Personal Reflections on Albert Ellis & REBT
On the Contributions of Dr. Albert Ellis
Aaron T. Beck
A eulogy is a highly subjective matter. It often reflects as much of the personal narrative of the speaker as it does of the subject. As Ellis pointed out numerous times, we see the world through our own filters or lenses.
Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City (PDF)
Jeffrey Zeig, Director of the Milton Erickson Foundation, Inc. (PDF)
Frank Farley, President-Elect, Division of Media Psych, (Div 46), APA (PDF)
A video tribute from Dr. Daniel Eckstein, former President of NASAP (North American Society for Adlerian Psychology).
That said, I will try to tell what Albert Ellis meant to me personally as well as to the world. We all know Ellis as an explorer, revolutionary, therapist, theorist, and teacher. But how did these various roles play out in his actual interactions with his colleagues and friends?
To describe my personal narrative of Al Ellis, I have to go back many decades to my beginnings in the field of therapy and research.
Like Ellis, I was trained as a psychoanalyst. Although I always had some misgivings regarding the Psychoanalytic Establishment, which was like a religious order in many ways with its authoritarianism, rites of passage, and demands for obedience to its rituals, I believed that the theory and therapy had a solid basis. Having caught the research bug early in life, I was determined to demonstrate through my research that the theory was correct and skeptics were wrong. In actuality, my research indicated that I was wrong and the skeptics were right. In short, I came up with a new theory and therapy which I later called Cognitive Therapy. Unfortunately, there was nobody I could discuss this with, except my wife, Phyllis, and daughter, Judith. At this point, Al came into my life.
He happened to see a couple of my articles published in 1963 and 1964 and made contact with me.
This was particularly significant because at last I had found someone I could talk to. I soon discovered, of course, that he had broken ranks with traditional psychotherapy many years previously and had laid out a new cognitive theory and therapy that he called Rational Therapy and then Rational Emotive Therapy. I also found that our approaches were simpatico, and Al graciously reprinted my 2 articles in his house organ, The Journal of Rational Living.
I also was thrilled to learn that he had directly challenged the psychotherapy establishment, had established a clinic and a school, and was a prolific author. I was particularly impressed not only by his no-nonsense therapy but by his bare knuckled, no-nonsense lectures.
Subsequent to this, Al organized a symposium bringing together the very few like-minded therapists. These were primarily behavior therapists who were disillusioned with classical learning theory and sought to blend cognitive techniques into the established behavior therapies. Around the same time, Al provided the funding for Don Meichenbaum to launch his Cognitive Behavior Therapy Newsletter, which was the precursor of the journal, Cognitive Therapy and Research.
Al and I continued our interchange over the years. One telling example of his therapeutic personality occurred when I invited him to do a Grand Rounds at the University of Pennsylvania Department of Psychiatry. He interviewed a young lady before a large audience of residents, medical students, and staff (largely psychoanalysts). He conducted the interview in his usual directive, brash manner but underneath this was tenderness and understanding. Afterwards, several of my colleagues reproached me for having invited him. Their attitude was that by ignoring the patient's unconscious, he was harming her. Later, I had occasion to talk to the patient and asked her about the interview. She remarked, "He is the first person who ever understood me."
Al's uncanny ability to tease out patients' thoughts and feelings was also obvious in the Friday night sessions at the Institute, which I attended whenever I had the opportunity.
In recent years, Frank Farley brought us together for dialogues at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. Needless to say, there was an overflow audience at these sessions. These interchanges were highly informative and entertaining. On one occasion, Frank asked me to start off the conversation with a summary of my recent work. When I was finished, Al was asked to respond to my comments. He replied, "To tell you the truth, I didn't hear a damn thing he said," — his hearing aid was turned off— but he responded anyhow!
There is much more I could tell about Al but I would like to close with a personal appreciation of what Al meant not only to me but to the world. When I was a young boy, I read about the Cedars of Lebanon, grand trees that lived for over 100 years and were objects of awe and reverence. It was believed that if these trees were cut down, it would be the end of civilization because they were irreplaceable.
Al was one of the cedars and he will not be replaced in this generation. However, he leaves a grand legacy behind him with his wonderful wife, Debbie, all his students, and the scores of grateful patients who are living better lives because of him.
David D. Burns, M.D.
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr. Ellis. At the same time, it was almost a relief, since he suffered so greatly over the past year or two. I regret being unable to join you in person for the memorial service, but will be conducting a workshop in San Antonio on September 28. I will be thinking about you and will ask the audience to take a moment of silence in his honor. I often mention his tremendous contributions and unforgettable personality and style in my teaching.
Al touched the lives of many people with his extreme generosity and support of his colleagues and students. His professional contributions were legendary. On a personal level, he was always very supportive of my efforts, even though I was never trained in REBT and have been more of a CBT practitioner throughout my career. His support was extremely meaningful to me over the years, and I admired him tremendously. I appreciated the chance to know him and to learn so much from him. If you review the key ideas that have transformed the understanding and practice of psychotherapy in the past 50 years, many of them trace their origins to the pioneering and brilliant work of Dr. Ellis. He was clearly one of the luminaries of modern psychology.
His death has been a loss to me personally, and will be an enormous loss to clinicians throughout the world who have benefited so greatly from his incredible teaching and writing, his self-sacrifice, and his unwavering dedication to his vision. Goodbye, Dr. Ellis.
David D. Burns, M.D.
Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Stanford Medical School
Dr. Shawn Blau
I knew Al Ellis for 19 years. He received a constant stream of honors and awards.
But his most important accomplishment was to teach all of us that we don't need any of that stuff, to construct a good life for ourselves. The most remarkable thing about Al as a person was how faithful he was to the principles of REBT in his own life.
He taught that each of us is responsible for our own happiness - no matter what "activating events" life throws at us. And Al was really the living embodiment of his own theories.
I remember an interview with Al's first wife, the late Karyl Corper. She was an old woman then, in her 80's, but she reminisced about meeting Al in the 1930's. She said that when Al spoke, it seemed that "sparks were flying from his head." He told her: "I want to make my life a work of art."
I think that Al succeeded, and his own life was his greatest creation. Al often distinguished between what he called "general REBT" and what he called "preferential REBT" or "the elegant solution". Al said that he himself practiced what he termed "super-elegant REBT." And as a result he became a living laboratory for his own theories.
For better or worse, Al was completely faithful to REBT in his own life. Mainly for better. Because Al led one of the happiest lives around. It also gave him an authority and clarity that I have never seen in any other person.
This fidelity to REBT also gave Al his extraordinary creativity. Seeing Al in action reminded me of something that the great economist Gary Becker wrote about his own work in economics. Professor Becker said: "The combined assumptions of maximizing behavior, market equilibrium, and stable preferences, used relentlessly and unflinchingly, form the heart of the economic approach." 
Al's success in psychology was very similar. He found the most effective algorithm -- and followed it relentlessly and unflinchingly, no matter where it led. "Look for the MUST!" "Cherchez le SHOULD!" It allowed Al Ellis to transcend his own field and shine light on every aspect of human behavior.
The last few years were very difficult. Mainly because Al came up against the inevitable human limits of his own philosophy. He told of a nightmare in which he smelled smoke. And he was startled to discover in his dream that the smoke came from his own Institute -- his Institute was burning.
Then Al reminded me of one of William Shakespeare's tragic heroes. The literary scholar A.C. Bradley identified in 1904 what made Shakespeare's tragedies so distinctively "Shakespearean."
Here is what Prof. Bradley wrote: "In the circumstances where we see the hero placed, his tragic trait, which is also his greatness, is fatal to him. To meet these circumstances, something is required which a smaller man might have given, but which the hero cannot give. He errs, by action or omission; and his error, joining with other causes, brings on him ruin. This is always so with Shakespeare."
This was Al: He remained completely faithful to REBT, for better or for worse.
And now the great teacher is gone. Where does that leave the rest of us, who were so privileged to learn from him?
The Bible tells us that almost 3000 years ago the prophet Elijah went searching for truth on a high mountain. First Elijah felt a strong wind, but "The Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a still small voice. And it was so."
There was Al, toiling away from dawn until late at night, to keep "the still small voice" of reason from being completely drowned out.
Now Al can no longer do it for us. It is up to us, his students, to carry on for him.
Dr. Shawn Blau
September 28, 2007
 Becker, G. (1976). The economic approach to human behavior, pp. 3-14. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
 Bradley, A.C. (1904). Shakespearean tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, p. 37. London: Penguin Books.
 Bible. I Kings 19:11-13. King James Version
Dr. Richard Schneiman
I have had the good fortune of knowing Albert Ellis for over 40 years. I first met Dr. Ellis when I attended a Friday night demonstration of Rational Emotive Therapy in 1967. I was fascinated with RET theory and how skilled Dr. Ellis was in applying these concepts to the issues presented by the volunteers from the audience. I was hooked!
After that experience I read everything I could get my hands on regarding RET. I went into therapy with Dr. Ellis. What a great experience! He was brilliant, caring, insightful, understanding, accepting and effective.
Upon completion of my doctoral studies I devoted much of my training to certification programs offered by the Institute. My relationship with Albert continued. I found him to be remarkable in many ways; he loved his work and was passionate about anything related to RET. He possessed boundless energy for his "Vital Interest" and anyone who shared it as well.
This aspect of him is exemplified by the thousands of people he trained and treated as well as the impressive number of papers and books he generated in his career. We are all aware of the numerous awards he received over his lengthy and productive life.
Over this span of time I could feel our relationship changing: it seemed to evolve from client, to student, to colleague, to friend. I observed this shift to friendship very early in our work together. Perhaps I sensed it in his unconditional acceptance of me -- something I had never experienced before. A sense of mutual comfort and trust evolved and was sustained despite periods of limited contact.
I have personally benefited from my experiences with Albert and REBT. These experiences have been profound and positive for me and I am sure for many others. It is my desire to sustain and grow Dr. Ellis's work in a direction he would want. My hope is that other "kindred spirits", dedicated REBTers, will join in this effort. The legacy and contribution Dr. Ellis has made to humankind is remarkable and precious. I believe they are worthy of our efforts to sustain and further develop his marvelous work. I believe Dr. Ellis will live through our efforts.
Dr. Richard Schneiman
September 28, 2007
Dr. Arnold Lazarus speaks about his friend, Dr. Albert Ellis
I considered Al a friend, an esteemed colleague, and one of my heroes. He visited me in Princeton on several occasions and we both enjoyed having debates, serving on professional panels, conducting workshops together and so forth. Perhaps one of the most helpful pieces of advice I ever received came from Al. In 1968 I was a professor at Temple University Medical School and was unhappy with my work environment and many of my colleagues. I took a train to New York and asked Al if he would give me a job at his Institute. He said to me that I am not the sort of person who should be working for someone else. It was okay to serve on a university faculty, but if I wanted to work at an institute, I would best be advised to set up my own one. Coming from a man I liked and admired who was about 18 years my senior, this gave me a big boost of confidence, and in retrospect, as with many things, Al was 100% on target. His loss is inestimable.
Dr. Arnold Lazarus
In Celebration of Dr. Albert Ellis: KNOWING ABOUT vs. KNOWING, or why applying REBT to our lives is not easy
Ed Garcia M.A.
Knowing about and knowing are not the same thing. Knowing about is an intellectual understanding about the subject, while knowing implies that the individual has become emotionally and behaviorally involved in the experience of understanding.
In short, the concepts of REBT may be simple to understand, but putting them into action is not an easy task since many of us do not have the "emotional muscle" to tolerate the emotional discomfort we tend to experience when we try new things. Perhaps the greatest struggle people experience is making the choice to do what we know is in our best interest. We struggle with wanting to do what feels most comfortable or what tends to provide the least level of discomfort. That struggle explains why intelligent people often do stupid things.
The principles of REBT may be relatively simple to understand, but applying them to our own lives is not easy. To begin with, we have learned from the day we were born that our feelings, both positive and negative, are caused by external sources. Though we may intellectually come to realize this is not the case, we have that myth reinforced by countless people in countless ways every day.
Equally challenging to the REBT therapist is to convince clients, and probably the world in general, that we are NOT what we do or what others think of us. Intellectually, we understand this makes sense, yet we "put ourselves on the line" every day by what we say and do. We tend to devalue ourselves, feel rejected, and consider ourselves failures when we don't achieve our goals or the responses we expect from others.
It is important to pursue scientific and philosophical research to reach evidence based theories But it is equally important to understand that theories alone stand a good chance of being ignored without the example of people who can serve as consistently ethical role models. Humanistic approaches had best have individuals who represent not only an understanding of the concepts REBT, but who practice the concepts in their own lives, and who behave in a manner that implies this isn't something they occasionally do, but rather it has become a way of life for that person. Dr. Albert Ellis certainly reflected that in his life.
When addressing participants in an REBT workshop, my dear friend and colleague Dr. Vince Parr from Tampa, Florida, asks this question. "How many of you are Rational Therapists?"
Many will raise their hands. Then he asks this next question. "How many of you therapists are rational?" The response is usually some laughter, but hopefully some self-reflection. What's the point? The point is that a Rational Therapist is not necessarily a therapist who is rational. Who more than Dr. Ellis experienced the unjust and unethical behavior from "rational" therapists at his own institute?
In a world that tends to value image over substance, it is important to give equal time and energy to the behavior of people who profess to be rational therapists. I recall many years ago when I read Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda, where the Mexican Indian character Juan Matus says to Castaneda, and I'm paraphrasing now, "I'm a hunter and a warrior, and you're a pimp." When Castaneda asked why, Don Juan responds, "Because you read and write about life, and I live it."
Much truth can come even from fiction, so let us never forget the role of the REBT "warriors" whose ethics and credibility represent the theories and principles of Dr. Ellis
About the Author
Ed Garcia: One of the original Directors of Training in REBT. Training Faculty, REBT. Fellow, REBT. Licensed social worker.
Irwin F. Altrows, Ph.D.
Albert Ellis – much like Sigmund Freud before him - shaped our world in ways not always recognized. For example, his concept of catastrophizing has become central to psychological management of pain and disability. His shame attacking exercises - an implosive version of exposure therapy - have been adapted by self-help groups internationally. His recognition (later confirmed by research) that hostility – in contrast to hard work – contributes to coronary heart disease, has paved the way for prevention and treatment. His distillation of principles of philosophy and religion - including the world’s numerous variants of the “Golden Rule” – has produced practical techniques for turning these lofty ideas into realities. His linking of dysfunctional emotion with an inflexible and demanding attitude - as expressed in the simple words “should” and “must” - is essential to sports psychology, addictions treatment, and personal development programs, among others. For many, Al’s words and ideas no longer belong only to him; they have become household words and part of our world. REBT, like psychoanalysis before it, is becoming part of the public domain.
Although Freud wrote eloquently and profoundly about humour, he never seemed to do much with it. Al knew that humour is not merely a tool for therapy, but part of its fabric. He showed how humour can convey acceptance of oneself, of one’s client, and of adversity, and how humour can motivate people to make useful though difficult changes. He showed that well-crafted humour is the antithesis of irrational “shoulds” and “musts”. He avoided the poisonous humour that is intended to demean, but provided antidotes, citing Eleanor Roosevelt’s observation that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.
Like Hemingway, Al could express ideas in a simple, elegant way. His theory is as simple as ABC - “Activating event”, “Belief”, and “emotional Consequence”. He noted that REBT, although simple, is not easy. His simple but not easy success rules were “work, work, work” and “practice, practice, practice”.
While remaining a writer, philosopher, and clinician, Al was the consummate scientist. He portrayed therapy and life itself as a fascinating series of experiments. He long promoted the behavioural experiment: “Try it and see.” Today, behavioural experiments are a mainstay of a wide variety of therapies and traditions.
Al was passionate about bringing REBT to schools, so that children could learn rational thinking early and world peace might have a chance. Similarly, he was happy to see REBT in daycares, parent education, and teacher education programs.
In his last years and days, Al showed most poignantly that his life reflected his theory and philosophy. He accepted harsh adversities while working to change them, to the best of his human ability, and he continued to seek satisfaction by contributing to others. His life’s contribution is a magnificent gift, example, and inspiration. How can we support his efforts? Simply “Work, work, work. Try it and see.”
About the Author
Irwin Altrows Associate Fellow in REBT since 1985. Training Faculty, REBT. Adjunct Assistant Professor (Psychiatry) and Clinical Supervisor (Psychology), Queens University. Author 18 publications.
August 12, 2007
Paying tribute to Albert Ellis rather flies in the face of his teachings, including his repeated insistence that there are no great men or women, no geniuses, no heroes, no extraordinary people: “These are fiction, myths which we fallible humans seem determined to believe in order to ignore the fact that we presently are and probably always will be, highly inefficient, mistake-making animals.” (The Myth of Self-Esteem, p. 299).
Albert Ellis was not an angel or a saint, despite his wry line about “spreading the gospel of St Albert”. He was an exceptionally hard-working man, whose professional achievement as psychology innovator, therapist and writer was possible only by sacrifices in the private sphere. He made his job his life. That was his choice and his pleasure. In so doing he helped countless thousands of individuals.
I’m one of them. Reading and re-reading Ellis helped me to dig my way out of a mudslide of self-created crises. His inventiveness in illuminating REBT from so many angles in books of such different character was more than inspiring. So was the resilience of his mind, trapped in a failing body. I loved the chapter in “The Albert Ellis Reader” in which, with examples from his own life, the author writes of using REBT to cope with disabilities.
I had some direct experience of Ellis’s creativity in this regard in telephone sessions with him in 2002. “Oh no,” he said, on hearing my English voice. “This is bad. You have an accent and I’m very deaf. You will have to shout at me in American!” Which I proceeded, with not a little embarrassment, to do. Yet it is amazing how fast problems can disappear when you roar them aloud in an accent not your own! Try it: suffering quickly acquires a comic dimension. Ellis, of course, knew all about the therapeutic value of humour. With Rabelais, another outrageous philosopher, he could have said, “For all your ills, I give you laughter.”
July 24, 2007
Albert Ellis was born to a Jewish mother on Sept. 27, 1913. He left this world on July 24, 2007, observed this year as Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish Calendar mourning the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago.
Albert Ellis did not live to see justice at the Institute where he was ousted as a Trustee and suspended from all professional activities by the Board of Trustees. He quietly passed away on July 24, 2007, the saddest day in the history of The Albert Ellis Institute.
When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the Talmudic scholars of the day looked towards the Temple Mount and saw it in ruins with foxes roaming about everywhere. The scholars cried at the complete defilement. However, one scholar, Rabbi Akiva, smiled. He was optimistic that just as the prophecies of destruction were realized, so too would the prophecies of rebuilding and return of better times also be realized. Both responses have their place. There is a time to mourn and a time to rebuild.
Today is a day of mourning for the Albert Ellis Institute.
Albert Ellis had thousands of supporters who worked tirelessly so that he would see justice in his lifetime. Those supporters will continue until the power of right prevails and until those who usurped control by power alone step aside.
Today is also a day to rebuild.
The Jerusalem Talmud makes an astounding statement saying that “the generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt is to be regarded as the generation in which the Temple was destroyed.” The explanation is simple. It is the obligation of every generation to rebuild the Temple and failure to do so attributes responsibility for its’ destruction to every person in that generation.
Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a similar message for today’s generations when he said “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved with it as he who helps perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting it is really cooperating with it.”
The meaning is clear. Our mourning must be directed to the realization that our generation has the obligation to restore justice as a fitting tribute to Al’s memory. That will happen when enough good people come forward and commit to see that justice is served and that those responsible for the overwhelming harm wrought to both Al and the AEI be held accountable.
May Al’s teachings inspire us unangrily to do what is right, to unconditionally accept ourselves and others and to each play our part in making this world a better place for all.
About the Author
Deborah Steinberg is a "minority member" of the Board of Trustees of the Albert Ellis Institute. Along with other "minority member," Emmett Velten, she wrote a number of "minority reports" detailing events at the Institute. She also called for the resignation of other board members who had illegally removed Albert Ellis from the Board of Trustees.
THE ALBERT ELLIS I KNOW
Dr. Bill Knaus
Every so often comes an innovator who evolves along a different path and makes an outstanding contribution for the betterment of humanity. Albert Ellis is such an innovator whose path was that of evolving a unique, productive, and efficient way to deliver psychotherapy services to those who suffered from needless distresses. Ellis took a rational path. I'm deeply grateful that I met him along the way.
I first met Albert Ellis in 1962. He came to Springfield College to give a presentation to graduate students and faculty. At the time, I was intrigued with Carl Rogers' system. I had basic grounding in psychodynamic psychotherapy. I had been exposed to Williamson's directive methods in counseling. But Ellis' presentation, and his willingness and eagerness to interact with us about his methods, stood out. That day, Al Ellis caused me to rethink my fledgling views on psychotherapy. So I read his books Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy and How to Live with a Neurotic. I started to practice some of the ideas on myself and others as I went through graduate school. I was impressed.
I reconnected with Al when I was a doctoral student at the University of Tennessee. Then in 1967, when I worked in a psychological demonstration center at New Jersey State University, I asked Al Ellis if he would speak to professionals in the area. He eagerly agreed. I had discussions with him that day about a broad range of topics. He again impressed me with his range of knowledge, warmth, and interest in his work and in people. We have maintained a cordial relationship since.
I later visited Al and suggested that he start a fellowship program. He said that he had thought to do so. Shortly thereafter, I was the first to be part of a group of postdoctoral fellows. During that exciting period, I worked 40 hours a week seeing clients and receiving supervision from Al and Jon Geis, who was the first Director of Training. I co-lead marathons, participated with Al in his group therapies, assisted Al in his famous Friday Night Workshops, and ran them when he was out of town. I attended multiple courses and workshops. I met many outstanding people in the field of research and psychotherapy. During this time, Al made himself available to answer questions, demonstrate his work, open his vast research files, and support the development of the fellows. He'd meet with any of us during his lunch time, when a client canceled, or after 11:00 P.M. after his last client left. The words that come to mind when I think of Al during this period are generous, warm, clear, straightforward, and outstandingly capable.
When I became Director of Training at the Albert Ellis Institute, I immediately revamped the program, cut down the number of client contact hours, kept the number of supervisory hours the same, and increased the numbers of fellows to be trained. I conceived and designed the primary certificate and spearheaded the associate fellowship program. I brought Rational Emotive Education into the Living School, which was then located in the basement at 45 East 65th Street. Al encouraged and supported the development and presentation of unique but rational public and professional workshops and pressed me to innovate. Al supported any effort I made that was progressive, made rational sense, and helped advance REBT in support of his therapeutic mission to evolve and promote an efficient and effective REBT. The words that come to mind when I think of Al during that period are actively supportive and encouraging.
After I left the Institute, Al and I stayed in contact. He wrote the foreword for many of my books. We corresponded. I would periodically participate in workshops and REBT conferences. Throughout the years I found him to be warm, generous, supportive, encouraging, and complimentary. I especially remember a time at an American Psychological Association convention where he sought me out and we spent a few hours talking about what was happening in his life and what was happening in mine, and what was going on in the world, and of topics and things most would not suspect interested Al. I remember his characteristic sly grin when he made a telling point, his humor, his candidness, and especially his warmth.
In October 2005, it was with great sadness that I learned that my old colleague and friend, Albert Ellis, had been dismissed by the majority members of his Board. This Board usurpation of control over the Institute Albert founded, resulted from an unlawful process that a New York State Supreme Court Judge described as disingenuous (deceitful deceptive). Therein brings the final chapter to our relationship.
I was there near the beginning of Rational Emotive Therapy, and have come back near the end of this phase of the story. For you see, Al and I both share a common interest, and a common bond. Both of us oppose injustice and unfairness, and strongly dislike betrayals. Both of us believe in the importance of taking a stand against such events. And while unfair events can be accepted, because they exist, that doesn't mean that nothing can be done about them.
For the past 18 months, I joined Al and a core group of others, to fight for justice. On that part of the path, we shared many disappointments as well as pleasant surprises. I'm sure twenty years ago, Albert Ellis would never have expected to end his autobiography with a chapter on facing irrationality and tyranny at the rational Institute he founded.
Albert Ellis lives according to what I now see as a core value, or guiding principle: Freedom and liberty. He dedicated his life to help people free themselves from their inner tyrannies and unhealthy restrictions. On the path of freedom, Albert Ellis' footsteps can be found.
I am pleased and proud, old friend, to have met you.
Dr. Bill Knaus
July 22, 2007
I have said this before, but I want to remind you about the strongly positive influence you have had on my professional career. Prior to taking the Fellowship program at the Institute I had completed six months of intensive training in Gestalt Therapy with Laura Perls and Frank Rubenfeld. Both Laura and Frank were considered leaders in the Gestalt movement.
Frankly, at the end of six months I still didn’t understand what Gestalt Therapy was about. Then I started the Fellowship program and you gave a lecture about Gestalt Therapy prior to a speaker on the subject, a professor from Adelphi University, making a presentation at the Institute. In that brief explanation I finally understood what I did not get in six intensive months! I also discovered a crucial part of your genius—simplifying complicated theoretical issues and getting to the heart of what matters.
There were many other lectures that helped me understand the formulations of competing approaches to the change process. Your presentations were fair, open-minded, humorous and always clear. Your teachings provided me with a solid foundation that formed the basis of my professional career. Understanding the change process has made all the difference.
Al, I also want to tell you that I admire the fairness, integrity, openness and generosity of your approach to me and to the other Fellows in the program during those years, 1973-1975. It saddens me that you have been treated so unfairly in recent years.
I want to end on a happy note. Having spent some time with your wife, Debbie, I think the world of her. The care that she has provided under VERY DIFFICULT conditions is incredible. Very few people have a heart big enough and the emotional courage to do what she has done. It is apparent she is the best thing to come into your life during these very challenging past years.
I thank both you and Debbie for what you have added to my life.
Warmly, Joel Block
Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D.
I wish to add balance to the characterization of Al as an FHB. These are some fond recollections I have of him.
I began seeing Al for therapy in NY in 1963 when I was 19. At about this time I attended an annual APA convention in Washington, DC. On the second day, between sessions in one of the bustling convention corridors, I ran into Al and Janet. To my surprise he recognized me in the commotion and greeted me. I told him I didn't know where his panel discussion with Fritz Perls would be held the next day. He asked me my hotel room #. Early the next morning the phone in my room rang. It was Al with the information.
Years later, when I was in the Fellowship Training Program, I spoke highly of Recovery, Inc., a rationally-oriented self-help group open to the public. Al asked me if I would attend a meeting with him, since he was unfamiliar with it. We did, and as the meeting started to wind down aimlessly, Al leaned over and plaintively whispered to me, "Can we leave now?"
After failing my first Ph.D. dissertation oral exam with the assistance of a committee cowed by a critical outside reader, Al helped me formulate a new topic and outline. He also graciously agreed to be on my committee. At the orals, the insecure committee members were cowed by Al this time, and I sailed through.
Al wrote a generous introduction to my book (which he not infrequently has done for aspiring REBT authors). The few times we've taken a taxi together, he has insisted on covering the fare. I recall him warmly kidding me at times. For example, in introducing Al at his talk to the Association for Behavioral & Cognitive Therapy, I mentioned my five years in therapy with him. He immediately piped up, "Yeah, and he got worse!"
Along with his acerbic side, don't forget his warm, lovable side.
Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D.
Author of Three Minute Therapy
Robin W. Thorburn ADHP (NC) MNRHP
I had the honour of visiting Dr Albert Ellis on the 20th April 2007 in New York City. 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.
Since 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 advisedly!
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. I enclose it here.
We sat and talked about Al's health and his hope for REBT, he hoped it would "forage 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 biggest 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 anyway you can.
Robin W. Thorburn ADHP (NC) MNRHP
Clayton T. Shorkey, PhD, LCSW,
I first learned about RET in 1964 when I was completing my undergraduate degree in psychology at a major university at a time when the program was heavily psychodynamic. One of my professors played an audiotape of Dr. Ellis working with a client to illustrate a treatment approach and therapist that were crazy. Years later after I completed a PhD in Social Work and Psychology at the same university that shifted emphasis to social learning theory and behavior therapy, I attended a workshop in 1968 in Dearborn, Michigan with Dr. Ellis. I was so excited about the approach that Dr. Ellis presented that I managed to get into the lunch line near him so I could eat at his table and talk with him. He invited me to visit the Institute whenever I was in New York to talk with him and sit in on his therapy groups. After the workshop I read all of Dr. Ellis’ books and two months later made a side trip to New York from a workshop in Washington D.C. I arrived without an appointment about 7:30 p.m. and told a surprised receptionist at the front desk that I was there to see Dr. Ellis. The receptionist told me to return at 9:30 p.m., as she would check with Dr. Ellis when he took a break from his first evening group. When I returned she told me to come back after his second group at 11:30 p.m. and to ring the bell and Dr. Ellis would come down to meet me. At 11:30 p.m. Dr. Ellis came down and we went up to his apartment and sat in the kitchen and talked. The next day I sat in on all of his sessions and toward the end of the final evening group session, he said, “Clay, take over!” I was totally shocked that he would put such trust in me as a novice RETer. I think I did a reasonably good job although I was very anxious. This first meeting led to my participation and completion of the Associate Fellowship program with Dr. Ellis supervising my therapy tapes for the last half of my training.
Following the training, I moved to the University of Texas at Austin and organized yearly workshops on RET through our continuing education program. Each year Dr. Ellis focused on a different topic and we continued this collaboration from the mid 1970s until Al’s last program in Austin after he celebrated his 89th birthday. RET, now REBT, has continued to be the perfect theory and treatment approach for me as it integrates (S-R) Behavior Therapy, problem sholving and many many important social work values, such as “begin where the client is”, “worth and dignity of the individual”, “non-judgmental attitude”, etc. RET also helped me sort out whose behavior should be modified and I found that often times when I was working in organizations such as schools that I had the best success when I worked to change negative attitudes of the teachers who wanted me to modify the behavior of their pupils. It is still amazing to watch children change and grow after their parents or teachers first change their behaviors and begin to encourage the things they say they value and stop condemning or downing the youngsters for characteristics and behaviors that they do not like.
Dr. Ellis’s ideas have evolved over the years and he has both refined his concepts and developed important new clinical breakthroughs that increase treatment effectiveness such as the concept of “discomfort disorder”.
My great fortune to meet and work with Dr. Ellis has impacted my life, the life of my family and provided a base for my teaching, treatment and research. I have, over the last 35+ years also influenced many students and professionals to understand, appreciate and utilize REBT. I continue to teach a graduate level course in Cognitive Behavior Therapy with a strong emphasis on the core of this approach developed by Dr. Ellis.
Dr. Ellis has been a wonderful friend over the years as well as a great professional mentor and colleague. His intellect, kind heart and demonstrations of living out the theories that he teaches is without parallel. The world is a much better place because of him.
Clayton T. Shorkey, PhD, LCSW,
Josleen and Frances Lockhart Professor of Direct Practice in Social Work
The University of Texas at Austin
Peter L Valunas
Albert Ellis once sent me an email. It was a few months after Sept. 11th and I had posed a tough question to him on his web site:
"What would your last thoughts be if you were in the World Trade Towers on Sept 11th and could not escape? Do you still hold to your famous viewpoint that there is nothing in the universe that is more than 100% terrible? Isn't this it?"
I have had a long educational career and often have asked challenging questions to professors. Usually my goal was to contradict a theory and poke a hole in it. I really thought I HAD Dr. Ellis with this question. I never expected an answer within the next day or two. Sure enough when I logged onto my computer there was his response. Not written by assistants but in his own words. The words were typed qucikly, like humans will type, with a few missed letters and so forth. But that doesn't matter. Here is what he said:
"If I was in the towers on Sept 11th I would tell myself that although this is a terrible thing, I have still lived a good life and was useful to myself and and others. And although I would prefer to live and not have this happen there is no reason why it must not happen. And for these reasons even this is not more that 100% terrible"
WOW! Did Freud answer his mail? I doubt it. What an honer to have a brief intersection with one of the great minds in history.
Peter L Valunas
Garland W. Perkins
As a guidance counselor working for a decade with elementary age children in a rural public school system, I found Ellis' rational-emotive approach a good fit for me and my clients. My "kids" learned about the ABC's of RET (now REBT) in my guidance sessions, and in my sessions with one or a group of children I was able to help them ferret out their irrational ("nutty") thoughts and beliefs. In a nutshell, the kids "got it," they understood how their own thinking about an issue could get them into trouble or make a problem worse.
I was able to see Dr. Ellis in action at the American Counseling Association National Conference in Baltimore during which he gave a half-day workshop on Rational-Emotive Therapy. My admiration for this gruffly irreverant, no-nonsense seer of human behavior increased that much more as I watched him model his techniques using brave volunteers from the audience (a chuckle from me).
All the best to Dr. Ellis and his faithful wife and companion.
Garland W. Perkins
About 50 years ago,about the time I received my Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, I listened to a talk by Albert Ellis who among other things said that he differed with Carl Rogers's summary of his system what was then called Nondirective Counseling. Now, at that time I had many things in mind. One, was that I had already failed to get the Ph.D. at Syracuse University and also the same at the University of California. Rogers had been my counselor and he told me that I was one of the first people to use his system when I was a prison psychologist and also he had written a footnote to an article I had written. But mostly he told me something that I had not known why I had failed teacher grades but always had top scores on all my SATs. He told me that I was a true academic and probably knew more than my teachers.
What was my current problemat this time, that I had changed over from Roger's method to the Adlerian and I felt that I owed loyalty to Rogers but the Adlerian method fitted my desire to have a system that met all my needs.
Ellis's talk especially about Rogers made me make the leap from Rogers to Adler. Now I never abandoned Rogers from my practice and also I did not abandon Moreno. In working in Rudolf Dreikur's office Dr. Harold Mosak and I used Rogers method, because we had both been trained in it and I also used Moreno's psychodrama!
I have one regret or complaint re Ellis — I suppose I met him on and off over fifty years about a dozen times but NEVER did we havea single deep person-to-person conversation. For example, I was the one who put the B in his system, and at first he rebelled but later gave in.We then communicated by Email.
It is shameful that he has been toppled from his throne by people he trusted but I suppose that support he as gotten in one way or another, has somewhat rectified the situation.
The one thing I would want of him would be a complete list of his books. He is certainly the top producers of books and I suspect I am next in line.
Around 1966 I was single and really beginning to be a little anxious thinking that I was maybe getting too old to adjust to marriage and children. Then I went home for Christmas and found out that a family friend had quit being a nun.
We dated and after a few months got so serious she believed we should get married. I had always hoped to live with some one for at least a year before ever considering marriage but after six months we had the talks with the priest and after signing papers saying the children would be raised as Catholics had the nice church wedding. I used to say I must really be good as she left Christ for me but alas after four children and twelve years she asked me to take her to lunch and announced she wanted a divorce. I was so shook up I took my plate to the cash register to pay the bill and get out of there.
A big mistake was to live with her after she filed for divorce until two weeks before the divorce was final. At that time she said we should quit having sex as the divorce would be final in two weeks. I ended up slapping her so hard she had two black eyes, cops came and I rented my own apartment.
We went to see her counselor and I asked had he ever been divorced. When he said yes I asked why we should be seeing him as he didn't do too well for himself. He said divorce was sometimes a growth experience for some people and I said I didn't want any of that growth.
As time went by I became more and more depressed and probably would have committed suicide if it wasn't for some anti depressant the doctor gave me. The counselor did recommend I read A New Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis. I told the counselor the only time I didn't feel quite depressed was when reading around page 87 I think. Anyway My ex wife moved the kids to Seattle and I thought I had to be near them so planned my move too. The counselor referred me to John Williams at the Institute for Rational Living North West.
My first interview I told my story of woe, cried like a baby etc etc. John helped me see the unrealistic demands I was making to be happy and encouraged me to lower my demands into high level preferences. I was smart enough to realize you don't always get what you prefer. He also helped me realize that if I would just get off my ass and get out there and circulate I would probably find someone more compatible than my last wife.
I left so uplifted that I felt like throwing the tranquilizers away but didn't as I thought that might not be too rational in case I later felt like I needed them, however I never did take them as I never did again feel like I needed them.
Over the years I learned to monitor my feelings and if I ever started to feel depressed I immediately looked to what I was thinking, always found the untrue ideas changed them to more rational ideas and immediately felt better.
As we couldn't work on trying to get back with my ex wife all the time as the counselor said we had to give some of our plans time to work he asked what I would really like to do. I said go to some south sea island where the women really like to screw and don't have a lot of hangups. He asked why didn't I go and I said I couldn't afford it. He felt I could. I felt I couldn't leave my four children (6 '9, 10,12) for a month. Now I think that was a stupid idea, anyway I took the four children and went to American Samoa, met my present wife there and we have been together since 1979.
A great deal of pressure to get married but I said I"d marry her in a year or two if we still wanted to. After three years we got married as I felt I should shit or get off the pot. She was 25 and I was 44 and that alone made me very hesitant, Of course being the way I am at times I still think I'd like to be single. One way or another we acquired five children. At the present time my daughter and her husband and two children live with me my wife and our l4 year old daughter and l8 year old son.
Now I'm so damn old I think about how to get enough houses that should I die my children and grand children can have a pretty good life financially. Sadly they don't take me very seriously when I try to get them to not make the same mistakes I did when I was young. They just don't read Ellis now but hopefully they will. Next month I will be 72.
Cause I Do My Thinkin Rationally (to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland)
Donald S. Strassberg, Ph.D., ABPP
Once my life chaotic
So distressed and neurotic
Now I go along, singing a song
Cause I do my thinkin rationally
Go away is depression
No more fear, no obsession
No anxiety, I'm happy you see
Cause I do my thinkin rationally
I remember when I'd get so angry
Jahovian demands from me abound
But now I've learned to think like old Al Ellis
Those musts and shoulds and oughts can not be found
As bizarre, as this may sound
You can find, just what I found
My pleasure you see
Cause I do my thinkin rationally.
Donald S. Strassberg, Ph.D., ABPP
Professor and Director of Clinical Training
380 S. 1530 E., Room 502
Department of Psychology
University of Utah
Salt Lake City, Utah 84112
There are just a few things that you really need to know to get along. One of them is to know when to change your point of view. Simple it may seem, but a source of confusion for me. I burdened the present with the past and allowed goals for the future to determine my every move. It took a while for me to see the beauty in letting go but here’s how it happened.
I have an insightful general practitioner. On the first visit to his office I sat across the desk from him in a straight-backed visitor’s chair. He asked lots of questions and took all kinds of tests to investigate my complaints of vertigo (most likely an ear infection, I suggested) and stomach problems (lactose intolerant - right?). On the second visit he ushered me to his comfortable black leather chair, (hmmmmm I thought). Well, he knew this great guy who worked with a method called REBT. Why didn’t I give him a call?
It took a year, but luckily I finally did.
What a jolt. The great guy had no mercy, was not weak for a sad story and annoyed the heck out of me. But he said things that eventually started making sense and I just had to get me some of that gleam in his eye.
He suggested books, I read them - devoured everything that Albert Ellis wrote. He gave me homework, I did it. The whole procedure was more about hard work than it was about divine insight. What the REBT method did for me was to break the confusion. It allowed me to separate things into what for me were identifiable compartments. It allowed me to see that I could decide to wallow in self pity or I could choose to move on to more positive situations. I moved on thanks to the help of the great guy David Jinder through the works of Albert Ellis.
How can I forget the turning point in my life? It was that eventful day at the University of Mumbai where I was doing my Masters program in Clinical Psychology and was exposed to REBT in a workshop being conducted by Kishor Phadke, a Fellow & Supervisor of the Institute for Rational Emotive Therapy, New York City. (Named so then).
To learn that my childhood need NOT be my nemesis gave me a feeling of being born again. The fact that I could CHOOSE my emotional destiny gave me a sense of power and liberation. Empowered that I need not be a ‘victim’ of circumstances anymore, set me thinking. And believing that training and equipping myself with the theory and practice of this subject would be the best way to go, I embarked on a learning journey that hasn’t stopped since.
To me REBT’s philosophical basis, going to the root of the problem – not childhood roots but the ideational roots – was its very important feature. Being able to understand the seeds of our disturbance and not when and how they may have been sown, but how they were kept abloom by our own re-indoctrinations was a significant eye-opener. This helped me look for my philosophies, made me search for some of my own ideologies, particularly the ones that sabotaged my goals and made me quite miserable.
Today as I look back at these fifteen years, I see myself as person who has evolved. My outlook towards myself – less condemning, more forgiving. My viewpoint about others – less judgmental, giving them the right to be wrong and trying hard to accept them unconditionally – has left me better at relations with myself and others. Accepting life’s difficulties – as they are and not as what I think they should be – has made me less disturbable and tolerant of life’s idiosyncrasies and hardships. Resilience and resolve has become part of my personality; efficiency and risk-taking are the other benefits I have derived.
I’d tell people that we as humans complicate our life needlessly by creating emotional problems around our practical ones. And by using REBT we would be better off at reducing at least what is largely within our control. Taking responsibility for our emotional health, instead of whining and crying about situations that may well be unchangeable is a message I’d pass on to people about REBT. I believe REBT’s USA of self-management and responsibility for ones distress is what people could benefit from immensely.
I’d tell Dr. Ellis, that I salute him because he lives his theory – and that to me is inspiring!
Clinical Psychologist, Lilavati Hospital
Associate Fellow & Supervisor, The Albert Ellis Institute, New York City, U.S.A.
As an educator trainer I have found Dr. Ellis’ work to be invaluable in supporting other teachers to develop themselves as Rational Emotive Behaviour Educators. The trick is to demonstrate to educators how to embed Ellis’ ABC of Emotional Disturbance in daily practice. This can be done by providing appropriate behaviour specific feedback, by using Ellis’ ABC model to profile characters in books, videos, movies etc - How is this character feeling/acting? What beliefs drive these responses? What solutions are possible to help/encourage better behavioural/emotional outcomes for the individual? Behaviour education (Rational Emotive Behaviour Management) can be promoted through the expectations we set and how our students understand the link between thinking and behavioural/emotional outcomes. Ellis’ REBT supports students to make better choices, to learn how to manage their destructive emotions and to take responsibility for themselves in a non – judgmental and practical manner. Ellis’ work has a lot to offer education in terms of teacher development and classroom/school application. Teachers are always looking for effective ways to help their students socially, emotionally and behaviourally. It is my opinion that REBT truly supports students to develop emotional intelligence in a preventative, educative way. Ellis created his ABC of Emotional Disturbance to help people learn how to help themselves through REBT counselling. I believe his legacy in terms of preventative mental health through Rational Emotive Behaviour Education in schools is huge and I am encouraged by the number of teachers who have been trained in Rational Emotive Behaviour Education and who relate how effective it is in the classroom.
G.P.B. Educational Consultant
Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D.
Freud looked for the causes of human maladjustment in past events. Albert Ellis turned the tide by showing that it really isn't events themselves that cause people's maladjustment. Rather it is here-and-now faulty reasoning about events--past and present-that creates the distress. Having embedded this ancient Stoic insight into psychology, Ellis started a philosophical revolution that has given birth to the most successful and influential form of psychotherapy ever conceived. As a philosopher who has devoted the past two decades to continuing this philosophical revolution, I am profoundly indebted to Albert Ellis for his inspiration, guidance, and support. I have the fondest affection for this intellectually courageous and kind man whose selfless dedication continues to do so much for so many.
Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D.
Joel Abramowitz LCSW, DCSW
I have been a Social Worker for twenty eight years. I have had training in other therapies and am extremely impressed with what REBT has to offer. I completed the primary training with Albert and "crew" several years ago in Chicago and walked away with concrete tools, a way to work with people, and a method I can utilize myself to reduce being miserable and enjoy life. I had a small group with Albert in a hotel room. There he was sitting up in bed eating a sandwich while observing us practicing REBT with each other. At one point he became angry and raised his voice. At first I was astonished and felt bad for the individual who was the recipient of his wrath. I thought to myself that, " Boy, he doesn't follow his own philosophy and methodology". It wasn't until weeks later and my own personal work that I did over the phone with Albert that I more fully appreciated his work and infallibility. Thank you Albert.
Joel Abramowitz LCSW, DCSW
Robert F. Heller,Ed.D.,ABPP
As a post doctoral fellow at the Institute for Rational-Emotive Therapy in 1980, I found the training and experience in RET to be profoundly helpful boht personally and professionally. Over the years, through my clinical practice, writings, tapes, lectures, courses etc., I have been fortunate to have helped many hundreds of clients using the RET approach as taught by Dr. Ellis. Over this many years, whenever I had a theoretical or practical question, Dr. Ellis always seemed to take time from his incredibly busy schedule to respond to me. His endorsement of several of my published works means a great deal to me. I have tried, whenever possible to mention that the ideas and approach I use come from Dr.Ellis and REBT and to make distinctions between REBT and CBT emphasizing it's unique characteristics from a theoretical and practical standpoint.
Robert F. Heller,Ed.D.,ABPP
Boca Raton, Fl.
Pamela Garcy, Ph.D.
It is difficult to adequately describe the depth and breadth of contribution that Dr. Albert Ellis has made to my life and career!
I don't think that I'm exaggerating when I say that I utilize the tenets of REBT every day (if not every hour)! It has helped me to live a saner, happier, and more productive life. In addition, I have used it to help me to raise my children and to help treat my patients. I consider this philosophy to be humane, sensible, and deeply helpful.
My current hope is that Albert Ellis will promptly be given a board that will support his ongoing contributions to humanity!
Thank you for this site!
Pamela Garcy, Ph.D.
Jay M. Greenfeld, M.A.
I am currently pursuing my Doctoral studies in Counseling Psychology at the University of Iowa. As I develop my own theoretical orientation I cannot help but emulate the style of Dr. Albert Ellis. Much like the foundation of REBT it is my belief that all humans are innately born with the rational ability to think straight if given the opportunity. However, I am also aware that people are equally as likely to have irrational extreme negative thought processes that contribute to cyclic avoidance and procrastination. Thus, comparable to the approach of Dr. Ellis I see that the role of the therapist is to focus on the thought process of the client in question, confront them and question their irrationality and destructive musturbatory thoughts.
On a more personal level I was fortunate enough to have interacted with Dr. Ellis while studying Counseling Psychology at New York University. I attended his Friday night REBT sessions at the Ellis Institute. Upon accepting the offer to study at the University of Iowa, I participated in a therapy session with Dr. Ellis. He asked a participant from the audience to stand and come up on stage and he would conduct a session with him. As I sat there face to face alongside Dr. Ellis I was caught up in the moment that I was not just talking to anyone about my issue/concern, I was talking to a legend --THE Albert Ellis. As I listened to his suggestion(s) on taking a more assertive realistic approach to life I began to better understand how I want to conduct my own therapy sessions and along the way better understand myself. At the time I was working with high school students and after the session with Dr. Ellis, I realized the importance of not allowing clients to use the therapist as a sponge taking advantage of their skills and time. From that day forth I took a more direct, assertive approach to both my counseling style and my life decisions.
Additionally, I was fortunate enough to interact with Dr. Ellis’ niece and learn more about what he was like on a personal and private level. I learned that regardless of his age he was able to continue enjoying his life both professionally and privately regardless of what circumstances are brought forth. I was able to learn firsthand how a person can separate their professional life from their personal life. I admire the way he speaks to and of his clients, conducts research, and gains experience in a professional but yet confidential manner. At his age, to have the internal desire to continuously want to help others lead better lives are quite commendable. As well, he is always able to juggle the lives of his family and be involved in their every interest. He is able to create that distinction between keeping himself active, helping his clients and loving his family without letting one take more precedent over the other. It was truly amazing to hear him talk about how although there is a significant legal battle ensuing with his institute and his diabetes plaguing him at 92, he said to me “well so what if I can’t eat sugar, I’m still doing everything else, what’s so bad about that, what’s the worst that can happen?” This one comment made me realize that nothing in life is ever going to be easy, and handed to me on a silver platter, but I can still enjoy what it is I have and what I want to do. Moreover, there will be numerous setbacks that will only become as devastating as I make them out to be.
He still has such a unique perspective on life and can carry on with his regular sarcastic direct self. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my 3 years in New York and I am glad that before I depart that I was able to experience it one last time. For myself, I hope I am able to have the ability throughout life to hold the exceptional qualities he has as a professional and a person. These qualities are essential for anyone in the field of mental health, both on an internal and external level, as an individual like Dr. Ellis is what motivates me to keep going.
If “Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life. A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst …a spark that creates extraordinary results.” (Anonymous) Then Dr. Ellis has been that spark for me personally and professionally. I want to thank him for everything he has done in the field as a professional and most importantly as a person. He is a true inspiration to all.
Jay M. Greenfeld, M.A.
Cristina J. Goytia
As a foreign psychologist paying a visit to New York every now and then during the last 20 years, I always made a must to attend the weekly meetings offered by Dr Ellis at his Institute. I recall the eagerness and curiosity I had for those group sessions. How generous he was sharing his knowledge and wisdom for such a small contribution as a few dls. with anybody wishing to attend the meetings. I learnt a lot from his wry sense of humor, his clearness of concepts and the way he addressed those who went there and in particular the way he approached cases.
I took inspiration on those meetings to carry out something of the kind in my native country ,Argentina, and though having got special training on cognitive therapy in due time at the Center for Cognitive Therapy in Philadelphia, then headed by Dr. A.T. Beck, I have never forgotten the important contribution Albert Ellis has made to world psychology through his books, his presentations and his ideas.as well as his particularly energetic and witty interventions . Hope this incredible man will stand against this conspirancy.and recover his health and his property.
Cristina J. Goytia.,
Prof and Psychologist
Dr Albert Ellis is My Papa's Hero
by Sanjana Singh
Hello! My name is Sanjana. I am 9 years old. My father's name is Dr Sanjay Singh and my mother's name is Dr Ritu Singh. My father, and we, are greatly influenced by Dr Albert Ellis. Dr Ellis's teachings have helped my father immensely to live happily.
Dr Ellis says that we can live happily if we accept ourselves, others, and the world unconditionally. He also says that nothing is horrible. It is OK to have strong desires and do hard work to fulfill them, but demanding that you must get something doesn't help. I think it is true, because it has helped my father.
I love Dr Ellis and want him to get well soon and have a long and happy life.
A Change in My Career with the Help of Albert Ellis, by Dr. Antony Kidman, A.M., Ph.D.
I first discovered Albert Ellis when I read a chapter of his in a book about stress in 1981. I was then working in the field of neuroscience and had a tenured academic position as director of a neurobiology research unit. I was so intrigued by rational emotive therapy, as it was then called, that I wrote to Albert and he invited me to a practicum at the Institute in New York. This fitted in nicely with a conference I was attending in Vancouver.
I was so impressed by the training that I decided to change fields slowly and become a clinical psychologist. I had pursued psychology at the University of Sydney but then went into neuroscience, which was and still is a fascinating field.
I went back and forth to New York over the next three years and obtained my associate fellowship in 1986. I also did some training at Tim Beck’s Centre in Philadelphia. Al was always courteous, helpful and had no hesitation writing letters of support for my membership in the Australian Psychological Society and its specialist Clinical College. He encouraged me to write and promote REBT; he wrote the foreword to a number of my books and never failed to respond to my queries or to give useful advice.
My change in career would have been impossible without Al’s help. I have seen many thousands of patients since the early 80s and I have found psychotherapy stimulating, fascinating and rewarding. I owe a great deal to Albert Ellis and I sincerely hope this current difficulties are resolved favourably.
Antony Kidman, A.M., Ph.D.
Director, Health Psychology Unit
University of Technology Sydney
About The Author:
Dr. Tony Kidman is one of Australia’s most famous psychologists. He is the Director of the Health Psychology Unit at the University of Technology Sydney and the author of 8 books. He has also been made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his service to health, particularly research into the psychosocial impact of diseases, including breast cancer, and for his work as a clinical psychologist. Dr. Kidman and daughter Nicole were guests at Albert Ellis’ 90th birthday party in New York City. Dr. Kidman shares a surprising story with us of how his career path changed after he discovered Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Therapy.
HOW ALBERT ELLIS AFFECTED MY LIFE by Dr. William Glasser, M.D.
I have always been reasonably well-known since my 1965 book Reality Therapy, but I have been more concerned about acceptance of my book Choice Theory. I sent this book to Albert Ellis hoping to receive some sort of an answer and to my surprise, he sent me a 25 page paper critiquing the book in great detail and supporting most of the conclusions in the book.
Some time later, I attended a conference and William Powers was there along with Albert Ellis, myself and Alfie Kohn. At that conference, Albert Ellis presented the paper he sent me on the book Choice Theory and he did an amazing job. I was able to personally meet with him at that conference and we were able to spend some time and have lunch together. Since that time, we have certainly become quite good friends and I support him in almost everything he does.
After the book, Choice Theory, I wrote a book called Counseling with Choice Theory. I sent it to Albert, and again, to my surprise, instead of sending me a brief comment, he took his time and went through it word by word. He also sent me an audio tape suggesting about 60 changes to the book, which he thought would make it more effective than it was. I think I took about 59 of his suggestions. He also sent me a blurb for the cover of the book, which I cherish.
At the annual Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in 2006, I was able to get to know him even better. I was able to present with him and that, to me, was the highlight of the conference.
Although Albert Ellis has a very different personality than mine and expresses himself quite differently, he seems to understand the concepts of Choice Theory about as well as anyone. In fact, I am excited because this summer, he is being presented with an award from the American Psychological Association in San Francisco. Jon Carlson, who is one of my closest associates, has invited me to comment on my experiences with Albert Ellis and I am looking forward to doing it.
I hope this sheds some light on how Albert Ellis has affected my life.
Dr. William Glasser
January 3, 2007
Albert the hero: A streetwise mental scientist
Dr Chahid Fourali, PhD
Dr Ellis has not only influenced the academic and theoretical world of psychotherapy but managed to take psychotherapy/counselling to the street which in many ways may be considered a greater achievement than the one linked to theoretical respectability. Dr Ellis has also focused on the quality assurance and marketing aspects much more than many others. These are important dimensions that encourage therapists like me to look beyond what works but step back and try to look at the bigger picture and be encouraged to identify new ways to develop thinking in the field rather than be just a follower. Dr Ellis has demonstrated that therapists can be transparent about what they are trying to achieve including focusing on defining the personality of what a healthy functioning individual is. These are in my view key elements that show scientific probity much more than several therapies that make assumptions about what constitutes healthy functioning without being explicit about it or challenging the underpinning bias behind them. This gives the individual the ability and freedom to question and agree or disagree about the aims of therapy and work with the therapist to target aims that are more tailored to one's needs. Dr Ellis, like many of his followers, were put on the spot on many occasions about certain sensitive questions relating to wars, terrorism etc when it would have been easier to agree with the majority, but he always tried to stand his grounds and not fall in the trap of emotional reasoning. This attitude has always been adopted by scientists and thinkers beyond the here and now throughout the ages.
In line with Dr Ellis approach, I am always looking for underlying assumptions, thoughts and structures at both individual level but also at social/cultural levels. This means I do not agree with everything that Dr Ellis promotes either at theoretical, process or style of therapy. However his approach has encouraged the field to question relentlessly and seek explanations at various levels and dare to do things differently despite established traditions (academic or otherwise). Dr Ellis, like all humans, may have misjudged certain aspects of the human character but his approach appears to have touched and relieved countless of lives, including mine. As my approach is an REBT inspired multimodal model with spiritually being one of the key components, I would like to take this opportunity to wish him the best of outcomes (physical, spiritual, psychological etc) in these moments of trial for him and his close ones.
All the best Albert.
Dr Chahid Fourali, PhD
Cesare De Silvestri, MD, Psychiatrist
I owe a lot to Albert Ellis and the former AEI, both professionally and personally: an exceptionally efficient line of work, a reasonably comfortable life, and a generally rational attitude towards its adversities.
My tribute is one of gratitude to the teacher, master and leader, but also of affection and love to the man. And I would like to add my warmest thanks to colleagues and friends of the former Institute in New York and elsewhere in the world.
In my ripe old age, the only regret is that I wasn't able to do more in helping to spread the RET (REBT) message in Italy and abroad. Let's hope my best trainees and pupils will carry on the good work.
Cesare De Silvestri, MD, Psychiatrist
Fellow & Supervisor AEI New York
Director AEI (Italy)
I had gone through three different Therapist in US since 6 years ago and they couldn't help me to find out my problem's root and way to confront with them. Then years passed until I talked to my sister, who is a psychologist in Iran, about my problem and she said she recommended me REBT.
When I asked my previous doctors about behavior therapy they said they are able to do it, but my sister said that's not true they have to have a certificate as a behavior therapist. I went to internet and typed Dr. Ellis name with wrong spell in Google.
I found Dr. Ellis website and I found a therapist in San Diego. I met her maybe 8 months ago and I was able to overcome one of my biggest fear, which I carried for 40 years and had influences on my life, that was loneliness which took me from this marriage to other one and all wrong.
Now I'm continuing my session with my great psychologist Beth Kessler and I'm happy and using a lot of my energy to achieve my goals and happy life.
REBT and Dr. Ellis books changed my life and is changing also.
I'm not a religious person but if I were, I would wish complete health and youth for Dr. Ellis. I wish he gets better and I can come and visit him I have a lot to tell him. I wanted to hug him and tell him if there would be a god, you are my God because you brought me from the world which I was dead to the world which I am alive happy and stayed on my feet. I love him respect him and told to everybody about him, REBT and books. I tell my friend most of us have problems with fears, anxiety, procrastination, loneliness and a lot of immature ideas in our mind which parents, media, society taught us, and most of them are wrong. We are not the person we think we are, go and try to know yourself with REBT's light and knowledge.
I'm working on my procrastination. I don't feel any more lonely, I have a lot to do. Please, Please tell Dr. Ellis how much valued person he is, how he changes people's life, that is incredible.
In Iran some psychologists know Dr. Ellis, but no one does REBT and recently my sister is studying REBT to get certificate but meanwhile she is using that and she tells me You don't know how much I'm successful with REBT on my patients. With REBT doesn't take long to be cured.
Thanks Dr. Ellis infinity