In this article Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy REBT is proposed as a potentially important framework for the understanding and promotion of mental health in athletes. Cognitive-behavioral approaches predominate in the provision of sport psychology, and often form the backbone of psychological skills training for performance enhancement and maintenance. But far from being solely performance-focused, the cognitive-behavioral approach to sport psychology can restore, promote, and maintain mental health. This review article presents REBT Ellis, , the original cognitive behavioral therapy, as a valuable approach to addressing mental health issues in sport. REBT holds that it is not events that directly cause emotions and behaviors. Further, REBT distinguishes between rational and irrational beliefs, and suggests that in response to failure, maltreatment, and misfortune, people can react with either healthy or unhealthy emotional and behavioral responses.
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In this article Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy REBT is proposed as a potentially important framework for the understanding and promotion of mental health in athletes.
Cognitive-behavioral approaches predominate in the provision of sport psychology, and often form the backbone of psychological skills training for performance enhancement and maintenance. But far from being solely performance-focused, the cognitive-behavioral approach to sport psychology can restore, promote, and maintain mental health. This review article presents REBT Ellis, , the original cognitive behavioral therapy, as a valuable approach to addressing mental health issues in sport.
REBT holds that it is not events that directly cause emotions and behaviors. Further, REBT distinguishes between rational and irrational beliefs, and suggests that in response to failure, maltreatment, and misfortune, people can react with either healthy or unhealthy emotional and behavioral responses.
The extant research indicates that irrational beliefs lead to unhealthy negative emotions, a range of pathological conditions, and a host of maladaptive behaviors that undermine mental health. Therefore, REBT proposes a process for the reduction of irrational beliefs and the promotion of rational beliefs.
The use of REBT in sport is seldom reported in literature, but research is growing. This review article proposes three important areas of investigation that will aid the understanding of irrational beliefs and the application of REBT within sport. These areas are: 1 the influence of irrational beliefs and REBT on the mental health of athletes, 2 the influence of irrational beliefs and REBT on athletic performance, 3 the origins and development of irrational beliefs in athletes.
Each area is discussed in turn, offering a critical and progressive review of the literature as well as highlighting research deficits, and recommendations to address each of the three areas of investigation.
The provision of sport psychology within sporting organizations and with athletes can be approached in many ways. Indeed, many consider sport psychology to be much more than the provision of psychological skills training PST , recognizing the role sport psychology could play in the mental health of athletes.
Also, many recognize the importance of viewing athletes as humans first, and athletes second, thus reinforcing a humanistic approach to helping athletes with self-defeating emotions and behaviors, inside and outside of their sport.
However, providing that the practitioner is trained and competent in the use of counseling approaches, it is possible to work with athletes on deeply held attitudes and beliefs that positively influence not only sports performance, but also mental health.
Inspired primarily by the Stoic philosophers, REBT holds that it is not events that directly cause emotions and behaviors. This is a common cognitive-behavioral philosophy shared across various approaches. REBT places this central idea or philosophy into an ABC framework where the event is represented by the letter A activating event or adversity , the beliefs are allocated the letter B, and finally emotions and behaviors are represented by C consequences.
Not only does this ABC framework hold up scientifically when considering the role of cognitive appraisal in the generation of emotion David et al. Most prominently, it enables clients to realize that it is not outside events A that cause their dysfunctional reactions C , it is their irrational beliefs B , and thus, they are in control of how they respond to adversity because they can have autonomy over their beliefs. Theorists and practitioners e. Cold cognitions describe how an individual develops representations of situations, whereas hot cognitions refer to the evaluation of cold cognitions, or appraisals David and McMahon, ; David et al.
Therefore, emotions emerge as a result of cold cognitions that deem a situation to be motivationally relevant and motivationally incongruent, mediated by rational and irrational beliefs hot cognitions.
Put another way, the ability for A activating event; cold cognition to cause C emotional and behavioral response is dependent on B rational and irrational beliefs; hot cognition.
Hence, the ABC philosophy that informs REBTs theoretical and therapeutic approach serves to guide treatment and capture the mechanisms driving emotional responding. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy distinguishes itself from other cognitive-behavioral approaches by placing irrational and rational beliefs at its core.
In REBT rational beliefs are defined as beliefs that are flexible, non-extreme, and logical i. Specifically, there are four types of rational and irrational beliefs. In REBT a binary model of distress is proposed whereby healthy negative emotions HNEs associated with adaptive behaviors stem from rational beliefs, whilst unhealthy negative emotions UNEs associated with maladaptive behaviors stem from irrational beliefs. UNEs are associated with very unpleasant physical symptoms chronic and severe and usually motivate behaviors that work against goal attainment.
In contrast, HNEs facilitate goal accomplishment as they are associated with some unpleasant physical symptoms acute and mild and motivate behaviors that facilitate goal attainment. HNEs and UNEs are not necessarily distinguished by the intensity of the emotion, rather, they are qualitatively different. In other words, it is not that unhealthy anxiety is less intense than healthy anxiety, or that they are just two versions of the same emotions.
It is more accurate to consider them to be different emotions altogether as they drive different behaviors or action tendencies. This binary model of distress David et al. This is done using a systematic disputation D process, which entails the practitioner helping the client to challenge specific irrational beliefs Dryden, The client is asked to consider whether there is any evidence for their belief, whether it is logical or consistent with reality, and whether the belief is pragmatic or helpful.
Once the irrational belief has been disputed, a rational alternate belief is constructed, in line with theory and in collaboration between client and practitioner, a step labeled E effective new belief. Depending on the motivation of the client, REBT can be completed briefly in as little as five sessions for clearly defined issues but more long-term REBT is recommended for more complex issues Digiuseppe et al.
However, longer REBT in terms of minutes is considered more effective, having greater impact on treatment outcomes Lyons and Woods, ; Gonzalez et al. Practitioners wishing to ethically adopt REBT within their practice should acquire professional competencies by completing a recognized and official REBT course, and also maintain their knowledge and skills via peer support groups.
Because there is a paucity of research reporting the use of REBT with athletes, meta-analyses conducted with non-athletes provides acceptable, but not strong, justification for the use of REBT with athlete populations. However, sport literature has started to report the use of REBT in athlete populations. One of the advantages of practicing and studying sport psychology is the exposure to a broad range of psychological approaches, many of which that have their groundings in cognitive behavioral approaches.
However, the author finds that REBT is particularly useful for accessing, challenging, and changing more deeply held beliefs and philosophies than the techniques included within The Canon.
For example, following REBT, athletes with rational beliefs still get anxious healthy anxiety about competing and The Canon provides useful strategies for reducing symptoms such as rumination and debilitative arousal. But some athletes require deeper-level work in order to counteract core irrational beliefs that drive unhealthy emotions and behaviors that may be more effectively treated through REBT.
Therefore REBT is applicable for a vast range of athlete issues apart from performance issues, such as career transition, personal life issues, and eating disorders. The goal of REBT is to enhance and maintain emotional and behavioral functionality, which then helps to drive long-term goal achievement. In the context of sport, where the result is often the most important factor and a quick fix is tempting, athlete mental health is sometimes forgotten.
It is important to recognize that REBT is also a preventative approach that can bolster rational beliefs and mental health, and is not just about providing a solution to irrational beliefs and mental ill-health. This also helps athletes to self-manage emotions once they have been suitably trained to use REBT independently and competently. Sport, and many other performance contexts, can be too reactive to problems, which can cause sport psychology provision to be seen as remedial, rather than a core part of athlete support.
Nonetheless, the growth of sport psychology has helped practitioners integrate well-established and also novel approaches into their practice, which in the case of REBT is reflected in the recent attention it has received in sport psychology literature. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy can be delivered in time-constricted and access-restricted situations, typical of some sporting environments.
Therefore the modes of delivery typical in REBT such as group therapy, education, and one-to-one counseling, fit well within the provision of sport psychology. Perhaps many sport psychology practitioners use REBT within their practice, but current literature has sparse examples of REBT being used with athletes. The writing concerning the use of REBT in sport has been focused on case-study reflections e.
For example, Bernard provides a very detailed description of his work applying a rational-emotive training program with Australian Rules Football players. Delivered in a group setting, the program included REBT education and also broader themes such as concentration training and goal setting.
Bernard reports that the athletes were better able to control their thoughts to directly influence performance. However, no performance markers were attained and no control-group was present as this work was not a research study, deeming the extent to which the program influenced actual performance impossible to ascertain.
A similar approach was taken by Marlow who applied REBT with a youth ten-pin bowler, again within a broad program of psychological skills, reporting positive performance effects alongside adaptive behavioral changes. Away from reflective case-study approaches, there have been a handful of studies that focus on changes in relevant dependent variables through the application of REBT. Elko and Ostrow applied REBT with six gymnasts and found reduced anxiety in five and enhanced performance in three of the participants.
The lack of performance gain in three of the gymnasts is feasibly attributed to circumstantial events, but may indicate that the promotion of rational beliefs does not necessarily improve athletic performance. In another study, five lecture-based REBT sessions were provided to youth soft-tennis players, with results indicating that cognitive-anxiety was significantly reduced Yamauchi and Murakoshi, However, this study is written in Japanese, has not been translated, and therefore the author has been unable to discern the precise details of the study.
One study examined the efficacy of REBT for managing trait and state anxiety direction, and ten-pin bowling performance, compared to an imagery and relaxation intervention, and a placebo intervention Larner et al.
The relaxation and imagery intervention comprised rehearsal of alternate physiological and mental states during competition, and the placebo intervention emphasized general attention and reflective counseling. The REBT intervention reduced irrational thinking significantly more than the comparison interventions, which is to be expected. However, REBT also significantly moderated negative directional interpretations of trait and state anxiety symptoms, and improved performance to a greater extent than the comparison interventions.
Using coach and teammate evaluation and video analysis, results showed a reduction in behaviors related to LFT, and performance enhancement in competitions.
More recent research has emerged that has adopted single-case designs to assess the effectiveness of REBT with athletes. In a study by Turner and Barker , four elite youth cricketers received three one-to-one REBT counseling sessions regarding their performance anxiety. Results showed a significant reduction in irrational beliefs and cognitive anxiety when REBT was applied, but no objective performance markers were collected and therefore the impact of REBT on performance was not evidenced.
Two further studies Turner et al. However, when REBT education was applied in a single session, reductions in irrational beliefs were short-term, returning to baseline levels at a follow-up timepoint Turner et al. Whereas REBT education applied in three sessions yielded longer-term reductions in irrational beliefs, lending support to the idea that REBT is not a quick fix.
Again, although in both studies subjectively athletes felt that the REBT helped them improve emotional control and performance, no objective markers of performance were sought. More recently Cunningham and Turner, , REBT was used with three semi-professional Mixed Martial Arts athletes on a one-to-one basis, to reduce irrational beliefs, in particular self-depreciation, and increase unconditional self-acceptance.
Results showed that two of the three athletes reported decreases in self-depreciation, and all three showed increases in unconditional self-acceptance USA. Also, in a detailed case-study paper REBT was applied with a country-level archer across seven sessions Wood et al.
Further, the research that exists has focused on the application of REBT with athletes in the field, and not on testing and validating the theoretical proponents of REBT in sport settings, or with athletes. The number of empirical research papers and practitioner reflections are growing in the sport and REBT literature, but most articles focus on how the application of REBT reduces irrational beliefs in athletes, with the use of social validation data to explore broader changes at an emotional and behavioral level.
With the research in sport in its infancy, there are a number of areas in which future research should be directed. In this article the author presents three key areas in which further research should be invested in order to advance the understanding of irrational and rational beliefs and REBT in sport. First, the influence of irrational and rational beliefs and REBT on the mental health of athletes should be more fully investigated.
Although extant sport research has reported shifts in irrational and rational beliefs and emotional outcomes e. Second, given that sport is a performance-driven industry, the influence of irrational and rational beliefs and REBT on performance should be more fully empirically tested. While the extant research provides growing support for the applicability of REBT for sport performance e.
Further, the potential mechanisms for sport performance effects stemming from irrational and rational beliefs have not been suitably investigated. Third, the development of irrational beliefs in athletes should be investigated to provide a clear picture of how and when irrational beliefs emerge in athletes.
This can open the door for early-years development of rational beliefs in order to avoid mental health issues stemming from irrational beliefs as the athlete progresses in their career.
This article addresses each of these three areas in detail and in turn. Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy did not stem from performance literature, and like many other cognitive-behavioral approaches, REBT has been adopted by sport and exercise psychologists for use in performance settings.
The origins of REBT are within clinical psychotherapeutic settings, where the chief goal is mental health. Therefore the preponderance of extant research examines mental health outcomes, and indicates that irrational beliefs lead to, and are associated with, a vast range of emotional and behavioral outcomes that undermine mental health.
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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) in the New Millenium: A Cross-Cultural Approach
Rational emotive behavior therapy REBT , previously called rational therapy and rational emotive therapy , is an active-directive, philosophically and empirically based psychotherapy , the aim of which is to resolve emotional and behavioral problems and disturbances and to help people to lead happier and more fulfilling lives. REBT posits that people have erroneous beliefs about situations they are involved in, and that these beliefs cause disturbance, but can be disputed with and changed. Rational emotive behavior therapy REBT was created and developed by the American psychotherapist and psychologist Albert Ellis , who was inspired by many of the teachings of Asian , Greek , Roman and modern philosophers. Psychology Today noted, "No individual—not even Freud himself—has had a greater impact on modern psychotherapy. REBT is both a psychotherapeutic system of theory and practices and a school of thought established by Ellis.