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  • Writer's pictureDarren Britton

A Brief Introduction to Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy for Athletes and Sportspeople

Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) is a form of psychotherapy that aims to help individuals develop healthy and rational ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. This therapy approach has been shown to be particularly useful for athletes who want to manage their emotions and perform at their best.

The ABC Model of REBT

The ABC model is a central concept in REBT, and it helps athletes understand how their thoughts and beliefs impact their emotional and behavioral reactions. The model stands for:

A: Adversity– This is the situation or event that triggers an emotional response in the athlete. For example, a missed shot, an injury, or a difficult opponent.

B: Beliefs – These are the thoughts and beliefs that athletes have about the activating event. These beliefs can be either rational or irrational. Rational beliefs are those that are based on evidence and logical reasoning, while irrational beliefs are those that are not supported by evidence and can be harmful to mental health and performance.

C: Consequences – The consequence is the emotional and behavioral reaction that the athlete experiences as a result of their beliefs about the activating event.

An example of the ABC model in action would be a basketball player who misses a critical shot in the final moments of a game. The activating event is the missed shot (A), and the athlete's beliefs about the situation (B) can range from rational ("I did my best, and sometimes things don't go as planned") to irrational ("I'm a failure, and I'll never be a good basketball player"). The consequence (C) can also vary depending on the beliefs held, with rational beliefs leading to more adaptive emotional reactions and irrational beliefs leading to maladaptive emotions such as anxiety, anger, or depression.


There is a growing body of research that suggests that Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) can be effective in improving sports performance. Here are some examples of the evidence:

A study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology found that a 12-week REBT intervention improved self-confidence and performance among elite swimmers.

Another study published in the Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy found that a 10-week REBT program was effective in reducing anxiety and improving performance in college athletes.

A study published in the International Journal of Sport Psychology found that a single session of REBT was effective in reducing anxiety and improving performance among amateur golfers.

A review of several studies published in the Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy found that REBT can be effective in improving performance, reducing anxiety, and enhancing mental toughness among athletes.

Overall, these studies suggest that REBT can be a valuable tool for improving sports performance by helping athletes manage their emotions, develop a more resilient mindset, and overcome negative thinking patterns that may be hindering their performance.

What to expect in sessions that use REBT

If you are working with a sport psychologist who utilizes Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), you can expect a collaborative and goal-oriented approach to help you address any psychological challenges that may be affecting your performance as an athlete.

Throughout your sessions, your sport psychologist will help you identify any irrational beliefs or negative self-talk that may be hindering your performance. They will then work with you to challenge and reframe these beliefs in a way that is more realistic and conducive to your goals.

Additionally, your sport psychologist may help you develop strategies for managing anxiety, improving motivation, and enhancing your overall resilience. They may also incorporate techniques such as visualization, relaxation, and mindfulness to help you stay focused and confident during competition.

Overall, working with a sport psychologist who utilizes REBT can help you develop a more resilient mindset and improve your overall performance as an athlete.

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