Saturday, 28 March 2015

Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Education (REBE) is a psychotherapy-based system of behaviour education based on Albert Ellis' ABC Theory of Emotional (and behavioural) Disturbance. It teaches that the events in our lives PLUS our constructed beliefs (personal philosophies about self, others and life) drive our behavioural and emotional responses to situations (A+B=C). It is not the event itself alone that causes emotional and behavioural disturbance. (A=C).

This is not a ‘think positive and everything will be OK’ approach, it is not the vacuous ‘there, there all will be OK’ mantra of the ‘warm fuzzy’ movement of the 80’s.

Each day students whither in the face of challenge and discomfort, withdrawing from activities they don't like or find 'boring.' 'I don't want to do sport because it's boring' or 'maths is boring and makes me mad.' Each time a student withdraws from challenges her ability to bounce back in adverse times diminishes. They construct the view that 'in life I shouldn't have to do things that are hard and boring and it's not fair when things don't go my way as they must do and I just can't stand it.' This is the motto of the helpless, those who have not been held to account when the going got tough. And the result? Young people are not ready for the real world where they will be held to account and their livelihood will depend on it. Will they then default to the care of their families, the government to look after them in a world that is 'unfair and boring' and which makes them so 'angry/anxious/depressed?'

REBE challenges students to consider if their anger/boredom/anxiety/depression is indeed ‘made’ by other people and events. It explains what constructivism is and how our constructed beliefs drive how we feel and behave. If a student believes that a challenge is not a catastrophe and she can stand discomfort she is more likely to hang in there when the going gets tough. If she believes on the other hand that she ‘shouldn’t be inconvenienced by difficulty and that she can’t stand tough situations' she is more likely to give up and feel angry.

REBE teaches students how to take control of their emotions and behaviours so that they continue to work towards their goals in life. It teaches them that life is not a cakewalk and that things won’t always go their way but to hang tough when the going gets tough.

The staff at Para Hills School P-7 South Australia teach REBE across all curriculum areas and the benefits are many:

  •        Improved attendance
  •        Improved mental health outcomes
  •        Students more engaged in learning
  •        More confident learners

As Dr Albert Ellis once said: 'The universe doesn’t care about you, it’s not for or against you, it just doesn’t give a shit.

Malcom Fraser

This blog post is dedicated to the late Malcolm Fraser. Vale.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Approvalism - the need to be needed

The professional victim is adept at deflecting blame, using hard luck stories to win sympathy, making herself ‘indispensible’ to influential others. This all feeds her need to be needed. She has low self worth and has such a poor opinion of herself that she relies on the approval of others to feel good about herself, an approval addiction/dependence. In previous posts we have discussed Serious Approval Dependence (SAD) where the individual needs to be noticed and esteemed by others. When this is taken away, the individual can be left with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and self-loathing. She may also resent those who don’t acknowledge her talents and capabilities (as they absolutely should! – see Albert Ellis’ ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance). She is often left feeling angry, anxious and depressed.

Approval needy people are worthy of understanding and respect but at the same time those around her would be wise to protect themselves from her manipulative behaviour.

1. Be aware of she who sits on every or most committees
2. Don’t feed her need to be needed – she needs your approval, don’t give it!
3. Be prepared to become a target of her anger/resentment if you are strong enough not to be drawn into her web of lies and deceit.
4. Tears and claims of victimhood will be the strategy of choice used when there is any sense that she has been caught out (‘My integrity is at stake here! This is so unfair.’)
5. She will put others down strategically when others who are ‘on side’ are around.
6. She will delegate difficult jobs to others (that she can’t do herself) and criticize them when they fail (as they will do).
7. She will withhold important information from colleagues.
8. She will deny professional learning opportunities to her 'underlings' and then criticize them when they don’t perform as well as they ‘should’.
9. She will tell her line manager that so and so is lazy, inefficient (who will believe her as she is his confidante at his disposal 24/7 and therefore must be right)
10. The above strategies will be used to her advantage e.g. engineer the employment of people she knows to positions on staff (to replace those inefficient others who ‘don’t do a good job’) who she can control.
11. She will tell lies to get what she wants.
12. She will be aided and abetted by line managers who wouldn’t want to get her offside as she is greatly needed (just as she likes to be).

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Albert Ellis, Bat Fink and Jonas Salk - deadly!

‘You can’t teach young students the ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance and it should only be used by a trained psychologist in the counselling setting.’ Albert Ellis railed against this kind of misinformation put forth to preserve the status of the psychologist as ‘expert.’ Ellis of course wanted his ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance to be accessible to all, especially to teachers and students. Far better that young children learn why they feel and act as they do and to develop insights and skills preventatively and educatively in the school setting.

Jonas Salk who created the polio vaccine hypothesised that if we could ‘psychologically immunise’ students they would be less prone to mental health issues and would probably be physically better off too.

Bat Fink, the cartoon character said to his enemies ‘your bullets cannot harm me, my wings are like shields of steel?’ He would wrap his wings around himself deflecting any harmful bullets from hitting him, thwarting those who would have him undone.  

Teaching students how to deflect psychological harm as part of daily curricula activities would be a useful thing. Rational Emotive Behaviour Education does just that by using some basic but essential counselling tools and ideas. To those who may think ‘I am not a psychologist and I have enough to teach’ consider the following and reap the benefits.

1.     Kids actions are determined largely by their constructed views (beliefs) about themselves, others and the world (as indeed our own are).
2.     These beliefs can be mostly helpful (rational) or unhelpful (irrational).
3.     Strength of emotion is also linked to these constructed views – ‘I want something and I must have it and I didn’t get it.’= anger. ‘I want something and I prefer to have it but I can wait.’ = disappointment.
4.     Thinking, feeling and behaving are connected – ‘Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so!’ Hamlet.


1.     Teach how broccoli is only good or bad depending on what you think about it (replace broccoli with ‘maths’ ‘chores’ etc)
2.     Teach the Emotional Thermometer – words for varying strength of feeling.
3.     Teach the Catastrophe Scale – how to put the severity of problems into reasonable perspective (is a sore toe as bad as your favourite pet gerbil being eaten by a cat)
4.     Provide behaviour specific feedback to students not person specific (you did that well/badly not you are a lazy klutz!)
5.     You can do dumb but not be dumb, a very important distinction (you ARE NOT what you DO. You ARE NOT what others THINK of you). You can fail at something but never can you BE a failure (unless you believe you are – irrational)

Use the idea of Bat Fink deflecting harmful bullets and encourage students to consider information and evidence to draw their own conclusions about their self worth and rejecting (deflecting) errant incoming data. Can a person be bad? No. A person can act badly which does not cancel out the positive qualities that remain.  Failure also doesn’t define a person nor does rejection i.e. we are worthwhile because we are here! (Albert Ellis – Unconditional Self-Acceptance).

Your bullets cannot harm me!

Teachers at Para Hills P-7 work hard to impart the Bat Fink philosophy to all students. Mindfullness!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Para Hills P-7 - mental health promotion across the curriculum

Para Hills School P-7 has been addressing mental health at educative/preventative and therapeutic levels for almost a year now. The Kids Matter initiative has as one of its focus areas 'social and emotional learning (including evidence-based social and emotional learning programs -SEL)'. SEL is promoted continuously and relentlessly across all curriculum areas through the Rational Emotive Behaviour Education in Schools Program in operation at Para Hills School and other schools like Stuart High School, Whyalla Stuart Campus R7 and Long Street Primary Schools in Whyalla in South Australia.

Rational Emotive Behaviour Education

This is a systematic, counselling theory based program that teaches and reinforces that students (we) are the architects of our own personal philosophies about ourselves, others and the world and it's these that determine by and large how we feel and behave.  Albert Ellis' ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance is the key underlying theory/model for mental health promotion at Para Hills School P-7.

Albert Ellis himself supports us through the custodians of his work and legacy 

Para Hills School P-7

Monday, 9 March 2015

Whyalla News - supporting mental health promotion in schools

Whyalla News has supported the promotion of innovative mental health programs in schools over the years. Senior editor Kayleigh Bruce has written about the continuing journey of the Rational Emotive Behaviour Education in Schools Program. Though The Albert Ellis Centre has closed in Whyalla it continues to thrive at Para Hills School P-7 where teachers work hard to help students to develop positive habits of believing. As Kayleigh says in her article the REBE story began in Whyalla not too long ago and its momentum continues to grow. Thanks Whyalla. Thanks Kayleigh. Thanks whyalla News! Kayleighs article appears below.

Whyalla the platform for program’s success

An innovative behavioural education program piloted in Whyalla has been gaining recognition in the wider public eye.
Former local Giulio Bortlozzo’s work in delivering Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) in schools has been adopted by a number of schools in Adelaide, and featured in CBT Magazine, the official magazine of British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, last month as well as Psychology Today in America.
The Rational Emotive Behaviour Education (REBE) in Schools program was written by Mr Bortolozzo based on the work of acclaimed American psychologist Doctor Albert Ellis.
Described as the greatest living psychologist before his death in 2007, Dr Ellis was the creator of REBT and REBE.
Mr Bortolozzo regularly corresponded with Dr Ellis before his death on his works and shared his passion for the principles of REBT and REBE and the desire to share them with others.
This passion saw Mr Bortolozzo champion the idea of setting up a training centre that taught a program based on REBE principles and practice.
The Albert Ellis Learning Centre opened at Stuart High School in 2012 with a program of professional learning providing training for educators, counsellors and allied professionals in Whyalla and the Eyre and Western region.
More than 300 people attended workshops over the following two years and teachers took their learning back to their schools.
The Albert Ellis Professional Learning Centre
The program was successfully run at Stuart High School, Whyalla Stuart Campus R-7, Hincks Avenue Primary School, Long Street Primary School and Whyalla Stuart Kindergarten.
The centre itself was the first of its kind in the world and while it was forced to close when Mr Bortolozzo relocated to Adelaide in 2014, it set a benchmark for addressing mental health issues and developing resilience in students.
Mr Bortolozzo said the early foundations of the program in Whyalla had vastly helped to catapult REBE to a wider audience.
“The principle of teaching people to think in healthy ways and therefore create healthy emotions is being implemented elsewhere because of the early groundwork in Whyalla,” Mr Bortolozzo said.
“So the story continues to develop and though the centre is now closed, its influence has been significant and continues to grow.”
The REBE in Schools program teaches students to develop their personal capabilities to help them be as successful and happy as they can be. 

I'm the best! - the teacher told me so (it must be true!)

‘The teacher said I’m the best pupil’ the student declares proudly (see picture below). What does this mean? The individual may construe this in a rational way or an irrational way. Rational Emotive Behaviour Education teaches student’s about Unconditional Self - Acceptance that demonstrates how one positive or one negative personal attribute or characteristic does not or cannot define categorically a person’s total value.  It teaches students that their worth isn’t given to them by others and therefore cannot be taken away. They have worth because they exist and ‘that’s that’ as Albert Ellis would say. The same applies to success and failure.  We can fail at something but does that make us failures?

This is a very important insight for students to have. How many students measure their worth according to how well they do in their exams? Or how they are esteemed by others? When we measure our worth according to how others view us or how well we do we are at great risk. Why? Because when people we like do not like us and when we bomb out in our studies (as may happen) we may view this to mean that that we are unlikeable, dumb and unworthy. Dr. Ellis would say that this is self-defeating musturbatory thinking. Must we absolutely always achieve our goals and must we have the love and respect of all significant others?

Our subject, the ‘best pupil’ may seek the approval of the teacher and others in order to validate his personal worth. If he needs the approval of significant others (his teacher) he will work hard to ‘please’ the teacher at every opportunity. He may develop Serious Approval Dependence (SAD) and experience exaggerated levels of anxiety (I must do well. It would be awful if I didn’t). He may outperform his peers in some aspects of the curriculum and he could consistently achieve high grades but this cannot determine his overall worth as a person. He has some faults and hopefully more positive attributes so it is impossible to rate him as ‘the best.’ 
Better that he consider his teachers assertion that he is the best pupil in some kind of perspective; 

‘yeah I do well because I work hard and I’m good at some things and I feel good about that. I am not the best pupil because Mary is by far a better artist than I am and I don’t do so well at music. The teacher may consider me the best but that’s his opinion. I know I am OK and worthwhile but not any better or worse than anyone else. I accept myself even when I do badly at things.'

Use the picture from People and Emotions to explore these ideas. What might the other student be thinking? Would she feel upset about this or really angry? Would she feel sad and disappointed or really depressed about the teacher’s appraisal of our ‘best’ pupil?
Teach your students the link between thinking (believing) feeling and behaviour. Tell them about helpful thinking (rational) like:

  • Unconditional Self-acceptance: I accept myself warts and all. I cannot be bad or good. I’m worthwhile even when I fail and others reject me.

  • Unconditional Other Acceptance: I accept others because they exist like me. I won’t judge their person but I can judge aspects of their person and decide not to associate with them if I choose. I can dislike a behaviour which though bad doesn’t make them totally bad.

  • Unconditional Life Acceptance: I accept that the world isn’t for me or against me. Sometimes things won’t go my way. I don’t expect that I should always get what I want (though I prefer I did).

These attitudes/beliefs/philosophies give rise to manageable, healthy negative emotions like sadness, concern and annoyance.

On the other hand the following attitudes/beliefs/philosophies (irrational) precipitate feelings of anger/rage, depression and anxiety.

  • Conditional Self-Acceptance: I am only worthwhile if others think so or if I do well at things. If I fail it means I am a failure, which is awful, and I can’t stand it.
  • Conditional Other Acceptance: I accept others only if they meet my idea of what’s normal/cool/OK. If they don’t they deserve to be punished and ridiculed and ignored.
  • Conditional Life Acceptance: Things must go my way and if they don’t it’s not fair and I can’t stand it. It is awful!

A free copy of People and Emotions is available. Just pass on your e mail details and a digital copy will be sent to you. My e mail is Cheers!

The said 'I'm the best!'
Copyright People and Emotions

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Psychological Immunisation - the REBT antidote to depression, anxiety, anger and shame

Have you been psychologically immunised yet? Better get on to it asap! How do you 'psychologically immunise' students against the ravages of rejection and failure? May I recommend a school or schools that teach REBT/CBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy/Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) across all curriculum areas whose teachers are trained in teaching Unconditional Self Acceptance (USA)? Many students are conditioned to believe that they are only worthwhile if significant others think they are or if they achieve their goals. Whilst it is important that others approve of us and that we do well and achieve our goals and desires our worth is never at question. The belief that others opinion of you define who you are is errant and self defeating. The ‘I’m only OK if you think I am’ philosophy is an irrational one because it causes anxiety, depression and other debilitating conditions that undermine our mental health because the person or persons whose approval we seek may not give it! So what do we do? Teach children that their opinion of themselves is more important than those of others!  This is not to say that they should not desire or prefer that others approve of them, as this is a reasonable expectation to have.  But needing is different to preferring. 
As Jonas Salk, who discovered the polio vaccine said not too long ago:
"If I were a young scientist today, I would still do immunization. But instead of immunizing kids physically, I'd do it your way. I'd immunize them psychologically. I'd see if these psychologically immunized kids could then fight off mental illness better. Physical illness too."

The teachers at Para Hills P-7 teach USA across the curriculum, delivering to students their daily dose of ‘psychological immunity’ by teaching:
  • That thinking feeling and behaving are connected
  • That ‘doing’ is not ‘being.’
  • That others’ opinion of us don’t define us
  • That we can ‘decatastrophise’ and manage our emotions in tough situations
  • That we can achieve our goals even though times can be tough
  • That we are always worthwhile no matter what 
Teachers at Para Hills School P-7 are making a significant difference especially to those who struggle with self doubt.They are Rational Emotive Behaviour Educators.