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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Frustration


When using the ABC model of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I encourage clients to consider the consequences of their irrational beliefs. The cognitive, emotive, bodily sensation, and behavioral responses to unhelpful assumptions may take many forms.


For instance, client X may believe that people shouldn’t reject her direct message (DM) on a social media platform. As a result of her demanding attitude, client X then experiences unhealthy anger.


Here, the difference between healthy and unhealthy anger is subjective. Client X may determine that healthy anger is what she feels when believing that people shouldn’t abuse animals, though when not everyone else shares her belief and animals are inevitably abused, she becomes angry.


With her emotional experience, client X then conducts a social media awareness campaign regarding a local establishment in which the abuse has occurred. Although I may not personally subscribe to client X’s notion of her behavior having manifested from healthy anger, she perceives it as a favorable outcome.


On the other hand, when client X’s DM is ignored or mocked, she considers the bombardment of unpleasant thoughts, burning sensation in her gut, and punching of a wall to have been related to unhealthy anger. The differentiating factor between her healthy and unhealthy anger is how the emotive state does or doesn’t serve her interests and goals.


Now, suppose that client X wants to dispute the irrational belief that causes the consequence of unhealthy anger. She expresses that a preferred consequence would relate to frustration, as it’s unlikely that she will be overjoyed or experience pleasure when a DM is rejected.


Sometimes, frustration serves more as its own activating event rather than solely as a consequence of one’s belief. As well, even with her expressed goal, there may be a distinction between healthy and unhealthy frustration.


Regarding these caveats, page 97 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invites REBT practitioners to consider that frustration tends to impede a person’s progress in a session. Therefore, it may need to be treated as an action worthy of belief-exploring and disputation.


Still, if an individual insists on treating frustration as a consequence and not an activating event, REBT practitioners are encouraged to help clients distinguish between healthy frustration (which may prompt creativity to overcome a block in one’s progress) and unhealthy frustration (which may prompt impulsivity and self-defeating behavior).


In this regard, it may be useful to conceptualize unhealthy frustration as similar to unhealthy anger. The important takeaway herein is that there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy emotive consequences.


If healthy anger or healthy frustration prompts the process of constructive problem-solving, then this is likely a preferable experience to unhealthy anger or unhealthy frustration which may lead to behavior that isn’t aligned with one’s interests and goals.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, 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




Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 31). Demandingness. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2024, January 2). Interests and goals. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 24). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 9). The ABC model. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Tuna, D. (2024, March 9). Depression and woman [Image]. Playground. Retrieved from

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