British Journal of Clinical Psychology

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Volume 32 Issue 3 (September 1993), Pages 261-388

Effect of rational and irrational statements on intensity and ‘inappropriateness' of emotional distress and irrational beliefs in psychotherapy patients (pages 319-325)

Ellis's rational–emotive theory postulates that since irrational statements augment emotional distress, replacing irrational with rational statements should lessen distress. This hypothesis was tested in the initial stages of psychotherapy by having 13 and 14 clinical out‐patients respectively repeat for one minute either rational or irrational statements about their major presenting psychological problem. The distinction by Ellis & Harper (1975) that ‘inappropriate’ emotions differ qualitatively from ‘appropriate’ emotions was also examined. Although the experimental intervention had no effect on a post‐test measure of irrational beliefs, patients repeating rational statements had significantly lower appropriate and inappropriate negative emotions at post‐test, suggesting that inappropriate emotions do not differ qualitatively from appropriate emotions and that making rational statements may lower emotional distress in patients. Patients reiterating irrational statements showed no change in emotions, implying that these kinds of irrational cognitions may have already been present.

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