What Is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy?

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Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) is a type of psychotherapy that targets irrational, self-defeating thoughts that lead to emotional stress, self-sabotage, and unhealthy life outcomes.

These thoughts are challenged and then replaced with logical, reality-based thinking that helps with self-empowerment and a more positive approach to life. REBT also emphasizes self-acceptance regardless of personal accomplishments or status.

This article covers the techniques and benefits of REBT along with its effectiveness.

Therapy session

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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Techniques

There are multiple techniques used for implementing REBT. Those are outlined below.

The ABC Model

The ABC model is a way to analyze thoughts and how they can affect behavior, emotions, and events. The acronym stands for:

  • Activating event (A): An event or situation the person will experience or is living with
  • Beliefs (B): What the person believes about the situation
  • Consequences (C): What happens as a result of a person's beliefs about the situation

Problem-Solving Techniques

Each step of the ABC model can be addressed by “practical problem-solving techniques.” This includes:

  • Activating event (A): Techniques to manage situations include conflict resolution, social skills training, and decision-making skills.
  • Beliefs (B): To target beliefs, your therapist will use cognitive restructuring techniques, which are ways that thought patterns are challenged.
  • Consequences (C): Coping strategies like meditation, hypnosis, and relaxation could help to view a negative situation, such as a failure or rejection, calmly and rationally.

Cognitive Restructuring Techniques

These are questioning techniques that challenge self-defeating thought patterns and reframe situations.

For example, someone might think irrationally by catastrophizing or thinking the worst could happen.

In REBT, a therapist might ask, “What is the worst thing that could happen if you get rejected by this job?” If the person expresses that not getting the job could mean their career is over, the therapist might then say, “Is this actually true?” or “Could you learn from your mistakes and do things to improve before the next interview?”

Gaining Insight and Changing Behavior

Research says irrational beliefs can lead to self-defeating feelings like anger and shame.

Irrational beliefs are also associated with higher rates of depression and different kinds of anxiety, like test-taking anxiety or speech anxiety.

Gaining insight into irrational beliefs includes challenging and then replacing them with logical beliefs that are more self-supportive. This in turn can lead to less stress and greater self-acceptance regardless of personal traits or accomplishments.

Coping Techniques

Coping techniques are ways to manage harsh consequences. These techniques focus on bettering symptoms with activities like meditation or mindfulness.

Another way to cope with a negative outcome would be to study, practice, or role-play after an event.

Conditions REBT Can Help With

Conditions REBT can help with include:

Benefits of REBT

Benefits of REBT include:

  • Adopting a proactive, action-oriented approach to therapy
  • Spending less time in therapy
  • Decreased stress
  • A more positive outlook on life
  • Self-acceptance
  • Replacing self-defeating thought patterns with self-supportive thought patterns
  • Self-empowerment

Effectiveness of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

Studies have found REBT can be used for a variety of individual and group situations, including:

  • Burnout at school or work
  • Sport anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

REBT can help lessen depressive symptoms since it emphasizes reframing self-defeating thoughts and empowering the self to improve behaviors.

Anxiety can also be managed with REBT, since it addresses black-or-white thinking and tools like role-playing and discussing potential outcomes before distressing events.

Things to Consider

REBT is a form of therapy that emphasizes the present and techniques to manage day-to-day life. It might not be helpful for those wanting psychotherapy to analyze past traumas or more extensive CBT for larger systems of thought behaviors.

Studies about the long-term effectiveness of REBT are limited, but research has linked it to some improvement in quality of life.

How to Get Started With REBT

When searching for a therapist, finding one that specializes in CBT or REBT is a great first step.

Searching for local support groups might also be a way to practice REBT techniques with the help of others.

REBT has been applied in support groups for issues ranging from addiction and trauma to depression and professional burnout.


REBT, or rational emotive behavioral therapy, is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing irrational and self-defeating thoughts and beliefs that result in emotional stress and negative life outcomes.

A Word From Verywell

If you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself or your life circumstances while experiencing high levels of stress, helplessness, or sadness, then challenging your thinking with the help of an REBT-trained therapist might be helpful. If you don’t have the means to get an REBT therapist, you might consider support groups, where you could work on changing your thinking with others' support. 

While changing your own thoughts isn’t easy, REBT's emphasis on self-questioning, taking action, and accepting yourself could help you feel empowered on your journey toward a healthier life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the basic hypothesis of REBT?

    REBT hypothesizes that a person’s thinking patterns and beliefs cause emotional and psychological distress. Within REBT, challenging irrational, self-defeating thoughts and replacing them with logical, self-supportive thoughts is key to changing behavior.

  • What is the purpose of REBT?

    The purpose of REBT is changing irrational beliefs that lead to dysfunctional behaviors and replacing them with logical, self-supporting thoughts so that self-defeating behavior can be changed. Those who use the technique then feel more empowered and able to manage their lives and emotions. This creates an overall feeling of well-being and acceptance.


8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. The Albert Ellis Institute. Rational emotive behavioral therapy in the context of modern psychological research.

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By Neha Kashyap
Neha is a New York-based health journalist who has written for WebMD, ADDitude, HuffPost Life, and dailyRx News. Neha enjoys writing about mental health, elder care, innovative health care technologies, paying for health care, and simple measures that we all can take to work toward better health.