A Major Critique of REBT

Updated on 13th June 2019

A Major Critique of REBT

Revealing the many errors in the foundations of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy

By Dr Jim Byrne


Front cover of reissued REBT bookThis new (2019) book is an improvement on the original (2017) book, for two major reasons:

For example, there was a need to clarify the bottom line of Dr Byrne’s critique of REBT, and that has been done in a 22 page Preface to the reissued, 2019 edition.

Also, we have added a reference to the research which shows that emotional pain and physical pain are both mediated and processed through significantly overlapping neural networks, which contradicts Dr Ellis’s claim that nobody could hurt you, except with a baseball bat.  Emotional pain hurts just as significantly as physical pain, and it’s not okay for therapists to ignore the emotional pain of their clients. (This point had not been made, with scientific evidence, in the 2017 edition).

Apart from these changes, the 2019 version of this major critique of REBT is identical to the 2017 version.

Here is the contents page:

Contents page

This book is available, as a paperback, from Amazon outlets, as below:

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Whole cover

And here is an extract from the Preface of this book:

(Extract from the) Preface to the 2019 Reissued Edition

By Dr Jim Byrne



Front cover of reissued REBT bookThis book was originally published with a more negative, damning title.  The text analyses, critiques, and totally dismantles the ABC(DE) model of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), (which is also sometimes called Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy [RE&CBT].)

I wrote and published Part One of this book in 2017.

Part One is a critique of the essence of REBT, as it was written about and spoken about by Dr Albert Ellis and his close follows.  It dismantles the entire core of the theory of REBT.

Nothing is left of the ABC(DE) model, as such.  Of course, REBT was constructed from a number of strands of philosophy, plus some behaviour therapy, and cognitive psychology.  The main elements which have been demolished by this book are:

The ABC(DE) model; and:

The extreme elements of Stoic philosophy.

Those elements of moderate Buddhism and moderate Stoicism, which were built into REBT theory have not been invalidated; and indeed they are seen as extremely valuable aspects of a philosophy of sanity in an insane world.


Then I decided to add Part Two, which is a set of ‘historical documents’ – or documents which went into the building of my journey away from REBT, towards the creation of a whole new theory of human disturbance.

The substance of Part Two consists of Chapters 7 to 14 of this book; almost all of which were originally published as free-standing papers, between 2009 and 2014 (apart from Chapter 7, which was written in 2003).  (There is also an Introduction to Part Two, plus Reflections upon Part Two; both of which were written in 2017).

This structure of the book, with the earlier-written papers appearing after the later-written critique, may be confusing for some people, who then want to know: What is the bottom line of my critique?  I will answer that question below.


Cover444In the Preface to the original (2017) edition of this book, we wrote this:

Who is this book for?

If you are a student, practitioner or fan of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), or of more general Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), then this book will be of interest to you.  (However, I should have clarified that this book is a deeply critical analysis of the substantial foundation of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy).

You could also be interested in the content of this book because you want to understand the ABC model, which underpins virtually all forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).  (Again, I should have added that we reject the ABC model of REBT, and replace it with our own Holistic Stimulus-Organism-Response (SOR) model, in which diet, exercise, sleep, current relationships, family of origin, attachment style, personality adaptations, and many other issues are seen to be on a par with – and sometimes more important than – and sometimes a determinant of – a person’s belief system or philosophy of life).

Or – (I suggested, in the 2017 Preface) – you might be interested in Stoic philosophy, and intrigued by the idea of my distinction between ‘extreme Stoicism’ and ‘moderate Stoicism’.

Or you might be interested in what this book has contributed to improving the philosophy of counselling and psychotherapy in general, and particularly the understanding of the whole body-brain-mind-environment-complexity which is the sum-total of a counselling client’s being.

The function of this new (2019) Preface is to clarify a couple of questions that have arisen for at least one reader of this book (and no doubt many others besides).


The questions

On 11th January 2019, I received an email from a reader of some of my books, including this book on REBT.

The author of that email – who, for convenience, I will refer to as MM – had two questions to ask, for the purpose of clarifying some aspects of this book.

(a) MM’s first question:

The first question was this:

(1) What part of REBT do you still find useful in your work, and where would I find it in one of your books.

I think it is true to say that the only part of REBT, as such, that I still find helpful in my work is Rational Emotive Imagery (REI) – which Albert Ellis borrowed from Maxie Maultsby.  And I still use this in very much the way Albert Ellis used it – with one notable difference.

However, I use it as just one-third of my own process of desensitization of individuals to traumatic stress triggers.  In Appendix ‘F’ of my book on Facing and Defeating Your Emotional Dragons (2019)[i], and also in Appendix ‘C’ of my Holistic Counselling in Practice (2016 and 2019)[ii], I presented my full desensitization process, including my approach to REI.

The other two processes that I use for desensitization are:

# Progressive relaxation; and

# The Havening technique (which is a combination of self-soothing and eye-movement desensitization).

Let me present my take on REI here, and then I will explain my point of departure from Dr Albert Ellis.

…End of extract.

[i] Byrne, J. (2019) Facing and Defeating Your Emotional Dragons: How to process old traumas, and eliminate undigested pain from your past experience. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.

[ii] Byrne, J. (2019) Holistic Counselling in Practice: An introduction to the theory and practice of Emotive-Cognitive Embodied-Narrative Therapy. Hebden Bridge: The Institute for E-CENT Publications.

Get your paperback copy of this book – A Major Critique of REBT – from one of the following Amazon outlets:

Amazon US and worldwide Amazon UK and Ireland
Amazon Canada Amazon France
Amazon Germany Amazon Italy
Amazon Spain Amazon Singapore
Amazon Japan