Walter Matweychuk, Ph.D. | Article

Why Choose Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Over Other Cognitive Behavior Therapies

How is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and coaching worth the money it costs? Why it is far better to consult a REBT psychologist instead of relying on your friends or family members to help you with your emotional and behavioral problems? Moreover, what is the advantage of REBT, a distinctive form of cognitive behavior therapy and coaching, over working with a typical cognitive behavior therapist or coach?

When you seek help from a friend or family member, you will nearly always get advice that comes in two varieties. Either your friend will tell you how to change the circumstances you dislike or they will listen to your pain with a sympathetic ear leaving you feeling understood. Do not get me wrong there is nothing wrong with sitting down with your friends, plotting, and scheming about creative ways to get more of what you like in life. However, many of life’s dilemmas do not have a quick and easy creative solution that can be easily identified even with the help of your most intelligent friends. Life is tough. Situations are complex. Usually before you have turned to your friends for help, you have already thought about and tried a number of different strategies to make your problematic situation better. This is why turning to a friend is often not the answer. There probably is not a guaranteed to work, straightforward solution to your dilemma.

The other form of help a friend will give you is short-lived and palliative. The sympathetic ear that your friend gives you makes you feel better temporarily. You feel less alone, are encouraged to keep trying and you have vented your feelings. There is nothing wrong with this form of help other than it is nearly always temporary. Hours or days after the conversation, you are in the same situation with the same resources and you again are feeling upset and not constructively responding to the situation. Of course, you can seek out your friend again and vent some more but, unfortunately, this fix is a short-lived one. Moreover, if you seek the sympathetic ear of your friend too often you may find that your friend becomes less sympathetic or less available to you.

The reason you are better off seeking an REBT psychologist is that REBT is a goal oriented approach that relies on a different answer to your emotional and behavioral problems. The REBT solution involves actively showing you how to adopt specific, adaptive beliefs about yourself, other people and world conditions so that you do not continue to disturb yourself about these things. REBT shows you that you unknowingly but significantly contribute to the misery you feel. REBT acknowledges that life is rough and sometimes very unfair. However, you probably do not realize the extent to which you largely make yourself upset over the difficulties you face. You unwittingly hold specific, rigid, self-defeating beliefs that lead you to feel strong negative emotions that interfere with adaptive responding. These irrational beliefs lead to self-defeating negative emotions and self-defeating behavioral responses. Therefore, the REBT psychologist will quickly help you to zero in and replace such thinking with more adaptive, self-enhancing beliefs. Once you are shown how you are making matters worse by how you think you can immediately start helping yourself by thinking differently to live more effectively.

Once you have adopted more adaptive beliefs that do not lead to undo misery, despair, anger, anxiety, guilt and shame you will be in a better position to mount a full-scale sustained attack on changing the situation you dislike and tenaciously pursuing your personal goals. With less emotional upset to contend with you will persist in identifying and testing creative solutions for making situations better. Without such persistence and creativity, your chances of changing difficult situations are low. Therefore, REBT is valuable because it targets for change something your friends and family will not address. REBT targets for change the way you think about things, your fundamental philosophy. It shows you how to think in a more self-enhancing way so you can first change you, your emotions and behavior which better enables you to then go and bring about change in the difficult situation you face. The beauty of this approach is that you can feel better now and get better so that you have a lasting benefit from the conversations you have with your REBT psychologist. You leave with a method that applies to a wide variety of problems and obstacles. You become more emotionally independent by learning to think in a way that allows you to soothe yourself rather than be constantly seeking a sympathetic ear from others. Finally, you have a better chance of realizing your true potential because you learn to change something well within your immediate control rather than trying to change people and things over which you have at best only a minimal amount of control.

Now let me address how REBT is distinctive from other forms of cognitive behavior therapy and coaching. In a nutshell, REBT inoculates you from your worst fear or dreaded situation. Cognitive therapy generally assumes that you are upset because you perceive the world in a distorted way. The typical cognitive-behavior therapist will encourage you to gather evidence, which hopefully will lead you to conclude that you are misperceiving reality. There is nothing particularly wrong with this approach unless you are not misperceiving reality. So for example, if you are assuming rejection and gather evidence that others are ignoring you because they are preoccupied with their own problems and that you are not really being rejected you then are instructed to correct this distortion and come to a different conclusion. Under these circumstances of illusionary rejection correcting your misperception will help. However, REBT asks what if the worst is actually happening and you are not misperceiving reality? What if you actually are being rejected? In this worst-case scenario, REBT has a solution for you. You are taught how to cope with, adapt to, accept and prevail despite the actual rejection that is occurring. The answer in the language of REBT is called the elegant philosophical solution. This is very important because sometimes you are not misperceiving reality. If you are misperceiving reality, as an REBT psychologist I will point that out to you and teach you to curb this tendency. Sometimes unfortunately, really bad things happen and you need help learning to cope with these real misfortunes. You may lose your job. Your spouse may be unfaithful and leave you for another lover. You may make big mistakes with serious consequences. Death may take away your loved ones. You may encounter complex “no win” situations. Thankfully, these scenarios do not handcuff you and your REBT psychologist. REBT has an approach for helping you develop resiliency if and when the worst happens. This is the benefit of the REBT approach over other typical cognitive therapy approaches to emotional upset. REBT helps to inoculate you for the inevitable misfortunes that are part of the human condition. Think about it.