A Primer on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

A Primer on Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Third Edition
Post Secondary
Mental Health Professional
Item Number:


This new edition provides a concise but systematic guide to the basics of REBT—a valuable approach for helping clients overcome emotional and behavioral difficulties. The authors have updated this practical resource to reflect recent developments in REBT theory and practice.

  • Part I: Briefly outlines the principles considered central to an understanding of REBT.
  • Part II: Details a sequence of 20 REBT steps recommended for use during peer counseling and clinical work.
  • Part III: illustrates the application of the REBT process to a specific case.

The brief overview of REBT practice presented in this primer is designed to complement rather than replace comprehensive texts for conducting REBT at a more advanced level.

Table of Contents


Part I: Theory

  • Rationality versus Irrationality
  • The ABC Framework
  • Three Basic Musts
  • Interaction of A, B, and C
  • Two Basic Biological Tendencies
  • Two Fundamental Human Disturbances
  • Theory of Change in REBT
  • Overview of REBT Theory

Part II: Practice

  • Step 1: Ask for a Problem

    Client's choice versus client's most serious problem

    When your client does not identify a target problem
  • Step 2: Define and Agree upon the Target Problem

    Distinguish between an emotional and a practical problem

    Target unhealthy but not healthy negative emotions

    Operationalize vague problems

    Focus on helping your client change C, not A

    When you still have not identified a problem
  • Step 3: Agree upon a Goal with Respect to the Problem as Defined
  • Step 4: Ask for a Specific Example of the Target Problem
  • Step 5: Assess C

    Check again for an unhealthy negative emotion

    Focus on an emotional C

    Clarify C

    Understand that frustration is an A, not a C

    Avoid pitfalls in assessing C
  • Step 6: Assess A

    Be specific in assessing A

    Identify the part of A that triggers B

    Remember that A can refer to many things

    Assume temporarily that A is true

    Avoid pitfalls in assessing A

    When you still have not identified A
  • Step 7: Agree upon a Goal with Respect to the Problem as Assessed

    Consider your client's motivation to change C

    Avoid pitfalls when agreeing upon goals with respect to the problem as assessed
  • Step 8: Help Your Client to See the Link between the Problem as Defined Goal and the Problem as Assessed Goal
  • Step 9: Identify and Assess any Meta-emotional Problems If Relevant

    Know when to work on the meta-emotional problem first

    Check for an emotional problem about a healthy negative emotion

    Assess the presence of shame
  • Step 10: Teach the B - C Connection
  • Step 11: Assess iB

    Assess both premise and derivative forms

    Remember the three basic musts

    Distinguish between absolute shoulds and other shoulds

    Use questions in assessing irrational beliefs
  • Step 12: Connect iB and C
  • Step 13: Question iB and rB

    Work to achieve the goals of questioning

    Make good use of questions

    Be persistent in questioning premise or derivatives

    Use a variety of questioning strategies

    Use a variety of questioning styles

    Be creative
  • Step 14: Prepare Your Client to Deepen Conviction in Rational Beliefs

    Point out why weak conviction will not promote change

    Deal with the "head-gut" issue
  • Step 15: Check the Validity of A
  • Step 16: Negotiate a Homework Assignment

    Ensure that homework assignments are relevant

    Collaborate with your client

    Be prepared to compromise

    Assess and troubleshoot obstacles

    Use homework at different times during therapy
  • Step 17: Check Homework Assignments

    Verify that your client faced A

    Verify that your client changed B

    Deal with failure to complete homework assignments
  • Step 18: Facilitate the Working-through Process

    Suggest different homework assignments for the same irrational belief

    Discuss the nonlinear model of change

    Encourage your client to take responsibility for continued progress

Part III: Case Example


Appendix: Special Features of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy—by Albert Ellis

References and Recommended Reading

About the Authors