Born in Pittsburgh, although soon moving to New York, Ellis is the prolific founder of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, writing more than 700 articles, 50 books, starting the Journal of Rational-Emotive Behavior and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. In his 80s, he continues to work 80+ hour weeks. Ellis work emphasizes the role of irrational beliefs in maintaining our depression. As a result, his work, at least as he practices it, is fairly confrontational as he attacks those beliefs leading to maladaptive emotional consequences. However, he believes in criticizing the behavior and thoughts of a person, not the person. This latter idea is similar to Roger's unconditional positive regard, and not usually associated with Ellis. The founder of RET and the President of the Albert Ellis Institute, New York, Albert Ellis, along with Carl Rogers, received the distinction of being named one of the most influential psychotherapists in an article in the American Psychologist. Following them in the ranking were other noted psychotherapists including Freud, Wolpe, Lazarus, Perls, Beck, Haley, Erickson, and Meichenbaum. Albert Ellis holds a Ph.D. degree from Columbia University and is one of the world's most active psychotherapists. He has written or edited more than 50 books and monographs, published over 700 articles, and has composed more than 200 rational songs. Dr. Ellis has received many awards including distinguished psychologist, scientific researcher, and distinguished psychological practitioner from several associations, including the American Humanist Association, American Academy of Psychotherapists, Society for the Study for Scientific Sex, American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and Academy of Psychologists in Marital and Family Therapy. He also earned one of the highest awards of the American Psychological Association: Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge.
Follows is a selective and haphazard set of references to Ellis' work.
Ellis, A. (1973). Humanistic Psychotherapy: The rational-emotive approach. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Ellis, A. (1984). The use of hypnosis with rational emotive therapy (RET). International Journal of Eclectic Psychotherapy, 3, 15-22.
Ellis, A. (1995). Rational-emotive behavior therapy. In R.J. Corsini & D. Wedding (Eds.), Current Psychotherapies (5th ed.), pp. 162-196. Itasca, IL: F. E. Peacock.
Ellis, A. & Harper, R. (1975). A new guide to rational living. Hollywood, CA: Wilshire Books.
One of psychology's leading practitioners relies on his own psychological theory to cope with his physical disabilities.
His eyes are so chroni cally tired that he needs to close them during sessions with his patients. He has diabetes. His hearing is weak.
But Albert Ellis, PhD, 82, the celebrated father of a cognitive psychological treatment known as Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, or REBT, says he's used his therapeutic philosophy on himself to keep from falling into a pit of self-pity. And he believes his disabilities--some from which he has had since young adulthood--may actually enhance his skill at helping clients, particularly those who have disabilities.
"They see I refuse to whine about my adversities. I work my ass off in spite of them, and have the courage to accept what I can't change," Ellis said during a presentation on using REBT to cope with disabilities.
"They therefore often use me as a healthy model and see that they, too, can happily live and work in spite of their life misfortunes."
Ellis developed REBT, then known simply as Rational Emotive Therapy, in 1955 out of frustration with more traditional psychoanalytic techniques. REBT's primary goal is to help people dispute their own irrational beliefs, and to respond more effectively to the problems they encounter.
People with serious disabilities are particularly prone to a mindset of distorted self-deprecation because some may have physcial or other limitations and therefore face criticism and scorn from others, Ellis said. "Because they notice their own ineptness and because many of their relatives and associates ignore or condemn them for it, they falsely tend to conclude, 'My deficiencies make me a deficient, inadequate individual,'" he said.
Ellis helps his clients with disabilities recognize their worth, shows them how to minimize their self-pity, depression and anger and helps them accept the challenge of being productive and happy in spite of their disabilities. Clients in REBT learn a variety of cognitive remedies for their emotional pain, such as rational coping statements and positive visualization.
"I don't object to their strong preferences to be unhandicapped," he said, "but I strongly dispute their necessity to be undisabled and therefore lead a happy life."
A true model
Ellis said he has indeed learned firsthand how to keep himself from dysfunctional thoughts that may accompany disabilities. He encountered his first major disability at age 19, when he noticed his eyes became easily fatigued. To this day, none of the opthamologists he has consulted have been able to firmly identify a cause. But Ellis cannot read for more than 20 minutes at a time, and keeps his eyes closed as much as possible--even when he talks with other people.
He concedes that he may miss some important nonverbal gestures and other visual cues from his clients, but has learned to compensate by fine-tuning his listening skills.
He concentrates on their tone of voice, speech hesitations and accelerations, and other aspects of their verbalization. He said his closed eyes also help his clients feel more relaxed, and to focus more on themselves instead of worrying about how he views them.
Ellis developed a hearing loss in his late 60s. He now uses a hearing aid, but still has to ask clients to speak up.
And he has struggled with diabetes since age 40. He must inject himself with insulin twice a day, maintain a severely restricted diet and exercise regularly.
Ellis added that his diabetes has left him with urinary problems, and over the years he has also undergone major medical procedures, including stomach and tracheal surgery.
He said his own therapeutic technique helps him control the frustration he feels about the daily steps he must take to deal with his disabilities and to preserve his health.
"I tell myself, whenever I feel that I am getting inpatient or angry about my various handicaps, 'Too damned bad!," he said. "It's hard doing so many things to keep myself in a relatively healthy condition--but it's much harder, and in the long run much more painful and deadly, if I don't keep doing this."
45 East 65th Street, New York, NY 10021