10 REBT Therapy Activities & Exercises to do with your Clients in Therapy

In the 1950s, Albert Ellis pioneered Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which is commonly known as REBT. While REBT shares some concepts and strategies with other humanistic therapies, there are notable differences. One such difference is in the approach to cognitive distortions. In REBT, counselors and therapists emphasize the belief that assisting clients in thinking rationally can lead to improvements in their thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and overall daily functioning (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Keep reading to learn 10 REBT Therapy activities and exercises you can do with your clients.

Over the years, REBT has evolved to integrate and align with other therapeutic approaches such as narrative therapy, constructivist therapy, and existential therapy (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). REBT counselors and therapists value and acknowledge each client’s unique background and perspectives, while also recognizing and addressing any rigid patterns that may be detrimental or harmful to their clients (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

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When applying REBT with clients, counselors and therapists recognize that changes in beliefs can lead to a reduction in overall distress (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). They assist clients in developing awareness of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, while also helping them acquire strategies and skills to enhance their capacity for rational thinking (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

REBT follows a six-step process that guides counselors and therapists (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010):

  1. Identify the client’s irrational beliefs.
  2. Explore the negative consequences of these beliefs.
  3. Challenge and dispute the irrational beliefs.
  4. Substitute the irrational beliefs with healthier and more rational beliefs.
  5. Experience a change in emotions as a result of adopting rational beliefs.
  6. Observe positive shifts in behaviors as well.

Why REBT?

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a highly effective and evidence-based therapeutic approach that may be chosen for several compelling reasons:

  1. Cognitive-Behavioral Approach: REBT is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) that focuses on the connections between thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. It helps individuals identify and challenge irrational beliefs and replace them with more rational and adaptive ones.
  2. Effective for a Range of Issues: REBT has been proven effective for a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety disorders, depression, anger management, substance abuse, phobias, and more.
  3. Emotion Regulation: REBT equips individuals with practical strategies to regulate their emotions by changing their thought patterns. It promotes emotional well-being and resilience.
  4. Goal-Oriented and Solution-Focused: REBT is goal-oriented and solution-focused, helping individuals set specific objectives and develop strategies to achieve them.
  5. Evidence-Based: REBT is supported by substantial empirical evidence, demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing symptoms and improving overall psychological functioning.
  6. Identification of Irrational Beliefs: REBT helps individuals identify irrational beliefs and cognitive distortions that contribute to their emotional distress and self-defeating behaviors.
  7. Empowerment: It empowers individuals by teaching them that they have control over their emotional responses and that they can change unhelpful thought patterns.
  8. Resilience Building: REBT fosters resilience by helping individuals develop adaptive beliefs and coping strategies that enable them to handle life’s challenges more effectively.
  9. Customized Treatment: REBT can be tailored to address the specific beliefs and issues of each individual, ensuring that therapy is personalized and comprehensive.
  10. Long-Term Benefits: Many individuals who complete REBT report sustained improvements in their mental health, with reduced relapse rates even after therapy has concluded.
  11. Positive Therapeutic Relationship: REBT emphasizes a strong therapeutic relationship characterized by empathy, support, and collaboration between the therapist and the client.
  12. Transdiagnostic Application: While REBT was initially developed for specific issues, it has been adapted to address a broader range of concerns, making it suitable for clients with diverse mental health challenges.
  13. Philosophical Framework: REBT incorporates a philosophical framework that encourages individuals to adopt a rational and philosophical approach to life’s difficulties.
  14. Enhanced Self-Acceptance: REBT promotes self-acceptance and self-compassion, helping individuals develop a healthier self-concept.
  15. Adaptable for Group Therapy: REBT principles can be adapted for group therapy settings, making it a versatile approach for various therapeutic contexts.

While REBT offers numerous benefits, it is important to consider individual preferences and needs when selecting a therapy approach. REBT may be particularly well-suited for those seeking a cognitive-behavioral approach to address their emotional distress and improve their overall mental health and well-being. Keep reading to learn REBT therapy activities you can do with your clients.

Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit from REBT

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) is an evidence-based therapeutic approach that offers valuable assistance to a wide range of clients. It proves effective in addressing various presenting concerns, diagnoses, and populations across healthcare settings (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

REBT can be applied in diverse therapeutic contexts, including group therapy, individual therapy, family sessions, couples counseling, and psychoeducation sessions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Clients dealing with mild to moderately severe mental health concerns can benefit from REBT. This includes individuals with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, anger and aggression difficulties, obsessiveness, and sexual difficulties (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Additionally, REBT can show effectiveness in certain cases of substance use disorders, as exemplified in the peer-led support group known as SMART Recovery (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

It’s important to note that REBT involves clients engaging in homework activities outside of therapy sessions. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that clients possess a comprehensive understanding of REBT and have accurate expectations regarding their involvement outside the therapy sessions. For some clients, this requirement may present a barrier that limits their ability to fully experience the clinical benefits associated with REBT.

REBT Exercises & Activities to do with Clients

Rational Emotive Behavior exercises can be used inside of therapy sessions, and be used as homework assignments outside of sessions. When REBT activities are used as homework, this would be explored in the subsequent session after a routine check-in regarding old business, their overall level of distress and functioning, and any major changes since their last session (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Examples of Rational Emotive Behavior activities that can be used in a session include:

  1. ABCDEF is a structured plan that can be used in sessions to identify, assess, dispute, and modify beliefs. The acronym can be useful for both ourselves and our clients in remembering the steps to follow. Spend time reviewing the steps with your client, and walk through an example based on a current challenge they are experiencing. TherapyPatron.com has an REBT ABCDEF Worksheet available that can be used during homework assignments.  

The acronym in length is as follows: 

  • A: Activating Event
  • B:  Belief about the activating event
  • C: Consequences of the belief]
  • D: Dispute the belief
  • E: Effective
  • F: New feelings and behaviors
  1. Another cognitive strategy that can be used as an REBT activity would be to have your client develop a rational thought to replace an irrational one. Once that is done, ask your client to write their new thought repeatedly. Clients can verbalize the new thought in addition to writing it down. This exercise can be done in the session and continued outside of the session. Allow for time to follow up regarding your client’s experience with this exercise and any impact they observed on their feelings and behaviors.
  2. In order to do the work associated with REBT, our clients need to spend time exploring their thoughts and feelings. Without doing so, they may not know how to get to the beliefs that are leading to their distress. Asking your client to explore their thoughts and feelings is a cognitive strategy that can be given as a fluid homework assignment. Maybe your client would benefit from doing this as a journal entry, or possibly doing this internal exploration while going for a peaceful walk. Help your client determine how they would best engage in self-exploration, and use this as a homework assignment. Allow for time to follow up in their following session.
  3. When working with your client to identify unhealthy beliefs, many find it helpful to provide clients with a worksheet that offers examples of common unhealthy beliefs. TherapyPatron.com offers an REBT Irrational Belief Worksheet that can also be used to track rational beliefs that can be used to replace irrational beliefs. Encourage your client to be mindful of their beliefs outside of the session and to note any other beliefs that they found themselves having outside of the session.
  4. Emotional reasoning is an example of an unhealthy thinking pattern that can have a significant impact on an individual’s day-to-day life.  TherapyPatron.com’s REBT Emotional Reasoning Worksheet can be used to help clients identify their extreme beliefs and rational beliefs for specific situations. This can help clients narrow down the extreme beliefs that are having the most significant impact on themselves.
  5. Out of all the relationships that our clients have, one of the most important relationships that they have is with themselves. The person that they talk to the most is themselves, so another good REBT exercise is to explore their self-talk. How our clients speak to themselves is a direct result of the beliefs they have about themselves, and has an undoubtable effect on their emotions and behaviors. Encourage your client to take notice of the self-talk they have and the impact it has on their feelings and behaviors. You can then explore the belief that their self-talk stems from, and see how they can tweak their self-talk to be healthier.
  6. Relaxation techniques are often introduced to clients who are engaging in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy. This can include meditation, breathing exercises, visualization, and guided imagery. Spend time introducing your client to multiple relaxation techniques, and allow for time to practice some in session. This can be useful on techniques that can be challenging to use, or confusing to your client. Encourage your client to practice using these strategies outside of the session, both when they are in distress and when they are not. Allow for time to follow up regarding their experience and any shift in their thoughts, emotions, and feelings that they observed.
  7. TherapyPatron.com offers a Consequences Analysis Worksheet that can be used to walk through the different consequences that your client experiences for their irrational beliefs. This can be a helpful tool if your client is unable to see the full effect of their belief and to navigate what the best approach would be moving forward. After using the worksheet, check in with your client to review how they responded to their irrational beliefs and any changes they experienced regarding their typical consequences.
  8. Another unhealthy thinking pattern that our clients may be living with is jumping to conclusions and fortune-telling. The  REBT Jumping to Conclusions and Fortune Telling Worksheet can be used to identify unhealthy beliefs that clients may have for certain situations, and rational beliefs that can be used in their replacement. Encourage clients to be mindful of the discussed beliefs outside of the session.
  9. For clients to manage their distress, they first need to learn about healthy coping skills. After you introduce your client to a variety of new coping skills they can use, an effective REBT exercise would be to work with them to create a challenging situation where they would then be able to practice using their new coping skills. As an example, if your client picks out their clothes in the evening for the next day, a challenge for them may be to wait until the morning to choose their outfit. Encourage your client to use their new coping skills during the created challenge, and allow for time in your next session to process their experience.

Final Thoughts On Choosing Activities for REBT

Thank you for reading our resource on 10 REBT Therapy activities and exercises you can do with your clients. REBT can be an effective therapeutic approach for clients who present to counseling with varying concerns. With plenty of supportive research, we know that this can be a helpful tool for clients who are struggling with certain concerns and are willing to practice skills and other strategies outside of therapy.

If you are interested in learning more about Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, we encourage you to look into continuing education courses and specialized training opportunities in your area. 

TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and support your clients be the best version of themselves.

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Resources:

Seligman, L. & Reichenberg, L.W. (2010). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: Systems,  strategies, and skills (3rd Edition, pp 251-269). Pearson Education, Inc.

Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC
Author: Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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