Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is one of the most popular psychotherapeutic approaches. It is a form of cognitive-behavioural therapy. that focuses on identifying and challenging irrational beliefs that lead to emotional distress. American psychologist Albert Ellis developed it in the 1950s. Over the years, REBT has been used in the treatment of various mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression and addictions. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of REBT

The Basic Assumptions of REBT

REBT is based on the assumption that people want to do well in life, but sometimes irrational/unhelpful thoughts and feelings can get in the way of their progress. These thoughts then affect how people respond to situations around them. Thus, REBT focuses on helping people identify and change these irrational thoughts so that they can overcome difficult situations.

The ABC Model of REBT

Based on the assumption that we are generally unaware of the negative thoughts and irrational beliefs that affect us in daily life, Albert Ellis came up with three guiding principles of REBT that help explain how our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are connected. It is called the ABC model. The model consists of three components

  • Activating or Adverse Event (A): This refers to the external situation or event that triggers a negative emotional or behavioural response. It could be anything from having a minor disagreement to losing one’s job
  • Beliefs (B):- This refers to the thought or belief/ interpretation we have about the activating event. It can be something along the lines of ‘Other people never understand me’ or ‘I am the worst employee so I lost my job’ According to Ellis, irrational beliefs are generally rigid, and unrealistic..
  • Consequence (C)  The beliefs that people hold about the activating event will then lead to an emotional response. Irritational beliefs typically lead to unhealthy emotions such as anxiety, depression, or anger, and maladaptive behaviours such as avoidance or aggression.

By exploring the connection between our actions, thoughts and behaviours, REBT not only facilitates self-awareness but also empowers people to challenge their irrational beliefs and move towards change.

The Three Core Irrational Beliefs Of REBT

Albert Ellis identified three common irrational beliefs that lead to negative emotions, which he referred to as the “Three Basic Musts’’. These three ‘musts’ usually revolve around a demand or an expectation, either from ourselves, others, the environment or life in general. These are

  1. ‘’I must do well and win the approval of others’’ or else I am not good enough
  2. ‘’Others must treat me kindly, and meet my expectations’’ or else they may not be good or deserve punishment.
  3. “Life must be easy, without discomfort or inconvenience, and I must always get what I want, or else I will be unhappy.

Strongly sticking to these ‘musts’ or irrational beliefs can cause feelings of inadequacy, resentment, and frustration when reality differs from these expectations. REBT encourages people to challenge these irrational beliefs and adopt more flexible, accepting attitudes towards themselves, others, and life as well. 

REBT And Unconditional Acceptance

To help people overcome irrational beliefs, REBT encourages people to develop acceptance at three levels. They are:

  1. Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA): Involves accepting ourselves with all our flaws and strengths without any judgements.
  2. Unconditional Other-Acceptance (UOA): This involves accepting others with their imperfections and not demanding perfection
  3. Unconditional Life-Acceptance (ULA)- This involves accepting life with all its ups and downs without insisting on comfort or fairness.


REBT is an effective psychotherapy approach that encourages people to challenge their irrational beliefs and replace them with rational and more functional thoughts. By using concepts such as the ABC model, the three irrational beliefs, and unconditional acceptance, people can not only become more aware of their irrational beliefs but also take steps to break free from them.


  1. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Principles, Techniques, Efficacy. (2018, September 13). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy
  2. Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2024, from https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/rational-emotive-behavioral-therapy
  3. What Is Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)? (n.d.). Verywell Mind. Retrieved March 15, 2024, from https://www.verywellmind.com/rational-emotive-behavior-therapy-2796000

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin