Rational Emotive Therapy for Alcoholism

Rational emotive therapy

Rational emotive therapy looks at alcoholism a little differently than many other forms of treatment. While other forms of therapy will examine your feelings, it focuses on the often-faulty thought processes that led to those feelings. It might sound like an odd approach, but its overlap with cognitive behavioral therapy makes it valuable for many people struggling with alcoholism.

What Is Rational Emotive Therapy?

Rational emotive therapy involves examining the reasoning and thought processes behind your beliefs. The theory is that these processes affect the conclusions you reach about a given issue, and this produces an emotional reaction and drives your behavior. It argues that irrational beliefs lead to negative emotions, and ultimately problems like alcoholism or addiction in general.

The specific irrational beliefs can vary, but usually involve unrealistic expectations of yourself or others, or expecting that you’ll always get what you want.

Rational Emotive Therapy’s ABCs

One of the most important ideas in rational emotive therapy is the ABC model:

  • A is the activating event: This is the occurrence that leads to the reaction (e.g. you ask a coworker on a date but get rejected).
  • B is your belief about the event: This is how you interpret the event in your mind (e.g. “he/she didn’t want to date me because I’m unlovable”).
  • C is the consequence of that belief: This is your emotional reaction as a result of your belief (e.g. becoming depressed because you believe nobody will ever love you).

The flaw in B leads to negative emotions and the often self-defeating behavior in C. In the example, there could be many reasons the individual rejected your offer — he or she could be in a relationship, or simply not want to date somebody from work. Neither of these means that you’re unlovable, and they’re more likely explanations for the rejection. Adopting a more rational belief improves the emotional response.

Rational Emotive Therapy for Alcoholism

Rational emotive therapy works for alcoholism because at their root, most addictions are maintained as poor coping mechanisms for negative emotions. In the example above, the belief you’re unlovable could make you depressed, and that depression could make you drink. All of this ultimately stems from the same faulty belief (B).

By tackling the faulty beliefs that lead to these emotions, your therapist aims to help you understand that the end reactions are unjustified. This is very similar to cognitive behavioral therapy (and was developed at around the same time), and is often combined with it by addiction specialists.

Choosing Rational Emotive Therapy for Alcoholism

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, rational emotive therapy may be just the type of support you need. The focus on reason and challenging your assumptions could help you change the way you think and make a positive impact on your life.



“Instructor’s Manual for Rational Emotive Therapy for Addictions,” by Deb Hammels and Victor Yalom


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