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Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis (September 27 1913 – July 24 2007) was an American psychologist who in 1955 developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. He held M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Columbia University and founded and was the president and president emeritus of the New York City-based Albert Ellis Institute. His Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy was the first cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) which has led most theoreticians to regard him as one of the originators of all psychological treatments derived that fall under the CBT rubric.

Early lifeEdit

Ellis was born to a Jewish family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was the eldest of three children, with a brother two years younger and a sister who was four years younger. Ellis's father was a businessman who experienced minimal success at a succession of business ventures; he showed only a modicum of affection to his children and was often away from home on business trips during their early childhood. In his autobiography, Ellis characterized his mother as a self-absorbed woman with a bipolar disorder affect. At times, according to Ellis, she was a "bustling chatterbox who never listened." She would expound on her strong opinions on most subjects but rarely provided a factual basis for these views. Like his father, Ellis' mother was emotionally distant from her children. Ellis recounted that she typically was sleeping when he left for school and was usually not at home when he returned. Instead of reporting feeling bitter, he took on the responsibility of caring for his siblings. He purchased an alarm clock with his own money and woke and dressed his younger brother and sister. When the Great Depression struck, all three children sought work to assist the family.

Ellis was sickly as a child and suffered numerous health problems through his youth. At the age of five he was hospitalized with a kidney disease. He was also hospitalized with tonsillitis, which led to a severe streptococcal infection requiring emergency surgery. He reported that he had eight hospitalizations between the ages of five and seven. One of these lasted nearly a year. His parents provided little or no emotional support for him during these years, rarely visiting or consoling him. Ellis stated that he learned to confront his adversities as he had "developed a growing indifference to that dereliction."

Education and early careerEdit

Ellis entered the field of clinical psychology after first earning a Bachelor of Arts in business from the City University of New York. He began a brief career in business, followed by one as a writer. These endeavors took place during the Great Depression that began in 1929, and Ellis found that business was poor and had no success in publishing his fiction. Finding that he could write non-fiction well, Ellis researched and wrote on human sexuality. His lay counseling in this subject convinced him to seek a new career in clinical psychology.

In 1942, Ellis began his studies for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Columbia University, which trained psychologists mostly in psychoanalysis.

He completed his Master of Arts in clinical psychology from Columbia]] in June 1943, and started a part-time private practice while still working on his Ph.D degree–possible because there was no licensing of psychologists in New York at that time. Ellis began publishing articles even before receiving his Ph.D.; in 1946 he wrote a critique of many widely-used pencil-and-paper personality tests that ultimately were not valid. He concluded that only the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory met the standards of a research-based instrument.

Development of rational-emotive therapyEdit

After the completion of his doctorate, Ellis sought additional training in psychoanalysis. Like most psychologists of that time, he was interested in the theories of Sigmund Freud. Shortly after receiving his Ph.D in 1947, Ellis began a personal analysis and program of supervision with Richard Hulbeck (whose own analyst had been Hermann Rorschach, a leading training analyst at the Karen Horney Institute.) Karen Horney would be the single greatest influence in Ellis's thinking, although the writings of Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm and Harry Stack Sullivan also played a role in shaping his psychological models. Ellis credits Alfred Korzybski and his book, Science and Sanity, for starting him on the philosophical path for founding rational-emotive therapy.

Deeply influenced by his experience, reading, and unscientific nature of psychoanalysis by January of 1953 his break with psychoanalysis was complete and he commenced calling himself a rational therapist. Ellis was now advocating a new more active and directive type of psychotherapy. By 1955 he dubbed his new approach Rational Therapy (RT) and it required that the therapist help the client understand and act on the understanding that his personal philosophy contains beliefs that lead to his own emotional pain. This new approach stressed actively working to change his client’s self-defeating beliefs and behaviors by demonstrating their irrationality and rigidity. The next year Ellis began teaching his new technique to other therapists and by 1957 he formally set forth the first cognitive behavioral psychotherapy by proposing that therapists help people adjust their thinking and behavior as the treatment for neuroses. Two years later Ellis published the book How to Live with a Neurotic which elaborated on his new method. The next year Ellis presented a paper on his new approach at the American Psychological Association convention in Chicago. There was mild interest, but few recognized that the paradigm that in a generation would become the zeitgeist had been set forth. Recall, that at that time the prevailing interest in experimental psychological was behaviorism and in clinical psychology it was the psychoanalytic schools of notables such as Freud, Jung, Adler, and Perls. Despite the fact that Ellis’ approach emphasized cognitive, emotive, and behavioral methods, his strong cognitive emphasis provoked almost everyone with the possible exception of the followers of Alfred Adler. Consequently, he was often received with hostility at professional conferences and in print. Interestingly, on several occasions, at symposia at APA conventions, Fritz Perls the founder of Gestalt therapy would refer sarcastically to Ellis’ "rationality," while completely ignoring the experiential and behavioral components of RET.

Despite the slow adoption of his approach, Ellis founded his own institute. The Institute for Rational Living was founded a not-for-profit organization in 1959. By 1968 it was chartered by the New York State Board of Regents as a training institute and psychological clinic. This was no trivial feat as State of New York had a Mental Hygiene Act which mandated psychiatric management of mental health clinics. Ellis had broken ground by founding an institute purely based on psychological control and principles. Ellis claims in several of his published books that the work of popular self-help personalities Wayne Dyer and David D. Burns is based largely on REBT. Currently, Ellis is trying to remain active at his institute at age 92. Despite a dispute with the board of his own institute that has functionally limited his ability to provide services, his final work, a textbook on Personality Theory, was with long time collaborators Dr. Mike Abrams and Dr. Lidia Abrams.

See alsoEdit

Published worksEdit


  • A Guide to Rational Living; Wilshire Book Company. 1975 - ISBN 0879800429
  • How to Live With a Neurotic; Wilshire Book Company. 1979 - ISBN 0879804041
  • When AA Doesn't Work For You : Rational Steps to Quitting Alcohol; Barricade Books. 1992 - ISBN 0942637534
  • The Art and Science of Rational Eating; with Mike Abrams Ph.D. and Lidia Abrams Ph.D.; Barricade Books. 1992 - ISBN 0942637607
  • Ellis, A. Growth through reason: Verbatim cases in rational-emotive psychotherapy. Palo Alto: Science & Behavior Books, 1971.
  • How to Cope with a Fatal Illness; with Mike Abrams Ph.D.; Barricade Books. 1994 - ISBN 1569800057
  • How to Keep People from Pushing Your Buttons; with Arthur Lange. Citadel Press. 1995 - ISBN 0806516704
  • Alcohol : How to Give It Up and Be Glad You Did; with Philip Tate Ph.D. See Sharp Press. 1996 - ISBN 1884365108
  • Ellis, A. Humanistic psychotherapy: The rational-emotive approach. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.
  • How to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You; with Raymond Chip Tafrate. Citadel Press. 1998 - ISBN 0806520108
  • Ellis, A. Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Lyle 1962.
  • The Secret of Overcoming Verbal Abuse: Getting Off the Emotional Roller Coaster and Regaining Control of Your Life; with Marcia Grad Powers. Wilshire Book Company. 2000 - ISBN 0879804459
  • Ellis, A., and Harper, R. A. A new guide to rational living. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975.
  • Overcoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and Behaviors: New Directions for Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy; Prometheus Books. 2001 - ISBN 1573928798
  • Overcoming Procrastination: Or How to Think and Act Rationally in Spite of Life's Inevitable Hassles; with William J. Knaus.
  • Ellis, A. R. (1997). Rational emotive behavior therapy. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Feeling Better, Getting Better, Staying Better : Profound Self-Help Therapy For Your Emotions; Impact Publishers. 2001 - ISBN 1886230358
  • The Road to Tolerance: The Philosophy of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy; Prometheus Books. 2004 - ISBN 1-59102-237-1
  • The Myth of Self-Esteem; Prometheus Books. 2005 - ISBN 1-59102-354-8
  • Ellis, A. (1998). How rational emotive behavior therapy belongs in the constructivist camp. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Ellis, A. (2002). Critical incidents in group therapy. Philadelphia, PA: Whurr Publishers.
  • Ellis, A. (2002). Overcoming resistance: A rational emotive behavior therapy integrated approach (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
  • Ellis, A. (2003). Ask Albert Ellis?: Straight answers and sound advice from America's best-known psychologist. Atascadero, CA: Impact Publishers.
  • Ellis, A., Gordon, J., Neenan, M., & Palmer, S. (1997). Stress counselling: A rational emotive behaviour approach. New York, NY: Cassell.


  • Ellis, Dr. Albert, Dr. Mike Abrams, and Dr. Lidia Abrams (2008). Theories of Personality. Thousand Oaks, Ca: Sage Press.
  • Ellis, A. (2004). Rational emotive behavior therapy: It works for me--it can work for you. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.


  • Ellis, A. (1957) Outcome of employing three techniques of psychotherapy. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 13, 344-350.
  • Ellis, A. (1992). My early experiences in developing the practice of psychology: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice Vol 23(1) Feb 1992, 7-10.
  • Ellis, A. (1997). Using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy techniques to cope with disability: Professional Psychology: Research and Practice Vol 28(1) Feb 1997, 17-22.
  • Ellis, A. (2000). Some Omissions to Leonard Rorer's Review of Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 45 (2), Apr, 2000.
  • Ellis, A. (2003). Early theories and practices of rational emotive behavior therapy and how they have been augmented and revised during the last three decades: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 21(3-4) Win 2003, 219-243.
  • Ellis, A. (2003). A weekend of rational encounter: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 21(3-4) Win 2003, 155-168.
  • Ellis, A. (2004). How my theory and practice of psychotherapy has influenced and changed other psychotherapies: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 22(2) Sum 2004, 79-83.
  • Ellis, A. (2004). Why I (really) became a therapist: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 22(2) Sum 2004, 73-77.
  • Ellis, A. (2004). Why rational emotive behavior therapy is the most comprehensive and effective form of behavior therapy: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 22(2) Sum 2004, 85-92.
  • Ellis, A. (2005). Discussion of Christine A. Padesky and Aaron T. Beck, "Science and Philosophy: Comparison of Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy": Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy Vol 19(2) Sum 2005, 181-185.
  • Ellis, A., & Joffe, D. (2002). A study of volunteer clients who experienced live sessions of rational emotive behavior therapy in front of a public audience: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 20(2) Sum 2002, 151-158.
  • Ellis, A., Shaughnessy, M. F., & Mahan, V. (2002). An interview with Albert Ellis about Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: North American Journal of Psychology Vol 4(3) 2002, 355-366.

Further readingEdit


  • DiGiuseppe, R. (2007). Rational emotive behavioral approaches. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
  • Dryden, W. (1991). A dialogue with Albert Ellis: Against dogma. Maidenhead, BRK, England: Open University Press.
  • Dryden, W., Backx, W., & Ellis, A. (2002). Problems in living: The Friday night workshop. Philadelphia, PA: Whurr Publishers.
  • Haviland-Jones, J., Boulifard, D., & Magai, C. (2001). Old-new answers and new-old questions for personality and emotion: A matter of complexity. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Yankura, J., & Dryden, W. (1994). Albert Ellis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


  • Bernard, M. E. (2009). Dispute irrational beliefs and teach rational beliefs: An interview with Albert Ellis: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 27(1) Mar 2009, 66-76.
  • Capone, M. E. (2006). Review of Love and the Abyss: An Essay on Finitude and Value: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology Vol 37(1) 2006, 129-136.
  • Chang, E. C. (1997). Irrational beliefs and negative life stress: Testing a diathesis-stress model of depressive symptoms: Personality and Individual Differences Vol 22(1) Jan 1997, 115-117.
  • Corsini, R. (2005). The Incredible Albert Ellis: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 50 (1), 2005.
  • Cortes, A. d. J. (1999). Antecedents to the conflict between psychology and religion in America: Journal of Psychology & Theology Vol 27(1) Spr 1999, 20-32.
  • David, D. (2007). In Memoriam Albert Ellis: Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies Vol 7(2) Sep 2007, 125-126.
  • David, D. (2007). Quo Vadis CBT? Trans-cultural perspectives on the past, present, and future of cognitive-behavioral therapies: Interviews with the current leadership in cognitive-behavioral therapies: Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies Vol 7(2) Sep 2007, 171-217.
  • David, D., Schnur, J., & Birk, J. (2004). Functional and dysfunctional feelings in Ellis' cognitive theory of emotion: An empirical analysis: Cognition & Emotion Vol 18(6) Sep 2004, 869-880.
  • Dryden, W. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy: Thirty years on: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 12(2) Sum 1994, 83-99.
  • Dryden, W. (2002). Albert Ellis: Man of letters: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 20(2) Sum 2002, 159-163.
  • Dryden, W., & Still, A. (1998). REBT and rationality: Philosophical approaches: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 16(2) Sum 1998, 77-99.
  • Florsheim, M. J., Leavesley, G., Hanley-Peterson, P., & Gallagher-Thompson, D. (1991). An expansion of the A-B-C approach to cognitive/behavioral therapy: Clinical Gerontologist Vol 10(4) 1991, 65-69.
  • Gardner, F. L. (2007). In memoriam: Remembering Dr. Albert Ellis: Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology Vol 1(3) Sep 2007, 205-206.
  • Gullickson, T. (1992). Review of The Essential Albert Ellis: Seminal Writings on Psychotherapy: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 37 (4), Apr, 1992.
  • Gullickson, T. (1993). Review of Doing RET: Albert Ellis in Action: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 38 (8), Aug, 1993.
  • Gullickson, T. (1996). Review of Albert Ellis: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 41 (10), Oct, 1996.
  • Halasz, G. (2004). In conversation with Dr Albert Ellis: Australasian Psychiatry Vol 12(4) Dec 2004, 325-333.
  • Herrmann, D. S., & McWhirter, J. J. (1996). Review of Better, Deeper, and More Enduring Brief Therapy: The Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Approach: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 41 (11), Nov, 1996.
  • Hogan, J. D. (2007). Legendary psychologist, Albert Ellis, Ph.D., dies at 93: NYS Psychologist Vol 19(5) Dec 2007, 48-49.
  • Johnson, W. B. (1994). Albert Ellis and the "religionists": A history of the dialogue: Journal of Psychology and Christianity Vol 13(4) Win 1994, 301-311.
  • Lazarus, A. A. (2003). Review of Overcoming Resistance: A Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Integrated Approach (2nd Ed): Child & Family Behavior Therapy Vol 25(3) 2003, 78-80.
  • McMahon, J. (2006). Overview to the special edition: Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies Vol 6(1) Mar 2006, 1-3.
  • Neenan, M., & Dryden, W. (1996). Trends in rational emotive behaviour therapy, 1955-95. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
  • Nelson, S. E. (1996). Passionate Skeptic and Relentless Healer: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 41 (11), Nov, 1996.
  • Nielsen, S. L., & Ellis, A. (1994). A discussion with Albert Ellis: Reason, emotion and religion: Journal of Psychology and Christianity Vol 13(4) Win 1994, 327-341.
  • No authorship, i. (1989). Review of Albert Ellis: Passionate Skeptic: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 34 (6), Jun, 1989.
  • No authorship, i. (1992). Review of A Dialogue with Albert Ellis: Against Dogma: PsycCRITIQUES Vol 37 (8), Aug, 1992.
  • No authorship, i. (2006). Review of The Road to Tolerance: The Philosophy of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Adolescence Vol 41(163) Fal 2006, 585-586.
  • No authorship, i. (2007). NYSPA Lifetime Achievement Award: NYS Psychologist Vol 19(5) Dec 2007, 38.
  • O'Dell, J. W. (1990). Spectral analysis of interviews conducted by Rogers and Ellis: Psychological Reports Vol 67(3, Pt 1) Dec 1990, 819-825.
  • Opris, D., & Macavei, B. (2007). The profile of emotional distress; Norms for the Romanian population: Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies Vol 7(2) Sep 2007, 139-158.
  • Overholser, J. C. (2003). Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy: An Interview with Albert Ellis: Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy Vol 33(3) Fal 2003, 187-204.
  • Padesky, C. A., & Beck, A. T. (2003). Science and Philosophy: Comparison of Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy Vol 17(3) Fal 2003, 211-224.
  • Padesky, C. A., & Beck, A. T. (2005). Response to Ellis' Discussion of "Science and Philosophy: Comparison of Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy": Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy Vol 19(2) Sum 2005, 187-189.
  • Paton, I. (2004). Review of Overcoming Resistance: A Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy Integrated Approach (2nd ed.): British Journal of Guidance & Counselling Vol 32(2) May 2004, 255-256.
  • Popa, S. (2001). Interview with Albert Ellis: The "Cognitive Revolution" in Psychotherapy: Romanian Journal of Cognitive & Behavioral Psychotherapies Vol 1(1) Sep 2001, 7-16.
  • Pridmore, S., Samilowitz, H., & Gill, M. (2003). Albert Ellis PhD, clinical psychologist: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry Vol 37(1) Feb 2003, 114.
  • Reiss, I. L. (2008). In memory of Albert Ellis (1913-2007): Journal of Sex Research Vol 45(1) Jan-Mar 2008, 2-6.
  • Roche, N. L., Moody, A., Szabo, K., Fleming, J. M., & Shum, D. H. K. (2007). Prospective memory in adults with traumatic brain injury: An analysis of perceived reasons for remembering and forgetting: Neuropsychological Rehabilitation Vol 17(3) Jun 2007, 314-334.
  • Rubin, R., Walen, S. R., & Ellis, A. (2003). A personal account of using RET to help control diabetes: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 21(3-4) Win 2003, 215-218.
  • Still, A. (2006). Rationality and REBT: Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies Vol 6(1) Mar 2006, 5-10.
  • Still, A., & Dryden, W. (1998). The intellectual origins of Rational Psychotherapy: History of the Human Sciences Vol 11(3) Aug 1998, 63-86.
  • Still, A., & Dryden, W. (2003). Ellis and Epictetus: Dialogue vs. method in psychotherapy: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 21(1) Spr 2003, 37-55.
  • Weinrach, S. G. (2006). Nine Experts Describe the Essence of Rational-Emotive Therapy While Standing on One Foot: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 24(4) Win 2006, 217-232.
  • Weinrach, S. G., DiGiuseppe, R., Wolfe, J., Ellis, A., Bernard, M. E., Dryden, W., et al. (2006). Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy after Ellis: Predictions for the Future: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 24(4) Win 2006, 199-215.
  • Weinrach, S. G., Ellis, A., DiGiuseppe, R., Bernard, M. E., & et al. (1995). Rational emotive behavior therapy after Ellis: Predictions for the future: Journal of Mental Health Counseling Vol 17(4) Oct 1995, 413-427.
  • Westoo, J. (2003). Review of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Theoretical Developments: Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Vol 32(4) 2003, 219-220.
  • Witt, P. H. (2004). Review of Overcoming Resistance: A Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Integrated Approach: Journal of Psychiatry & Law Vol 32(4) Win 2004, 543-546.
  • Ziegler, D. J. (2000). Basic assumptions concerning human nature underlying rational emotive therapy (REBT) personality theory: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 18(2) Sum 2000, 67-86.
  • Ziegler, D. J. (2002). Freud, Rogers, and Ellis: A comparative theoretical analysis: Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive Behavior Therapy Vol 20(2) Sum 2002, 75-92.
  • Ziegler, D. J., & Leslie, Y. M. (2003). A test of the ABC model underlying rational emotive behavior therapy: Psychological Reports Vol 92(1) Feb 2003, 235-240.

External linksEdit

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