Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and Addiction Treatment

Benefits of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

For clients seeking treatment at AAC, we provide addiction treatment using one of the first recognized cognitive-behavioral modalities, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

We incorporate this modality into our dual diagnosis addiction treatment curriculum because it works effectively with maladaptive behaviors such as substance abuse. Like all of the cognitive therapies, REBT seeks to help individuals change their self-defeating thoughts so they can feel better about themselves and alter their behavior so that it’s more adaptive in given situations and effective — resulting in behaviors that helps the clients achieve identified goals.

REBT assumes that people generally have the tendency to think irrationally about how their lives should be as well as how people around them should behave.

For example, according to the REBT philosophy, a common irrational thought might be:

“I have to do my job perfectly ALWAYS. If I don’t, I am a TOTAL failure.”

Obviously, this is not realistic. No one can be perfect. This type of thought is said to be absolutist thinking. This thought equates self-worth with performance, and is considered irrational thinking, which leads to unnecessary disturbances in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as individuals try to live up to unrealistic expectations for themselves, others, and the world.

Utilizing REBT techniques, the therapist teaches clients to dispute their irrational beliefs in order to increase more moderate and less disturbing feelings, which can lead to behaviors that are less self-defeating. Real-life applications of REBT for individuals struggling with substance use REBT’s ability to help clients:

  • Find ways to respond to situations that are realistic and not a response to irrational thoughts
  • Recognize that even though they cannot control the events of life, they have the ability to choose their way of responding and dealing with difficult situations

In REBT, the therapist teaches clients to dispute their irrational beliefs.

American Psychological Association (APA)

ABC Model of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)

REBT was developed in the 1950’s by Albert Ellis and has been a successful treatment modality for individuals in addiction/recovery. REBT has been described not only as a form of psychotherapy, but a philosophy of living based on the premise that when an individual becomes upset, it’s not the events taking place in his or her life that upset him or her. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), REBT proposes that it is the beliefs held by the individual that causes him/her to become depressed, anxious, enraged, etc.

The REBT philosophy is that an individual’s reaction to having goals blocked (or even the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by that person’s beliefs. Dr. Ellis and early REBT researchers developed a simple ABC format to teach clients how their beliefs cause emotional and behavioral responses:

  • A. Something happens
  • B. You have a belief about the situation?
  • C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief

As a part of addiction treatment at AAC, if REBT is incorporated as a part of the client’s integrated treatment plan, the therapist will take an active role in teaching the client REBT techniques such as the A-B-C model of disturbance.

For example, if the “activating event” defined was the death of a parent, the client would work with the therapist to recognize that emotional and behavioral responses are different depending on the beliefs of the client. The goal of this model is to help the individual see how the (A) activating event does not result in (B) emotional and behavioral disturbance because if that were the case, then everyone whose parent dies, for example, (C) would feel the same degree of grief.

The therapist helps the client see that the grief reaction would vary in intensity based on what the client was thinking; if he or she were thinking that it was the end of the world that the parent died, the feeling would be much more intense than if the client realized that death is part of the human life cycle and life does go on, even if this is a difficult event.

In treating drug and alcohol addiction, the therapist can help the client identify irrational, absolutistic beliefs and replace them with more rational ones through disputing the irrational beliefs. Through this process, the client will eventually be able to feel less intense negative emotions and behave in more self-enhancing ways (American Psychological Association).

AAC & Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

Since addiction is a highly individualized disease for clients, their treatment must also be tailored to their specific needs. Once a client has been admitted to the AAC treatment facility, medically cleared, through medical detox (if necessary), and met with his/her primary therapist, an integrated treatment plan is developed.

AAC may provide REBT techniques to be used in conjunction with other therapies (i.e. psychopharmacology, group therapy, family therapy, etc.), depending on the client’s treatment plan. We provide a number of similar therapeutic techniques falling into the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) category, including Motivational Interviewing (MI), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and solution-focused therapy.

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