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.