Ellis in action

Here's an amusing video of Albert Ellis practicing his Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, which is one of the progenitors of CBT. The lady in the interview, Gloria, went to visit three different therapists - Carl Rogers, Frederick Perls (a leading Gestalt therapist), and Ellis.

Ellis made his name as a preacher of sexual liberation, particularly for single women in the 1960s, so it's appropriate that his patient is a young single woman looking to meet better men.

What strikes me particularly about the video, and about Ellis' approach generally, is the extent to which it is a fusion of therapy and philosophy. Ellis repeatedly states that what causes people mental distress is very often their own 'core philosophy', their beliefs or ideology, and REBT involves challenging this core philosophy and trying to replace it with something more rational.

Note that he quotes the Stoic philosopher Epictetus early on in his talk - I've written before that I see Ellis as the modern descendant of the ancient Stoics, who were really the great pioneers of cognitive therapy, 2,400 years ago. Ellis, of course, is more of a hedonist in outlook than the Stoics, and he doesn't believe in God, unlike them. Nevertheless, his techniques are thoroughly Stoic.

The other man typically credited with inventing CBT, Aaron Beck, is also clearly influenced by Greek therapeutic philosophy, by the way. He calls his therapeutic technique, of challenging a patient's negative or irrational beliefs, the 'Socratic technique'.