Thursday, December 18, 2014

REBT as Technique, not Therapy or The Disadvantage of Logic in Therapy

     I think a lot about the elegance of certain psychotherapeutic theories. One that comes up quite a bit is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Certainly it is a very elegant theory. The way Ellis connects thoughts, beliefs, and feelings through the use of logic is a great technique. It is the logic part that we must discuss.
     Ellis was a very logical guy. He used that innate logic, coupled with a review of some philosophy, to create REBT. This is all well and good, but we must ask ourselves whether a theory based strictly upon logic is good. Most of our clients are "stuck." Their "logic processes" are malfunctioning and they need someone to help these processors get up and running again. It seems to me that logicking a client to death might be somewhat counterproductive.
     As we know, Ellis simplifies REBT through the use of the alphabet. "A" means activating event or antecedent, representing an event that has occurred that "sets off" the following behaviors. "B" means irrational/illogical belief - we'll come back to this. "C" is an emotional consequence that is normally negative (and thus the reason someone is coming to therapy). Ellis said that many people that outside situations or actions (A) affect them, created their distress (C). What they failed to grasp is the ever elusive B. The person's illogical belief, their interpretation, of A led to their disturbance. He would dispute (D) their thought pattern until they saw the light.
     Disputing, in my view, can only go so far. This is especially true when the disputer talks from a standpoint of expertise. This tends to sound high and might to many clients, which can undermine any helpful tendencies of therapy. I think that it might be better to work with the client and that disputing a claim rather than discussing it is probably an incorrect approach.
     I know I wrote that a theory based strictly upon logic probably isn't all that great. I would like to explain this. A lot of other theory is very metaphor-based, meaning that, to some degree, it is constructed with a good amount of wiggle room and space for project and interpretation. It leaves room for interpretation. REBT does not. It espouses an idea of total correctness. Is it correct? In its limited scope, yes. But there is much more to psychotherapy, "stuckness," and a client than the relationship between beliefs, feelings, and thoughts.
     I think that REBT is better categorized not as a psychotherapeutic discipline, but rather as an effective group of techniques whose goal is to use psychoeducational techniques to help clients with their understanding of basic relationships between beliefs, feelings, and thoughts.

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