Controversy and Challenges to REBT
Updated: Jun 26, 2022
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued a controversial decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, effectively overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.
As far as I’m concerned, my opinions on this matter are irrelevant. Nonetheless, what I think this event affords is an opportunity to address challenges to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)—the psychotherapeutic technique I use in my practice.
Regarding the current blog entry, I’ll briefly address how REBT works. For a more in-depth understanding about this form of therapy, I invite you to read a blog post I wrote entitled Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
REBT was created by Albert Ellis and uses the ABC Model to highlight the Epictetiannotion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” Keep this quote in mind throughout the current post.
The ABC model is constructed as follows:
(A)ction – What occurred
(B)elief – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)
(C)onsequence – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)
(D)isputation – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B), which led to (C)
(E)ffective new belief – What (E)ffective new beliefs you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B)
Wilhelmina Annawitahwodi may think that an action (A) leads to a consequence (C). For example, SCOTUS overturning legal precedent (A) is thought of to result in anger (C).
However, REBT maintains that rather than an A-C connection, we disturb ourselves with beliefs (B). This is done through association with a B-C connection.
Although some of my professional colleagues at the Albert Ellis Institute may disagree with my approach, the main focus of my sessions when using this technique occurs in the (D)isputation phase.
Challenging, to say the least
Ethical and administrative challenge:
Some sensitive content is bound to arise in therapy sessions, such as that related to the controversial nature of abortion matters. As one of my REBT counterparts suggests, it’s important to admit when therapists aren’t “impartial.”
Personally, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have some level of bias. For instance, Ellis was said to have spoken “loudly against the attacks on abortion clinics, and he defended legal abortion.”
Though there may be a challenge to performing therapy when client views clash with a therapist’s, I keep in mind the codes of ethics for the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), as well as the rules of the Texas Behavioral Health Executive Council (TBHEC).
Concerning the ACA Code of Ethics, “Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”
Regarding the NASW Code of Ethics, “Social workers also should be aware of the impact on ethical decision making of their clients’ and their own personal values and cultural and religious beliefs and practices. They should be aware of any conflicts between personal and professional values and deal with them responsibly.”
For more information, I invite you to review the Rules of the TBHEC and Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. You may also like to review the Rules of the TBHEC and Texas State Board of Social Worker Examiners.
Ultimately, when dealing with this type of challenge to my practice, I attempt to remain as nonjudgmental and open to differing perspectives as possible while working with clients.
Aside from the challenges to REBT outlined in the “limitation and critique” portion of my REBT blog post, I’ve considered how disputation of a client’s irrational and self-disturbing beliefs may be perceived by clients.
This can be especially challenging when controversial topics—such as abortion—are presented.
In a study designed to assess the ABC Model on the impact of irrational beliefs associated with anger, one researcher posited that “anger is sparked by the evaluation that it’s horrible, unfair, or terrible when oneself, others, or things in the world are not the way one wants them to be.”
This remains consistent with Ellis having reportedly declared, “There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.” He also termed these rigid beliefs as “musterbation.”
Can you imagine me sitting in session with upset Wilhelmina the day after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision and saying during the disputation phase, “Who says you have a right to an abortion? SCOTUS ruled otherwise”?
This is a challenging therapeutic modality, to put it lightly. Though Wilhelmina inflexibly believes that “life must be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience,” demonstrating the B-C connection would need to be approached with prudence.
If a client’s parent passed away yesterday, I wouldn’t suggest, “From day one, you knew that everyone would die.” Likewise, if a client lost a limb yesterday, I wouldn’t question, “Who told you that you must retain both arms?”
Just the same, I would want to first work with Wilhelmina on coping techniques until she was able to engage in higher-order thinking. As well, moving towards unconditional life-acceptance would likely be an aim for Wilhelmina’s processing of this matter.
For further information about how little control we actually have over anyone other than ourselves, I invite you to read my blog entry entitled Circle of Control.
At the time this blog entry is being written, a vehicle reportedly struck protestors, police have purportedly deployed “tear gas,” and alleged “extremist groups” have been said to call for violence—all in the infancy of what could be days, weeks, or months of abortion-related protests.
I understand that many people are experiencing “[a] lot of anger, a lot of crying, a lot of heartbreak” during this time. And while there is a time and place for disputation, there is also a need for healthy coping techniques when people become highly emotive.
If you are experiencing symptoms of increased stress and agitation, bouts of yelling or shouting, or intense anger and physical aggression, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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