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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Understanding, Belief, and Practice




Recently, I was asked how many clients with whom I’ve worked have actually practiced Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) on a regular basis. It was a reasonable query and I find that the answer is essentially the same for those in both my professional and personal life.


Although my formulation isn’t necessarily representative of Texas, the United States, or the entire world—all places in which REBT practitioners operate, I responded to the question with a rough estimation. Approximately one-third of the people in my life routinely practice REBT.


Contemplating the original question beyond my appraisal, I asked myself why something like two-thirds of these individuals have seemingly neglected use of REBT or abandoned this approach to self-improvement altogether. Of course, I can only speculate about this answer.


As such, the current blogpost reflects my contemplation of this matter. What I’ve determined is that people may’ve fallen away from REBT after I’ve introduced them to this psychotherapeutic modality due to issues of understanding, belief, and practice.




My primary goal when beginning work with a new client—even before establishing a strong rapport—is helping the individual to understand what REBT is and how it works. After all, “understanding” relates to grasping the meaning or reasonableness of something.


Though the current entry to psychoeducation about REBT is somewhat overly broad, I invite people to consider that REBT essentially has two core functions: The ABC Model and unconditional acceptance. Without understanding of these concepts, one won’t be able to fully benefit from this modality.


For its most basic operation, the ABC Model works thusly:


Activating event – What occurred


Belief about the event – What you told yourself about (A) that resulted in (C)


Consequence of one’s belief about the event – What you felt (emotion or bodily sensation) about what happened and what you did (behavior)


Disputation of the self-disturbing belief about the event – How you might challenge (D) what you told yourself (B) and which led to (C)


Effective new belief to replace the self-disturbing belief – What effective new conclusion you can tell yourself rather than using unhelpful or unhealthy narratives (B)


Notice that I’ve addressed the component of self-disturbance. This is because the originator of REBT, the late psychologist Albert Ellis, incorporated Stoic philosophy into this model which isn’t designed to help people feel better, though to actually get better.


In particular, the ABC Model highlights philosopher Epictetusnotion, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” For instance, it isn’t uncommon for people to think that when some disagreeable event occurs, these individuals then experience unpleasant consequences.


As an example, your romantic partner breaks up with you (Action) and as a result you become sad, feel as though your body is heavier than usual, and you seemingly can’t stop sobbing (Consequence). I, too, once thought in Action-Consequence (A-C) connection terms.


However, unfortunate events do not entirely represent the uncomfortable results which we experience. Of course, there are many exceptions to this proposal, such as that fact that receiving too much ultraviolet radiation (Action) can cause sunburn (Consequence).


Nevertheless, in both the breakup and sunburn situations, there is likely an irrational belief—or many of these types of unhelpful beliefs—that leads to self-disturbance. Of this Belief-Consequence (B-C) connection, in a blogpost entitled Pillars, I stated that the “four pillars” of irrationality are described as:



Therefore, if your love interest breaks up with you, and even if you’re sunburned on the same day, it’s what you believe about activating events which leads to unpleasant consequences of self-disturbance. In essence, you make yourself miserable through use of unhelpful beliefs. In a blogpost entitled REBT Elevator Pitch, I stated:


Personally, I prefer what I call the “short cut” to reducing suffering—unconditional acceptance. While I could go through a fairly elaborate process of challenging my unfavorable beliefs, I could instead admit truth—that I’m a fallible human being, so are others, and so is life.


REBT incorporates disputation of irrational beliefs through use of various techniques. Still, the “short cut” to relieving self-disturbance is the practice of unconditional self-, other-, and life-acceptance, addressed in REBT Elevator Pitch.


The ABC Model and unconditional acceptance are the two core functions of REBT. Once clients understand what REBT is and how it works, they can begin use of this helpful modality with my assistance or all on their own.




In my professional and personal life, I encourage people to consider that REBT practitioners are essentially working ourselves out of a job. If the objective of mental, emotional, and behavioral health care is to reduce suffering, REBT clinicians teach people to become their own therapists as a means of self-disturbance reduction.


With most people I’ve encountered, understanding REBT doesn’t appear to be too difficult. It’s a fairly straightforward modality. This begs the question about why something like two-thirds of people, in my experience, have fallen away from use of this well-researched technique.


Having contemplated this matter for quite some time, I think the answer relates to belief—as it pertains to trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. If a person doesn’t believe in REBT, the modality may not serve the individual well.


While I realize that some scientifically-focused individuals and those who identify as skeptics may recoil at my advocacy for belief, I think this component of REBT efficaciousness is worth considering. Take for instance what I stated in a blogpost entitled Therapeutic Alliance:


According to one source, “the optimal therapeutic alliance is achieved when patient and therapist share beliefs with regard to the goals of the treatment and view the methods used to achieve these as efficacious and relevant. Both actors accept to undertake and follow through their specific tasks.”


[…] and although I don’t necessarily need to share political, religious, or other beliefs with my clients, it’s essential to share in the belief that Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) can work to reduce suffering. Without this component, each member of the therapeutic relationship is merely wasting time.


Suppose you’ve reached out to me for psychotherapeutic services. Herein, let’s revisit the earlier example of a failed romantic relationship. I teach you about REBT and its techniques, and you understand this approach to reducing suffering.


However, as we apply your understanding by implementing techniques in our sessions, and outside of sessions through use of homework, you remain self-disturbed by your beliefs about your former intimate partner. Your understanding about REBT isn’t necessarily why you’re unsuccessful at achieving your interests and goals.


Rather, you rigidly cling to your self-upsetting beliefs. Together we discover that you don’t actually believe in the core Stoic principle of REBT—the Epictetian notion regarding your reaction to events being the thing that matters, and not the events themselves.


REBT may sound nice in theory and you suspect that many people have been helped through use of this modality. The critical thinker that you are, you’ve even examined the literature addressing REBT and have found that it retains high empirical support for its effectiveness.


For instance, at some point in your quest for knowledge you may’ve encountered a derivative of what one source states about a person’s beliefs toward therapy:


Psychotherapy provides an explanation for the patient’s difficulties that is adaptive, in the sense that it provides a means to overcome or cope with the difficulties. The patient comes to believe that participating in and successfully completing the tasks of therapy, whatever they may be, will be helpful in coping with his or her problems, which then furthers for the patient the expectation that he or she has ability to enact what is needed. The belief that one can do what is necessary to solve his or her problem has been discussed in various ways, including discussions of mastery, self-efficacy, or response expectancies.


Nonetheless, you inflexibly believe that your former love interest really shouldn’t have dumped you, despite disputation to the contrary and your attempt at implementing unconditional acceptance. Psychological literature be damned!


Congratulations! You’ve self-disturbed by failing to believe—and not merely understand—that REBT will work for you. To be clear, I’m outright stating that your lack of “trust, faith, or confidence” in this psychotherapeutic modality is why you’re stuck in misery while unrelentingly using irrational beliefs.


Letting go of unhelpful assumptions, believing that REBT will work, and changing your self-disturbing ethos may serve you well. Then again, there’s the matter of routinely applying REBT techniques in your everyday life.




Practice is defined as the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it. Although one may understand REBT and believe in its utility, without frequent application of this method one may not benefit from it.


Think of REBT as a tool. Those with whom I work have likely heard me declare, “The tools we use less are useless.” (It’s a self-evident term.) If you fail to continually use your tool, how can you expect to be proficient with it when it’s most needed? Regarding this matter, in a blogpost entitled Practice, I stated:


When people disregard practice of the technique though irrationally conclude, “REBT doesn’t work,” I wonder what they expect of a tool they use less—rendering the tool useless. It truly is an unreasonable assumption to discount REBT altogether, due to one’s lack of practice regarding the technique.


On a daily basis, I practice REBT. When working with clients in my professional life, I teach and reinforce the method. When interacting with people from my close circle in my personal life, I discuss REBT.


I journal daily, blog weekly, contemplate different scenarios when performing cardiovascular training, and listen for the four pillars of irrationality when encountering films, shows, podcasts, videos, and other forms of media. All the while, I’m sharpening my tool.


Likewise, I encourage clients to frequently practice REBT—especially outside of our sessions. When negotiating homework with clients, I emphasize the work element of a task. Working with tools at home—which is essentially any area outside of session—is how clients sharpen (practice) their tools.


With very few exceptions, most people with whom I’ve worked have understood REBT enough to reduce self-disturbance. As well, a slightly smaller number of individuals have admitted to not believing in the modality.


The majority of the two-thirds’ estimate of people who’ve seemingly rejected REBT have willfully refused to routinely practice outside of session. When they irrationally believe that REBT has failed them, I inspect their dull tools and remind them to practice (sharpen) more often.




When recently asked how many clients with whom I’ve worked have practiced REBT on a regular basis, I surmised that one-third of the people in my life have genuinely met this standard. This figure surprised me, as well as the person who asked the question.


I have no problem with accepting personal responsibility and accountability for the role I’ve played in the approximately two-thirds of people who’ve apparently disregarded REBT. I doubt it’s true that I’ve had no effect on why some people haven’t stuck with this modality.


Additionally, I suspect that a lack of understanding, failure to believe, and neglect of practice have played a key role in why some people have neglected or abandoned REBT altogether. Herein, I’ve used this blogpost to contemplate the matter.


Moreover, I’ve provided ample links to supplementary REBT material which may be useful. This way, the interested reader can enrich oneself through preliminarily learning about or augmenting existing knowledge of REBT.


Although a single blogpost with added references may not be substantial enough to fully resolve matters of understanding, belief, or practice, I continue honing my skills and sharpening my tools so that I can help people improve their lives. After all, REBT has helped me get better and I suspect it may do the same for you.


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





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