Albert Ellis on REBT
by Albert Ellis
In these lively and occasionally outrageous interviews, Albert Ellis, who many consider the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy, shares about the life experiences and intellectual influences that shaped his career and led him to create Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
Considered by many to be the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy and one of the most influential psychologists of all time, Albert Ellis, founder of REBT, is nothing if not controversial. In two separate interviews with Drs. Arthur Freeman and Myrtle Heery we meet Ellis face-to-face, providing viewers with insight into the core principles of REBT, as well as the passionate and irreverent man behind this popular, confrontational approach to change.

With his characteristic style that some have called audacious and even obnoxious, Ellis unabashedly shares his convictions on everything from how "woefully ineffective" psychoanalysis is, to how most therapists placate their clients out of their own "dire need to be loved," to how self-esteem is "the greatest sickness known to man." He describes how he overcame fear and shame by forcing himself to give public talks and approach women for dates, and discusses his evolution from psychoanalyst to renegade innovator of his own approach, influenced largely by his studies in philosophy, general semantics, and his unwavering belief in the liberating power of unconditional self-acceptance.

In Depth
CE Test

One thing you won’t be wondering after watching these two interviews is, “What does Ellis really think about people?” In a refreshingly authentic, no-holds-barred manner, Ellis shares his honest thoughts and strong opinions on such topics as human nature, neurosis, self-esteem, therapists, spirituality, and death. When describing himself he says, “I have the guts to call a spade a spade,” and his no-nonsense attitude certainly comes through in these lively interviews. While he uses a lot of four-letter words and can come across as somewhat harsh and righteous, the heart of his message is actually quite loving and even spiritual: accept yourself and others unconditionally, no matter what, and don’t take everything so personally.

In the first interview with Philip Kendall, Ellis shares his opinions on a host of theorists in the field of psychotherapy, including Carl Rogers, Sigmund Freud, Aaron Beck, and Fritz Perls. This gives viewers a deeper understanding of each of these theories and how Ellis perceives other approaches, which makes for an even richer learning experience.

By watching this video, you will be able to:

• Understand the origins of REBT and how it evolved over time.
• Describe the three irrational beliefs that underlie most neuroses.
• Learn the key principles and techniques of the REBT model.

Length of video: 01:50:00

Number of Discs: 1

English subtitles available on: Stream, DVD

This DVD plays in All Regions

Individual ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-324-3

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-325-1

"There is virtually nothing in which I delight more," says Albert Ellis,PhD "than throwing myself into a good and difficult problem." His self-assurance—some would even say arrogance—enables him to confront his clients about their beliefs and tell them what is rational and what isn't.

Albert Ellis was born in Pittsburgh in 1913 and raised in New York City. He made the best of a difficult childhood by using his head and becoming, in his words, "a stubborn and pronounced problem-solver." A serious kidney disorder turned his attention from sports to books, and the strife in his family (his parents were divorced when he was 12) led him to work at understanding others. Ellis made it through college in 1934 with a degree in business administration from the City University of New York. His first venture in the business world was a pants-matching business he started with his brother. In 1938, he became the personnel manager for a gift and novelty firm.

Ellis devoted most of his spare time to writing short stories, plays, novels, comic poetry, essays and nonfiction books. By the time he was 28, he had finished almost two dozen full-length manuscripts, but had not been able to get them published.

In 1942 he returned to school, entering the clinical-psychology program at Columbia. He started a part-time private practice in family and sex counseling soon after he received his master's degree in 1943. At the time Columbia awarded him a doctorate in 1947 Ellis had come to believe that psychoanalysis was the deepest and most effective form of therapy. He decided to undertake a training analysis, and "become an outstanding psychoanalyst the next few years." The psychoanalytic institutes refused to take trainees without M.D.s, but he found an analyst with the Karen Horney group who agreed to work with him. Ellis completed a full analysis and began to practice classical psychoanalysis under his teacher's direction.

In the late 1940s he taught at Rutgers and New York University, and was the senior clinical psychologist at the Northern New Jersey Mental Hygiene Clinic. He also became the chief psychologist at the New Jersey Diagnostic Center and then at the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies. But Ellis' faith in psychoanalysis was rapidly crumbling. He discovered that when he saw clients only once a week or even every other week, they progressed as well as when he saw them daily. He took a more active role, interjecting advice and direct interpretations as he did when he was counseling people with family or sex problems. His clients seemed to improve more quickly than when he used passive psychoanalytic procedures. And remembering that before he underwent analysis, he had worked through many of his own problems by reading and practicing the philosophies or Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza and Bertrand Russell, he began to teach his clients the principles that had worked for him.

By 1955 Ellis had given up psychoanalysis entirely, and instead was concentrating on changing people's behavior by confronting them with their irrational beliefs and persuading them to adopt rational ones. This role was more to Ellis' taste, for he could be more honest himself. "When I became rational-emotive," he said, "my own personality processes really began to vibrate."

He published his first book on REBT, How to Live with a Neurotic, in 1957. Two years later he organized the Institute for Rational Living, where he held workshops to teach his principles to other therapists. The Art and Science of Love, his first really successful book, appeared in 1960, and he has now published 54 books and over 600 articles on REBT, sex and marriage. He is currently the President of the Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy in New York, which offers a full-time training program, and operates a large psychological clinic.

"I love my work and work at my loving," Ellis says. "That is the secret of my present unusually happy state."

Albert Ellis died in 2007.

Note: Much of the above was excerpted with permission from the Albert Ellis Institute website.

See all Albert Ellis videos.


CE credits: 4

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the origins of REBT and how it evolved over time.
  • Describe the three irrational beliefs that underlie most neuroses.
  • Learn the key principles and techniques of the REBT model.
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