How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Help in Recovery

How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Help in Recovery | Transcend Recovery Community

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of therapy that many addiction treatment centers use with their residents. It’s an effective form of therapy developed by Albert Ellis in 1955 and is based on the idea that your cognitive interpretations of events and surroundings are the root of emotional turmoil. For this reason, this type of therapy focuses on the immediate interpretation of events in your environment.

In fact, REBT could be described as a philosophy for living. One of the primary principles of this therapy is that it’s not the external events that lead to emotional upset. Rather it is the beliefs the individual possesses about those events. People tend to choose how they react to certain life circumstances. Once a person recognizes this, then it actually gives them incredible power. They can then choose how they want to respond to their life, whether that is in healthy or unhealthy ways. The aim of this type of therapy is to accept reality as it is and then learn how to react to events in self-affirming ways.

Ellis developed an ABC theory to further explain how the therapy works. He explained that first there is an activating experience – also known as the adversity. This is the event or circumstance in one’s life that someone may be giving meaning to, which then maybe creating inner turmoil. A person tends to develop beliefs about the experience, or there are  beliefs already exist and a person is making meaning out of the experience based upon those beliefs. And lastly, those beliefs about the experience or circumstance (the adversity) has led to or will lead to consequences.

One of the primary reasons REBT is used among recovering addicts is that addiction could be seen as a means for someone to cope with the irrational beliefs they have. For instance, someone might turn to substance abuse because of guilt, shame or depression, which originated from an event or life circumstance. The events themselves might be neutral but many people tend to draw certain meaning out of life’s events based  upon what they belief. The goal of REBT is two-fold: 1) to facilitate any destructive behavior that might result from a particular belief 2) and to help someone eliminate those beliefs.

In fact, Ellis did not believe that the 12-step method could work for everyone, especially for those who were not spiritually oriented. He wrote about his thoughts on addiction in  a book titled, “When AA Doesn’t Work for You: Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol”. Ellis’ philosophy and therapeutic method is one of the underlying principles of Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART).

SMART is a path to sobriety that is secular and scientifically based. It uses non-confrontational yet motivational methods which strive to change behavior as well as unhealthy thoughts of those who are still using drugs and alcohol. SMART Recovery uses other therapeutic approaches too such as Motivational Interviewing (MI) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which have all been success in creating change in clients.

If you’re interested in REBT, you might find a therapist trained in this therapeutic method. Or you seek out a local SMART Recovery meeting. This therapeutic method could be the recovery tool that transforms your life!


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