Thinking Rationally: Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Have you ever caught yourself thinking negative thoughts about a situation but were unsure where the emotion came from? Has anyone ever accused you of acting irrationally over something seemingly unimportant? Sometimes, our thoughts are not our own and can take over our lives in ways we can’t comprehend. 

Our thoughts influence how we react to our surroundings. Our thoughts lead to behaviors, and behaviors can change which situations we face. If you find your thoughts could use an upgrade, read on as we discuss Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, CBT’s cousin. 

If you’re interested to learn more about REBT, BetterHelp has hundreds of licensed therapists who specialize in REBT and many other therapies. 

What is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

Rational Emotive Behavior is a modality of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that focuses on a person’s thoughts and behaviors. Like CBT, REMT looks at a person’s present behaviors in stressful situations and teaches patients better ways to handle these stressors. 

REMT focuses on the thoughts and beliefs that cause the behaviors in question. Therapists take a directive stance and challenge how patients think and believe in getting them to see whether their beliefs are irrational and not self-serving. They then take these rigid beliefs and help shape them into more rational, flexible belief systems that will better serve patients.

While many types of talk therapies go to the root of thoughts, REBT sticks in the present and focuses on pragmatic approaches to managing our thoughts and behaviors. 

REBT believes in certain fundamental principles that distinguish it from other therapies. 

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ABC Model

REBT follows the ABC Model, which stands for Activating Event, Belief, and Consequence. This model shows the relationship and progression of an idea and how it can evolve into symptoms or consequences in people’s lives.

An activating event is any external stressor in which we need to process. This stressor could be anything from meeting someone for the first time, dealing with a bossy co-worker, receiving advances from a stranger, or getting into an argument with your partner. The event’s central aspect is that it calls to question your belief system.

The belief system is how we interpret this event. This belief is an amalgamation of our past experiences and how we handled those situations. Sometimes, this interpretation may be irrational and cause us to have irrational templates for similar situations without seeing the big picture. Once an event is interpreted in our minds by our beliefs, the results are consequences. These consequences can be anxiety, depression, guilt, self-loathing, or any other negative emotion. These emotions lead us to behave in specific ways that may perpetuate these negative emotions when future events arise. 

REBT uses this model to show patients the relationship of their beliefs with their present. Once patients can understand how their thoughts lead to consequences, therapists teach patients new rational ideas and let them practice these new beliefs on their own.


Another key factor of REBT is that it believes that acceptance of self is equally, if not more, important as acceptance from others. 

With many therapies, patients follow treatment standards under the assumption that successful treatment will lead to having acceptable behaviors and thought processes to function in society. 

REBT questions this reliance on social acceptance without taking away its importance but pivots to highlight self-acceptance as its goal. REBT gives patients insight into how they think and act. It also teaches them not to judge themselves for these thoughts and behaviors. 

Directive Therapy

REBT falls under the category of directive therapy. This term means that therapy provides much stricter direction when challenging a patient’s behaviors and thoughts. Patients are expected to follow their therapists’ advice and complete homework to practice and bring back the next session. 

This type of therapy differentiates itself from other treatments that give more control to the patient. For example, transpersonal therapy doesn’t assume the therapist has all the answers and allows patients to find their solutions. REBT assumes that the therapist provides the most sensible advice to their problems. 

This approach may rub people the wrong way. However, some may see these clear directions and disciplined processes positively and may opt for this kind of treatment. 

Is REBT effective?

REBT has about 50 years of therapy and studies to back up its claims. Many people state they’ve felt a lasting change from their anxiety and stress after treatment. 

The question comes down to therapist preference. REBT takes a stronger, more blunt stance. It’s pragmatic and assumes the therapist knows best. This uncompromising approach may be a breath of fresh air to some patients who dislike a less directive approach. Some people may take this bluntness of truth to heart and snap out of their bad habits. 

Others may not like its directiveness and may feel provoked or defensive when confronted. They may not like being told what to do and prefer arriving at a solution in tandem with their therapist.

Final Thoughts

REBT has changed many lives by exposing irrational thoughts and beliefs and pushing patients to analyze how they think. This awareness can be a powerful tool for understanding themselves and why they feel the way they do. If you believe REBT would be a good fit, reach out to a licensed therapist today.

Marie Miguel Biography

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.