Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy in a Nutshell

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Michael Neenan & Windy Dryden

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    Preface

    Our aim in the second edition of the book remains the same as in the first edition: to cover all of the key elements of REBT theory and practice in as few words as possible. We are often asked to compare REBT with CBT, a question we find problematic. We explain our difficulty with this question in the newly written Chapter 1 and instead we have outlined REBT's distinctive theoretical and distinctive features in that chapter.

    In the practice chapters (36), we have preserved the ‘succinct and no-frills introduction to REBT’ approach. However, we have somewhat departed from this approach in the newly written Chapter 2. Since understanding REBT's ‘ABC’ model is so central to understanding this approach, we have chosen to use more professional jargon in this chapter to help you understand important distinctions, e.g. between rational and irrational beliefs.

    Otherwise, we continue to hope that this book acts as a counterweight to and relief from the lengthy and sometimes complicated texts that trainees are required to read as part of a standard training course in REBT.

    MichaelNeenan, WindyDryden

    Acknowledgement

    The authors wish to thank the Association for REBT for granting permission to use the following material in modified form in Chapter 2:

    Dryden, W. (2002) ‘REBT's situational ABC model’, The Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist, 10(1): 4–14.
  • Appendix 1: Thinking Distortions and Their Realistic Alternatives

    Here we present a list of thinking distortions and their realistic alternatives showing how they stem from irrational and rational beliefs respectively. In the examples provided, the thinking distortion and realistic alternative are shown in italics.

    Thinking distortion and realistic alternativeIllustration
    Jumping to unwarranted conclusions [When something bad happens, you make a negative interpretation and treat this as a fact even though there is no definite evidence that convincingly supports your conclusions]“Since they have seen me fail badly, as I absolutely should not have done, they will view me as an incompetent worm”
    Sticking to the facts and testing out your hunches [When something bad happens, you stick to the facts and resolve to test out any negative interpretations you may make which you view as hunches to be examined rather than as facts]“Since they have seen me fail as I would have preferred not to do, but do not demand that I absolutely should not have done, I am not sure how they will view me. I think that some will think badly of me, others will be compassionate towards me and yet others may not have noticed or be neutral about my failure. I can always ask them, if I want to know
    All-or-none thinking [The use of black-and-white categories]“I must not fail at any important task, and if I do, I will only ever fail again
    Multi-category thinking [The use of many relevant categories]“I would like not to fail at any important task, but this does not mean that I must not do so. If I do fail, I may well succeed and fail at important tasks in the future
    Overgeneralization [When something bad happens, making a generalization from this experience that goes far beyond the data at hand]“My boss must like me and if he does not, nobody at work will like me
    Making a realistic generalization [When something goes wrong, making a generalization from this experience that is warranted by the data at hand]“I want my boss to like me, but he he does not have to do so. If does not like me, it follows that other at work may or may not like me
    Focusing on the negative [You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolours the entire glass of water]“Because I can't stand things going wrong, as they must not, I can't see any good that is happening in my life
    Focusing on the complexity of experiences [You focus on a negative detail, but integrate this detail into the complexity of positive, negative and neutral features of life]“I would prefer it if things do not go wrong, but I don't have to get my desires met. When they do go wrong, I can stand it, and I can see that my life is made up of the good, the bad and the neutral”
    Disqualifying the positive [You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don't count” for some reason or other, thus, maintaining a negative view that cannot be contradicted by your everyday experiences]“I absolutely should not have done these foolish things and thus, when others compliment me on the good things I have done, they are only being kind to me and forgetting these foolish things
    Incorporating the positive into a complex view of your experiences [You accept positive experiences and locate these into the complexity of positive, negative and neutral features of life]“I would have preferred not to have done these foolish things, but that does not mean that I absolutely should not have done them. When others compliment me on the good things I have done, I can accept these compliments as being genuine even though I also did some foolish things which the others may also have recognized
    Mind-reading [You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don't bother to check this out. You regard your thought as a fact]“I made some errors in the Powerpoint presentation that I absolutely should not have made and when I looked at my boss, I thought he was thinking how hopeless I was and therefore he did think this
    Owning and checking one's thoughts about the reactions of others [You may think someone is reacting negatively to you, but you check it out with the other person rather than regarding your thought as fact]“I would have preferred not to have made some errors in the Powerpoint presentation, but that does not mean that I absolutely should not have made them. I thought that my boss thought that I was hopeless, but I quickly realized that this was my thought rather than his and resolved to ask him about this in the morning”
    Fortune-telling [You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact]“Because I failed at this simple task which I absolutely should not have done, I think that I will get a very bad appraisal and thus this will happen
    Owning and checking one's thoughts about what will happen in the future [You anticipate that things may turn out badly, but you regard that as a prediction that needs examining against the available data and not as an established fact]“I would have preferred not to have failed at this simple task, but I do not have to be immune from doing so. I may get a very bad appraisal, but this is unlikely since I have done far more good than bad at work during the last year
    Always and never thinking [When something bad happens, you conclude that it will always happen and/or the good alternative will never occur]“Because my present conditions of living must be good and actually are so bad and so intolerable, they'll always be this way and I'll never have any happiness”
    Balanced thinking about the future [When something bad happens you recognize that while it may happen again it is not inevitable that it will, and it is very unlikely that it will always occur. Also, you recognize that the good alternative may well occur in the future and that it is very unlikely that it will never happen]“I would like my present conditions of living to be good, but they don't have to be that way. They are bad right now and difficult to tolerate, but it does not follow that they will always be that way and I can be happy again
    Magnification [Here when something bad happens you exaggerate its negativity]“I made a faux pas when introducing my new colleague which I absolutely should not have done and it's awful that I did so. This will have a very negative effect on my career
    Keeping things in realistic perspective [Here when something bad happens, you view it in its proper perspective]“I wish I had not made the faux pas when introducing my new colleague, but I do not have to be exempt from saying such silly things. It's bad that I did so, but hardly the end of the world and while people may remember it for a day or two, I doubt that it will much lasting impact on my career
    Minimization [Here you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other people's imperfections)]“I must do outstandingly well and I am completely useless when I do not do so. When I make mistakes, I am fully to blame for this and it has nothing to do with bad luck. And when I seemingly do well, this is the result of luck and anyone could have done this. However, when others make mistakes, there is a good reason for this or they were unlucky
    Using the same balanced perspective for self and others [Here when you do something good and/or others do something bad, you can recognize such behaviour for what it is]“I want to do outstandingly well, but I do not have to do so. I am not useless when I do not so. Thus, when I make mistakes, I may be fully responsible or it may be down to bad luck. And when I do well, this may be the result of luck, but it may be because I fully deserved to do well. When others make mistakes, they may have been unlucky or they may be fully responsible for their mistakes
    Emotional reasoning [You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true”]“Because I have performed so poorly, as I absolutely should not have done, I feel like everybody will remember my poor performance and my strong feeling proves that they will
    Sound reasoning based on thinking and feelingI wish that I had not performed so poorly, but that does mean that I absolutely should not have done so. I think and feel that people will have different responses to my performance: some negative and nasty, some compassionate and empathic and some neutral and this is probably the case
    Personalization [When a negative event occurs involving you which you may or may not be primarily responsible for, you see yourself definitely as the cause of it]“I am involved in a group presentation and things are not going well. I am acting worse than I absolutely should act and the audience are laughing. I am sure they are laughing only at me
    Realistic attribution [When a negative event occurs involving you which you may or may not be primarily responsible for, you acknowledge that you may be the cause of it, but you don't assume that you definitely are. Rather, you view the event from the whole perspective before making an attribution of cause that is likely to be realistic]“I am involved in a group presentation and things are not going well. I am acting worse than I would like to do, but do not demand that I must do, and the audience are laughing. I am not sure who or what they are laughing at and indeed, some might be laughing with us and not at us

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