.
Ellis's new theory, RET, had a basis in the ancient stoic philosophy of Epictetus. The core concept is that it is our interpretation of events and situations that disturbs us, not the events themselves. Psychologically disturbed people fall into self-defeating patterns based on irrational beliefs and unrealistic expectations about the world. Common examples include the expectation that others will care about a patient, and the belief that they should. This is unrealistic, Ellis contends; other people may care about someone or they may not, but expecting them to feel other than they do serves no purpose other than causing distress. One of the main focuses within RET is this idea that expecting or wishing the world to be different than it is when one can do nothing to change it is self-defeating.
The method of RET involves the therapist listening to the patient describe their issues and then taking a very active role in interpreting the underlying problems. The therapist actively challenges the expectations and beliefs considered the root cause of the patient's distress. Ellis's methods were dramatically different than the previous psychoanalytic model, but since its inception many people have become supporters of rational emotive therapy.
Since it is irrational thinking that often determines how we feel in a given situation (C), and since people largely hold the same irrational beliefs, working to reduce the tendency for those beliefs to take over will increase happiness, and is therefore therapeutic. Eventually individuals successfully treated can begin to accept themselves and life as it is, rather than as they'd irrationally like it to be.