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Addiction and Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)

Want to know the truth about how to change your life in six words? Here you go: “What you believe determines your experience.”

That’s one of my favorite principles of Spiritual Psychology, because it sums up the power of our beliefs to influence every aspect of your life.

You’ve seen this truth play out, haven’t you? To give just one example, consider how your attitude toward the world shapes your daily life.

When you’re able to believe that the universe has your back, you have a very different experience than when you believe that the universe is out to get you.

But even if you understand the importance of managing your mind, you may be unsure as to how to work with the beliefs that cause you grief on a daily basis.

Enter: Rational Emotive Therapy.

What Is Rational Emotive Therapy?

Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) is a type of psychotherapy created by Dr. Albert Ellis in 1955. According to The Albert Ellis Institute’s website, RET “is an action-oriented approach to managing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral disturbances”.

Translation? RET is a practical, proactive way for you to work with the areas of upset in your life.

RET recognizes that our upset — that is, anything that takes us out of our center – is based on faulty beliefs that no longer serve us. We took on those beliefs throughout our lives, often unwittingly. But as we become aware, we can lay down the ones that are no longer helpful.

With this therapeutic modality, you learn to recognize your own dysfunctional and negative thought patterns and then challenge them. Throughout the process, you’re empowered to overcome your limiting beliefs and engage in healthier behaviors too.

RET is one type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), so many of the benefits of CBT apply to RET as well.

Other names for Rational Emotive Therapy include:

  • Rational Therapy (RT)
  • Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). Technically, this is the current term, but many people still use RET.

Why Use Rational Emotive Therapy For Addiction Treatment?

Rational Emotive Therapy is one of my favorites for addiction treatment. Why? Because it’s really effective at helping you to address the underlying core issues that are causing you to use in the first place. It gets at the depression, anxiety, and self-loathing that precipitate addictive behavior.

Unlike other forms of talk therapy, which place a great deal of emphasis on your past hurts, RET really zeroes in on what’s going on for you in the present moment. If you’ve been stuck in old hurtful stories, RET is a great tool to help you claim personal responsibility right here, right now.

In short, RET helps us to get past the victim mentality and tap into our power as creators of our own lives.

How Rational Emotive Therapy Works

Here’s an example of how RET works. First, something happens in the real world. Let’s say that another car swerves in front of you in traffic.

Next, we perceive that neutral event through our own specific lenses. Our personal filters are at work in the form of limiting beliefs, leading us to assign a judgment (that is, a good/bad label) to the event.

However, when our beliefs and thoughts are faulty — based on limited information and a heavy dose of unresolved past issues — then our present-moment conclusions and actions will be faulty as well.

To use the example of a car swerving in front of us, we might make assumptions about the person’s character (“He’s a jerk!”) or the way the world works (“Everyone’s out to get me!”) that are not based on the reality of the situation. For all we know, the person in that car in front of us might be rushing to the hospital!

Fortunately, there is a way out. If we can learn how to forgive our judgments and the limiting beliefs, then we can get closer to the people we want to become. We start to operate from a place of clarity and enlightenment.

Rational Emotive Therapy in Action

Before you begin, get still and centered in love and compassion. State your intention to heal and grow as a person.

Then, think about a situation that upset you. Describe what happened, and how you felt about it. Notice the judgments that you’ve placed on the event, and the limiting beliefs that surround them.

From there, return to the state of love and compassion, and practice using self-forgiveness for the judgments and limiting beliefs that you identified.

Not sure what words to use? Read our post on Addiction and Self-Forgiveness for a complete step-by-step guide. But as a reminder, the basic outline looks like this:

To forgive a judgment against another person:

“I forgive myself for judging ___________ {name of other person} as ___________ {your judgment: wrong, selfish, bad, etc}, and the truth is _________________.”

To forgive a judgment against yourself:

“I forgive myself for judging myself as _____________ {enter your judgment here: stupid, bad, etc}, and the truth is _________________.”

To forgive a limiting belief:

“I forgive myself for accepting the limiting belief that  _____________ {your limiting belief}, and the truth going forward for me is _________________.” {your new belief}

How to Use RET to Heal: A Quick Summary

First, RET helps us to see that all of our internal upsets are based upon faulty beliefs. Next, it allows us to identify those knee-jerk judgments and subconscious, limiting beliefs.

After that, it empowers us to take a closer look at those ideas, to decide whether they’re working for us or not. Finally, it gives us a framework for freedom, as we forgive ourselves for the painful thoughts that have held us back. It helps us to create new beliefs that serve us better, and that’s extremely powerful.

If what we believe determines our experience, then choosing our beliefs wisely can transform our lives.

Addiction and Rational Emotive Therapy (RET)

Joe Koelzer

Joe Koelzer is a co-founder and CEO of The Clearing. He has years of counseling experience and a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.

After observing how depression and substance abuse impacted his wife Betsy’s life, Joe realized how broken our current system is for addiction and related mental health treatment.

He witnessed firsthand how an evidence-based approach coupled with Spiritual Psychology saved Betsy and enabled her to gain control of her life.

In co-founding The Clearing, Joe realized his dream of creating and sharing this innovative approach with others in a structured clinical setting.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Addiction and Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). Psych Central. Retrieved on August 15, 2020, from


Last updated: 19 Mar 2018
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