Patients must learn that the quality of their lives is contingent on their ability to love their own self without condition, so they may then learn to love others without condition and treat them accordingly (AEI, 2007; Ellis, 2000b). In a world where competitive and aggressive personalities are hailed as necessary to achieve greatness, it is not hard to see why so many people would need help learning how to appreciate their own being and their achievements without becoming ego-gratifying and hurting others (AEI, 2007; Ellis, 2000b). If one were to follow the paradigm established by Ellis exactly, they are more likely to worry about helping out others than "proving" themselves; they are also more likely to seek out joyful and happy events rather than dwell on dysfunctional pastimes (AEI, 2007; Ellis, 2000b).
Ellis provided the psychology community with many tools they can use in therapy to help patients achieve this goal of self-love and joyful existence. It is important in psychotherapy that therapists have more than one tool in their belt, because not all approaches are accepted by all people. Because people are uniquely different, there may be times when the therapist try other tools or use a combination of tools to realize results. This does not mean the psychotherapist needs to adopt a different "philosophy" of psychotherapy; meaning, the therapist can still use an REBT approach, but they will try to help a patient by using one of many tools REBT encompasses. For example, some of the tools a therapist that believes in REBT might use may include positive affirmations, self-nurturing, skill training especially with regard to communication and assertiveness (AEI, 2007; Ellis, 2000b). This last one may seem out of the scope of REBT, but assertiveness is a positive skill when it is put to good use and not used to harm or belittle others. When REBT discusses the term "assertive" it suggests a person should learn how to be true to their feelings, behaviors, values, emotions, wants, needs and desires (Ellis, 2000, 2000b). Someone that can walk into a group and expect people to accept them for who they are regardless of their beliefs is someone that is assertive. Many people confuse assertiveness with aggression. Aggression is a form of anger that usually results when a person is not secure in their own being, or a learned behavior one uses as a coping mechanism when they feel vulnerable or anxious.
REBT has changed much since its early inception during the mid 1950s (Nielsen, Johnson & Ellis, 2001). It is now considered a "constructivist and postmodern" therapy at the same time, and also a therapeutic approach that is "highly active-directive" or action-oriented (Nielsen, Johnson & Ellis, 2001: 41).
This means that despite negative attitudes one may have, one must approach emotion in a way that relates to the patient. This helps the therapist and the patient establish rapport, something that is necessary in any care giving relationship. If a doctor wants to treat a patient for a disease or has a patient they want to see in the long-term as is the case in family practices, then the doctor operating the practice has to learn how to build rapport. This is a fact Ellis admits he discovered later in life (Ellis, 2000a) because during his early years he had no interest in religious beliefs. However, even Ellis eventually had to admit that a person or patient's religious beliefs and values can affect the outcome of therapy. This is especially true of patients that have deeply ingrained beliefs they are not willing to change, because in doing so, they will negate some aspect of their culture or their beliefs and value systems.
Because of this, Ellis admitted it is at times appropriate to respect the patient or client's religious maxims, even if they conflict with that of the patient. The therapist has a duty to help the patient learn positive ways of acting and changing their behavior that will not interrupt their cultural values or beliefs, unless those beliefs or values are truly self-deprecating or harmful to the individual or the people the client lives with. Fortunately there are many approaches an REBT therapist or cognitive therapist can take if they find they need to counsel someone that holds stringent certain religious beliefs or practices, including the belief of heaven or hell and sin and redemption (Ellis, 2000a).
Ellis admitted that religion can influence a person's values and behaviors in a negative way as much as it could influence people in a positive way. People that already have psychological tendencies or a family history of dysfunction are more likely to act out as religious zealots than those that do not share the same or any similar history (Ellis, 2000a). The therapist must at all times remain neutral and work with patients whether secular or religious to help better society and help better the skills of the therapist. They must do so in a way that does not impinge on the person's helpful religious values or belief systems.
If a patient is religious for example, and the practitioner is not, the therapist may have to adopt a different approach that incorporates or considers the person's religion while attempting to address their concerns in therapy sessions (Ellis, 2000; Nielsen, Johnson & Ellis, 2001). While Ellis was originally what many would consider a "postmodernist" and "logical positivist" he is now considered must more constructionist and postmodern, because his views recognize that people only recognize objective reality through fallible, social, personal, different and often changing perceptions (Nielsen, Johnson & Ellis, 2001: 42). REBT would now assert that it is impossible to identify "universal truths" that all could benefit from, and therapists must accept the notion that all ethical beliefs are "constructionist" by nature (Nielsen, Johnson & Ellis, 2001: 43). Modern therapists adopting the REBT approach also note how important social influences are especially when compared to individual influences, and that people are naturally influenced and conditioned in some cases by the culture they grow up in, which may result in rational or irrational behaviors (Nielson, Johnson & Ellis, 2001: 43).
Many times people believe they have to find "common ground" in order to develop their sense of wellness and being. Not so say many therapists, including Albert Ellis, who encouraged individuals to learn how to love themselves, so they can interact better with others, but not rely on others for a sense of wellness or well-being. Individuals can achieve happiness by outlining self-directed goals they can achieve through hard work and commitment.
Often people make the mistake of thinking any goal will suffice if someone is suffering from a common self-deprecating condition or addiction, but Ellis does not agree with this paradigm. Instead, he would suggest that no therapist can decide on set goals for any group of people because all people are different and will respond to therapy in unique and different ways. It is the role of the psychotherapists to become more cultivated and multi-cultural in his or her approach to therapy especially as society continues to diversify and grow. Modern therapists credit Ellis with discovering the action-oriented approach to psychotherapy, an approach that psychologists use in contemporary society in much the same way Ellis used them in the past. This form of therapy has helped change the way psychologists approach people no matter what condition they have or what behaviors they want to address in therapy. Ellis is for many, the "father" of cognitive psychology.
Albert Ellis Institute (AEI), (2007) "Albert Ellis" Albert Ellis Institute, Retrieved November 25, 2007:
Ellis, a. (2000a) Can rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) be effectively used with people who have devout beliefs in God and religion? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 31(1): 29-33.
Ellis, a. (2000b) Self-help therapy that really works. Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers.