Cognitive Behavioral Theory Versus Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory



Cognitive Behavioral Theory Versus Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory

Kayla C. Sharpe

Walden University


Cognitive Behavioral Theory Versus Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory

Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) and Rational Emotive Behavioral Theory (REBT)

are two psychotherapeutic techniques that are used in the treatment of mental health disorders.

CBT has been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of many emotional and behavioral

issues (Wheeler, 2014). CBT is often the treatment of choice for most patients who need internal

resources and enhanced coping skills (Wheeler, 2014). REBT is the original form and one of the

main pillars of CBT, and has served as the basis for the development of CBT (David et al.,

2018). In REBT, irrational beliefs are considered central factors of emotional distress (David et

al., 2018). The focus of REBT is changing irrational beliefs into rational beliefs, with the aim of

changing dysfunctional emotions and maladaptive behaviors into functional and adaptive ones

(David et al., 2018). As a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, it is important to

understand the implications of both CBT and REBT in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

This week’s assignment will focus on the similarities and differences between CBT and REBT,

and explain which therapy I will utilize as a future PMHNP.

Similarities Between Theories

As REBT is one of the main pillars of CBT, there are many similarities between the two

therapies. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that challenges negative patterns of thought about the

self and the outside world, in order to change unwanted behaviors. The basic premise of CBT is

that depression and anxiety are the result of cognitive distortions and these distortions are learned

errors in thinking (Wheeler 2014). The individual’s view of the self and the world is central to

the determination of emotions and behaviors and thus by changing one’s thoughts, emotions and

behaviors can also be changed (Wheeler, 2014). The premise of REBT is that mental illness


comes from inappropriate thoughts, and the elements that make up these thoughts are irrational

beliefs (Xu & Liu, 2017). These beliefs are irrational, nonexperimental and non-functional and

do not confirm the realities of people's lives and cause emotional and behavioral harm (Xu &

Liu, 2017). These therapies focus on changing destructive thought processes that impact daily

lives, and there are many similarities between the two.

CBT and REBT are similar in that they include steps that allow an individual to complete

the cognitive, emotive, and behavioral homework that is assigned after each treatment (Iftene,

Predescu, Stefan, & David, 2015). The best outcomes for both of these therapies is typically seen

when completed with a therapist that specializes in CBT and REBT (Iftene et al., 2015). Both

CBT and REBT teach individuals how they can use their negative patterns of thinking to shape

their future thoughts into more functional and constructive ones (Iftene et al., 2015). These

therapies focus on changing dysfunctional and irrational thoughts so that individuals are able to

break the cycle of emotional disturbance and self-sabotaging behaviors (Iftene et al., 2015).

Differences Between Theories

Along with similarities, there are also differences between CBT and REBT, and how they

should be approached in the treatment of psychological disorders. CBT focuses on altering the

person’s view of themselves, whereas REBT focuses on the beliefs that cause the certain

behavior. For example, ​REBT distinguishes between rational and irrational beliefs, and suggests

that in response to failure, maltreatment, and misfortune, people can react with either healthy or

unhealthy emotional and behavioral responses (Turner, 2016). This could be helpful in the

treatment of anxiety and depression, as the client could identify how their beliefs influence their

behaviors and therefore their mental health. Another difference between CBT and REBT, is that


REBT addresses the philosophical foundation of cognitive distortions, which are the focus of

CBT. REBT places this central idea or philosophy into an ABC framework where the event is

represented by the letter A (activating event or adversity), the beliefs are allocated the letter B,

and finally emotions and behaviors are represented by C (consequences) (Turner, 2016).

Inspired primarily by the Stoic philosophers, REBT holds that it is not the events that

directly cause emotions and behaviors, but one’s beliefs about the events that lead to emotional

and behavioral reactivity (Turner, 2016). REBT looks at the underlying reason for dysfunctional

thoughts, making the individual look deeper into the cause of their behaviors. Unlike with CBT,

REBT proposes a binary model of distress whereby healthy negative emotions (HNEs)

associated with adaptive behaviors stem from rational beliefs, whilst unhealthy negative

emotions (UNEs) associated with maladaptive behaviors stem from irrational beliefs (Turner,

2016). This allows providers to help clients identify rationality from irrational thinking, thereby

addressing cognitive distortions and behaviors.

Provider Approach

As a future PMHNP, it is important to understand both CBT and REBT, and what

resources these therapies provide to individuals under your care. As a provider, I hope to utilize

both of these therapies in the clinical setting, as they both serve a purpose in the treatment of

psychological disorders. Dr. Aaron Beck states that therapy should be easily interlocked with

theory so that you can derive from the theory a particular set of therapeutic devices (Beck, 1994).

This means that when using either CBT, REBT, or a combination of both, utilizing the

therapeutic devices taught within the theory will be beneficial to your practice and the therapy

provided to patients. These theories are based on treatment plans that have been conceptualized


and tested, and guide the provider through each action, session, and overall plan of care

(Wheeler, 2014). I believe that both CBT and REBT provide a framework that allow individuals

to truly change their negative thought processes, therefore changing their overall wellbeing.



Beck, A. (1994). ​Aaron Beck on cognitive therapy​ [Video file]. Mill Valley, CA:

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and cognitive-behavioral therapy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. ​Journal of

Clinical Psychology​, ​74​(3), 304–318.

Iftene, F., Predescu, E., Stefan, S., & David, D. (2015). Rational-emotive and cognitive-behavior

therapy (REBT/CBT) versus pharmacotherapy versus REBT/CBT plus pharmacotherapy

in the treatment of major depressive disorder in youth; A randomized clinical trial.

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Beliefs, and the Mental Health of Athletes. ​FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY​, ​7​.

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guide for evidence-based practice​ (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing


Xu, L., & Liu, H. (2017). Effects of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) Intervention

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