Rational Emotive Therapy is a treatment that primarily focuses on our beliefs. According to Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational Emotive Therapy, the way we feel about a situation does not depend on the situation itself. Rather, our feelings depend on how we interpret a situation through our belief systems. Therapists using Rational Emotive therapy take an active, directive role in helping people see where their interpretations of life events and circumstances are causing them unnecessary depression, anxiety, self-blame, and shame. For example, a therapist may help a patient recognize when they are catastrophizing, which means treating a situation as a catastrophe when in reality it is a situation that they can either cope with or avoid. Therapists also help patients address the demands that they unknowingly place on themselves. Through Rational Emotive Therapy, people examine the ways in which they tell themselves that they should, ought, or must do something, even though they would ultimately be okay if they did not. Recognizing that we are not as stuck in our lives as we think we are can be immensely relieving.
Also a component of Rational Emotive Therapy, patients are encouraged to test out new ways of living. A person who struggles with perfectionism may be asked to experiment with purposefully completing a project less than perfectly. A person who too often sacrifices their own well-being to serve the needs of others may try exploring what it feels like to put their own needs first for a change. Patients find that their lives become less stressful when they can take what they learn in the therapy office and put it into action in their life. Rational Emotive Therapist encourage patients to this end and can provide directive guidance on how to get there.