Updated: Aug 24, 2020
A young client Mary Jones is socially phobic. She believes she is a ‘weirdo’, so she is extremely anxious and avoids meeting people and stays at home most of the time, because people will ‘see’ that she is a weirdo. But Mary doesn't just believe she is a weirdo she ‘knows’ it for a fact. To her it is a fact that that is what she is, and that is what people will see. Mary is what we call an A-C thinker - Adversity A (people look at her in a certain way, which she interprets as meaning they can see right through her and actually see she is a weirdo) leads directly to Consequence C (extreme shame and hiding away).
My job as an REBT therapist is to help her become an ABC thinker. I help her first to discover that among the real facts at A, the ‘what a camera would see facts’, there is no such fact ‘Mary the weirdo’ to be found. Next we help her discover that she has Beliefs at B about the Activating events at A, and one of these Beliefs is ‘I am a weirdo’. She is mistaking a B for an A, the Belief ‘I think I am a weirdo’ for an A ‘I am a weirdo’. This is a huge first step for Mary, to discover that this is a B not an A, a belief not a fact. Facts can’t be wrong, but Beliefs can be wrong and can be doubted. In REBT we help Mary doubt these beliefs, to question them and discover they are irrational, to replace them with rational beliefs and that healthy consequences at C will follow. We use disputation, imagery rehearsal, behavioural assignments, and we can use mindfulness meditation creatively in this pursuit of healthy emotional, behavioural and cognitive consequences.