Psychology / Demonstrate Your Understanding Of The Abcdef, Indicating How You Would Apply It In Counselling.

Demonstrate Your Understanding Of The Abcdef, Indicating How You Would Apply It In Counselling.

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Autor:  anton  21 November 2010
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2.5 Demonstrate your understanding of the ABCDEF, indicating how you would apply it in counselling.

The �ABC framework’ was created by Albert Ellis in the 1950’s and is mainly used by counsellors who use Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) or Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). It is also used by some Cognitive or Cognitive Behavioural therapists. ABCDEF are acronyms for the sequential method of working through these types of brief psychotherapies. The ABC method of working with people can be used in a whole range of circumstances but better suits those people who are willing to consistently work on changing their irrational beliefs and who can cope with having their beliefs challenged (Mulhauser 2006). The ABCDEF method is a useful means of �explaining emotional response and distress’ (Benner & Hill 1999, p. 1002) or �to illustrate the role of thinking processes in emotional disturbances (Walen, DiGiuseppe & Wessler 1980, p. 13).

In the initial stages of using the ABC framework the counsellor takes on an �active-directive approach’ while also teaching the skills of the therapy to the client (Walker, Burnham & Borland 1994, p. 872). The acronym �A’ stands for the Activating event which can be either external or internal to the client. �B’ is the Beliefs (either rigid or flexible beliefs), that are held by the person. Rigid beliefs are usually made up of words such as should, must and absolutes and are called irrational (or unhealthy) beliefs. Flexible beliefs are named rational (or healthy) beliefs. In the ABC framework the �C’ describes the emotional and behavioural consequences of the beliefs about A. �D’ is the point where the counsellor will Dispute the unhealthy beliefs. These beliefs can be quite overt and the person may be clearly aware that they hold them, or they may be hidden below the surface and have to be exposed by the counsellor (Walen et al 1980, p. 13). The client will be taught this process as well and in time will be able to challenge and bring into question any thoughts and beliefs that are causing issues in their life. The �E’ stands for Enacting of an Effective philosophy which means the replacing of irrational or unhealthy beliefs with rational or healthy beliefs thereby changing the Feelings a person has about the original event (F) (Perkins 2006).

The use of this method can be demonstrated through the description of a fictitious counselling session. Henry enters the counselling office looking very upset and speaking fast as he told the counsellor that his life was over now since his wife left him two weeks ago. He can see nothing but loneliness and pain. He can’t understand why these sorts of things happen to him all the time. He can’t work because he is so upset and now the boss is talking about sacking him. Everyone seems to be against him.

As with all counselling, actively listening to build rapport is important at the beginning of a session but since this is a much more directive therapy this is not the main focus instead Dryden (1990) suggests that once the basic rapport building stage is over the counsellor should adopt a problem solving attitude so that the main issues can be brought to the front early. It will also help to prioritise if the client has a number of issues that they are dealing with (p. 25). His wife leaving him is the activated event (A). The Consequences (C) are the feelings of depression and self pity and a general feeling that all is doomed and it will never get any better. Henry’s beliefs can be assessed through looking at a list of 12 common irrational beliefs originally developed by Ellis (2004), which has then been further broken down into three main belief systems:

1. Demands about self - I must do well or get approval

(and I’m a worm if I don’t)

2. Demands about others - You must treat me nicely

and kindly (and you’re a louse if you don’t)

3. Demands about the world/life conditions - The world

must give me what I want quickly, easily and with great

certainty (and its awful if it doesn’t)

(Dryden 1990, pp. 7-8; Walen et al 1980, p. 13).

Although there is some depression, the main feelings that are causing Henry to struggle are the feelings that everyone is against him. The feelings of self pity influence his thoughts leading him to demand that it all be fixed now otherwise he will not survive. The counsellor will discuss these ideas with Henry trying to raise awareness that it is actually his beliefs that are causing the intensity of his feelings and not the fact that his wife has left him or that his boss is not happy with him (Walen et al 1980, p. 14).

Once Henry understands that his A’s are not to blame for his C’s and that he can be actively involved in changing how much the events affect his life, then he is ready for the �D’ stage of the framework. During this stage the counsellor will help Henry to dispute and challenge his irrational beliefs. From here new rational beliefs are established (E). In Henry’s case the counsellor might challenge the idea that he will not survive if things don’t get better for him by getting him to look at the physiological realties of that thinking or by getting him to look at other times in his life when he thought he wouldn’t survive. Irrational beliefs don’t often just disappear and much of the success of this therapy is through the homework. Each time he finds himself thinking irrationally he is taught to replace those irrational thoughts and beliefs with new, rational thoughts and beliefs. As Henry changes his beliefs then the feelings will follow on behind (F). (Perkins 2006)

Such a directive method of counselling is not suitable for all people. The fact that one of the main objectives of this method is the teaching of the skills to the client does have an equalising effect eventually. As many of the beliefs that we have about ourselves, others and the world are perceptions rather than truth, the use of the ABC framework to dispute the many irrational thoughts and beliefs that we have may be a useful method to use in the counselling office.


Benner, DG & Hill, PC(eds) 1999, Baker Encyclopaedia of Psychology and Counselling, 2nd edn, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI.

Dryden, W 1990, Rational-Emotive Counselling in Action, Sage Publications, London.

Ellis A 1994, The Essence of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT):

A Comprehensive Approach to Treatment. Retrieved November 16, 2006, from

Mulhauser, G 2006, An Introduction to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Retrieved November 14, 2006, from

Perkins, M 2006, The Internet Guide to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy & Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Retrieved November 14, 2006, from

Walen, SR, DiGiuseppe, R & Wessler, RL 1980, A Practitioner’s Guide to Rational-Emotive Therapy, Oxford University Press, New York.

Walker, M, Burnham, D & Borland, R 1994, Psychology, 2nd edn. John Wiley and Sons, Brisbane.

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