This therapy proposed by Albert Ellis has been tremendously influential in clinical psychology.
One of the current cognitive-behavioral psychological interventions that have been most effective in the analysis, management and reformulation of dysfunctional beliefs is Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (RBT), proposed in the middle of the last century by Albert Ellis.
Its central theoretical hypothesis defends that it is mainly the cognitive interpretations of the situations that a person experiences that cause a certain emotional state.
In this way, by detecting the existence of distortions when drawing a conclusion or idea from a certain event and substituting those thoughts for more realistic ones, the emotional consequence can have a more rational and balanced nature.
The postulates of the TREC today
In the last two decades the TREC has evolved and modified significantly. In contrast to its initial nomenclature (ERT), at present this type of intervention emphasizes much more significantly the relationship between the cognition, emotion and behavior constructs.
A second element that has been gaining more prominence in the TREC more recently becomes the relevance of the general adoption of a philosophy of life made up of awareness of the differentiation between irrational and rational cognitions. The three central principles on which this type of philosophy of life is based correspond to the following.
1. Unconditional self-acceptance
From this, an attitude of self-respect remains in the individual himself, regardless of whether the assessment of the aspects that define the behavior of such a subject are categorized as good or bad.
2. The unconditional acceptance of the other
The positive or negative evaluations that a person makes about others are conditioned by their own beliefs, their own emotions or their own actions and are based on the principles, values and moral aspects present socially. Despite such influence, the global being of the other is accepted with compassion and respect.
3. Unconditional acceptance of life
Depending on personal or social goals or objectives, an assessment of vital circumstances can be made , although such circumstances in themselves are not judged, but are actively assumed and accepted.
The fundamentals of the current TREC
The theoretical basis that supports the TREC and that allows the adoption of a more adaptive and rational general cognitive functioning, as well as the aforementioned philosophy of life, derives from the following central ideas.
1. The confluence between genetic and biological load
It is an element that the human being has at the origin and the set of contextual experiences (physical environment, interpersonal relationships and prevailing social values) is the cause of the system of thoughts and beliefs of each individual.
The learning derived from family, academic or professional influence, as well as interpersonal relationships, configure a particular perspective to read and interpret oneself, others and the world in a global way. Let’s say it is the lens through which the person values everything that surrounds him. Therefore, although sometimes such beliefs or perspectives are not functional, they tend to appear and remain unconsciously, since they are the precepts that the individual is used to generating automatically.
When a thought manages to pass from the area of automatisms to the conscious part, it is when its analysis and questioning becomes possible. The objective of the TREC in this sense becomes, therefore, to make conscious, in the first place, the type of cognitions that are launched in certain personal situations and to what nature they correspond (functional or not).
2. The methodology used in the TREC
This is fundamentally scientific. This implies substantial training in a series of techniques that will favor the adoption of a general cognitive functioning based on logic, realism and rationality.
Thus, assuming that sometimes personal situations are going to be more or less pleasant, they are actively accepted as such, but they are always going to be valued from conclusions based on facts and not on subjective assumptions. In other words, the interpretation that the individual is going to learn to make with the TREC will be based on thinking hypotheses derived from logical, probable and consistent approaches. On the contrary, those unlikely, contradictory or easily falsifiable options will be discarded.
This ability to modify and adapt one’s own thoughts based on the evidence and not on subjectivities obeys a flexible, adaptable, modifiable style of thinking, etc., which is verified with behavioral experiments where the person is exposed to their irrational beliefs in order to scientifically contrast them.
This methodology aims to replace rigid and dogmatic reasoning, such as, for example, beliefs related to deserving or undeserving that are given to the vital circumstances experienced by others or oneself based on their good or bad actions; the scientific method has nothing to do with this type of divine justice that is sometimes intended to be applied to evaluate certain life events.
3. The conceptual distinctions
Related to the previous point, the TREC aims for the person to learn to discern the difference between a preference (related to rational approaches) and a requirement (linked to dysfunctional postulates).
In the first case, the preference indicates a wish, which entails the acceptance of the possibility that it may not materialize.
In the second phenomenon, the requirement implies obligation, necessity, rigidity, etc., and does not contemplate the occurrence of other alternative options. The latter are the ones most usually associated with the appearance of personal emotional distress and are usually formulated through the well-known “should” or “should” cognitive distortions.
4. Focus on the present
Finally, the TREC emphasizes its techniques in identifying the dysfunctional cognitive patterns of the present, for which it gives little relevance to granting traumatic causality to events that occurred in childhood. The key resides, with a high probability, in the catastrophic connotation that the person generated at the time to elaborate their own thoughts, not so much to the situation itself.
Obviously, it is assumed that there are certain events such as episodes of mistreatment, abuse, marked deficits in the development of meaningful links that can objectively constitute traumatic situations. However, on many other, not so extreme occasions, the cognitive interpretation made in this regard becomes one of the causative factors of the dysfunctional belief system that the person may present today.
As has been verified, the type of intervention presented presents a basic theoretical development with sufficient rigor and foundation to achieve highly significant efficiency rates. The way in which an individual values her reality becomes one of the fundamental aspects that condition the presence of an adaptive and satisfactory emotional state.
Thus, the basic learning that the CRT allows in the individual are mainly aimed at generating in the person a self-image of positive competence in the management of their own thoughts and in the capacity that these have to be modified (supported or refuted) based on the objective evidence found. This new methodology in reasoning ultimately favors a realistic, rational and, consequently, more balanced cognitive style.
- Ellis, A. (2014). You can be happy. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy to overcome anxiety and depression. Ed: Paidós Ibérica: Barcelona.
- Ellis A. (2013). How to control anxiety before it controls you. Ed: Paidós Ibérica: Barcelona.