Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy For Addiction Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on May 27, 2022

Rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) is a form of therapy that can help you identify and counter irrational thinking patterns. This type of therapy can be beneficial for people with certain mental illnesses, addictive behaviors, and substance use disorders.

(REBT) For Drug And Alcohol Treatment

Behavioral therapies, like rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT), are common components within treatment plans for drug and alcohol addiction.

Rational emotive behavioral therapy can help people with an addiction identify negative thinking patterns and irrational beliefs and counter them with rational thinking.

Here you’ll find information on:

  • the goals of REBT
  • how REBT works for addressing substance abuse
  • benefits of REBT for drug or alcohol addiction
  • where to find REBT

What Is Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy?

Rational emotive behavioral therapy is an action-oriented psychotherapy (talk therapy) first developed by psychologist Dr. Albert Ellis in the 1950s.

It is a main pillar of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), another form of psychotherapy that is also used to treat addiction, alongside drug counseling and other treatment services.

What Is The Goal Of Rational Behavioral Therapy?

The goal of rational emotive behavioral therapy is for a person to be able to identify negative thinking patterns, or irrational beliefs, and counter them with rational thinking.

A core understanding of this therapy is that there is an inherent connection between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

Namely, that negative thoughts can lead to emotional distress, and can increase the risk for engaging in self-destructive behaviors, like heavy drinking or drug abuse.

REBT recognizes that irrational beliefs can both take root in and feed a self-defeating attitude. This can manifest in an unhealthy emotional response, avoidance, inflexibility, and other unsupportive tendencies.

Learning how to counter irrational beliefs with REBT techniques is intended to help people overcome mental or emotional barriers and work toward recovery-focused treatment goals.

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Key Concepts Of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

REBT follows what is called an ABC model, composed of three key concepts:

  • Activating event: This is the event, or trigger, that occurs in your immediate environment. For example: Someone you know walks past you without a glance.
  • Belief: This is the automatic thought, or belief that comes to mind from the activating event. For example, a belief that the person walked past you because they do not like you.
  • Consequence: This is your emotional reaction to the belief.

This simple ABC model is used to help break down how your thoughts and emotional reactions to events can influence how you behave in the aftermath.

For instance, if you are feeling sad or angry, you might turn to alcohol, drugs, or engage in another dangerous, risky, or otherwise self-destructive behavior.

What Is REBT Used To Treat?

REBT is a short-term talk therapy that is used for the treatment of a wide range of mental health issues in children, adolescents, and adults.

For instance, rational emotive behavioral therapy may be helpful for:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • social phobia
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • psychotic symptoms (e.g. delusions)
  • disruptive behavior in children
  • eating disorders
  • substance abuse
  • anger issues
  • procrastination

Because this therapy is focused on education, and addressing general or specific forms of distress, it has a number of applications, including addictive behaviors and dual diagnosis.

REBT Techniques For Drug Or Alcohol Abuse

REBT therapists may teach a number of therapeutic techniques intended to help patients identify irrational beliefs and turn them into rational beliefs.

Common REBT techniques include:

  • Disputing: Disputation is a process of directly addressing irrational beliefs, gauging their validity, and considering alternative perspectives (i.e. reframing).
  • Problem solving: A therapist may introduce a number of problem-solving skills, including skills concerning communication and decision-making.
  • Positive visualization: This technique involves visualizing yourself and your abilities in a positive light, to help build self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Mindfulness: A therapist may encourage certain relaxation or mindfulness techniques to help patients manage intense, emotional reactions in healthy ways.
  • Assessment: You may learn how to look internally to assess your core beliefs and how this can show up in your responses to activating events.

Does Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy Work?

REBT has shown to be helpful for people with self-destructive tendencies who find themselves frequently overwhelmed by stress or intense emotions.

Potential benefits of REBT might include:

  • reduced anxiety, depression, or feelings of anger
  • improved social skills
  • improved communication skills
  • healthy coping strategies
  • reduced burnout
  • increased self-esteem
  • improved overall well-being

Everyone responds to behavioral therapy differently. What works for one person may not work for another.

However, trials studying the efficacy of this cognitive therapy show that it is a generally effective intervention for people who struggle to counter negative thinking patterns.

Where To Find REBT To Treat Addiction

Behavioral therapy is an evidence-based treatment that can be found at all levels of care for drug addiction, including some inpatient and residential treatment centers.

REBT may be offered by:

Not all drug rehab centers offer REBT, although core components of this therapy may often be utilized in treatment programs that offer behavioral therapy services.

REBT may also be offered alongside other behavioral interventions, such as CBT, dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), group therapy, and motivational interviewing.

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) FAQs

Find answers to frequently asked questions about rational behavioral therapy (REBT) and its use for treating alcohol abuse and drug abuse.

REBT was introduced in the 1950s by Dr. Albert Ellis, a psychologist raised in New York.

This therapy became the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is now a leading treatment for various mental health and substance use issues.

Rational emotive behavior therapy is an ancestor of CBT, which is also used to treat psychological distress. Although both are similar, REBT is different in a couple of ways.

For one, it focuses more on promoting unconditional self-acceptance, as well as identifying when negative emotions may be appropriate for a situation.

CBT, on the other hand, does not include the self-acceptance component and does not differentiate between helpful, negative emotions and unhelpful, negative emotions.

The ABCs of REBT are a model for identifying and addressing irrational thought patterns. The ABCs of REBT include: the activating event, belief, and behavioral consequence.

Find Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy At A Rehab Center Near You

Overcoming addiction for good is possible. If you’re looking for rational emotive behavioral therapy to help you or a loved one with addiction, we may be able to help.

Call our helpline today to find a drug or alcohol rehab facility near you that offers rational emotive behavioral therapy for addiction.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on May 27, 2022
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