“This volume will be a cornerstone of the literature about rational emotive behavior therapy”

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Stuart Carrington
St Mary’s University, Twickenham, UK


Martin Turner
The Rational Practitioner: The Sport and Performance Psychologist’s Guide To Practicing Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy
306 pages, paperback
Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge 2023
ISBN 978-1-032-06040-8

The environment in which sportspeople toil is reflective of life; it is unpredictable, unstable and has many factors that fall outside of our control. Consequently, failure and other negative events (e.g., injury) are ubiquitous in the field of sport and such incidents can promote negative emotional and/or behavioural outcomes. Fortunately, this book provides the reader with a framework to reduce factors that encourage such maladaptive responses by offering a comprehensive and critical, yet accessible, review of rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT).

Originating in the 1950’s by Albert Ellis, REBT is a therapeutic approach that is gathering significant interest and empirical support in the field of sport and exercise psychology. For those familiar with REBT, it is not surprising that this perspective is experiencing something of a renaissance, given its strong scientific origins. This book, of course, draws upon a corpus of evidence that supports the use of REBT (both within and outside of sport). In particular, the discussion around the fundamental framework of REBT (the ‘GABCDE’ model[1]) is outstanding, exposing the reader to an interpretation of the model that is much closer to Ellis’ own vision of REBT than traditional, linear models that have been previously presented.

As stated in the book, Western cultures typically promote feelings of self-worth only when one is seen as productive or achieving. In responding to this observation, and others of a similar nature, The Rational Practitioner is in possession of a philosophical theme that runs throughout the book

The commentary around the REBT framework is the primary focus of the first part of the book. The brilliance behind this discussion lies in the author’s ability to appeal to both novices and experts. Personally, I have read many books about REBT, and so assessments of the GABCDE framework can frequently become monotonous. In The Rational Practitioner, those who are unfamiliar with the theoretical underpinning of REBT will find a clear and articulate presentation of the model, whereas more experienced readers (and even practitioners) will find the chapter on the interdependent nature of the model especially enlightening and thought-provoking. The discussion around ‘general’ and ‘specific’ REBT, for instance, is one that will appeal to newcomers and advanced practitioners alike, as it encourages the flexibility of REBT which is central to its appeal and utility.

The book goes well beyond a theoretical description of REBT, as it then discusses each aspect of the model in an order that a practitioner would typically use to apply the theory with a client. Again, the section is written in such a way that achieves that ‘oh-so-difficult’ balance between simplicity and critical depth. This is achieved by offering great clarity regarding what each aspect of the model represents (e.g., adversity), but complimenting this simplicity with an outstanding ‘deep-dive’ into relevant features of each aspect of the framework. For example, the chapter on ‘goals’ establishes the importance of context when using REBT, which is a fundamental feature of the approach, however, also enlightens the reader to several pertinent features of this concept. In particular, what should our goals be to live a fulfilled and pleasurable life? What is the distinction between fundamental goals and primary goals? Are irrational goals (that consist of ‘musts’, ‘shoulds’ and other inflexible language) ever motivational and useful? The consistent asking (and answering) of such questions demonstrates both the high level of criticality but also the expertise of the author who answers each query with lucidity and evidence.

(Shutterstock/Krakenimages.com)

The support used by the author is evident throughout the book, strengthening the case for the use of REBT in sporting populations. In fact, the application of the approach would be relevant to everyone, a point made by the book by drawing on the philosophical and historical roots of REBT. As stated in the book, Western cultures typically promote feelings of self-worth only when one is seen as productive or achieving. In responding to this observation, and others of a similar nature, The Rational Practitioner is in possession of a philosophical theme that runs throughout the book. This is highly suitable, given the influence of Stoic philosophy on Ellis’ original work, and has the added effect of humanising REBT, something that it has occasionally been accused of lacking.

Responding to criticisms is something that the book accomplishes with great assurance. When reading, I tried many times to critique the theory and/or application of REBT, only to find answers on every page. For example, the lexiconic use of words in sporting environments (e.g., ‘I have to win this game’) may simply be just that, a way of expressing how much an athlete would like to succeed. When should the practitioner intervene and how can they ascertain whether this statement reflects an irrational belief (‘I have to win’) or just a socially acceptable way of communicating their preference (‘I really want to win’)? The book offers straightforward responses to such questions, leaving the reader satisfied that no stone has been left unturned.

The final part of the book turns its attention to disputing beliefs and establishing new, effective ones. Once more, these chapters build significantly on existing literature, giving the reader general principles to apply when using REBT to maximise effectiveness, as well as providing real examples from sessions (including those from the author and Ellis himself), to provide the reader with a practical and applied understanding.

The comprehensive nature of the book, combining the theoretical and philosophical tenets of REBT, ensures that this volume will be a cornerstone of REBT literature.

Copyright © Stuart Carrington 2023


[1] In the GABCDE framework, G “stands for goals, A stands for adversity (which are counter to G), B is for beliefs (about A), C is for consequences (emotional, behavioral, cognitive), D stands for disputation (rigorously challenging irrational beliefs), and E is for effective new beliefs (developing and strengthening rational beliefs)”. (Craig Maxwell-Keys, Andrew G. Wood, Martin J. Turner, Developing decision making in Rugby Union match officials using rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), Psychology of Sport and Exercise, Volume 58, 2022.

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