Rational emotive behavior therapy has a strong philosophical basis (Dryden & Ellis, 2001; Ellis, 2002a, 2002b, 2004b). In fact, Ellis relied heavily on the teachings of Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher, who believed that "people are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them" (Dryden, 2002c, p. 348). However, REBT is not a form of Stoicism because the true Stoic attempts to develop an immunity to feelings, whereas REBT recognizes that rational thinking leads to the healthy expression of feelings. Contrary to what many people believe, emotions are a significant component of this theory.
In developing REBT, Ellis was also influenced by several psychologists, including Karen Horney and Alfred Adler (Ellis, 1994; Ellis & Dryden, 1997). Karen Homey's "tyranny of the shoulds" (Ellis & Dryden, 1997, p. 3) led to Ellis's emphasis on how absolutistic thinking creates and maintains emotional disturbance. Adler's work was important because he used active-directive teaching and emphasized people's goals, purposes, values, and meanings, concepts also inherent in REBT (Dryden & Ellis, 2001). In addition, Adler was one of the first well-known therapists to focus on inferiority feelings (Ellis & Dryden, 1997), and REBT similarly addresses the concept of inferiority with its emphasis on selfrating and ego anxiety.
Developing a rational philosophy of life is a major construct of this theory. A rational philosophy is designed to help people increase their happiness and decrease emotional distress. Walen, DiGiuseppe, and Dryden (1992) noted that the purpose of a rational philosophy is to identify beliefs that lead to survival, satisfaction with living, positive ways of relating to others, intimate involvement with a few others, and personally fulfilling endeavors.
Commitment to the scientific method is also a central aspect of REBT. Applying the scientific method to their personal life will help people give up dysfunctional beliefs that can lead to emotional disturbance and ineffectual behavior, according to Ellis (DiGiuseppe, 1999). Testing one's assumptions and examining the validity and functionality of beliefs are important, as well as developing flexibility in adopting new beliefs to guide behavior. Ellis's theory includes some elements of constructivism, specifically in the sense that humans would be better off if they understood that they themselves create their images of how the world is or should be (Ellis, 1998, 2001b). However, whereas modern constructivists assert that people should be allowed to find their own reality and develop alternative beliefs on their own, REBT posits that there are some constructions – namely, rational beliefs – that are more functional and lead to emotional adjustment. Therefore, REBT counselors or therapists focus on helping clients develop rational, as opposed to irrational, constructions (Dryden & Ellis, 2001).
According to REBT theory, certain values promote emotional adjustment and mental health. These values include the following (DiGiuseppe, 1999):
1. Self-acceptance. Healthy people accept themselves unconditionally and do not measure their worth by their achievements. They try to enjoy themselves rather than try to prove themselves.
2. Risk taking. Emotionally healthy people take risks and tend to be rather adventurous but not foolish.
3. Non-utopian. Healthy people realize they are unlikely to get everything they want, nor do they attempt to avoid everything they find painful. They accept the fact that there is no such thing as utopia and, therefore, do not strive for the unattainable or for unrealistic perfectionism.
4. High frustration tolerance. Healthy people recognize that there are problems they can do something about and problems they cannot change. Their goal is to modify the negative conditions that can be changed, accept those that cannot, and have the wisdom to know the difference between the two.
5. Self-responsibility for disturbance. Healthy individuals do not blame others, the world, or fate for their distress. Instead, they accept a good deal of responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
6. Self-interest. Emotionally healthy people tend to put their own interests somewhat above the interests of others. Although they sacrifice themselves to some degree for those for whom they care, they do not do this completely.
7. Social interest. Most people choose to live in social groups, and, therefore, they understand that it is important to act morally, protect the rights of others, and contribute to society to help create the kind of world in which they would like to live.
8. Self-direction. Emotionally healthy people generally assume responsibility for their own lives but at the same time cooperate with others. They do not need or demand considerable support or nurturance from others.
9. Tolerance. Healthy individuals allow themselves and others the right to be wrong, recognizing that they may not like unpleasant or obnoxious behavior but do not condemn humans for behaving that way.
10. Flexibility. Mature, healthy people are unbigoted, open to change, and flexible in their thinking. They do not make rigid rules for themselves or others.
11. Acceptance of uncertainty. Healthy individuals acknowledge and accept the fact that they live in a world where absolute certainties do not exist. Although they like some degree of order, they do not demand to know exactly what will happen.
12. Commitment. Individuals tend to be happier and healthier if they are involved in something outside themselves and have at least one strong, creative interest around which they structure part of their lives.