Reflections on Learning and Using REBT in Sport

As a trainee sport and exercise psychologist, I completed the Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT; Albert Ellis, 1957) Primary Practicum to refine my philosophy and enhance my professional practice. Completion of the course left me enthralled. This theory and therapeutic style was going to significantly enhance my practice, and I could not wait (or rather, would struggle to tolerate waiting) to share my learnings with my clients.

A week after course completion, I was using REBT to help a 17-year-old boxer perform under pressure. I felt excited about mapping his pre-fight anxiety onto the ABC(G) framework, because I believed so much in the explanatory and helping power of REBT. My knowledge of the assessment process meant I approached the session with confidence and optimism; believing I could really help this boxer to help himself in the long-term.

In fact, I had never felt so confident before a client session. This is no doubt thanks to my memories of doing ABC assessments on the course (performance accomplishments), praise from instructors (social persuasion), and observing peers in counselling sessions (vicarious experience; Bandura, 1977). I also believe the delivery of the theory captures you in such a way; you can’t help but feel enthusiastic about its helping potential. This demonstrates the quality of the REBT Primary course, given that I had such a strong trust in both my ability to do the theory in real life and in the theory itself.

Following assessment and socialising the model, I introduced the boxer to the art of disputation; the method by which he would believe the rational alternatives to his anxiety inducing, irrational beliefs. Disputing was a skill I felt less confident about, as it was covered and practised in less depth than the assessment process. I questioned my understanding of disputation methods and reasoning, and was concerned I would look inadequate if I tried to help the boxer dispute his irrational beliefs, when I couldn’t clearly articulate the rational reasoning!

Aware of this gap in my skillset, before the disputing session I watched videos of Dr. Albert Ellis, and read disputing chapters in Dryden and Branch’s (2008) training handbook. This, together with the boxer’s established ABC(G), allowed me to plan questions and their explanations, to challenge his core irrational belief. This demonstrates an advantage of REBT; since disputing should only take place once the model has been thoroughly explained and socialised to the client (2008). New REBT practitioners can reflect on the ABC assessment, and plan disputation if required, enhancing both confidence and delivery.

Without a doubt, the REBT course is the highlight of my professional training to date. No other CPD activity has given me such confidence in myself as a psychologist/practitioner. I wholeheartedly recommend the course to other trainees who wish to further their practice. Aside from professional benefits, attending the course grows you as a person, thanks to the absorbing and challenging nature of the theory, and the positive impact this way of thinking about the world has on well-being and performance.

By Jennifer Hobson,

Trainee Sport and Exercise Psychologist









Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

Dryden, W., & Branch, R. (2008). The fundamentals of rational emotive behaviour therapy: A training handbook. (2nd ed.). Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Ellis, A. (1957). Rational psychotherapy and individual psychology. Journal of Individual Psychology, 13, 38-44.


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