Among the treatment options that may be available to you or your loved one in a drug or alcohol treatment program is REBT therapy. When you understand what it is and how it works, it is easier to determine if the therapy is appropriate for your recovery goals.

What is REBT Therapy?

Before you can understand how it works, it is important to understand the basics of REBT therapy. REBT stands for rational emotive behavior therapy. It is a variation on cognitive behavioral therapy and is considered a type of psychotherapy. You may also recognize the treatment as a type of counseling or talk therapy, though it strives to help you adjust your behaviors based on cognitive strategies.


Essentially, REBT therapy is a method of helping you learn about your inner beliefs so that you can make changes that help you or your loved one reach your recovery goals. When you understand the internal belief systems that impact your behaviors, it is then possible to make changes to those systems so that you can recover from substance abuse.

Assumptions in REBT Therapy

Cognitive treatments and psychotherapy always make certain assumptions that provide the basic guidelines of any treatment. When you are considering the possibility of adding REBT therapy to your treatment plan or the recovery plan of a loved one, recognizing the assumptions that are made in the treatment can help you understand how it works.
The assumptions in REBT therapy include:

  • Personal beliefs impact your behavior
  • Adversity and obstacles are less important than your beliefs
  • Behavior is based on an A-B-C model

The A-B-C model is an important part of how the therapy can help you reach your recovery goals. The model states that first you face adversity or an activating event. These are the situations that are out of your control, such as the actions of others. After the situation occurs, you have a certain belief about the problem. Your beliefs may vary depending on the situation.

Only after you have a belief does the consequence or the behavior occur. For example, if you or a loved one believes that drugs or alcohol will help reduce your stress levels, then you are more likely to use that substance after experiencing a stressful situation.

Instead of the idea that stress is causing the behavior, the therapy takes the assumption further and suggests that your beliefs about stress are the actual cause of your behavior.

How it Helps

As a type of cognitive therapy, REBT is useful when you are trying to recover from substance abuse. The way it works is that a professional will help you or your loved one work through the beliefs that you have developed throughout your lifetime.


Depending on your beliefs and the behaviors, the goal of therapy may vary slightly. For example, the belief that substance abuse is safe may focus on changing your view of the safety through facts, figures and details. Beliefs that substance abuse is the only way to reduce anxiety or depression will require a different approach to changing your ideas.

A variety of factors can contribute to substance abuse and your beliefs and thoughts may be directly related to your behaviors. Depending on the substance that is being abused and your belief systems, REBT therapy may be a helpful treatment.