Using Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy to Manage Depression

I am in the process of restructuring my life to include many aspects of holistic healing from some difficult life experiences.  The specter of Depression seemed to lurk around every corner for me.

I wanted to share something I recently came across.  I was researching a type of therapy I’ve not heard of practiced around here before, until just the other day, when I was looking into a therapist’s website.

The therapist I’m considering employs a couple of different methods, and tailors it to the individual, but one that caught my attention was something called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

From the REBT network

REBT is based on the premise that whenever we become upset, it is not the events taking place in our lives that upset us; it is the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, enraged, etc. The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

The Goal of Happiness

According to Albert Ellis and to REBT, the vast majority of us want to be happy. We want to be happy whether we are alone or with others; we want to get along with others—especially with one or two close friends; we want to be well informed and educated; we want a good job with good pay; and we want to enjoy our leisure time.

Of course life doesn’t always allow us to have what we want; our goal of being happy is often thwarted by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” When our goals are blocked, we can respond in ways that are healthy and helpful, or we can react in ways that are unhealthy and unhelpful.”

I would have to agree with that.  And, trying to raise my daughters, I find that many of the ways they respond to having their goals blocked, they are reacting in ways that are unhealthy and unhelpful (as they are right now in the background while I type).

Albert Ellis contended

We don’t merely get upset but mainly upset ourselves by holding inflexible beliefs.

No matter when and how we start upsetting ourselves, we continue to feel upset because we cling to our irrational beliefs.

The only way to get better is to work hard at changing our beliefs. It takes practice, practice, practice.

I can say, with certainty, being raised in a dysfunctional home with alcoholism, narcissism, psychological and sometimes physical abuse, I clung to many negative beliefs.  I can say, with certainty, that I would self-abuse with negative beliefs, and even if in the early stages of feeling down I might not have been so bad off; it didn’t take long to really slide down the slippery slope of depression.

From the main page of the REBT network site,

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is now a widely-practiced, comprehensive, and highly effective form of psychotherapy. In addition to being a proven therapy, REBT offers an approach to life that leads to greater fulfillment and happiness. At the heart of REBT are the concepts of unconditional self-acceptance, unconditional other-acceptance, and unconditional life-acceptance.

Interestingly enough, while not based in Buddhist practice, I find that this type of therapy blends really well with what I am learning in meditative practices from Buddhism.

I’d encourage you to check out their resources.  But, even better, find a therapist who is skilled in this method.  Apparently, from his book, The Guide To Rational Living, self-therapy takes you only so far, and it’s easier than not to misunderstand or misapply his ideas.

If at this time you can’t afford therapy, there is a very good Depression Manual at the Albert Ellis Institute you can download.  You can click on the link below to find it:

Managing Depression Using Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy.

If you click on the arrow in the upper right corner of the document, it will open a new window where you can download the document.  The first few pages are more for therapists, but starting on page 8, there are the meat and potatoes of the process of questioning the negative beliefs you hold and dissolving them.

We can learn to have our experience without making it worse by what you tell ourselves about it.   It’s not easy, I know.  We’ve been programmed to think the worst possible things about what we’ve just been through, when in reality, we could choose to talk to ourselves a more helpful and healthy way.  REBT is a good way to learn self-regulation through what we say to ourselves that minimize the tendencies to catastrohpize and awfulize what we are experiencing.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be talking more about Ellis in the coming posts.  I am learning a lot of interesting things.


About Casey

“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ ~ Jack Kerouac, On The Road Again
This entry was posted in Albert Ellis, Complex-PTSD, depression, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Self-Regulation, Healthy detachment, Mindfulness, Moods, Personal growth, PTSD, Self-directed neuroplasticity, trauma recovery. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Using Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy to Manage Depression

  1. Mike says:

    Great post, Casey.
    The idea that our suffering comes mainly from our interpretation of the events and reality that we see, and not from them as such is a powerful insight. And you are completely right that it blends with buddhist thought of “seeing things as they really are” that can be achieved only by understanding the reality of our thoughts, our mind and our awareness.

    Working in an Internet crisis line, I am sometimes being asked by people about how can we help people without actually solving their problems. And one of the most powerful answers to that is that we can help them change how they see their problems.


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