Dr Debbie Jofffe Ellis has kindly given me permission to share this article with you. The article highlights how hypnotherapy COMBINED with REBT brings long lasting results.
Many hypnotherapists will boast of high success rates acheived quickly, it may be NLP, hypno gastric band therapy, EFT etc, etc these approaches in the author’s opinion will bring about short lasting “results”. There is a phonomonen within hypnosis where 18 per cent of the population can enter into a deep trance state quickly, these are invariably the people that experience quick, short term fixes! If it is too good to be true, that is usually because it is!
To acheive long term and lasting results the goal of every therapist should be to equip the preson to deal with inevitable stebacks, therefore if you know how to get out of a setback, you will no longer fear one in the future.
Her husband, Dr Albert Ellis a Diplomate in clinical hypnosis and Fellow of 12 Divisions of The American Psychological Association and creator of Cognitive/Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, the world’s most clinically trialled psychotherapy used hypnotherapy alongside REBT/CBT. Here we learn even more about the effective long lasting use of hypnotherapy combined with REBT.
Albert Ellis PhD –Master Therapist, Pioneer, Humanist.
Dr Debbie Joffe Ellis.
Brilliant psychologist, Albert Ellis, devoted his life to helping as many people as possible
to suffer less and enjoy life more. His pioneering cognitive approach of Rational Emotive
Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a tool that countless people use, and have used over the
past six decades, to lessen their emotional disturbances, to create healthy and appropriate
emotions, to stop self-defeating behaviors and replace them with healthy life-enhancing
Regarding his connection with the field of Hypnosis: Albert Ellis was a fellow of
Division 30, became a Diplomate in Clinical Hypnosis of the American Board of
Psychological Hypnosis in the 1950’s, wrote about REBT and the use of hypnosis,
and – as Dr Jeffrey K Zeig (Founder and Director of the Milton Erickson Foundation)
wrote in his 2007 tribute article – was proficient in its practice, and presented on
REBT and Hypnosis at an early Erickson Congress.
In addition to helping vast numbers of individual clients, he inspired and helped millions
of people through his tireless presentations to both professional and public audiences
throughout the USA and across the globe, and by his writing of over 80 books and 800
The REBT approach is multi-modal, and hypnosis was a technique which Dr Ellis used
occasionally, mainly in the earlier years of his work. With certain clients he felt that
doing so was helpful, though not so for all clients. He believed there were
advantages and disadvantages to adding hypnosis to REBT – which will be mentioned
in this article shortly.
Looking at the early years of Albert Ellis: As a child he suffered serious illness, and
during the ages of four to nine spent many months in hospital. Rather than succumb to
the initial deep sadness that he felt at being isolated from friends, family and his preferred
life at home and school, and the neglect he felt when his mother only visited him very
occasionally, he realized that if he occupied his mind with reading books from the
hospital library, telling himself that – as bad as it was – it could always be worse,
interacting with other children who were patients in his ward, talking with his nurses
(who he regularly fell in love with!), imagining and inventing grand schemes that he
might some day carry out, and other such distractions – he would feel less sad, thereby
preventing himself from making himself depressed (Ellis, 2010).
As a young teen he was an avid reader of philosophy, and was thrilled to discover the
philosophers whose approaches described what he had figured out in his earlier days :
that what we believe and what we imagine, rather than what actually happens to us,
controls our emotional destiny. He discovered that the Greek Stoic philosophers in the
4th century BC had seen that we largely feel the way we think, and that their descendants
several centuries later in the first century CE, especially Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius,
said that it is not the things that happen to us, but our view of what happens, that upsets
Dr Ellis humorously remarked in later years that he reinvented the Stoic’s philosophical
wheel two thousand years or so after they started it rolling !
Through his thorough reading of as many books on philosophy, psychology and other
areas of his interest as he could get his hands on, Dr Ellis was familiar with the
books of Bernheim (1887/1947) and Coue (1923).
In the 1880’s Hippolyte Bernheim, psychiatrist and hypnotist, wrote his book on hypnosis
and used educational-persuasive and emotive methods to put clients into trances, and then
often gave them activity homework assignments to help them work against their
disturbed symptoms. He was quite cognitive in his approach in that he realized that
hypnotism worked mainly because clients took the suggestions of the hypnotist and
decided to follow them.
Following his lead, Frenchman Emile Coue realized that hypnosis was largely
autosuggestion – or self-suggestion. In the early years of the twentieth century he
convinced thousands of people who read his books or heard his lectures to overcome their
mental and physical problems by suggesting positive and optimistic phrases to
themselves. His most famous phrase was “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better
and better.” He developed the cognitive aspects of hypnosis by both realizing that
suggestion was at the heart of hypnotic therapy, and that people’s negative
self-suggestion (autosuggestion) was a prime element in creating their neurotic
disturbances. He asserted that they could consciously choose to replace the negative with
positive autosuggestion to overcome many of their emotional and behavioral problems.
He also endorsed the use of imagination. He invented positive visualization to help
disturbed people improve their emotive and physical functioning.
Though at the ripe young age of five Dr Ellis was ignorant of the works of those
mentioned above, lessons he learned and experienced as a result of his intense use of his
imagination and his selective choice of what he thought and focused on during his
childhood, became strong aspects of his REBT approach. One of the tools of REBT is
Rational Emotive Imagery, which uses the process of visualization in a specific way.
Dr Ellis started using hypnosis in 1949, finding it useful in some instances in which it
helped clients reveal thoughts and feelings that they did not normally or easily disclose.
When he originated REBT in 1955, and following that time, he kept using it on occasion
– mainly in the form of authoritarian-oriented hypnosis, combined with REBT.
REBT and hypnosis have a number of things in common.
* They both emphasize the repeated use of positive coping statements, with REBT
particularly also teaching clients to forcefully and vigorously dispute negative and
* They both hold that by changing self-defeating cognitions people significantly change
their emotions and actions.
* They both are highly active-directive approaches in therapy – and as such differ from
passive and non-directive therapies such as psychoanalysis and person-centered therapy.
* They both give homework assignments and emphasize the benefit of in vivo
desensitization, encouraging clients to do, do, do the things that they are afraid of doing,
and to keep on taking action against any feelings of low frustration tolerance and other
self-defeating attitudes and behaviors (such as addictions).
When working with clients with whom he would incorporate hypnosis in the early years
of his work, Dr Ellis would start by asking them to go over one or two main problems
that they wanted to work on during their hypnotic session. The most common issues were
those of depression, anxiety, anger or addictive behaviors. Dr Ellis would record the ten
minutes of hypnotic relaxation induction plus the following ten minutes of REBT
instruction that were part of their first session, and instructed the clients to listen to the
tapes every day, at least once a day, for the next month or two. He would use Jacobson’s
(1938) progressive relaxation technique to get them into a light trance state and
progressively into a deeper state of hypnotic relaxation. Then the client would be
instructed on how to use REBT posthypnotically to work on their problems. This would
include describing the specific irrational beliefs that the clients held; suggesting that they
would be looking for the irrational beliefs they held when feeling or acting in self-
defeating ways; that they would discover their demands, shoulds and musts; that they
would vigorously dispute and challenge those irrational demands; that they would repeat
to themselves – vigorously and many times – strong rational coping statements; that they
would use Rational Emotive Imagery (which involves the client imagining the worst
possible thing that they believed at that time could happen to them (eg rejection) ,
allowing themselves to feel very upset, and then working on their feelings – by changing
their beliefs into rational ones – so that they only felt appropriately disappointed or sorry,
but not unhealthily depressed or anxious); that they would practice the Rational Emotive
Imagery for at least 30 days until they automatically began to feel healthy non-
debilitating emotions, eg disappointment, instead of unhealthy depression; that they
would push themselves to do uncomfortably whatever they wanted to get more
comfortable at (in vivo desensitization) till they felt more comfortable doing it; and that
they would see that nearly all of their problems stemmed from their rigid demands, and
that they could always choose to change the demands into healthy desires and
preferences, into healthy and life-enhancing feelings and behaviors.
After these suggestions and instructions Dr Ellis would end the session by telling the
clients that they would have no discomfort or bad effects from the session and that they
would subsequently have a good and happy day.
In follow-up therapy sessions he would check on whether they had been listening to the
tape and following its instructions, discuss the good or bad results they were getting, and
usually return to practicing regular REBT with occasional return to use of sessions with
Many of his clients with whom he worked in this way reported favorable outcomes, but
he speculated that this might have been because he was using this approach with clients
who asked for hypnosis and were in favor of it – and hence were more likely to cooperate
with the therapist’s guidance and do their REBT homework more consistently and
A transcript of Dr Ellis using hypnosis combined with REBT with a client can be read
Dr Ellis found that combining hypnosis and REBT had advantages and disadvantages.
(i) In having the clients listen to the recorded hypnosis session daily for a month or
more, they would also be hearing the REBT messages over and over, and hence were
more likely to respond to the rational self-statements on the tape and keep doing their
(ii) The tape included the major problem-issues the client was facing, and hence kept
the client’s focus on solving these issues before going onto other ones.
Progress and growing familiarity with REBT as applied to these major issues could make
the application of REBT to additional and/or less serious issues easier.
(iii) One of the basic philosophies of REBT – that people largely upset themselves
and can therefore choose to un-upset themselves, and in-so-doing have control of their
emotional destinies – was repetitively shown and reinforced, which assisted clients to
adopt this philosophy as a new, habitual and healthy way of thinking and living.
(iv) Clients were encouraged to think for themselves and be more self-sufficient, as
well as following the suggestions of their therapist.
(v) Those clients who believed in the power of hypnosis, and therefore asked for it,
were likely to be more favorably predisposed to therapy when they had it.
(vi) It could be useful for some clients to experience the emotive quality that
hypnotherapy may have evoked more easily than other methods they had tried.
(i) The old-style authoritarian-oriented hypnosis which Dr Ellis mainly used in the
1950’s included too much suggestion, and hence conflicted with the REBT emphasis on
self-empowerment and self-directed thinking. REBT holds that people should preferably
learn to think for themselves and not unthinkingly adopt suggestions from their therapist,
or anyone else.
Dr Ellis recognized that in later decades hypnosis given by the skilled and well-trained
hypnotherapist was usually used much more permissively and the therapist would
discourage tendencies which some clients may have had to use it by rote – letting the
therapist do all the work, but there was still the danger of a client relying too much on
the work and suggestions of the therapist and not enough on their own conscious efforts.
(ii) There was a danger that after sessions which included hypnosis some clients
might simply cover up dysfunctional beliefs with positive thoughts that they did not
really believe or act on, repeating them in a parrot-like fashion – rather than more
vigorously and consciously recognizing and disputing their dysfunctional beliefs, and
then replacing them with healthy and functional ones.
(iii) Some clients who mainly sought hypnosis wanted therapy to provide a quick, an
easy, and an almost magical way for change to happen in their lives. Again, they might
tend to rely too much on the therapist rather than using their own constructive abilities.
They tended to have low frustration tolerance (that is: wanting what they wanted when
they wanted it – usually immediately!) with less willingness at the outset to do the hard
work and consistent practice of new and healthy ways of thinking, feeling and behaving
which are required for lasting change.
My husband’s greatest wish for his clients, students, individuals in his
lecture/seminar/workshop audiences, colleagues and friends was that they relish their gift
of life – that they minimize any suffering, and maximize pleasure and enjoyment.
When people suffered unhealthy and debilitating emotional pain – he didn’t just want
them to temporarily feel better, he wanted them to get and stay better.
His REBT approach helped countless numbers of individuals to get better and stay
better, and if it appeared that their doing so could be facilitated by the addition of
complementary approaches, such as hypnotherapy, he would be all for it.
It is my hope that therapists who primarily practice hypnotherapy, or any other preferred
therapeutic modality, will embrace the openness of Albert Ellis, and see him as a model
of a therapist who deeply valued the well-being of his clients and was willing to
experiment with adding other modes of treatment to his own for the good of his clients.
Bernheim, H. 1887, 1947. Suggestive Therapeutics. New York: London Book Co.
Coue, Emile. 1923. My Method. New York: Doubleday, Page.
Ellis, Albert. 1962. Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel.
Ellis, Albert. 1984. The Use of Hypnosis with Rational Emotive Therapy. International Journal of Eclectic Psychotherapy, 3(2): 15-22.
Ellis, Albert. 2005. The Myth of Self Esteem. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
Ellis, Albert. 2010. All Out: An Autobiography. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books.
Ellis, Albert and Robert A. Harper. 1961. A Guide to Rational Living.North Hollywood, CA: Wilshire Books.
Jacobson, Edmund. 1938. You Must Relax. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Zeig, Jeffrey K. 2007. Tribute to Albert Ellis. The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter. Vol.27,(2):11.
Ellis, D. J. (Spring, 2010). Albert Ellis PhD: Master therapist, pioneer, humanist. American Psychological Association, Society of Psychological Hypnosis, 19(1), 7-12. http://www.apa.org/divisions/div30/
With special thanks to Joan H. Hageman, Ph.D.
Chair of Research
PsyMore Research Institute, Inc.
Robin W. Thorburn ADHP (NC) MNRHP UKCP (H) FNCSAG