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Thursday, June 4, 2015

REVIEW: Albert Ellis & Aaron Beck

By 1955 Ellis had given up psychoanalysis entirely, and instead was concentrating on changing people's behavior by confronting them with their irrational beliefs and persuading them to adopt rational ones. This role was more to Ellis' taste, for he could be more honestly himself. "When I became rational-emotive," he said, "my own personality processes really began to vibrate."


REBT -- Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy -- begins with ABC! 

A is for activating experiences, such as family troubles, unsatisfying work, early childhood traumas, and all the many things we point to as the sources of our unhappiness. 

B stands for beliefs, especially the irrational, self-defeating beliefs that are the actual sources of our unhappiness. 

C is for consequences, the neurotic symptoms and negative emotions such as depression panic, and rage, that come from our beliefs.

Although the activating experiences may be quite real and have caused real pain, it is our irrational beliefs that create long-term, disabling problems! 

 Ellis adds D and E to ABC: The therapist must dispute (D) the irrational beliefs, in order for the client to ultimately enjoy the positive psychological effects (E) of rational beliefs.
Although it is not important to therapy to pin-point the source of these irrational beliefs, it is understood that they are the result of “philosophical conditioning,” habits not unlike the habit of answering the phone just because it rings. Further, Ellis says that we are biologically programmed to be susceptible to this kind of conditioning!

These beliefs take the form of absolute statements. Instead of acknowledging a preference or a desire, we make unqualified demands on others, or convince ourselves that we have overwhelming needs. There are a number of typical “thinking errors” people typically engage in, including...

1. ignoring the positive,
2. exaggerating the negative, and
3. overgeneralizing.

12 Irrational Ideas That Cause and Sustain Neurosis

1. The idea that it is a dire necessity for adults to be loved by significant others for almost everything they do -- instead of their concentrating on their own self-respect, on winning approval for practical purposes, and on loving rather than on being loved.

2. The idea that certain acts are awful or wicked, and that people who perform such acts should be severely damned -- instead of the idea that certain acts are self-defeating or antisocial, and that people who perform such acts are behaving stupidly, ignorantly, or neurotically, and would be better helped to change. People's poor behaviors do not make them rotten individuals.

3. The idea that it is horrible when things are not the way we like them to be -- instead of the idea that it is too bad, that we would better try to change or control bad conditions so that they become more satisfactory, and, if that is not possible, we had better temporarily accept and gracefully lump their exis tence.

4. The idea that human misery is invariably externally caused and is forced on us by outside people and events -- instead of the idea that neurosis is largely caused by the view that we take of unfortunate conditions.

5. The idea that if something is or may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset and endlessly obsess about it -- instead of the idea that one would better frankly face it and render it non-dangerous and, when that is not possible, accept the inevitable.

6. The idea that it is easier to avoid than to face life difficulties and self-responsibilities -- instead of the idea that the so-called easy way is usually much harder in the long run.

7. The idea that we absolutely need something other or stronger or greater than ourself on which to rely -- instead of the idea that it is better to take the risks of thinking and acting less depen dently.

8. The idea that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible respects -- instead of the idea that we would better do rather than always need to do well and accept ourself as a quite imperfect creature, who has general human limitations and specific fallibilities.

9. The idea that because something once strongly affected our life, it should indefinitely affect it -- instead of the idea that we can learn from our past experiences but not be overly-attached to or prejudiced by them.

10. The idea that we must have certain and perfect control over things -- instead of the idea that the world is full of probability and chance and that we can still enjoy life despite this.

11. The idea that human happiness can be achieved by inertia and inaction -- instead of the idea that we tend to be happiest when we are vitally absorbed in creative pursuits, or when we are devoting ourselves to people or projects outside ourselves.

12. The idea that we have virtually no control over our emotions and that we cannot help feeling disturbed about things -- instead of the idea that we have real control over our destructive emotions if we choose to work at changing the musturbatory hypotheses which we often employ to create them.

Aaron Beck
If Ellis is the grandfather of cognitive-style therapies, Beck is the father.  The influence of the these two gentlemen on psychotherapy cannot be ignored!

Beck developed a form of therapy he called CT (Cognitive Therapy - also known as CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), which has a number of commonalities with Albert Ellis's RET:

Cognitive therapy is based on the idea that many psychological problems ultimately derive from cognitive "errors," especially regarding one's self, one's world, and one's future.  In conversational style, the therapist helps the patient explore and test their beliefs and thought processes and develop better approaches to life's problems.  Among the original thinking errors Beck discovered were overgeneralization, minimization of positives, and maximization of negatives.

Originally, Beck applied his methods to depression and suicidal thoughts, but he and his students have since expanded their range to include anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and even schizophrenia.

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