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Criticisms of Ellis and REBT

Ellis claimed that his therapy could handle most problems as well or better than compet­ing therapies. That arrogance rubbed some people the wrong way. They accused him of having the attitude, "Anything you can do, I can do better."

What are some things about Ellis's therapy that some people dislike?

Some people were turned off by Ellis's confrontational approach. Many clients did not like having their beliefs attacked, so they left therapy without being helped.

That was OK with Ellis. He thought a person had to be mentally tough to cope with life, so a therapist should model that behavior.

Ellis claimed to practice the Rogerian principle of unconditional positive regard with his clients. But he did not hesitate to administer tough love by disputing the client's ideas or suggesting new ones to put in their place.

Part of this was just Ellis's own person­ality. Other REBT practitioners were not so confrontational, and most cognitive behavior therapists in the 21st Century engage in problem-solving and cogni­tive re-structuring with their clients with a more quiet approach.

REBT, like all psychotherapies, does not always work, and it is not always what people want. Ellis had an explanation for why the therapy sometimes failed.

He wrote that people who claimed to be following REBT principles often turned out to be doing no such thing. Long-term psycho­therapy might be necessary, he said, to make sure a person was actually putting revised beliefs into action, not just talking about them.

Why might long-term therapy be needed, according to Ellis?

In other cases, people reacted badly to the direct sort of advice Ellis dispensed. A person who preferred to "vent" or share worries with a therapist, without getting corrected, would be happier with a nondirective therapist.

To use John Gray's terminology, Ellis was from Mars, Rogers was from Venus. Clients needed to select the appropriate type of counseling for their own needs.


Write to Dr. Dewey at psywww@gmail.com.


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