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Ellis And Glasser Essay, Research Paper

Albert Ellis and William Glasser have been in the mainstream of psychological

society for over four decades. Both have contributed greatly to modern

psychotherapy. The Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) of Albert Ellis and

the Reality therapy of William Glasser have endured the trendy world of

psychology and in fact as they are based in ancient philosophy (Epictetus,

Marcus Aurelius), they also remain the foundation for brief therapy, cognitive

behavioral therapy and ecclectisism. Their strength is in the flexibility and

simplicity inherent in each. They go directly to the problem and focus energy

there without lengthy psychotherapy. Both prolific writers and dedicated

therapists have expanded their views and adapted with the times. They are true

humanists in that through non-profit organizations they have been able to

alleviate much human suffering by providing sources for personal and

professional growth. In 1955, Albert Ellis used the fundamental concept of truth

and logic to help people overcome the obstacles in their lives. By using mans’

high power of rationality Ellis has allowed us to use our cognitive abilities to

overcome environmental or social situations. By 1975 Ellis combined Rational

Emotive Therapy (RET) with Rational Behavior Training (RBT) and with the

collaboration of many other noted therapists, created Rational Emotive Behavior

Therapy (REBT). Ellis tells us in a new Guide to Rational Living (1975): I (A.E.)

originated the system around the early part of 1955 and gave a first paper on it

at the 1956 meeting of the American Psychological Association in Chicago Since

that time, RET has gone through many minor and some major changes, originated by

myself and some of my main collaborators-especially Dr. Robert A. Harper, Dr.

H.Jon Geis, Edward Garcia, Dr. William Knause, Dr. John M. Gullo, Dr. Paul

Hauck, Dr. Donald R. Meichenbaum, Dr. Janet L. Wolf, Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus, Dr.

Aaron T. Beck, and (most notably) Dr. Maxie C. Maultsbie Jr. It has taken on

other names than Ret-such as Rational Therapy (RT), semantic therapy, cognitive

behavior therapy (CBT), and (quite popularly) rational behavior training (RBT)┘(pg.202)

Based on the strongest tenets of cognitive and behavioral therapy, REBT helps

individuals to challenge the cause and effect relationships they believe exist

between external events and their own emotional states. Ellis writes: RET

employs an A-B-C method of viewing human personality and disturbance. When

trying to help a person, the therapist usually begins with C-the upsetting

emotional Consequence that he [sic] has recently experienced. Typically he has

been rejected by someone (this rejection can be called A, the Activating

Experience) and then feels anxious, worthless or depressed at C. He wrongly

believes that A, his being rejected has caused C, his feelings ┘; and he

may even overtly voice this belief by saying something like, "She rejected

me and that made me depressed." The individual can be shown that A does not

and cannot really cause C- that an Activating Event in the outside world cannot

possibly create any feeling or emotional consequence in his head and gut. For if

this were true virtually everyone who gets rejected would have to feel just as

depressed as he does; and this is obviously not the case. C, then is really

caused by some intervening variable, or by B; and B is the individuals belief

system. So there is the simplicity of Ellis and RET; the knowledge that the

individual chooses to believe and behave in a way that causes the distress. The

confrontational and often playful style of Ellis’s REBT helps people to

recognize and change parts of their thinking that are insensible, inaccurate and

not useful. The counselor then confronts the client with this truth and helps

them move towards greater self – control. "Disputing" is the type of

confronting the therapist uses to help people rethink those dysfunctional

beliefs into more healthy and reasonable ones. In the example above, the dispute

was whether the A caused C. It is important for the client to be confronted with

that disputation of his perception. It is not uncommon for Ellis to call

irrational beliefs "nuttiness" or "nonsense" or

"silly" or "idiotic". Other disputations have to do with

more complex or long standing personal beliefs that encumber the client.

Statements like " I am no good at reading, I will never get ahead!" or

" I am worthless no one will ever love me!" have no helpful, healthy

basis for an individual’s thinking and may therefore be disputed or put to the

test of logic. Logic implies that if something is true then it can be supported

by fact. If it cannot be supported by fact, then it is an irrational belief.

Ellis is quick to interject with "who said so?" or, "where is

your proof of that?" or "where is it written?" The poor reader

needs to learn that reading ability like the desire to grow for the better, are

things that can be changed. The lonely, insecure person need only understand

that love can be reached like any other goal with a little work and

perseverance. But Ellis can be very emphatic in pointing out the illogic of

someone’s thinking. It is up to the therapist to teach clients new ways of

thinking, feeling and behaving so that they can get better at reading to get

ahead or to find a new loveable self-concept. But Ellis does not sugar coat the

lessons, he is abrupt, direct, and confrontational. Ellis is like a father or

coach or teacher when counseling. His REBT is both practical and goal oriented

as it focuses on new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving towards personal

fulfillment. Goals like reading better to get ahead or creating a new self -

image involve attacking those inner obstacles of irrational beliefs. He

encourages strength and bravery in the battle for self-fulfillment. Emphasis is

placed on individual responsibility to enhance personal growth and deal with

problems through hard work. Clients strive to think, feel and behave in a more

functional manner through practice and homework. Owning those irrational beliefs

causing emotional distress and accepting that they are the real place to focus

energy, is key to REBT. Ellis will not let anyone slide. He may support and

collaborate with the client to identify those existing problems to learn new

behaviors. In the process of helping clients deal with the unsavory aspects of

affect, Ellis ingeniously uses emotional and behavioral techniques designed to

reduce the upset and maximize personal effectiveness. These include guided

imagery, assertiveness training, behavioral homework, communication skill

training and others. All of these focus on the present. Regardless of past

realities or self-concepts, the client is allowed to try new ways of looking at

the world. Guided imagery helps the client to perceive and believe that success

is attainable by picturing or imagining a new scenario where the client is

reading with more ability, or being loved or winning in some other way. It is a

form of hypnosis usually done in a calm atmosphere employed with progressive

relaxation techniques. The client reframes the self-concept of the past with

images based on hope and logic. Logic requires that for a person to change, one

must imagine that it is possible and achievable with a little work. This

technique is preparatory in nature for goals like conquering fears, but is very

important in creating a relaxing state at any time. Guided imagery is a skill

that the client can use as a post-therapy tool to be used for life if needed.

Assertiveness training allows the client to act on the idea that personal worth

and rights can be defended with quiet dignity or insistence. The idea is to

train clients how to not be bullied, manipulated, or otherwise abused. More

importantly it trains the individual how to express one’s own needs and desires

without resorting to bullying, manipulating or other abuse. Clients often go

through guided imagery sessions prior to practicing assertiveness in the real

world. Part of the therapy requires that a certain amount of practical behaviors

be practiced away from therapy. Stimulus control is a way to keep a client from

indulging in unwanted behaviors by having the presence of mind to avoid chances

to do them. Ellis writes in How to Make Yourself Happy (1999): "Is stimulus

control an inelegant solution to your indulgence problems? Yes, to some extent

it is because if you allowed yourself to be in tempting situations and still

resisted them, you would be working harder to overcome your low frustration

tolerance (LFT) and would be changing your irrational beliefs that create and

sustain this LFT. There is no reason you can’t do both: dispute your irrational

beliefs and also employ a measure of stimulus control."(Pp 161-162) The

client may be required to do homework like logging the amount of times one was

assertive or used profanity or practiced phonics and reading or repeated self

affirmations. Interestingly sometimes the task is paradoxical in nature. Do not

think of your fear of sidewalk cracks is turned around to think of your fear of

sidewalk cracks. Ellis as coach, parent, and teacher insists on clients taking

their work seriously. The homework is checked in therapy and the client is

sometimes shamed for not trying or not trying hard enough. REBT has a refreshing

if not startling amount of confrontation in the conduct of sessions. This

doesn’t suggest an overall brusque manner on his part. Recently, Ellis has

written How to cope with a Fatal Illness and Optimal Aging, and it is clear that

his style is flexible in that he still confronts but is very aware of the

sensitivity surrounding special issues like those of aging and dying. What is

consistent across all his work is that he does not wish anyone to be miserable

if it is possible to avoid it. To whit: he is very caring as a therapist as

person and has dedicated his life to make people feel better in dealing with

life’s travails. The cognitive behavioral techniques of Albert Ellis’ REBT are

mirrored by William Glasser in Reality therapy. William Glasser is a medical

doctor, a psychiatrist. He and Dr. G.L. Harrington developed Reality therapy in

defiance of traditional psychotherapy, which they saw as severely lacking, being

built on the wrong premises. People are not psychotic or demented or

schizophrenic, but rather frustrated in fulfilling their basic needs. Glasser

can reduce client distress down to a matter of three basic concerns: Reality,

Responsibility and Right and wrong (rectitude). Reality is the unchanging world

that the client must live in with all its’ rules, limitations and demands while

trying to fulfill basic psychological needs like love and self respect.

Responsibility is inherent within the individual to act in accordance with the

confines of its’ rules, limitation, and demands. Glasser (1965) writes:

"Responsibility┘the ability to fulfill one’s needs, and to do so in a

way that does not deprive others from the ability to fulfill their

needs."(Page 13) Right and wrong have more to do with the choices of

behavior that people make and their inherent consequences. Personal

responsibility for acting justly in life is the basis for Reality therapy.

Reality therapy like REBT is based in the here and now. Accepting that the past

may contribute to a clients’ current condition, Glasser writes in Reality

Therapy (1965) that past irresponsibility has little to do with what can be

changed right now, calling past problems "psychiatric garbage."(Page

37) The "what" of behavior is important then, not the "why"

a client did something. The question is then, if the behavior is one way, can it

be better? This is a very simple and straightforward look at therapy. What

behavior is responsible for causing the difficulty and how do we modify it? He

highlights in the Identity Society (1975) principles of Reality therapy:

involvement of the therapist or helper, awareness of the current behavior,

evaluating behavior to see if it is good for the client or people who care about

the client, Planning responsible behavior, commitment to the plan (usually with

a signed contract), non acceptance of excuses for irresponsible behavior, non

punishment of failures (only praise and reasonably agreed upon consequences).

(pp.77-102) The techniques employed by Glasser are as simple as the concept

itself. Glasser is very paternal in his demeanor and very patient but stern in

his approach to those resistant to change. Perhaps his work in correctional

institutions and school systems has tempered his style. He sets firm guidance

for change (acting responsibly) and challenges the client to meet the grade. His

insistence on discipline reflects his notion that when people refuse to meet the

rules of the world they cannot be fulfilled. Glasser knows his clients can

succeed, so he sets some high standards for changing. He is moralistic in his

approach also as he posits that pleasure for pleasure sake is not redeeming.

(page 38) Glasser wants mankind to act reasonably and with a purpose. His idea

of right and wrong does not sit well with some psychologists who allow clients

to act according to whim. Glasser does not agree that people who act bizarrely

or irresponsibly are sick and therefore not responsible for their actions;

rather, he believes that they are acting in a manner of trying to get what they

want, and need to be reminded when their behavior is inappropriate. He expects

the therapist to model behavior and engender trust by that behavior. He suggests

in Reality Therapy (1965): "The therapist must be a very responsible

person-tough, interested, human, and sensitive┘ Neither aloof, superior,

nor sacrosanct┘ always strong never expedient. He [sic] must withstand the

patients’ requests for sympathy, for an excess of sedatives, for justification

of his actions no matter how the patient pleads or threatens"(page22). If

this sounds severe, it is actually based on a kind of tough love. Glasser is

humanistic and very accepting of even the worst of clients but he refuses to be

manipulated, wallow in the self-justification of why someone does something. He

requires that the client accept the reality that their irresponsible behaviors

may be harmful to themselves and others. Like the alcoholic who must admit to

the reality of that lifestyle before beginning the road to recovery, Glasser

leads clients to face reality. He is sensitive enough not to push too hard, in

fact relies on the client to make moves toward self- improvement as he patiently

offers his therapeutic services. Unlike Ellis who will goad, cajole and

otherwise actively direct the client toward change, Glasser leaves the client

with full responsibility to make the initial first move. Glasser is not less

warm than Ellis but perhaps more stoic and inflexible in his demeanor due to his

convictions. It is simply a matter of technique when helping the client change.

Glasser shows his human side in Choice Theory (1998): Huge numbers of people are

not willing to settle for lives with no happiness. They are not willing to turn

their lives over to the search for pleasure without happiness. Many of these

unhappy people want very much to find others to love, but because of the reality

of their life situations – they are poor, old, uneducated, unattractive,

workless, homeless, sick or criminal, the list is long, – they are unable to.

There may be an answer to the poignant question posed by the Beatles: All the

lonely people, where do they all come from? They come from a world in which they

are separated from their husbands, wives, children, teachers, and employers by

this destructive psychology (external locus of control). (Page 195) Glasser as

therapist person is very sensitive and caring, he understands behavioral

training in the discipline arena and juxtaposes it with societies’ notion of

punishment reward (stimulus/response). He will encourage an attempt at changing,

even if it results in failure, thus exhibiting confidence in the clients ability

to eventually win and not turning the situation in to one of conditional regard

(I will help you only if you succeed all the time.) This is in the tradition of

the very best coaches and mentors as well as therapists. Glasser will give time

out only for the length of time it would take for an offender to figure out a

way to negotiate a way to work within the rules. In this ingenious way, he

always leaves the power, control and responsibility in the clients’ hands, where

he argues it should be. In The Reality Therapy Reader (1976) Barbara Hobbie

writes: Reality therapy stresses warm human involvement; shuns pedagogic

psychiatric categories such as dementia praecox, paranoid schizophrenia, and

manic depression; avoids examination and analysis of early trauma or past

history; holds patients responsible for their own recovery; and, in fact,

rejects the idea that there is such a thing as mental illness. What Reality

therapy seeks to do, in short, is to force people to face their own reality and

reshape their behavior in order to fulfill their needs. When people do not

fulfill their needs they regard themselves as failures. (Page 253) The therapy

itself is in the hands of laymen as well as those who come to therapy. Ellis and

Glasser offer uncomplicated ways to help individuals change. Generally anyone

can read either therapist’s works and with enough desire can head toward change.

They are both matter of fact, no nonsense therapies based in the here and now.

Both require the client to evaluate, confront their behaviors, and seek goals of

attaining alternative behaviors. REBT and Reality Therapy have stood the test of

time and some of their techniques remain the cornerstone of many cognitive and

behavioral as well as many eclectic therapies. They are simple in concept and

easy to put into practical use. They are both user-friendly therapies available

to laymen, in books, tapes, and videos and now on the Internet. Both have

undergone revisions, adapting to the increased value on multicultural

sensitivity. The original works of both Ellis and Glasser are written in the

masculine second person with many sexist, racist (albeit innocent terminology

based on the norms of that era) and ageist language. What existed in the early

works of both and remain to date is an unparalleled commitment to excellence in

the field of psychotherapy. Ellis and Glasser were both reformers and breakaways

from the traditional psychotherapy of their day. Both are closer to the nature

of human misery in that they have defined what frustrates so many human beings,

and that is humans need to be fulfilled with love and feelings of worth that

come from success in life. They think and behave in order to become fulfilled

and when they are unfulfilled, their thoughts and behaviors are the problem.

While Ellis and Glasser recognized it they understood that many people are not

capable of being scientific. To whit: most people routinely think illogically,

irrationally and often with emotion based on impulse. What both gentlemen have

offered is a rational way to see the world and a simple plan to clarify that

view for better navigation within it. They pick up where other therapies fall

short by allowing the client to experience the flush of pride and strength that

comes from taking responsibility for their behaviors and consequences that come

with them as they grow towards personal choice and freedom. Other therapies do a

disservice by suggesting that the client is not to blame for responding to the

forces of the world and the demands of society. Those psychologists take the

responsibility away from clients and deny them the refreshing touch of reality.

Both therapies give the client a place in the world and strength to move through

it confidently without drugs or denying their place in it. Both are highly

productive in a group setting. They do what drugs cannot, that is: change

behaviors that weaken nervous and immune systems in the first place. They do

have their fundamental differences even though at face value they are

inconsequential when comparing the two therapists. Albert Ellis is fun spirited

and takes life not so seriously. It is part of his personal philosophy that

there are no "shoulds", or musts or other absolutes with which to

govern ones life by. In fact he revised his writing style to avoid hypocrisy

when other colleagues and students noted that his first writings were full of

shoulds, musts and other absolutes. He seems to enjoy life because he is not

bound by any absolutist credo. He is free to work as hard or as lightly as he

pleases. Without such pressure he is absolutely prolific, working sometimes 7

days a week, flying all around the globe giving seminars and maintaining his

post as chairman of the Albert Ellis Institute of Rational Emotive Behavior

Therapy. William Glasser on the other hand is kind but more sedate in his

professional comportment. He is warm sensitive and caring but maintains a very

dignified composure when working with clients. It is against his nature to

ridicule a client, as he is certain that the risk of harming a client through

such behavior does not justify the gamble. His view on confrontation is

basically to read a client and see what the client is ready for. He likens

pushing too much to denying young lovers to see each other only to force them to

elope. William Glasser would rather coax a client towards growth with his appeal

as a steadfast, competent, caring helper rather than behave in a way to scare or

insult the client. He would never "shame" a client, as would Ellis

because it is a form of punishment. Glasser does not believe in punishment.

Punishment to him is an external control that can seldom be effective because

people understand that they have choices and never internalize (when the locus

of control is external) the lesson intended by punishment. He was notably

successful for not using punishment when he worked at the V.A. hospital, the

Ventura school and other institutions in California through the years. Glasser

as well is very prolific in his works and is chairman of the William Glasser


Bassin, A., Bratter, T. E., & Rachin R. L. (1976) The reality therapy

reader New York, NY, Harper and Row Ellis, A. (1999) How to make yourself happy:

Atascadero, CA Impact Publishers Ellis, A. (1973) Humanistic psychotherapy the

rational emotive approach New York, NY Julian Press, Ellis, A. & Abrams M.

(1994) How to cope with a fatal illness New York, NY Barricade Books Ellis, A.

& Harper R. (1975) A new guide to rational living, No. Hollywood, CA

Wilshire Book Company Ellis, A. & Velten E. (1998) Optimal aging Peru, IL

Carus Publishers, Glasser, W. (1998) Choice theory, New York, NY Harper Collins

Glasser, W. (1984) Control therapy New York, NY Harper and Row Glasser, W.

(1971) The identity society, New York, NY Harper and Row Glasser, W. (1965)

Reality therapy New York, NY Harper and Row

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