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For everyone! How might REBT help me?

From the outset, it should be emphasised that there is no substitute for gaining the right professional support where deemed necessary. Gaining the requisite help when struggling with performance or one’s mental health is vital for successful, long-term, meaningful outcomes. Moreover, the process of working with a practitioner can be iterative and is rarely a simple, linear journey to change and self-improvement. However, there are times when we might find ourselves challenged by how we think, how we feel and our behaviours; making us wonder, “how can I help myself here?” Some examples might include: finding yourself worried about speaking in public, being too nervous to ask that girl out on a date, or avoiding joining that running club. Through the tenets of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), hopefully I can provide a bit of a framework where you can begin to understand what might be going on, how a psychologist might look to tackle certain challenges, and how you might be able to improve your awareness of how unhelpful beliefs might be impacting how you. 

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT; Ellis, 1957) is a humanistic cognitive-behavioural approach that is gaining increased traction in the world of sport and exercise psychology. Born out of its designer's desire to create a more effective psychotherapy, REBT suggests that it is not events that directly cause emotions and behaviours, but our beliefs about the events that lead to emotional and behavioural reactivity. REBT uses an ‘ABC’ framework, a simple and memorable way to understand the precursors to emotions and behaviours (Turner, 2016):

A: Activating Event

B: Beliefs

C: Emotions and behaviours

Putting this into an example:

A: Presentation in front of colleagues on a topic I am not sure on

B: “I am not good at presenting, my colleagues will definitely judge me.”

C: Feelings of anxiety, leading to avoidant behaviour (e.g. asking for someone else to do it)

One of the most significant pillars involved in REBT is that we are in control of how we respond to situations because we can, through self-discovery and/or professional support, have autonomy over our beliefs; it is not the situations themselves that are the problem. How REBT helps facilitate change is to reduce irrational beliefs in favour of more rational and useful beliefs, using a ‘disputation’ (D) process. This entails questioning over whether there is any evidence for the belief, whether it is logical or consistent with reality, and whether the belief is pragmatic or helpful. After the dispute process has finished, a rational, alternate, effective new belief (E) is constructed (Turner, 2016). In relation to the example above:

Now as mentioned earlier, work with a practitioner is rarely just a one-session ‘fix’, whilst the above is a straight forward example which does not convey the complexity of some belief systems. However, hopefully it has illustrated how REBT works and potentially, how you may be able to challenge some of your unhelpful beliefs. If you'd like to find out more information on this, or would like some help underpinned by this framework, please get in touch!


Ellis, A. (1957). Rational psychotherapy and individual psychology. J. Individ. Psychol, 13, 38-44.

Turner, M. J. (2016). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Irrational and Rational Beliefs, and the Mental Health of Athletes. Front. Psychol, 7, 14-23.

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