A balanced approach, analyzing both the strengths and weakness, suggest that REBT has hundreds of research articles and that high-quality studies tend to support REBT’s basic theory and efficacy.
As Byrne cautions, though, by quoting from a 1977 meta-analysis (see his “Footnote on preceding paper”):
Results of nearly 400 controlled evaluations of psychotherapy and counseling were coded and integrated statistically. The findings provide convincing evidence of the efficacy of psychotherapy. On the average, the typical therapy client is better off than 75% of untreated individuals. Few important differences in effectiveness could be established among many quite different types of psychotherapy. More generally, virtually no difference in effectiveness was observed between the class of all behavioral therapies (systematic desensitization, behavior modification) and the non-behavioral therapies (Rogerian, psychodynamic, rational-emotive, transactional analysis, etc).
So, there are a lot of tools “out there,” which seem to be fairly comparable in their effectiveness. REBT and CBT are two of them. And as Paul Lutus points out, there’s no scientific basis to CBT, as admitted by the APA.
Rational Living, which is based on REBT, suggests that whenever you’re feeling off balance, ask yourself “What am I telling myself here?” It’s likely that you are using one of the twelve most irrational ideas against yourself. REBT and CBT teach us how to break the automatic reaction cycle and insert a cognitive step between an activating event (A) and our behavioral reaction to it (B), which lead to a consequence (C). This is the basic ABC of REBT. The cognitive step identifies an underlying judgment or belief, which you can categorize using the irrational ideas list and then dispute it.
Although I found the theory behind REBT and CBT rather compelling, the practice of it was more difficult. How exactly do I dispute my irrational beliefs, for example? Many writers make broad statements like “never blame yourself or others.” Yes, okay, I agree but how do I do that? One way I found helpful are questions presented by Windy Dryden in the context of developing unconditional self-acceptance. This can be adapted for other irrational thinking.
- Select a specific example where you depreciated yourself and describe this situation as clearly and as objectely as you can.
- Identify your major unhealthy negative emotion (UNE) , your major action or action tendency and how you subsequently thought. These are the emotional, behavioral, and thinking Cs, respectively.
- Identify what you were most disturbed about in the episode under consideration (or what you put yourself down for). This is the critical A.
- If necessary, ask yourself: What did I find (whatever your major UNE) about the situation that I found myself in?
- Assume temporarily that your answer is true and ask yourself: And what did I find most (insert UNE here) about that?
- Continue until you have identified the critical activating event (the aspect of the situation that you depreciate yourself about). You will know that you’ve found it because you’re feeling the UNE more intensely or you’re including a depreciating belief in your answer.
Often simply identifying the ABCs, especially the demands and underlying beliefs, helps. If it doesn’t, you need to start questioning your beliefs (are they true, logical, helpful?). Then reword them into preferences. Instead of I always have to do everything perfect, you can say I would prefer doing things as best as I can most of the time.
I have found the following resources very useful:
- An online introduction to REBT and more details on Albert Ellis and his theory
- A Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis
- Overcoming the Rating Game by Paul A. Hauck
- The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns
(Note: I used to have information on Byron Katie’s The Work here. However, I removed it because I no longer feel comfortable with this approach since it is more guru-driven than science-based. However, if you’re curious, you can read an example of inquiry in action here.)