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Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

By Giulio Bortolozzo - posted Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Albert Ellis’ latest work is a book called Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Co-authored by his wife Debbie Joffe Ellis, it is part of the Theories of Psychotherapy Series, edited by Jon Carlson and Matt Englar-Carlson and published by the American Psychological Association.

This gem comes hot on the heels of Ellis' autobiography All Out! published in 2010, with contributions by Debbie Joffe Ellis.

Ellis created, developed and practiced Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapy (REBT) until his death in 2007. REBT is often said to be an offshoot or subsidiary of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) but as this publication reminds us, REBT is the original cognitive therapy. Indeed Ellis is regarded as the father of REBT and the grandfather of CBT by those in the know.


Ellis’ motivation was to provide useful information to the general public on issues relating to mental health, offer a model (ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance) that could explain why people feel and behave as they do and suggest strategies that they could use and practice in their lives. The ABC model is used the world over by mental health practitioners to support people in their desire to address their behavioral and emotional disturbance and to attain positive mental health.

Ellis challenged the psychoanalytic establishment and weathered the criticism and ostracism of those who wanted to preserve the elite status of the role of therapist. Ellis in time understood that psychoanalysis was a long and drawn out process, much too focused on past events and though the client may have felt better it didn’t necessarily mean they got better in the longer term. 

As Ellis said: “Many psychoanalysts refused to let me speak at their meetings. They were exceptionally vigorous because I had previously been an analyst and they were very angry at my flying the coop.”

Ellis met this petulance with his usual wit and intellect and forged ahead anyway! He practiced what he taught and as he unconditionally accepted himself he declared: ‘By not caring too much about what people think, I'm able to think for myself and propagate ideas, which are very often unpopular. And I succeed.’

Ellis surely put the ‘REBT cat’ amongst the ‘psychoanalytic pigeons’ and the field of psychotherapy was challenged and transformed for good and for the better!

The book contains much for the layperson and the practitioner alike and remains true to the Ellis’ philosophy of helping people to help themselves. A DVD accompanies the book, which illustrates the therapeutic application of REBT.


Albert Ellis and Debbie Joffe Ellis acknowledge early in the book those who give, and have given, due recognition to his influence on their work. For instance William Glasser has respectfully given Ellis due regard. Unfortunately others who have benefitted greatly by his work have not been so considerate.

Ellis and Joffe Ellis again reinforce the importance of teaching children in schools from a very early age the basic principles and practices of REBT. Students and teachers would benefit greatly by understanding the link between thinking, feeling and behaving. The ‘wisdom of the ages’ rings long and loud through Ellis’ work. Consider the words of Epictetus in around 100 AD: ‘Events don’t make us act and feel as we do but it is our interpretation (appraisal) of those events that cause us to do what we do and feel what we feel.’

Helping people explore and understand this philosophy and apply it in their lives through Ellis’ ABC Theory is achieved in seven clearly written and informative chapters, which cover the life and work of Ellis. Debbie Joffe Ellis as coauthor continues to help spread the 'gospel of St Albert' widely and most successfully! The book talks about: REBT history, REBT theory, the REBT process and future directions of REBT.

This book is a great reference for teachers and mental health practitioners alike and will be enjoyed by anyone who is interested in their own personal development. Indeed, a book for everyone!

Well done Albert Ellis and Debbie Joffe Ellis on this wonderful REBT resource!

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About the Author

Giulio Bortolozzo is an education consultant and counsellor.

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