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Ellis: Rational-emotive therapy

Ellis (1962, 1991): Rational-emotive therapy.Another type of cognitive restructuring stems from the work of Ellis, who argued that people who suffer from mental disorders have irrational beliefs which lead to inappropriate emotions such as depression and guilt. If they develop instead a dispute system to challenge these beliefs, they will no longer suffer such emotional problems. For example, they may assume that they receive no social invitations because no-one likes them; a more likely explanation is hat they are often busy, or do not issue such invitations themselves.

In Ellis’ ABC model, activating events (A) or obstacles lead to beliefs (B) about those events, which may be rational or irrational. These in turn lead to emotional and behavioural consequences (C).

In rational-emotive therapy (RET) the therapist is active and directive to a greater degree than in Beck’s Cognitive Restructuring. Homework may be given in the form of behavioural experiments. It has been usefully applied to treat anxiety, anger, depression and antisocial behaviour (Haaga and Davison 1993), but is less effective with disorders such as anxiety and agoraphobia. The main criticism is that some ‘irrational’ beliefs are in fact more accurate than those of most people, a phenomenon known as ‘depressive realism’, or the ‘sadder but wiser’ effect. For example, depressives give more accurate estimates of the likelihood of disaster than do controls (Alloy and Abramson 1979). This implies that actually defining what constitutes an irrational belief could be a problem.

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