Faculty Publications


Applications of REBT in schools: Prevention, promotion, intervention

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Rational Emotive Behavioral Approaches to Childhood Disorders: Theory, Practice and Research

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More than ever before there is a need in schools today for evidence-based, comprehensive, developmentally-based school-wide programs designed to promote social and emotional competence as well as to prevent and or reduce behavior and emotional problems including educational under-achievement. Fortunately, there now exists an increasing number of "promising" schoolbased programs being implemented that focus on the social and emotional learning of children and adolescents that are designed to equip young people with an array of social and emotional capabilities seen as intrinsic to academic success, emotional well-being and positive relationships (see review in Zins et al., 2004) including the PATHS curriculum (e.g., Greenberg et al., 2004), the Child Development Project (e.g., Schaps et al., 2005), the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program (e.g., Brown et al., 2004), the I Can Problem Solve Program (e.g., Shure, 1996) and Think First (e.g., Larson, 2005). It is now recognized that teaching children social and emotional competence is central not only to their social and emotional well-being but also their academic achievement (e.g., Bernard, 2006; Zins et al., 2004). As well, the promotion of emotional intelligence of young people is becoming more accepted (Goleman, 1995; Mayer and Salovey, 1997). Bernard (2005a) has delimited a range of social and emotional learning standards (what students are expected to know and do in the area of social and emotional learning) that are seen as crucial for student emotional well-being, success in school and life and to their positive relationships including social responsibility. Recent reviews indicate that successful school-based social and emotional learning programs share common characteristics. Good practice has teachers with the support of psychologists and counselors teaching social and emotional skills in formal lessons as an integrated component of the curriculum. However, it is recognized that in order for students to general these skills, social and emotional learning experiences need to be present throughout the school day including during academic instruction and throughout the school year. Other characteristics include: (a) are of longer duration, (b) synthesize a number of successful approaches, (c) incorporate a developmental model, (d) provide greater focus on the role of emotions and emotional development, (e) provide increased emphasis on generalization techniques, (f) provide ongoing training and support for implementation, and (g) utilize multiple measures and follow-ups for assessing program effectiveness (Greenberg et al., 2004; Zins et al., 2004). Albert Ellis pioneered the application of rational-emotive behavior therapy (REBT) to the treatment of children and adolescents in the mid 1950s and from its inception REBT and its educational derivative, Rational Emotive Education, has always been a social-emotional learning program. A long-time proponent of the use of REBT in schools, Ellis has always stressed the importance of a prevention curriculum designed to help young people help themselves by learning positive social-emotional learning concepts (Ellis, 1971, 1972). From 1971 to 1975, Ellis and his staff taught rational thinking as a preventive social-emotional learning program in addition to regular subjects at The Living School, a small private grade school housed in the Institute for Advanced Study in Rational Psychotherapy (now called the Albert Ellis Institute). The school prospered for several years, during which time the staff discovered that not only therapists but teachers, could teach REBT principles in the classroom to improve childrens emotional well-being. Based on the effective thinking, feeling, and behaving strategies that were taught at The Living School, Knaus (1974) developed a curriculum that would educate children in the ABCs of REBT. Bedford (1974) wrote a short story emphasizing the connection between thinking, feeling, and behaving, and Waters (1979) created a coloring book that incorporated rational principles. Since that time, other curricula (Bernard, 2001, 2005; Gerald and Eyman, 1981; Vernon, 1989a, 1989b, 1998a, 1998b, 1998c) have been developed that teach children to develop critical thinking skills, differentiate between facts and assumptions, distinguish between thoughts and feelings, link thoughts and feelings, identify what leads to emotional upset, distinguish between rational and irrational beliefs, and learn to challenge irrational beliefs. Rational-Emotive Education (REE) has a long-standing presence in the field of school-based mental health programs and has always been used as a form of prevention, promotion and intervention focused on young people and their problems (e.g., Knaus, 1974). Its focus has been on the elimination of the irrational beliefs of children and adolescents associated with emotional, behavioral and achievement problems and the promotion of rational beliefs associated with social, emotional, and work competence. The research across four decades indicates that when REBT is used in schools with both clinical and non-clinical populations it has a positive effect (e.g., DiGiuseppe et al., 1979; Gonzalez et al., 2004; Hajzler and Bernard, 1991). As prevention, REE programs are employed in classrooms to help prevent the development of irrational beliefs and associated unhealthy emotions and behaviors (e.g., Vernon, 2006a, 2006b). It helps children of all ages recognize the self-defeating effects of irrational beliefs and the beneficial outcomes of rational beliefs. More recently, as represented in a REBT-oriented program, You Can Do It! Education (e.g., Bernard, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005), children as young as 4 and as old as 18 are being taught positive Habits of the Mind (rational beliefs) and associated emotion and behavioral action tendencies that Bernard has found leads not only to emotional well-being and positive relations, but which contribute greatly to academic achievement; these social and emotional capabilities include academic confidence, work persistence, organization, work cooperation, and emotional resilience). As well, when young people are equipped with emotional problem solving skills including rational self-statements and disputing skills, they are able to diffuse potential problem situations that potentially can lead to more harmful outcomes. As promotion, REBT-based programs are, again, being used with groups of young people with an eye to the strengthening of rational beliefs and selfmanagement skills that help young people make the very most of their innate potential by helping them minimize unhealthy emotions, irrational beliefs and to maximize their effort and well-being. As intervention, REBT has a long track record and supportive research (e.g., Hajzler and Bernard, 1991) as a form of 1:1 and group interventions for young people with psychosocial and mental health problems (anxiety, low self-esteem, behavior problems). Apparently, REBT is being used more frequently with young people with internalizing than externalizing problems (Terjesen et al., 1999). When working with children who manifest internal or externalizing disorders, REBT practitioners recognize the need for multisystemic solutions encompassing the childs full ecology. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a rationale for emotional education and to discuss why REBT principles inherently form the basis for a comprehensive form of emotional education that serves the multiple functions of prevention, promotion and intervention. Examples of core concepts and implementation approaches are also addressed, along with specific lessons to illustrate the process. The chapter will review the theory and practice of Rational-Emotive Education (REE) and, then, a REBT- and CBT-based program, You Can Do It! Education. © 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.

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