Albert Ellis

On this date in 1913, Albert Ellis was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. He graduated from the City University of New York with a degree in business, and later decided to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Columbia University. He graduated in 1947 and earned an M.A. in clinical psychology from Teachers College in 1943. Ellis worked as a psychotherapist, marriage and family counselor and sex therapist. He became chief psychologist of New Jersey in 1950.

Ellis initially practiced psychoanalysis, but in 1953 he declared it unscientific and became what he called a “rational therapist.” In 1955, he invented Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), a type of short-term Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which counsels patients to take action to improve their lives in the present, rather than focusing on past experiences. He founded the non-profit Albert Ellis Institute in 1964, which worked to promote REBT and make it accessible. REBT is still practiced today and was considered a revolutionary change in psychotherapy. In fact, a 1982 study found that Albert Ellis was considered more influential than such famous psychologists as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung.

Ellis became a “firm atheist and anti-mystic” at the age of 12, according to his 2007 book Are Capitalism, Objectivism, and Libertarianism Religions? Yes!. In the book, he also called himself a “probabilistic atheist,” meaning that he believed the probability of a god existing was very low. “We can have no certainty that God does or does not exist [but] we have an exceptionally high degree of probability that he or she doesn’t,” Ellis explained in his 2004 book, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy: It Works For Me–It Can Work For You. Ellis wrote “Case Against Religion: A Psychotherapist’s View and the Case Against Religiosity,” which was first published in The Independent in 1980 and later published as a pamphlet. In the pamphlet, Ellis writes that religion’s “absolutistic, perfectionistic thinking is the prime creator of the two most corroding of human emotions: anxiety and hostility.” D. 2007.

“For a man to be a true believer and to be strong and independent is impossible; religion and self-sufficiency are contradictory terms.” 

—Dr. Albert Ellis, “Case Against Religion: A Psychotherapist’s View and the Case Against Religiosity,” 1980.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

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