Rational emotive behavior therapy focuses on the way you think about yourself, the world and others. It is an empowering approach reminding us that we are responsible for the way we think, feel and act. It teaches that irrational thinking leads to unhealthy negative emotions and behaviors. It focuses on the present moment-the “here and now” rather than on the past and how the past has influenced your life. It focuses on your mental wellbeing at the present moment.
I personally like using this form of cognitive behavior therapy in my sessions with clients. I find this technique to have many positive outcomes. Although many clients tell me that it is difficult to change the way they think, I ensure them that with time, practice and patience, they can master this great technique and make positive changes to the way they think, feel and behave. With this technique, I tell clients that it is not the event that caused their emotions, but rather it is how they interpreted the event-the meaning they gave to the event or situation that caused their emotions.The premise is that whenever we become upset, it is not the events taking place in our lives that upset us; it is the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, enraged, etc.
The A-B-C-D-E model is often used to explain how REBT works. For this blog post, I will only discuss the A-B-C. The D-E will be explained in upcoming posts.
A: The A is the activating event. In other words, it is the client’s perceived objective reality. It is something that just happened that is causing you to start thinking where your thoughts lead to certain feelings and behaviors. For example, let’s assume that my client received an email from her boss that he wants to see her in the morning, and she becomes anxious about this. She might tell herself, “My boss is going to criticize my work.” Her inference about her boss criticizing her may be true or false, but what makes it an inference goes beyond the data at hand. She views her anxiety about her boss criticizing her as a fact and not an inference. In REBT, we encourage clients to assume that their inferences are correct, even if they appear distorted.
B: The B is your belief about A. In other words, what are your beliefs about A or what do you say to yourself about A. These beliefs could be rigid or flexible and extreme or non-extreme.
C: The C is the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive consequences of your beliefs about A. If you have an irrational belief about A, you will experience an unheallthy negative emotion such as anxiety, depression, guilt, or shame. You will also experience behavioral consequences which can either be overt actions (carrying out the behavior) or action tendencies (the urge to carry out the behavior but do not do so). In cognitive consequences , your belief will be distorted to the negative. If however, you have a rational belief about the same A, your thinking will be more balanced and will have a more realistic view of the situation.
This A-B-C is important for clients to understand because it will help them to identify their thought process which will make it easier for them to make positive changes and create more rational thinking.
To practice identifying the A-B-C’s, create three columns. On the top, put A (activating event), B (beliefs), C (consequences). Throughout the day, pay attention to the beliefs (B) or thought process that you had for an event (A) and the consequences (C) that you experienced behaviorally or emotionally. In the following post, I will discuss how to challenge or dispute your negative thoughts to positive thoughts.
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Last reviewed: 22 Feb 2014