Feature

At a session sponsored by APA's Div. 13 (Consulting), the father of rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) will trace his climb from being a little-known psychologist with a big idea to one of America's most influential therapists. The talk will take place on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 10 a.m. during APA's Annual Convention.

When Albert Ellis, PhD, conceived of REBT in 1955, "it was denounced by practically everybody," he recalls. "But one of the principles of REBT is not to take criticism too seriously, so I survived."

Indeed, Ellis believes people should consider critiques of their behavior, "but never damn your being and spirit--your essential self" in the process. His address will thus urge psychologists to "hold their ground, take a stand and not defame themselves when they are defamed by others," he explains. By doing so, he believes, "maybe their views will prevail."

Ellis says he stood by his unpopular theories long enough to gain professional regard. Then "science won out" in the 1970s when "study after study started showing that REBT and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) were quite effective."

CBT is a direct descendant of Ellis's philosophy, yet "even now some cognitive behaviorists are opposed to me because of my liberal sex views and direct attack on personal irrational beliefs," Ellis says. "I am rapid and direct, and some followers of cognitive behavioral therapy beat around the bush. I get at irrational beliefs from the first session onward" instead of spending "hours or years babying a client like most therapists do."

Ellis believes that emotional troubles are rooted in personal perceptions of unchangeable facts, such as another person's unkindness. It is unreasonable to view negative thoughts and actions as personal affronts, he believes, and yet so many bring such burdens into psychotherapy. Acceptance of what one cannot change is the first step Ellis urges his clients to take.

Over the years, he has also supported patients in their efforts to forge sexual freedom and escape from societal double-standards. Ellis wrote his first book about human sexuality, and is credited as a leading instigator of the 1960s' sexual revolution.

While he is quick to make these distinctions, Ellis also notes that "CBT is probably the most effective [therapy] because it can help more of the people more of the time." Ellis's philosophy is a vital tool, nonetheless, for coming to terms with a world often ridden with intolerance, violence and frequent disappointment. He urges clients to adopt "an unconditional acceptance of the self," he says. "Then you can not like the world but still like other humans. Some of the worst things could happen and you are very sorry and regretful, but not panicked or depressed."

Ellis anticipates a full audience at his convention session because "even though people hate me, they love me and are intrigued by the fact that I tell it as it is, with no dilly-dallying."