DR. ALBERT ELLIS: Visionary Founder of Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Interview with Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis – Keeping the work & vision of her late husband alive.
Hear Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis, widow of the renowned Grandfather of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Dr. Albert Ellis, talk about the man behind Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) and his gentle spirit that few people ever knew about.
Dr. Albert Ellis & REBT
A courageous revolutionary pioneer whose work challenged the two predominant psychotherapies of the time (Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism), Dr. Albert Ellis developed his cognitive-behavioral model of therapy that he called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy in the 1950’s.
“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own.”
~ Dr. Albert Ellis
The Roots of CBT
Given the current acceptance that our thoughts affect our emotions and our behavior, especially with the rise of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and later Mindfulness-Based therapeutic strategies (e.g. MBSR & MBCT), it may be difficult to appreciate that this notion was considered rubbish not so long ago by the majority of the mental health establishment.
Known for his brash and colorful perspective and presentation, using humor to help his clients awaken to the absurdity of their “irrational” beliefs, Albert Ellis became a poster-boy of his new model of therapy. He not only coined terms like Musturbation, Awfulizing & Shoulding that every psychology graduate student to this day knows about too well, but he even created whimsical songs that brought to life the crazy thoughts that so often underlie emotional distress and behavioral dysfunction.
“People and things do not upset us. Rather, we upset ourselves by believing that they can upset us.”
~ Dr. Albert Ellis
Psychologist Cloaked as a Comedian
One of the funniest and most controversial psychologists of all-time, Albert Ellis was unafraid to use plain (and even sometimes extremely crude and sarcastic) language and talk about the real problems of everyday living. His unique view of the human condition, coupled with his shameless personal style, Ellis’s pioneering spirit was reflected far beyond conventional realms of the profession that he simultaneously navigated seemingly awkwardly, yet truly was masterful as he brilliantly transformed almost single-handedly the mental health culture, attitudes and assumptions. With the origins of psychotherapy having been largely influenced by more austere approaches, Ellis’s irreverent spirit broke the mold, offering countless people respite from their habituated trance of irrational and negative thinking who otherwise may never have been helped by the conventional mental health practices of the day.
Crass, Creative & Downright Silly
In many ways, Albert Ellis was a marketing genius who found creative ways to shift the thinking of those he served. By poking fun at what he termed “irrational beliefs” and sometimes shocking his clients by describing their thoughts in surprising ways such as “Musturbation” or by accusing them of “Shoulding on Themselves,” he brought both a levity to therapy and found ways to help those he served free themselves from the tyranny of their inner thought world. He also was known for assigning clients to do shame-attacking exercises, as well as songs, poems and stories to help drive home his therapeutic messages.
“There are three musts that hold us back: I must do well. You must treat me well. And the world must be easy.”
~ Dr. Albert Ellis
REBT Songs To Challenge “Musturbation” & Other Irrational Thinking
To make it easy to remember his messages, Albert would create lyrics to go along with popular songs, replacing their lyrics with his own. Not a trained singer, hearing him sing with his coarse voice made them even more hilarious, and also empowered every person to create similar songs to help them break through their dysfunctional ways of thinking and behaving. These songs became a trademark of his work and have delighted millions over the years. Below are a few examples of fun, yet poignant REBT songs that are still empowering the young and the old alike.
Dr. Albert Ellis was a prolific writer, having written over 85 published books about REBT and literally thousands of published articles and chapters in other peoples’ books. His topics spanned the range of the challenges of everyday living, offering simple tools to help readers transform and transcend their inner challenges. His books offered hope and empowerment to the masses, many of whom would never otherwise likely be able or willing to seek therapy. He was the first psychologist to bring psychology to the mainstream public in such a major way.
About Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis
Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis, widow of Dr. Albert Ellis, was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia where she became a licensed psychologist before moving to New York and becoming a licensed mental health counselor, presenter, writer and adjunct professor at Columbia University.
Love & Work
Long before marrying Ellis in his latter years, like countless others Dr. Debbie Joffe was well aware of and studied Ellis’s work. Appreciating his work, she began collaborating with him on writing and research projects until his death in 2007.
Keeping Her Husband’s REBT Work Alive
Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis assisted and did research for books and articles that her late husband wrote in his final years. Together they co-wrote the best-selling: “Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy” and his autobiography “All Out” that Debbie also completed as Ellis died before completing it. which was published in 2011 by the American Psychological Association (APA).
A sought-after spokesperson for her knowledge about her late husband’s work, Dr. Debbie is featured in a DVD produced by the American Psychological Association (APA) demonstrating and discussing the REBT approach. APA also published the book Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy that she co-wrote with her husband. In 2014 Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis was honored as a Counseling Legend at the annual conference of the American Counseling Association.
Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis continues to present, practice and write about her beloved late husband’s ground-breaking psychotherapeutic approach of REBT, making it relevant for the current times. In her presentations, Debbie emphasizes Unconditional Acceptance, Gratitude, Mindfulness, Passion and Compassion, core components of REBT. She is also a regular article contributor for Psychology Today.
“By not caring too much about what people think, I’m able to think for myself and propogate ideas which are very often unpopular. And I succeed with them because, again, I don’t care too much what other people think.”
~ Dr. Albert Ellis
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Albert Ellis, REBT & Dr. Debbie Joffe Ellis:
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About Dr. Theresa
A Registered Psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, Dr. Theresa Nicassio is an integrative health and wellness educator who is fiercely committed to advocating for empowerment, inclusivity, and kindness in all its forms.
Passionate about making the world a better place, Theresa contributes to social, emotional, and environmental transformation using her professional knowledge and personal experiences for the betterment of society and the planet.
“If self-reliance and radical kindness are subversive… count me in!”
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