Acceptance During Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

Therapy is one of the most widely used tools when treating cases of drug and alcohol addiction. Being able to cope and understand your thought processes can be a huge help in reaching long-term sobriety. At North Jersey Recovery Center we provide many different types of therapy methods, one of which is Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT). Rational emotive behavioral therapy was one of the first-ever recognized cognitive-behavioral modalities for addiction. 

REBT follows some of the same goals as other cognitive-behavioral therapies for addiction. The goal is to help a person change their negative and self-destructive thoughts so they can focus on positive change. During these therapies, a person can adapt to their surroundings while having a positive outlook on themselves and the worlds around them. Addiction can be hard to overcome at times because of the negative and hopeless thoughts that roam in a person’s head. However, cognitive-behavioral therapies like REBT attempt to create change for the better.

What is Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy for Addiction?

REBT is commonly used in dual diagnosis cases for substance abuse as well as regular addiction. This form of therapy plays under the impression that people tend to think irrationally about their lives and how other people should behave. These thoughts can dictate how a person feels and reacts to themselves and others. Rational emotive behavioral therapy helps a person overcome these irrational thoughts and behaviors. 

A Guide for Children of Addicts

Behavioral therapies like rational emotive behavioral therapy are meant to achieve the following goals: 

  • Change a person’s thoughts and behaviors in relation to alcohol and drug addiction
  • Learn and develop healthy life skills and coping mechanisms in their daily life
  • Proceed and maintain treatment guidance with medications as needed

An example of an irrational and inaccurate frame of mind might be – If I don’t do my job perfectly always, I am a total failure. While this is obviously not accurate since no one is perfect all the time, people often have thoughts like this. This absolutist thought makes a strong connection of self-worth with performance, which is not entirely true. These thoughts can end up creating unnecessary feelings and thoughts that you must live up to unrealistic standards/expectations. 

REBT seeks to help a person overcome these irrational and inaccurate thoughts. 

Another goal of REBT is to help a person apply these thoughts and techniques to their everyday life. Focusing on more realistic and rational thoughts can help a person be less self-destructive. This is especially true in negative and irrational thoughts about drug and alcohol abuse. Rational emotive behavioral therapy helps addicts: 

  • Realize that while they may not have control over everything around them, they have the power to control how they respond and deal with stressful situations
  • Find and utilize ways to respond to situations realistically while not responding to irrational thoughts

The ABC Model of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

REBT follows a series of ideas and methods to help those struggling with addiction and other conditions. REBT is considered a form of psychotherapy and a philosophy of living – more so the idea that it is not the stressful events that make the person upset. Rational emotive behavioral therapy uses the basis that it’s the thoughts and irrational beliefs of the individual that causes them to feel anxious, depressed, and angry. 

Another idea of REBT is that a person’s reactions to having a goal blocked (or the thought of having them blocked) is based solely on their beliefs. Rational emotive behavioral therapy uses a simple ABC method to show how their beliefs create emotional/behavioral responses (which has since been expanded to ABCDE). 

  • A – (The) Activating Event: This represents an incident that creates negative beliefs and behaviors. This could be anything, big or small (not getting a raise, death of a loved one, etc.)  
  • B – Beliefs About the Situation: These are the thoughts and feels that are triggered by the event. This can lead to anger, guilt, and even anxiety. 
  • C – Consequences of These Beliefs (Emotional/Behavioral) – These are the consequences of the person’s beliefs. This could be lashing out at someone, overeating/not eating, turning to drugs or alcohol, etc. 
  • D – Disputing These Beliefs – The next step of REBT attempts to combat these irrational and negative beliefs. Instead of falling into emotional/behavioral consequences, a person will try to focus on these underlying beliefs and use evidence to combat them. 
  • E – Effective New Thinking/Behaviors – By using evidence to dispute their initial negative beliefs a person can change their mood, relationships, and satisfaction. Evidence refers to more positive outcomes and successful behaviors.

These pillars of rational emotive behavioral therapy help guide the person towards a more positive and self-improving state of mind. This is especially important in cases of addiction treatment. Combating these irrational, absolutistic beliefs and replacing them with rational beliefs (by disproving the irrational beliefs) is essential to recovery. Recovery can never truly be reached if a person does not have a clear and positive mind towards their addiction and life goals. 

Acceptance During Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

Another set of core values for REBT for substance abuse includes acceptance. This is acceptance of the world and the people around you. A fundamental part of combating an individual’s irrational beliefs is by accepting yourself and the world around you. There are ultimately three forms of acceptance when it comes to REBT:


    • Unconditional Self-Acceptance – An acceptance that no one is perfect, you have good and bad qualities, and there is no specific reason for these. However, despite these flaws, you are worth no more or no less than anyone else. 
    • Unconditional Other-Acceptance – Accepting that people around you may treat you unfairly; for there is no reason they must treat you fairly at all times. With this in mind, you must accept that they are people with flaws and problems just like you and they are still worthy. 
  • Unconditional Life-Acceptance – Accepting that life is not always fair nor does it always work out. Life is not automatically good or pleasant, however, life is not inherently bad either.

Using REBT for Drug and Alcohol Addiction 

REBT can be used for many cases of addiction or substance abuse. Unfortunately, there is a strong connection between drug abuse and depression/anxiety. Every year people attempt to self-medicate these conditions with drugs and alcohol (which only makes matters worse). Research has shown that drug abuse makes the symptoms of depression and anxiety much worse, not better. 

Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy

During rehab, REBT is used to aid the person in challenging their negative approach to stress. Turning to drugs and alcohol whenever things get bad is a consequence of negative and irrational beliefs. Rational emotive behavioral therapy helps a person understand that feeling stress is completely normal. While many of us face distress and pain throughout our lives, these feelings are only temporary. This type of therapy affirms this idea in addicts and discourages a person from turning to drugs or substances to suppress or make these feelings go away. 

REBT can also be used during the detoxification process, which is an essential and sometimes stressful part of treatment. Detoxification is always the start of almost all drug addiction treatment cases. Detox helps relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using the substance. As essential as this process is, a person may feel stress or emotions during the process. This therapy method can help a person accept the situation as it is instead of increasing the stress. 

Other Treatment for Addiction

North Jersey Recovery Center offers several treatment options for you or a loved one. Rational emotive behavioral therapy is just a piece of a much larger puzzle. As with all therapies, REBT is used with other treatment methods and therapy options. Addiction is a multileveled situation that requires guidance and care throughout the process. Everyone’s case is different and we keep that in mind with every single piece of care we provide. Here are a few commonly used treatment methods: 

    • Inpatient/Residential Treatment – Stay at a comfortable and safe rehab center for some time as you focus on recovery. With 24/7 help and support, you are never alone during the process. REBT, group therapy, and individual therapy are all available during the process. 
  • Outpatient Treatment Program – This type of treatment provides flexibility and comfort in the form of weekly visits (instead of living at a rehab center). Generally, outpatient treatment is best for milder cases of addiction since you may not have around-the-clock support.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) – IOP is an excellent middle-ground option for those who have responsibilities at home but need help. A person can get help by staying at home or living at a facility. Programs last between 9-20 weeks and are specialized for you. 

Start Your Journey at North Jersey Recovery Center

Rational emotive behavioral therapy is just one of many therapy options we provide at North Jersey Recovery. If you notice that you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, now is the time to get help. Learn more about our treatment options and your guide to a better life. Contact us today to get started.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.