Select Page

For too long the public has been fed “miraculous results” of hypnotherapy, NLP ( and I have a certificate in NLP) and past life regression therapy by therapists determined to indulge in mysticism. This child like and irrational thinking is the essence of many problems.
After 20 years clinical practice, I have found that hypnotherapy allied to Cognitive Therapy (the most trialled therapy in the world that consistently yields good results) brings longer term peace of mind to the client, rather than a short term “fix”. CBT quickly and effectivley highlights the conscious thoughts the person is telling their unconscious mind or memory and it is these conscious thoughts that lead to illness or ineffective behaviour. CBT then works to create more effective rational thoughts. “Your unconscious won’t cure a damned thing, you cure the unconscious thoughts and feelings by making them conscious”. Dr Albert Ellis originator of CBT/REBT.

You can feed a person for the day or teach them how to hunt for the rest of their lives.

“The public remains largely unaware of the research supporting the efficacy of CT…but numerous studies show Cognitive Therapy is as effective as medication in treating depression, and often better than drugs for conditions like anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder” Washington Post Sept 3rd 2002…at 15 months CT was superior to both imipramine and relaxation” (Shear et al (1994).

6 April 2005 Study: Cognitive Therapy as effective as drugs in treating depression. In a study of 240 patients, researchers found that Cognitive Therapy, a type of treatment that teaches patients to think more realistically, worked as well as a popular anti-depressant for moderate to severe depression…if people quit taking Paxil (Paroxitine) after 4 months, their relapse rate was twice that of therapy patients…”it establishes, I think, once and for all that Cognitive Therapy does as well as pharmacotherapy, and what’s even more important is that it has a much lower relapse rate,” Professor Aaron Beck, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Director of the Center of The Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia
What follows is a response from Robin to a colleague who thought Psychotherapy was becoming too scientific.

I thank my colleague for his contribution. This has vague connotations of a speech made in a recent visit to these shores by a certain religious leader, namely the pope!

I make no apology if my following contribution is perceived as forthright and focused. I certainly take psychological illness seriously enough to express my thoughts on it with passion.

The title he uses is the first misleading piece of information “Beyond the rational mind”. How can a mind be rational? Presumably it is a mind that chooses to be rational.

I suspect but cannot absolutely prove, because he does not say, (presumably for his own reasons, but given his recent past contributions and Jungian statements made in relation to articles on cognitive therapies) that he is referring to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy when he thinks (notice his “Freudian slip” about the way he constructs his perception!) that “there is a danger that as psychotherapy becomes more mainstream it will become infected and polluted… by the rigidity of the current scientific approach”. Tony, you seem to be catastrophizing, awfulizing, terriblizing, calamatizing and magnifying, similar to the little boy who shouted “Wolf”!

At the 1995 Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, even the behaviourist Dr Joseph Wolpe acknowledged that cognition was important when he remarked to Dr Albert Ellis’ surprise “There is an important point that Al Ellis made about cognitive events in therapy. Yes, cognition enters into everything that we do…..” (Wolpe 1997, p. 199). Dr Ellis continues in his book Overcoming, Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors p.235 “The point I am making is that just about all therapy with humans, including pure behavioural analysis, inevitably has important cognitive elements and would hardly exist without these elements. But I want to particularly emphasize that when clients easily and naturally use their language systems to make self-defeating conclusions about themselves, about others and especially about the ”horror” of their panicking and depressing, probably the best and most thoroughgoing way to help them is to teach them philosophic methods of change, especially how to think more accurately about their thinking”.

Let me again clarify that in REBT parlance, rational mainly means self-helping and that science to me means being realistic, logical, open minded and prepared to try different things. How we can then be “too scientific”? I sincerely hope Tony is never seriously ill with a physical illness and requests the presenting doctor not to be “too scientific”!

One could say that science and sanity are inextricably linked.

In terms of artistic creativity, for example hypnotherapy, the medical profession have used it for many years. I practice rational emotive behaviour therapy, its imagery exercises (right hemisphere utilisation) and also creative hypnotherapy.
Again, I am not quite sure of the point Tony is trying to make. Probably inferring a global rating that scientific people are not creative!

Also the next time I communicate with Professor Aaron Beck, one of the most prolific researchers’ into cognitive approaches I must tell him that the brain controlling the mind is a “big blind alleyway” according to my colleague!

In fact Beck set out to prove Freud correct but concluded by proving him wrong, thanks to his realistic, logical, open minded approaches!

It would be enlightening if he could specifically tell us how excessive rationality “has created an imbalance in our society”? (Yet another generalisation).
From my observations on society, self discipline, consideration and genuine compassion with a purpose, instead of “Florence Nightingaleism” (Albert Ellis) could benefit some aspects of it. Not all of society is “imbalanced”.

Let us look at the points Tony wants us to debate and “trigger a crisis”!?

His concepts of objectivity and “utter” subjectivity and maps of reality are put forward here. Not too sure what his point is though. “Life is an inherently mysterious flow”. This is yet another absolute statement. Science itself cannot provide an absolute answer!

Unlike organised religion, CBT and REBT ENCOURAGE the person to think for themselves, and unconditionally accept themselves free from the myth of self esteem of trying to attain approval from significant others/ by creating fiction/sacred myths/superstitions/heroes or heroines!. As a therapist I certainly do not have a problem with that!

“Following the secular humanist tradition, REBT deifies nothing, holds no absolutes, and is quite comfortable with the world of probability, uncertainty, fallibility, and even disorder. It encourages people to desire and prefer many goals, but not to demand, to need, or to dictate anything. In this sense, and quite revolutionarily, it helps free humans of their own anxietizing, depressing, and raging, much of which stems from their aspirations to be grandiose and godlike. REBT truly accepts and fosters their humanness!” Albert Ellis p96/p97. Overcoming Destructive, Beliefs, Feelings and Behaviors”.

If anything then is the “new religion”, it is probably many aspects of the media with their inaccurate definitions, global ratings, catastrophising and an obsession with “self-esteem,” and blame.

If people claim that the cognitive methodologies are prescriptive, well the same accusation can be made of our education system! In my view the conscious initially teaches the unconscious, i.e. the first time you tried to drive a car, the teacher and you had to inform your unconscious or memory how to drive it!

If I can help my client to feel a healthy negative emotion such as concern as opposed to debilitating anxiety then my therapeutic approach is working. That is what most of my clients would like so that they can move towards aspects of happiness free from debilitating, rigid, absolutistic demands, from self, others, dogmatic religious and ignorant parental demands.

Long live realistic, logical, open minded experimenting!

Cognitive approaches are used by one in four health professionals in America; it is the second most used form of talk therapy and over 50 per cent of college professors teach it. National Public Radio July 2007

Some CBT practitioners may slavishly adhere to a “painting by numbers” sterile approach as they try to dispute and change Negative Automatic Thoughts with more “positive” ones. This however is not the realm of rational emotive behaviour therapy as the practitioners I know have vibrant, creative and, humorous confrontational therapeutic styles. REBT is more philosophical than CBT and challenges client’s underlying demands, thereby freeing the client’s natural creativity instead of contriving better outcomes!

My thoughts, feelings and reaction to his contribution are that he does not understand very much about Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy and its philosophy. That is: most forms of human psychological problems tend to include inaccurate definitions of self, other and the world held in place by demands. I very much doubt that Dr Albert Ellis could be accused of rigidity!! I ask my colleague to read his auto-biography “All Out” and some REBT books instead of guessing at what we practice. Psychodynamic therapy has been debated and it seems not to be, (no apologies in using this word) scientifically, ineffective. The definition of therapy is to heal!

For the record, Cognitive/Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapies use imagery techniques, (rational emotive imagery to name one) and hypnotherapy as part of their approach to healing bewildered, frightened, anxious, angry, depressed people. Again, if my colleague was conversant with REBT he would know that the right hemisphere of the brain is anything but ignored!

It is my contention that the mis-informed views he has put forward and the semantically imprecise language that he has used account, in part why some of us as therapists are not taken seriously by the NHS and employed by them and why people become neurotic.

Of course we do not have a complete answer to the ‘why’ question and probably never will. It is however, preferable to try and furnish our clients and ourselves with peace of mind. That is, of course, assuming that we do not want to be crisis ridden!

I have written a series of articles on rational emotive behaviour therapy, (the original cognitive behaviour therapy) and how it can help a client. I would now prefer other therapists not to go backwards into a debate about its efficacy, given that it is the most trialled and tested psychotherapy, but rather challenge my colleague to come forward and present his own therapeutic approaches and how they will specifically help a client suffering from anxiety, anger and depression effectively?!

Thanks to REBT (Rational Therapy as it was then) the rich flower that is psychotherapy has flourished since 1955 with the buds of credibility, enlightenment and furnished millions upon millions of people with peace of mind.

We probably are and always will be biologically fallible human beings, with complex (at times labile) nervous systems with a strong tendency to self/other and world rate. Let’s work to change that as best as we can without misrepresenting an empowering and most effective approach which can really, really, really help people who choose to consistently and vigorously apply it!

Robin W. Thorburn ADHP (NC) MNRHP UKCP (H) FNSHP