Albert Ellis PhD (1913-2007) was a bold, courageous and maverick pioneer in the worlds of psychology and psychotherapy. Dedicated to fighting injustices and changing restrictive social norms, he was a major figure in changing general attitudes held by many in the twentieth century, and first decade of the twenty-first century, on women’s rights, racial equality, inter-racial marriage, gay rights, freedom of speech and literature – to name just a few.
He introduced his cognitive approach to psychology in 1956 – attracting immense criticism and hostility – in contrast to the then-dominant Freudian approach of psychoanalysis. He persisted, and now the cognitive approach is the most widely practiced approach in the field. The New York Times wrote “Dr Ellis has had such an impact that … clinical psychologists ranked him ahead of Freud when asked to name the figure who had exerted the greatest influence on their field”.
Ellis’ approach is holistic and ethical, attending to the interplay of a person’s beliefs, emotions and actions, and seeing people as capable of choosing their emotional destiny according to their capacity and willingness to choose rational realistic thinking over irrational thinking.
He asserted that we humans are fallible creatures who can unnecessarily disturb ourselves, and prescribed the use of his REBT approach for Un-disturbing ourselves.
He emphasized strongly and vigorously the importance of practicing unconditional self acceptance, unconditional other acceptance and unconditional life acceptance, which enable healthy tolerance and compassion towards oneself, others and the world.
Dr Ellis did not shy away from controversy – at times he welcomed it as a means of stimulating people to think about rigid out-dated ideas and attitudes – in the hope that they would change their intolerant and self-defeating thoughts into healthier ones. He would vigorously and enthusiastically “rock any boat” if it meant ending or lessening human emotional suffering.
Author of over 80 books and over 800 articles, Dr Ellis was awarded countless honors in his lifetime within his profession and outside of it, including being named Humanist of the Year (1971).
Renowned writer and film director, Dalton Trumbo, wrote of Ellis: “Ah – Albert Ellis! The greatest humanitarian since Ghandi….”. His work has been recognized and admired by millions of people, including world and national leaders such as the Dalai Lama, President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton,
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many more. Many famous writers have incorporated the Ellis approach into their own approaches.
Dr Debbie Joffe Ellis