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Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, commonly referred to as REBT, in the 1950s. REBT shares common concepts, and strategies with other humanistic therapies, however, there are a few distinct differences. As an example, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy differs in the way that cognitive distortions are approached. Additionally, Counselors and Therapists believe that helping clients think in a rational manner will improve their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, therefore improving overall daily functioning (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Keep reading to learn 10 REBT exercises and activities you can do with your clients.

As REBT has developed over the years, it has become more compatible with other therapeutic approaches including narrative therapy, constructivist therapy, and existential therapy (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). REBT Counselors and Therapists pay respect to each client’s background and viewpoints, with the exception of rigid patterns that can be hurtful or damaging to their client (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

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When utilizing REBT with clients, Counselors and Therapists recognize changes in beliefs as progress, which often leads to a decrease in their overall level of distress (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Counselors enable their clients to become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. However, more importantly, Counselors help clients learn strategies and skills that allow them to increase their ability to engage in rational thinking (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

There are six steps associated with REBT that Counselors and Therapists follow (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010):

  Identify the Client’s irrational beliefs

  Explore the negative consequences of their beliefs

  Disputing their irrational beliefs

  Replace their irrational beliefs with healthier and more rational beliefs

  A change in feelings occurs as a result of rational beliefs

  Behaviors then experience a positive shift as well

Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit from REBT

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy is an empirically based therapeutic approach that can be helpful for a range of clients. This includes various presenting concerns and diagnoses, healthcare settings, and various populations of clients (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

REBT can be utilized in group therapy, individual therapy, family sessions, couples counseling, and psychoeducation sessions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Clients who are living with mild and moderately severe mental health concerns can benefit from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This includes clients living with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, anger and aggression difficulties, obsessiveness, and sexual difficulties (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Additionally, REBT can be effective in some cases of substance use disorders and can be observed in a peer-led support group called SMART Recovery (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy does ask clients to engage in homework activities outside of the session. For this reason, it is important to ensure that clients are knowledgeable of REBT and have accurate expectations for their engagement outside of therapy sessions. For some clients, this can create a barrier that would then limit their ability to experience the full range of clinical gains associated with REBT.

REBT Exercises & Activities to do with Clients

Rational Emotive Behavior exercises can be used inside of therapy sessions, and be used as homework assignments outside of sessions. When REBT activities are used as homework, this would be explored in the subsequent session after a routine check-in regarding old business, their overall level of distress and functioning, and any major changes since their last session (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Examples of Rational Emotive Behavior activities that can be used in a session include:

ABCDEF is a structured plan that can be used in sessions to identify, assess, dispute, and modify beliefs. The acronym can be useful for both ourselves and our clients in remembering the steps to follow. Spend time reviewing the steps with your client, and walk through an example based on a current challenge they are experiencing. TherapyByPro has an REBT ABCDEF Worksheet available that can be used during homework assignments.  

The acronym in length is as follows: 

A: Activating Event

B:  Belief about the activating event

C: Consequences of the belief]

D: Dispute the belief

E: Effective

F: New feelings and behaviors

In order to do the work associated with REBT, our clients need to spend time exploring their thoughts and feelings. Without doing so, they may not know how to get to the beliefs that are leading to their distress. Asking your client to explore their thoughts and feelings is a cognitive strategy that can be given as a fluid homework assignment. Maybe your client would benefit from doing this as a journal entry, or possibly doing this internal exploration while going for a peaceful walk. Help your client determine how they would best engage in self-exploration, and use this as a homework assignment. Allow for time to follow up in their following session.

When working with your client to identify unhealthy beliefs, many find it helpful to provide clients with a worksheet that offers examples of common unhealthy beliefs. TherapyByPro offers an REBT Irrational Belief Worksheet that can also be used to track rational beliefs that can be used to replace irrational beliefs. Encourage your client to be mindful of their beliefs outside of the session and to note any other beliefs that they found themselves having outside of the session.   

Out of all the relationships that our clients have, one of the most important relationships that they have is with themselves. The person that they talk to the most is themselves, so another good REBT exercise is to explore their self-talk. How our clients speak to themselves is a direct result of the beliefs they have about themselves, and has an undoubtable effect on their emotions and behaviors. Encourage your client to take notice of the self-talk they have and the impact it has on their feelings and behaviors. You can then explore the belief that their self-talk stems from, and see how they can tweak their self-talk to be healthier.

TherapyByPro offers a Consequences Analysis Worksheet that can be used to walk through the different consequences that your client experiences for their irrational beliefs. This can be a helpful tool if your client is unable to see the full effect of their belief and to navigate what the best approach would be moving forward. After using the worksheet, check in with your client to review how they responded to their irrational beliefs and any changes they experienced regarding their typical consequences.  

Another cognitive strategy that can be used as an REBT activity would be to have your client develop a rational thought to replace an irrational one. Once that is done, ask your client to write their new thought repeatedly. Clients can verbalize the new thought in addition to writing it down. This exercise can be done in the session and continued outside of the session. Allow for time to follow up regarding your client’s experience with this exercise and any impact they observed on their feelings and behaviors.

Emotional reasoning is an example of an unhealthy thinking pattern that can have a significant impact on an individual’s day-to-day life.  TherapyByPro’s REBT Emotional Reasoning Worksheet can be used to help clients identify their extreme beliefs and rational beliefs for specific situations. This can help clients narrow down the extreme beliefs that are having the most significant impact on themselves.

Relaxation techniques are often introduced to clients who are engaging in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. This can include meditation, breathing exercises, visualization, and guided imagery. Spend time introducing your client to multiple relaxation techniques, and allow for time to practice some in session. This can be useful on techniques that can be challenging to use, or confusing to your client. Encourage your client to practice using these strategies outside of the session, both when they are in distress and when they are not. Allow for time to follow up regarding their experience and any shift in their thoughts, emotions, and feelings that they observed.

Another unhealthy thinking pattern that our clients may be living with is jumping to conclusions and fortune-telling. The  REBT Jumping to Conclusions and Fortune Telling Worksheet can be used to identify unhealthy beliefs that clients may have for certain situations, and rational beliefs that can be used in their replacement. Encourage clients to be mindful of the discussed beliefs outside of the session. 

For clients to manage their distress, they first need to learn about healthy coping skills. After you introduce your client to a variety of new coping skills they can use, an effective REBT exercise would be to work with them to create a challenging situation where they would then be able to practice using their new coping skills. As an example, if your client picks out their clothes in the evening for the next day, a challenge for them may be to wait until the morning to choose their outfit. Encourage your client to use their new coping skills during the created challenge, and allow for time in your next session to process their experience. 

Final Thoughts On Choosing Activities for REBT

Thank you for reading our resource on 10 REBT exercises and activities you can do with your clients. REBT can be an effective therapeutic approach for clients who present to counseling with varying concerns. With plenty of supportive research, we know that this can be a helpful tool for clients who are struggling with certain concerns and are willing to practice skills and other strategies outside of therapy.

If you are interested in learning more about Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, we encourage you to look into continuing education courses and specialized training opportunities in your area. 

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.

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Seligman, L. & Reichenberg, L.W. (2010). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: Systems,  strategies, and skills (3rd Edition, pp 251-269). Pearson Education, Inc.

The post 10 Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Exercises & Activities to do with your Clients appeared first on TherapyByPro.

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