Albert Ellis developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, commonly referred to as REBT, in the 1950s. REBT shares common concepts and strategies with other humanistic therapies, but there are several distinct differences. For example, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy differs in its approach to cognitive distortions. Additionally, Counselors and Therapists believe that helping clients think rationally will improve their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, therefore improving overall daily functioning (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Keep reading to learn 10 REBT exercises and activities you can do with your clients.

As REBT has evolved over the years, it has become more compatible with other therapeutic approaches, including narrative therapy, constructivist therapy, and existential therapy (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). REBT Counselors and Therapists respect each client’s background and viewpoints, except for harsh patterns that may harm or harm their clients (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

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When using REBT with clients, Counselors and Therapists perceive changes in beliefs as progress, which often results in a decrease in their overall level of anxiety (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Counselors empower their clients to become more aware of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. More importantly, however, Counselors help clients learn strategies and skills that allow them to increase their ability to engage in rational thinking (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

There are six steps involved in REBT that Counselors and Therapists follow (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010):

  1. Identify the client’s irrational beliefs
  2. Examine the negative consequences of their beliefs
  3. Challenging their irrational beliefs
  4. Replace their irrational beliefs with healthier and more rational ones
  5. Change in feelings occurs as a result of rational beliefs
  6. There are also positive changes in behavior

Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit from REBT

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy is an empirically based therapeutic approach that can be helpful for a range of clients. This includes different presenting concerns and diagnoses, health care settings, and diverse client populations (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

REBT can be used in group therapy, individual therapy, family sessions, couples counseling, and psychoeducational sessions (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Clients living with mild to moderate mental health problems may benefit from Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This includes clients living with depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorders, anger and aggression difficulties, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and sexual difficulties (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010). Additionally, REBT may be effective in some substance use disorders and can be observed in a peer-led support group called SMART Recovery (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy asks clients to engage in homework outside of the session. For this reason, it is important to ensure that clients are aware of REBT and have clear expectations for their involvement outside of therapy sessions. For some clients, this can create a barrier that limits their ability to later experience the full range of clinical gains associated with REBT.

REBT Trainings and Client related activities

Rational Emotive Behavior exercises can be used within therapy sessions and can be used as homework outside of sessions. When REBT activities are used as homework, this will be reviewed in the next session after a regular review of the old work, their overall level of difficulty and functioning, and any major changes that have occurred since the last session (Seligman & Reichenberg, 2010).

Examples of Rational Emotive Behavior activities that can be used in a session include:

  1. ABCDEF is a structured plan that can be used in sessions to identify, evaluate, challenge and change beliefs. An acronym can be useful for both ourselves and our clients to remember the steps we need to follow. Take time to review the steps with your client and walk through an example based on the current problem they are facing. There is TherapyByPro REBT ABCDEF Worksheet available that can be used during homework.

The abbreviation for length is as follows:

A: Activates the event

B: Belief about the activating event

C: Consequences of Faith]

D: Argue with faith

E: Effective

F: New feelings and behaviors

  1. In order to do REBT work, our clients need to spend time exploring their own thoughts and feelings. Without doing this, they will not know how to reach the beliefs that lead to difficulty. Asking your client to explore their thoughts and feelings is a cognitive strategy that can be given as fluid homework. Perhaps your client would benefit from doing this as a journal entry or doing this inner exploration while going for a peaceful walk. Help your client determine how best to engage in self-exploration and use this as homework. Allow time to follow up in the next session.
  2. When working with your client to identify unhealthy beliefs, many find it helpful to provide clients with a worksheet that provides examples of common unhealthy beliefs. TherapyByPro offers REBT Irrational Belief Worksheet which can also be used to track rational beliefs that can be used to replace irrational beliefs. Encourage your client to consider their beliefs outside of the session and note any other beliefs they find outside of the session.
  3. Of all the relationships our customers have, the most important is the relationship they have with themselves. The person they talk to the most is themselves, so another good REBT exercise is to explore their self-talk. How our clients talk to themselves is a direct result of their beliefs about themselves and undoubtedly affects their emotions and behavior. Encourage your client to pay attention to their self-talk and how it affects their feelings and behavior. You can then explore the belief that their self-talk stems from it and see how they can adjust their self-talk to be healthier.
  4. TherapyByPro offers Results Analysis Worksheet This can be used to walk your client through the various consequences they have experienced for their irrational beliefs. This can be a useful tool if your client can’t see the full impact of their belief and control the progression of the best approach. After using the worksheet, check in with your client to see how they responded to their irrational beliefs and the changes they experienced in relation to their typical outcomes.
  5. Another cognitive strategy that can be used as a REBT activity is to have your client develop rational thinking to replace the irrational. Once you’ve done this, ask your client to rewrite their new ideas. Customers can express the new idea verbally as well as in writing. This exercise can be done in session and continued out of session. Allow time to observe your client’s experience with this exercise and any effects you notice on their feelings and behavior.
  6. Emotional reasoning is an example of an unhealthy way of thinking that can have a significant impact on a person’s daily life. TherapyByPro REBT Emotional Judgment Worksheet can be used to help clients identify their extreme beliefs and rational beliefs for specific situations. This can help clients narrow down the extreme beliefs that have the most significant impact on them.
  7. Relaxation techniques are often introduced to clients in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. This can include meditation, breathing exercises, visualization and guided imagery. Take the time to introduce your client to multiple relaxation techniques and allow time for some exercise in the session. This can be useful with techniques that may be difficult to use or may confuse your client. Encourage your client to use these strategies outside of the session, both when distressed and in distress. Allow time to observe their experiences and any changes in thoughts, emotions and feelings they observe.
  8. Another unhealthy mindset that our clients may experience is jumping to conclusions and fortune-telling. The Link to REBT Results and Fortune Teller Worksheet can be used to identify unhealthy beliefs that clients may have for certain situations and rational beliefs that can be used to replace them. Encourage clients to consider beliefs discussed outside of the session.
  9. In order for clients to manage their difficulties, they must first learn healthy coping skills. After introducing your client to a variety of new coping skills they can use, an effective REBT exercise would be to work with them to create a challenging situation in which they can practice using their new coping skills. For example, if your client is picking out evening wear for the next day, waiting until the morning to pick out an outfit might be a problem for them. Encourage your client to use new coping skills during the created challenge and give them time to process the experience in your next session.

Final thoughts on selecting activities for REBT

Thanks for reading our resource on 10 REBT exercises and activities you can do with your clients. REBT can be an effective therapeutic approach for clients seeking counseling with a variety of concerns. With plenty of supporting research, we know it can be a helpful tool for clients who struggle with certain concerns and are ready to try skills and other strategies outside of therapy.

If you are interested in learning more about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, we encourage you to explore continuing education courses and specialized training opportunities in your area.

TherapyByPro is a program online mental health directory connecting mental health professionals with clients in need. If you are a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your experience listing here. We have templates for assessments, practice forms, and worksheets that mental health professionals can use to facilitate their practice. Look at all of us mental health worksheets here.

View all of our REBT Worksheets


Seligman, L. & Reichenberg, LW (2010). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Systems, strategies and skills (3rd Edition, pp. 251-269). Pearson Education, Inc.

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