This book review first appeared in The Independent Practitioner (AIP Journal) Spring, 2010, pp.12-13. The BACP own the copyright and it is reprinted here with their permission.
How to Think and Intervene Like an REBT Therapist
ISBN 978-0-415-48795-5 (pbk) £18.99
I liked this book a lot, partly because it is straightforward and ‘does what is says on the tin’. As you would expect from arguably the UK’s most authoritative REBT practitioner and teacher, the book, like an ideal REBT session, is structured, rational, and tries to engage the reader in a persuasive way.
Although the author is Professor of Psychotherapeutic Studies at Goldsmiths College in London, the book was conceived in the Albert Ellis Institute in New York where Dryden was supervising trainee REBT practitioners. As part of the discussions, students were encouraged to think and intervene like REBT therapists (as opposed to thinking like other general therapists, or even other cognitive therapists), and the question inevitably arose: What does it mean to think and intervene like an REBT therapist? This book provides a full and authoritative answer to that question.
Each chapter is broadly structured into four sections. At the beginning of the chapter there is a brief discussion of some aspect of REBT theory. This is then followed by at least two illustrations where the interventions of an experienced REBT practitioner, and a trainee working with the same clinical vignette, are given. Their respective interventions are then analysed to illustrate how to think and intervene like an REBT therapist. Finally the differences between the trainee and the experienced practitioner are synthesised.
The core of the book is built around the traditional REBT ABC model – the activating event, beliefs about what has happened, and the emotional consequences – and methods of disputing irrational beliefs. However, there is much more besides with chapters dealing with engaging the clients, with obstacles to change, with helping clients understand the change process, as well as those covering setting homework in an REBT way, and maintaining change.
This book is primarily aimed at those training to be REBT therapists. It is likely to be of most benefit to those who have completed initial REBT theoretical training and are in the early months/years of practice. It will provide invaluable revision of REBT theory and demonstrate how to put that theory in practice in a flexible way, most likely to help the client. Other beginner REBT manuals often explain how to do it, but this book adds another layer. By showing how not to do it, the reader better understands how to practise.
The major strength of the book is the way the differences between the trainee and the experienced practitioner are illustrated and analysed. The trainee is often focused on applying a model to a situation. This book will help the trainee see the need to have a more subtle understanding of the nuances of the model, to be more concerned about building and maintaining a relationship, to be more probing in understanding what the client means rather than just hearing what she/he is saying, and to give the client time to digest the process of change. The picture of the experienced REBT practitioner that the book provides also means that even experienced REBT therapists (indeed, therapists from any tradition) would benefit from reading it and viewing themselves against this mirror. They may be encouraged, and in all probability, may be challenged as well.
Although the book does provide a description of REBT theory, it only does so briefly as a stepping stone to practice. The general reader would learn about REBT, but Albert Ellis’s beautifully crafted Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy would give a much more developed and entertaining journey into the often misunderstood world of REBT theory and practice.
Despite its focus on REBT, there is material that therapists from other traditions may find illuminating. One of the themes running throughout the chapters is the difference between what a client says, and what a client may mean. Again and again Dryden shows how the experienced therapist doesn’t take a client’s words as being necessary indicators of particular meaning, but spends time to explore and digest meaning more precisely in order to work more effectively with the client. There are also informative sections on emotion, and on reasons for resistance to effective therapy, which many non-REBT practitioners may find helpful.
A strength of this book is its rigor, but if you read too much at once, the loosely repeated structure of each chapter can make it feel a bit relentless at times. However, perhaps the readers should view it more as a textbook and take a break between chapters. Only a fool would contemplate 12 consecutive REBT sessions during a single day. And each one of these chapters does merit reflection.
James Rye is a Director of Connections Counselling Ltd (http://www.connections-c.co.uk/) and works as a psychotherapist, counsellor, supervisor, and trainer.
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