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Robin and Dr Albert Ellis

I had the honour of being invited to visit Dr Albert Ellis on the 20th April 2007 in New

York City.
He is a member of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, the Board of Scientific and Professional Advisors, has practised individual and group Psychotherapy with more than 15,000 clients, given workshops around the world, published over 600 papers and over 80 books. He is a fellow of over 12 divisions of The American Psychological Association, a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology of The American Board of The American Board of Professional Psychology, a Diplomate of The American Board of Psychological Hypnosis, a Diplomate of The American Board of Psychotherapy, and of course created Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, the most widely used therapies in the world that consistently produce excellent long term results.I first contacted Al in 2003 with a manuscript I had written called
Breaking The Vicious Circle of Psychological Misery. He gave it a favourable
review and I sell it as an e-book on my website 2003 I have since kept in touch with Al and his lovely wife Dr Debbie
Joffe Ellis. They have been a priceless source of knowledge in broadening
my understanding of people and gaining deeper insight into Rational Emotive
Behaviour Therapy.As some of you may know, Al is going through very difficult times with “his”
Institute and his health. .Back in the 1950’s Al set up The Albert Ellis
Institute and donated his Townhouse (now valued at over $30 million) and the
royalties from all his books. The Institute was an Internationally
recognised seat of learning. The other trustees recently decided to remove
him from the Trust that still bears his name, this has left Al out on a
limb because he relied on a very meagre income from AEI, and his health
expenses have since rocketed. With the backdrop of Litigation in mind, I
will not go into great detail on my thoughts other than to say Al needs help
from lawyers and help with his medical bills as he has many illnesses to
contend with.

He is very brave and true to REBT Philosophy is accepting of, and working
to overcome adversity. Recently he lectured a group of Belgian students in
the afternoon, despite feeling very unwell (it later transpired that he had
had a heart attack!) Debbie aware of him being unwell wanted the questions
kept to a minimum, when asked by Debbie just how many he would continue to
answer he said ” a hundred”!

My partner and I made the journey to New York after being invited there by
Debbie. I was honoured, as Al is recovering from his second bout of
pneumonia and the heart attack, all at age 93.
I have had many in-depth communications with him and telephone
conversations with Debbie in relation to REBT and the trouble with Albert
Ellis Institute. Debbie herself has been on the receiving end of it’s
attacks, yet there is no one I have met who is more committed to the welfare
and recovery of Albert Ellis and the continuation of true REBT than her. She
really is a beacon of hope in a murky pool. She sleeps in the same small
room as Al on a recliner every night in the rehab centre, and given Al’s
multiple medical difficulties and severe hearing impairment, she is
constantly disturbed throughout the night to oversee and communicate with
him. There is no financial remuneration in it for Debbie. She really is a
fantastic person whose genuine love for Al is breathtaking. Those who have
maligned her should be ashamed of themselves and I use the word Should

We met with Debbie in the foyer of the rehab centre at 3.00pm on a hot
steamy Friday afternoon. We had flown in from Edinburgh earlier that day and
were acclimatizing ourselves with the general friendliness of the New
Yorkers and the constant sound of car horns.

Debbie appeared looking lively and sprite, yet I know that the lady is
weary, sad and concerned about the pain her husband endures.

We arrived at the small room with the great man lying in bed facing a
window, Al waved and acknowledged our presence, his hands shaking with the
erratic blood sugar levels in his body. He still has a good head of hair,
strong arms and that incredible half smile. I exchanged gifts with him. I
was given a beautiful photograph of him and Debbie taken three months ago.

We sat and talked about Al’s health and his hope for REBT, he hoped it would
“forge ahead”. I asked him a number of questions, I wanted to know how he
defined the difference between CBT and REBT. He replied REBT is more
philosophical. I asked him what he thought about NLP, as I hold the belief
that if the therapy was as good as it’s marketing it would be brilliant,
(also he is a Diplomate in Clinical Hypnosis from The American Board of
Psychological Hypnosis) he described it as “crap”. He had visited Scotland
once. Was there anything I could do for him? “Send a copy of the photos” we
were taking.

The visit lasted two hours with interruptions from Doctors and nurses. I
asked him why despite rationally showing people and disputing their
irrational beliefs did they still hold onto their problems? “They are
addicted to them” he said in gruff voice. Al is still mentally sharp and
answers question instantly, but with few words, he lies quietly a lot of the
time but his face lights up when asked a question on Psychology. He endures
pain and given how sore and sensitive his skin is for a 93 year old accepts,
but intensely dislikes the constant blood sugar checks done with needles.

I thanked him for giving therapists the world over a recognisable, common
sense model that we and our patients can follow. He nodded. I shook his hand
and thanked him for reviewing my book.

In Canada, Al was voted the most influential Psychologist of the last 100
years, second in America.

To me he is the essence of care and common sense. He would be a worthy
winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. as he is one of the most outstanding
humanists of our time. He has done more for psychotherapy to move it out of
the Freudian, unscientific magical dark ages and into a treatment that works
effectively. He says what people do not want to hear but probably know to
be the truth and does not bamboozle them with mental gymnastics. He
challenges nutty magical, mystical, childlike thinking. He gets you to think
about your thinking and realise the inaccurate definitions you have made
about yourself and highlights our rigid, inflexible demands from self and
others.These, he states, are the “the essence of psychological disturbance”.
He describes self-esteem as “the greatest sickness known to mankind as it is
conditional”, arguing that self-esteem is dependent on what we should do in
order to satisfy others into thinking we are worthy human beings and that
“shouldhood equals shithood, therefore self-esteem is no more than perfume
for shithood”. Unconditionally accepting yourself and others if for no other
reason that we are mistake making animals.

Al Ellis is the real thing and I hope to see him again soon.

He has helped thousands of people world wide, yet now when he needs help, he
is being ignored.

Please help the Grandfather of modern Psychotherapy by visiting his website and help in anyway you can.

Sadly Dr Ellis died on the 24/7/07 age 93.

A Memorial Service took place at Lerner Hall Auditorium, in New York City to which I was invited by Al’s wife Debbie.
Speakers were: Dr Aaron Beck, Institute for Cognitive Therapy, Dr Alan Kadzin, incoming President of American Psychology Association, Dr Jeff Zeig, Founder and Director of Milton H. Erickson Foundation, Dr Paul Kurtz, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Dr Jon Carlson, Distinguished Professor of Psychology/Counseling, Dr Frank Farley, Past President of American Psychological Association, Dr Bill Knaus, Past Director of Training at The Albert Ellis Institute.
Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to other commitments, however, had I been there I would have spoken about the unswerving commitment and loyalty from Debbie to Al in the months and years I knew them both. Debbie was a constant source of comfort and care during Al’s illness’s and I was fortunate enough to witness first hand the immense love and rapport there was between them. Al’s face would light up just hearing Debbie’s voice, and a smile would appear that said “I adore you”.
Debbie was magnificent and true to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy was unconditionally accepting of people.
I spoke with Debbie the day after the Memorial Service and she was glad so many people had appeared, yet sad because of the memories it brought back.
It was Al’s wish that The Institute that he created and financed would “forage ahead” with true REBT and for it to be administered by the Board he has named. Sadly that is not the case at this time.

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