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Practical Applications of Rational Emotive Therapy
10 CEUs Practical Applications of Rational Emotive Therapy

Section 17
An Emotional Control Card for Rational-Emotive Imagery

CEU Question 17 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | RET CEU Courses
Psychology CEs, Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, MFT CEUs, Nurse CEUs

The authors describe an emotional control card useful in enhancing the application of rational-emotive imagery.

Mental imagery is recognized as an important component in counseling and therapy. According to Cordon (1972). imagery is incorporated into most psychotherapeutic procedures to some extent. Meichenbaum (2978) indicated that more than 20 effective imagery techniques are used in psycho­therapy.

Cognitive therapist Albert Ellis relies heavily on imagery in rational-emotive therapy (RET) (Ellis & Harper, 1977). Actually, Maultsby (1975) developed the technique of rational-emotive imagery (RET), which Ellis adopted and incorporated into RET (Ellis & Harper, 1977; Ellis & Whiteley, 1979). Imagery work in RET has been recognized and accepted. The purpose of this article is to present a tool that enhances the rational-emotive imagery techniques used in RET.

Rational-Emotive Imagery
Maultsby (1975) developed REI to enhance clients’ disputing and homework practice and to reinforce the process of rational-emotive therapy like REI, counselees use imagery to re-create distressing situations and the strong, negative emotions that are aroused by these events. Clients then discuss with counselors these images and the internal messages (irrational beliefs) that brought forth the feelings. They are instructed to change the intense, negative feelings to feelings that are less emotional (i.e., furious to irritated), Afterward, they describe how they made this change (replacing irrational beliefs with rational ones, or rational self-talk). The process of clients applying rational self-talk to their irrational beliefs is reinforced through imagery homework assignments, A complete description of REI is found in Ellis and Harper (1977).

Although the RET technique has been helpful to clients of rational-emotive therapists, it could be improved. For example, Counselees may forget to apply their newly acquired rational thinking skills in real life situations. Clients may have difficulty applying rational thinking to new dilemmas. Identifying more than one irrational thought within the context of the same activating event may hamper progress. Furthermore, after repeated practice of REI homework with a specific activating event and emotional consequence, some clients may have trouble summoning strong feelings generated from that situation. Thus, they tend to stop practicing imagery.

Emotional Control Card
To reinforce and expand the practice of REI, the senior author developed an emotional control card (FCC). The ECC is an in­expensive prop that can he used with groups and individuals during and between counseling sessions. It contains four major debilitating emotional categories (see Table 1) arranged on a wallet-sized card. Columns of synonymous intense feeling and mild feeling words are listed under each category. The categories and subsequent emotions were taken from Gazda, Asbury, Batzer, Childers, and Walters’s (1984) appendix of feeling words used to expand helpers’ affective vocabularies. The categories may be altered to meet users’ needs.

TABLE 1: Emotion Control
Intense                                        Mild              
Furious                                        Agitated
Angry                                          Irritated
Enraged                                       Annoyed
Mad                                            Mildly put out
Resentful                                     A bit ticked off

Humiliated                                   Slighted
Put down                                     Not taken seriously
Ridiculed                                     Partially deflated
Discounted                                  Somewhat overlooked
Inadequate                                   Uncertain
Helpless                                      Unsure
Overwhelmed                              Somewhat awkward
Bewildered                                  Puzzled
Anguished                                   Displeased

Abandoned                                  A bit unimportant
Crushed                                       Mildly blue
Depressed                                   Below par
Defeated                                     Somewhat discontented
Guilty                                          Regretful or sorry
Worthless                                    Indifferent                 

After clients are taught the rational-emotive imagery concept, the ECC is introduced. Clients use the ECC to identify both the debilitating (or closely related) emotions and the preferred, mild feelings. Next, they re-experience the intense negative consequences, and the)’ are directed to change these feelings to their preselected mild feelings. The thought process used by clients to alter both their debilitating feelings and irrational beliefs to more tolerable ones are discussed and reinforced.

Clients are asked to think of other situations in which the ECC would be helpful and to practice these applications. Carried in one’s wallet, the ECC serves as a supportive reminder of rational thinking. Whenever an activating event occurs that yields a strong. negative emotion, the client uses the ECC is to eliminate enervating emotions and the corresponding irrational beliefs. Thus, the prop enables users to apply REI with an activating event that may not have been an issue in counseling.

The ECC can also reinforce REI homework. We have observed that, during REI homework, many counselees find it difficult to repeatedly generate debilitating feelings aroused by the same activating event. They tend to become bored and to discontinue the activity. Perhaps this is an indication that the problem is solved. The FCC then provides additional intense and mild affective states that clients can connect with other activating events to practice as homework. Such self-control produces growth in the client. Periodic checks with counselors can remedy an)’ problems they encounter in the process.

The Emotional Control Card in Practice
An inmate who expressed concern about her excessive anger and violence at the women’s state penal institution was having difficulty applying the principles of REI. She was uncomfortable with and somewhat hesitant to try REI. After the counselor’s introduction of the ECC, she became intrigued and was willing to try the technique. The ECC may have taken some of the mystique Out Of REI. She began to carry the card and used it whenever she felt herself getting angry. She reported later that having the card in her pocket provided her with a sense of security. She realized that she did not have to feel angry but could choose to feel irritated or annoyed.

The ECC allowed the counselee to put into practice what she learned in counseling. She found imagery homework unnecessary because the ECC had become an immediate reminder whenever she had irrational thoughts. She also reported, with much enthusiasm, that she had taught some fellow inmates how to use the ECC. Some of them, however, became perturbed with her playing counselor. Possibly, warning the client to not evangelize the use of this technique may prevent such a problem. Six months after she was terminated from counseling, the client, in a follow-up discussion with the prison counselor, indicated that she had continued to control her anger and had maintained good relationships with other inmates.

A second client used the ECC to tone down his negative reactions to members of his board of directors. He would place the ECC in front of him with his papers at board meetings and would focus his thoughts on the card whenever he felt strong, negative emotions being evoked. lie now uses the ECC when he needs it and reports that it is effective in helping him resolve some difficult issues.

The ECC was also found to be effective in teaching the concepts of RET and REI in a stress management workshop. Group members experienced rational imagery using the methods presented here. Imagery homework with day-to-day. Self-chosen issues was practiced. Real life encounters that led to intense feelings of irrational distress were confronted using the ECC.

The ECC has been used with counselor trainees as well. Dur­ing the spring term of 1984, the senior author demonstrated it to an entire group of 22 counseling techniques students at the University of Louisville, Because of their personal involvement, students’ skepticism about the effectiveness of REI was substantially less than that of previous classes.

Because the FCC is a recent development, its use has been limited. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the extent to which it will he useful in the field of counseling. Our experiences have been positive, although two drawbacks in addition to the one cited earlier may occur. First, clients may use the ECC as a crutch. Second, because the FCC is grounded in RET and REI, it will not help clients who are unable to grasp those concepts.

Imagery in the form of REI is nearly conjunctive with the basic process of Ellis’s RET. The ECC was developed to enhance the use of RET in different environments. It has been found productive both individual counseling and in group settings. The ECC helps clients change intense feelings into mild feelings and stimulates rational thinking skills. If used by an appropriately trained client, the ECC seems to be an effective cue for the application of alternative, cognitive rational thinking.
- Sklare, Gerald, Taylor, Julie, & Susan Hyland; An Emotional Control Card for Rational-Emotive Imagery; Journal of Counseling & Development; Oct 1985, Vol. 64.

Personal Reflection Exercise #3
The preceding section contained information about an emotional control card for rational-emotive therapy. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Davis, H., & Turner, M. J. (2020). The use of rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) to increase the self-determined motivation and psychological well-being of triathletes. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 9(4), 489–505.

Holt, S. A., & Austad, C. S. (2013). A comparison of rational emotive therapy and Tibetan Buddhism: Albert Ellis and the Dalai Lama. International Journal of Behavioral Consultation and Therapy, 7(4), 8–11.

Rovenpor, D. R., & Isbell, L. M. (2018). Do emotional control beliefs lead people to approach positive or negative situations? Two competing effects of control beliefs on emotional situation selection. Emotion, 18(3), 313–331.

Ward, J. J. (2011). “Oh, the humanity!”: Kurt Vonnegut and rational emotive behavior therapy's existential rejoinder to the irrationality of the human condition. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39(2), 105–120.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 17
How does ECC help enhance the use of RET in different environments? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Test.

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