How Can Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Help Addiction?

January 3, 2020


Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, or REBT, is one of the most effective therapy tools for dealing with acute dependency issues

REBT is an evidence-driven psychotherapy program. The celebrated American psychologist Albert Ellis was the mind behind the birth of REBT. Ellis was very well-versed in the philosophies of Greek and Asian origins and was a keen observer of modern empirical study.

REBT is the first form of cognitive behavioral therapy developed, which is a focused, goal-based treatment therapy that delves into how spontaneous thought processes and positive reactions pertaining to certain situations can have an impact on people’s behavior. This is especially true if a person is going through a dependency issue.

Ellis was heralded as a major pathbreaker in the world of modern psychotherapy and many experts still believe that his contributions are no less significant than Sigmund Freud. REBT quickly gained renown as a functional way to treat addiction issues.

What is REBT?

Two chairs in an office where individuals can have a therapy sessions
Two chairs in an office where individuals can have a therapy sessions

Since the 1950s, REBT has been influencing therapeutic approaches to psychology-related treatments. According to Ellis’ theory, the core of REBT lies in the idea that our emotions and mental upheavals are caused not by the incidents or the episodic happenings in our lives, but it is our inner belief that leads us to go through feelings like jealousy, love or even sadness.

So, we are in a way, responsible for our own emotions. Many practitioners believe that REBT is a channel which can help alter groundless thoughts and work towards having a healthier mind.

Ellis first presented his theory at a 1956 symposium held by the American Psychological Association, just a year after he wrote a piece titled Rational Psychotherapy and Individual Psychology.

In his essay, he laid the groundwork for a theory proposed by him called rational therapy. Ellis also talked about how his psychological theory was different from that of Alfred Adler’s mode of psychology which looked at the human mind as an indivisible entity.

The reason for coming up with a new and more focused approach was to deal with gloomier thoughts and harmful, often self-destructive behavior, especially related to addiction.

Ellis believed that most people are looking for some form of happiness and want to learn how to manage the negativity and the undesirable nuances of their life to enhance their well-being. For people struggling with addiction, they often also experience anxiety because their issues are not necessarily under their control.

The way it works…

When people are able to see that it is their personal beliefs and perceptions that make way for their emotional distress and anxiety, instead of external events, it is progress and it makes a huge impact for those struggling with addiction.

Ellis posited that the most effective way to heal oneself through the REBT program is to keep with the process by working to eliminate anxieties, phobias and toxic thoughts.

According to American Addiction Centers, around 10% of the American population is going through an addiction issue, be it drug, alcohol or other serious forms of dependency. Following the REBT way, the first thing to do is to understand that these harmful patterns stem from baseless beliefs and unreasonable fears and paranoia.

The most crucial way towards fixing addiction issues and make a comeback to normalcy is by reversing or reducing bad thoughts and insecurity triggers. In fact, by 2010, more than 17% of addiction treatment facilities in the US were using REBT as an effective tool to cure patients.

The basic facet of healing people who suffer from dependency issues or acute addiction problems is to alter the way they perceive different situations and introduce positive reflexes and reactions which will reduce their urge to resort to addiction as a coping mechanism. To put it simply, REBT helps you downplay the intensity of an emotion or of a situation. This of course, means patients are less harsh on themselves and do not hold extreme viewpoints. For instance, if they lose a job or miss an opportunity, they will not feel like they are incompetent or failures in life. This is the behavior which ultimately helps them come back to normalcy.

According to the American Psychological Association, the therapist in question can make their patient understand that sadness need not have this magnitude in their lives. It is a way of reducing the intensity of a situation, which helps an addict cope better and keeps them from going back to their self-destructive patterns.

Since addiction has a one-of-a-kind trait, and are more individual in nature, people going through it and the consequent trauma also need a treatment program which is customized to fit their specific situation. REBT does not work like most therapy tools and each patient’s required program can only be developed by their respective doctors after a close observation of their individual case.

REBT’s success story

Like any other addiction treatment, patients do need to work through their issues and talk it out with their doctors. Experts have unanimously agreed that the first step to treating addiction is acknowledging the problem – the patient has to accept their dependency and has to be willing to make a change. Many doctors who practice REBT set a number of goals to help patients accomplish small wins which works to boost their self-esteem which is an elemental facet to a REBT program.

Altering the irrational and harmful paranoia comes at a more advanced stage of the REBT treatment where there exists a bond of trust between the patient and psychologist and the former feels safe under the care of the latter. According to Ellis, this is very important as acknowledging the problem is only half the battle won and patients often have to go against their instincts to achieve a normal, productive lifestyle.

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