Monday, 27 September 2010

Adelaide REBT Theory and Practice Workshop

Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis and I again had the opportunity to spread the ‘Gospel of St Albert ‘ to a group of enthusiastic folk. They hailed from as far afield as Karcultaby on the Eyre Peninsula and Canberra, the nations capital. It was a fine and sunny September day at the Education Development Centre in Hindmarsh and the day turned out to be a great success.

The group comprised people from many walks of life - educators, counsellors, psychologists and other individuals interested in their own development and the well being of others.

Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis told us about the life and times of her husband Dr. Albert Ellis. She brought along some DVD footage of Dr. Ellis doing his ‘stuff’ at various stages of his life. One particular scene of Dr Ellis hosting a group of enthusiastic students in the ER of a major New York hospital was testament to the REBT principle that ‘nothing is so awful that you can’t stand it!’ One appreciative and somewhat surprised student asks Dr. Ellis why did he not cancel the appointment. His reply was that he wanted to help as many people as he could to be happy and successful by using REBT. Dr. Ellis was at the time suffering from a multitude of serious health conditions and had survived a major mishap that morning! He was not just talking the talk he was walking it and he invited interested others to walk along side him.

A highlight of the day was Dr. Debbie’s demonstration to the group of the therapeutic application of REBT. A group member volunteered to be her client. It was a valuable learning experience to see REBT in action and to see how in a relatively short time, the client had largely resolved her problems. Our volunteer related how the session had been of great benefit to her and that she had successfully dealt with a personal issue of many months standing.

In the last session group members practiced their Rational Emotive Behaviour Counselling skills. They cherchez’d les shoulds, les oughts and les musts that lurk somewhere in our sub conscious and are expressed in behaviours and emotions that are not very helpful to ourselves or others. In a role-play we considered the plight of ‘Sharon’ who would often feel angry when other people weren’t as courteous as she would like them to be. Did this lack of due respect ‘make’ her angry? Or was there something else at work here? Did Sharon have a ‘should’ rule that wasn’t being adhered to and was it so awful that she couldn’t stand it? Was the perpetrator of this bad deed a bad person who deserved the ire of a self-righteous Sharon?

Group members successfully helped Sharon understand that it was her rigid belief that others should always treat her as she would like to be treated that drove her anger and aggression. When this rule was broken (as inevitably it will be) Sharon would deem this totally unacceptable and unfair and she would act (and feel) accordingly. Group members commented that it was quite a knack to help someone first identify a should/ought/must belief and then to successfully challenge (dispute) the veracity of such beliefs. It will take practice to improve of course but I think participants had a lot to go on and will bring their new learning and skills to their respective work places (Dr. Ellis would be pleased about this!)

We also looked at ways in which REBT principles and practices can be incorporated into the everyday learning of students in our schools through Rational Emotive Behaviour Education. Dr Ellis noted very early in the piece that all children would benefit greatly from understanding the relationship between their thinking, feeling and behaving so that they could learn to manage their self defeating behaviours and emotions successfully. We all agreed that it would be a useful endeavour to train our teachers to be Rational Emotive Behaviour Educators.

All Out! An autobiography by Dr. Ellis is an interesting read about the life and work of a very significant innovator and thinker. It provides great detail about the early influences of other people and events in his life that he reflected on and used to formulate his own philosophies about himself, others and the world. He acknowledges the legacy of the great philosophers of the past (Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius) whose ideas stimulated his own thinking and also the influence of other more contemporary thinkers like Alfred Korzybski and Karen Horney. Ellis was respected by many and though his ideas and methods were criticised and vehemently denied by the psychoanalytic establishment, he held firm and vigorously maintained his position even in the harshest of times. Today he is considered to be a ‘giant’ of psychotherapy. It’s published by Prometheus Books and is well worth a read.