Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
It's no surprise to consider how much our thoughts and emotions play a role in our everyday lives and interactions. What if I were to tell you that there's a cognitive technique that can help you navigate the highs and lows in a more manageable way? One that doesn't require taking psychopharmaceuticals nor forcing you to make massive life changes. All you have to do is be cognizant of the irrational thoughts you may have and work on changing their meaning. Easier said than done? Think again. I'm pleased to introduce you to the therapeutic modality called "Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)". Originally developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, an alumnus of Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York City, REBT was a pioneering form of cognitive therapy making major ripples in the heavily inundated psychological world of psychoanalysis of the mid-century. Due to Dr. Ellis' formative years and some life-altering events, he had an epiphany that our negative life occurrences may not need to have such a permanent, detrimental effect on us. Perhaps, we can alter their meaning to make it more suitable for us and less damaging or unhealthy? Dr. Ellis eventually founded REBT as a framework to do just that. Fast-forward many decades later, after much recognition and progression in this cognitive behavioral field, his wife Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis becomes his partner in not only life but also scholarly pursuits.
During my discussion with Dr. Joffe Ellis, she takes us on a journey of how REBT began, providing anecdotes directly from the late-Dr. Ellis, and clearly maps out this therapeutic mode. She sets the record straight that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), founded by Dr. Aaron Beck, was a by-product inspired by Dr. Ellis' REBT some fifteen years later. The two therapeutic methods vary and are similar to comparing apples to oranges; one (REBT) focusing on a cognitive style that is more suited as a life philosophy implementation, more directive, and is used as a longer term solution, whereas the other (CBT) tends to be more collaborative and focuses more on cognitive and behavioral tasks during the short-lived therapeutic relationship.
"It teaches us that it's not any outer event or circumstance that creates any emotional disturbance or suffering. But our perception of what happens out there."
Despite there being many details that separate the two, REBT's emphasis on an ABCDE Model is what truly sets it apart from CBT and other modalities. Dr. Joffe Ellis takes us through each step of this model and gives suggestions on how to implement them. This framework is beneficial for anyone, as it can be directly applied to anyone's life immediately. Naturally, it would behoove anyone to be guided by a professional REBT practitioner to help utilize these tools; however, after listening to this episode one can already start to begin identifying and then disputing one's own thoughts on a rudimentary level. "Why should I do this? Why must this happen to me to be happy?" Thankfully, Dr. Joffe Ellis is passionately sharing her techniques to the academics of Columbia University to not only emphasize focusing on elegant and healthy ways to navigate irrational beliefs but to also help others as well. I'm grateful for Dr. Joffe Ellis' work both as a budding psychologist and also as a person hoping to make the world a better place for all. This method helps.
You may listen below to gain deeper and broader insights into these topics and more.
(Recorded July 2023.)
Images Courtesy of Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis
Books by Dr. Joffe Ellis