Approaches To Mental Health Problems: REBT Vs CBT

There are various ways on how to cope with mental health problems and therapy is one of them. One of the most famous kind approaches to these disorders is popularly known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). What most patients are not aware that there is another treatment strategy which might be more apt with their condition and it is called the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

REBT is a type of behavioral therapy which was introduced by the famous Dr. Albert Ellis in the year 1955. Its approach deviates a little bit from traditional counseling and treatment; for this reason, coined as a revolutionary way of dealing with mental health problems. However, it is also seen to have similarities with CBT. Both types of therapies focus more on human emotions and behaviors which zooms ins to ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and thinking.

“Therapy is right for anyone who is interested in getting the most out of their life by taking responsibility, creating greater self-awareness, and working towards change in their lives.” –Chris Corbett, PsyD


It is essential to distinguish one from the other to be able to pinpoint which kind of therapy is more appropriate for you. Listed below are some of the distinct differences between these two.

Philosophical Basis

CBT focuses on distorted cognitions while REBT touches on it as well while addressing the philosophical grounds regarding an emotional disturbance.

For example, you plan on asking your best friend for a date, and you are feeling paranoid and anxious. You tell yourself, “She is my best friend so she might not be interested with me in a romantic way. She didn’t even flinch when I joked about my feelings.” Since there are other reasons why she did not flinch on your joke, CBT calls your “uninterested” conclusion as mind-reading, hence, dismissing it as a cognitive distortion.

“Cognitive behavioral therapy, often shortened to CBT, focuses on recognizing negative thought patterns and changing thoughts and behaviors and feelings through concrete skills.” –Hannah Goodman, LMHC

On the other hand, REBT looks at the more in-depth picture of why you came up with this conclusion. To illustrate, you might say to yourself, “I need her acceptance because if she rejects me, then it would prove that I am a loser and that no one will like me – even my best friend.”

These kinds of issues usually tackle negative conclusions in REBT. For this approach, the only solution to mental health states is acceptance. The first step is for the patient to accept his condition and the people around him must also try their best to receive the situation well. In the case of CBT, this is not an issue.

Helpful Negative Emotions

“Negative thoughts are just a part of life, but they don’t have to consume you. Instead of trying to ignore those thoughts altogether, try countering them with positive statements.” –John Mayer, Ph.D.

The main distinction between these two is how they process negative emotions. REBT has a unique way of dealing with these emotions. They know how to transform self-destructive and inappropriate negative emotions into effective ones. REBT urges the patients to look at the other side of the coin and think differently. They must learn to understand that there are a variety of situations which led to a particular outcome.

It will help them calm down by knowing that there are endless possibilities. CBT, on the other hand, does not do this practice.

Anger Management

REBT treats anger as something that is dictatorial, condemning, and commanding. With that in mind, the therapists make sure to assist the patient when it comes to solving their problems while addressing their anger issues at the same time. Instead of being consumed by their anger, REBT uses this anger for the patient to be able to transform and change for the better.


It is contrary to the belief of CBT wherein they view this emotion as healthy and appropriate. Although CBT also teaches assertiveness, they fail to pinpoint the philosophic root of why this anger existed in the first place.

Accepting Oneself

The focus of CBT is to uplift a person’s self-esteem. Some professional even say that this approach creates an illusion for the patient. REBT, on the other hand, is more inclined to encouraging self-acceptance. Instead of just rating his behavior and identifying the patient’s shortcomings, REBT helps in opening his eyes to be able to see the light and positivity in his condition.


Once he has accepted his state, the individual has to learn how to recognize it fully. This method is commonly known as the Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA).

Time Frame

The course of REBT therapy is known to be only around 8 to 10 weeks which is briefer than the conventional CBT approach. In the case of CBT, it depends on the progress of the patient. It might only last for a few weeks, even less than REBT’s time frame, but in extreme cases, it takes a year for the patient to recover.

These are only five significant differences between REBT and CBT. Even if both treatments have the same motive, there are still different ways on how to face and treat an individual’s problem. Either way, these two can help in overcoming a mental health problem. You have to find the best approach fit for you.