I’ve heard that REBT is only really useful with very intelligent people.
REBT can work very well with very bright people. Good brain power can help certain people analyze more quickly the ways in which their thinking is illogical when they are upset. However, just because you have the potential to quickly see the irrational qualities of your thinking, doesn’t mean you will use your potential to help yourself. Many very bright people are more motivated to argue the “rightness” of their beliefs than to consider they might be wrong. Over the years, REBT methods have been adopted for children as young as five or six years old, and even for the learning-impaired. Rational emotive behavior therapists are trained to tailor REBT to meet the wide variety of intellectual, cognitive-developmental and other personal characteristics of clients.
I’ve heard that REBT therapists do a lot of confronting. This doesn’t sound very empathic or supportive.
REBT practitioners are very concerned about establishing a helpful, supportive, and facilitative alliance with people. They realize that not all people come to therapy ready for action and change, and that some people—because of their personalities and problems—require a great deal of support and empathy before they are ready to change. At the same time, REBT practitioners tend to take an active role with their clients. They help provide people as quickly as possible with the tools to help them change their beliefs leading to disturbing emotions, thus freeing them to confront their everyday problems with all their resources.
By being so active, aren’t REBT therapists “controlling” the client?
REBT practitioners have excellent insight into the nature of problems in living and how to help clients free themselves from their emotional misery about them. They are conscious that many clients find it difficult to address the main problems in their lives and their own inner obstacles to happiness. Rational emotive behavior therapists work collaboratively with clients to clarify existing problems, and to identify important general problems to work on together. And yes, REBT practitioners are active in teaching clients new methods for changing their thinking, feelings and behavior. However, REBT does not control the client. Rather, it empowers people to manage their own emotional problems more effectively and to take control of their own behavior in order to try to obtain more of what they want in life.
Does REBT force its own beliefs about what’s rational on people?
REBT defines rational beliefs as those which help people live satisfying, healthy, and fulfilled lives. Over the years, Albert Ellis has identified a set of rational beliefs or values which abet a person’s happiness and survival. For example, rational self-acceptance—which involves people giving up the self-rating game—seems to help people significantly reduce anxiety and increase feelings of self-acceptance. High frustration tolerance, which encourages people to accept (not like) life’s hardships and other people’s imperfections, leads to greater perseverance, patience, and the ability to get along with others. REBT practitioners are careful, however, not to impose “rational” beliefs. REBT accepts that there are also other “non-rational” belief systems that can help people achieve happiness. REBT accepts the value system of the client and works within that framework to facilitate the client’s goals.