Printer Friendly

Potential of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) for Youth in Alcohol and Drug Education.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), previously called Rational Emotive Therapy (RET), developed by Albert Ellis (1971, 2006) is a popular form of psychotherapy that refutes irrational thinking and helps the client adopt practical, logical, objective and reality-based thinking patterns. Some irrational beliefs may be at the root of alcohol and drug abuse behaviors that can be rectified through REBT. This therapy uses the ABCDE technique (Romas & Sharma, 2017) in which A stands for identifying the activating system which may be the external and internal events that we face; B stands for the belief system which consists of ideas about our reality and discovering the irrational beliefs; C stands for thinking about the consequences of an irrational belief system; D stands for disputing those irrational beliefs and E stands for the effects of a newer thinking pattern.

Abuse of illicit drugs, marijuana and alcohol among youth has shown an increasing trend over the past 15 years (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2017; Hingson, Heeren, & Winter, 2006). Prevalence of alcohol consumption and other substance abuse is reported to be highest between the ages of 18 to 25 years in the United States. This age group is a very crucial period for a person who transitions from childhood to adulthood, school to college and often into work life. At this age, the majority of people make new friends, experience sexual relations, start work and start living independently with less supervision of parents. For most people, this age brings a lot of excitement, autonomy and at the same time, tremendous psychosocial challenges. Money, relationships, sexuality, friendships, status, success and achievements take on different meanings in their lives (Chassin, Pitts, & Prost, 2002; White, et al., 2006). People want to be successful in whatever they do. However, success is not something that everyone achieves easily. Despite one's well-intentioned efforts, sometimes one cannot achieve success and may encounter several psychosocial pressures, obstacles, failures, frustrations and dissatisfactions which often negatively influence one's thought processes, feelings and actions.

Actions are direct outcomes of feelings and thinking processes. When the thinking pattern is irrational it often leads to problematic behaviors. Ellis's theory based on the tenets of practical, objective, logical and reality-based thinking plays a strong role in transforming irrational thoughts into desired actions or behaviors (Hammels & Yalom, 2009; Romas & Sharma, 2017). When there is limited life experience, as is the case with youth, they find it difficult to rationalize many of their thoughts which originate in their path with independent social interactions, peer influences and psychosocial demands. If thought processes move toward an irrational, dysfunctional side, it often leads to adaptation of negative behaviors. Drinking and substance abuse are common behaviors which are chosen by many young people on the social prescription of peers, in order to compensate for their irrational and often unidentified feelings and thoughts (Crawford & Novak, 2007; Nash, McQueen, & Bray, 2005). Transition from childhood to adulthood and home to college has been found to be significantly related to increases in the frequency of alcohol use and heavy episodic binge drinking (White, et al., 2006). The youth who are entering into adulthood often become highly susceptible for alcohol and drug addiction. Hence, more preventive and corrective interventions should be focused at this age.

Parental monitoring, lowering of sensation-seeking behavior, reducing interactions with friends who use substances and prosocial involvement protect against alcohol and other substance use (White, et al., 2006). In the REBT paradigm, having fewer friends with an alcohol drinking habit, increased parental monitoring, lower sensation-seeking behavior, and prosocial involvement can be construed as the effects of new thinking patterns which act against irrational thinking and reinforces rational thinking and prevents individuals from alcohol use and substance abuse.

According to the REBT, a negative behavior originates from a dysfunctional and disturbed thinking process. The activating events for such irrational thinking can emanate from work pressures and difficulty in establishing meaningful relationships or other psychosocial challenges. Examples of such irrational thinking can be beliefs such as thinking that everyone should love them or approve of them; that they should be always thoroughly competent; that certain people are evil and that they should be punished; that it is disastrous if things do not turn out as planned; that happiness is externally controlled; that one should constantly keep on dwelling on possibilities of negative outcomes; that one should avoid challenges instead of facing them; that challenges are permanent; that one should always depend on others; that one should get upset over other people's problems; and that there is only one solution to any problem (Ellis & Grieger, 1977). The application of REBT principles can be immensely helpful in diverting irrational thought processes of young individuals into rational thought processes. Ellis and his colleagues have attempted to apply REBT in preventing people from alcohol and other drug initiation and addiction behavior (Hammels & Yalom, 2009). Other social scientists have also advocated risk-focused interventions which indirectly lead one to stop the unhealthy initiation of drinking and drug abuse behaviors (Chassin, Pitts, & Prost, 2002; Hawkins, Catalano, & Miller, 1992).

The application of REBT can be a potent method for preventing and helping youth refrain from drinking and substance abuse behaviors. However, more research is needed to evaluate the effects of REBT application in preventing alcohol drinking and substance abuse behavior among youth. More educational interventions of youth based on REBT can be helpful in modifying their thought patterns, dealing with negative feelings, and avoiding actions that can lead to unhealthy and addictive behaviors.

Manoj Sharma, MBBS, Ph.D., MCHES[R]

Editor, Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education Professor, Behavioral & Environmental Health School of Public Health, Jackson State University 350 W. Woodrow Wilson Drive

Jackson, MS 39213

(601) 979-8850 (Phone)

(601) 979-1434 (Fax) (E-mail)


Ram Lukhan, DrPH, FRSPH

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Health and Human Performance Seahury Centre #229 Berea College Berea, KY 40404

lakhanr@berea. edu (E-mail)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2017). Illegal drug use. Retrieved from

Chassin, L., Pitts, S. C., & Prost, J. (2002). Binge drinking trajectories from adolescence to emerging adulthood in a high-risk sample: Predictors and substance abuse outcomes. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 70(1), 67-78.

Crawford, L. A., & Novak, K. B. (2007). Resisting peer pressure: Characteristics associated with other-self discrepancies in college students' levels of alcohol consumption. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education, 57(1), 35-62.

Ellis, A. (1971). Growth through reason: Verbatim cases in rational-emotive therapy. Woodland Hills, CA: Wilshire Book Company.

Ellis, A. (2006). How to stubbornly refuse to make yourself miserable about anything--Yes, anything! (Revised edition). New York: Citadel Press.

Ellis, A., & Grieger, R. (1977). RET handbook of rational emotive therapy. New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Hammels, D., & Yalom, V. (2009). Instructor's manual for rational emotive behavior therapy for addictions with Albert Ellis. Retrieved from

Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Miller, J. Y. (1992). Risk and protective factors for alcohol and other drug problems in adolescence and early adulthood: Implications for substance abuse prevention. Psychological Bulletin, 772(1), 64-105.

Hingson, R. W., Heeren, T., & Winter, M. R. (2006). Age at drinking onset and alcohol dependence: Age at onset, duration, and severity. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 160(7), 739-746.

Nash, S. G., McQueen, A., & Bray, J. H. (2005). Pathways to adolescent alcohol use: Family environment, peer influence, and parental expectations. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(1), 19-28.

Romas, J. A., & Sharma, M. (2017). Practical stress management. A comprehensive workbook. London: Academic Press.

White, H. R., McMorris, B. J., Catalano, R. F., Fleming, C. B., Haggerty, K. P., & Abbott, R. D. (2006). Increases in alcohol and marijuana use during the transition out of high school into emerging adulthood: The effects of leaving home, going to college, and high school protective factors. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 67(6), 810-822.
COPYRIGHT 2019 American Alcohol & Drug Information Foundation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Author:Sharma, Manoj; Lukhan, Ram
Publication:Journal of Alcohol & Drug Education
Date:Aug 1, 2019
Previous Article:Self-Help Book on Dealing with Alcohol and Drug Addictions.
Next Article:Relationship Between College Student Intoxication Level and Their Recall of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters