Thursday, July 26, 2007

Albert Ellis: Great and Controversial

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The great Albert Ellis died on Tuesday. He made a huge contribution to the field of psyhology -- and outraged professionals and lay-people around the world.

He was one of the founders of what eventually became cognitive behavioral therapy. He believed our past is important, but doesn't affect us as much as we affect ourselves through our unconscious thought patterns.

The Boston Herald (which I usually avoid) ran a pretty good summary of his life here.

During my year-long Theories of Psychology course at grad school, we watched a film in which one (brave) woman underwent one session each with three giants of the field: Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, and Ellis. My classmates were utterly turned off by Ellis' blunt, no-nonsense style, and the professor did a lot of eye-rolling and winking. I was the only one who said, "I don't think I'd want to work with this guy long-term, but if I could get six sessions with him, I bet I would be a happier man."

I'm definitely not a pure CBT therapist (too many great approaches out there to lean on just one), and Ellis' personal style is not for most people. But the field is tremendously more effective because of his work. And hey, Ellis was a "Take Me or Leave Me" kind of guy, and frankly, that's kind of refreshing in a psychotherapist -- or anyone.


Muffy St. Bernard said...

Ha, we had to watch that film as well! Love the 1960s fashions...

I do remember that Ellis was blunt and unsympathetic in comparison to the other two, who were sort of sweetly nebulous (if memory serves).

Thinkulous said...

Yes, Ellis definitely rubbed people the wrong way, but I kind of enjoy that. Maybe it soothes the part of me that fears that I do that, too!