IBMT Example

Posted on December 21, 2010


In order to understand a new concept better, it is often helpful to have an example. Today, I’d like to show you an example of how you can use the Irrational Belief Modification Tool (IBMT) to dissolve irrational beliefs. (See my last post for more information).

The IBMT consists of 10 steps. Each step of the sequence is presented below, along with a possible answer and/or explanation (in red). When you use this tool, you will of course record your own, personal answers.


~Negative unhealthy emotions are: anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, embarrassment, hurt and jealousy.

Albert Ellis labels the above emotions “unhealthy” because “they tend to interfere with people’s  constructive attempts to change undesirable situations.” (Depression, however, at times is due to biological problems with serotonin).

Personally, I don’t think any emotions are unhealthy if one feels them and then releases them. The problem with some of these emotions, like anxiety, is that they are continuous which means that they continuously cause suffering. From my work with clients, these emotions often cause people to feel stuck and unsure of how to move forward.

~Negative healthy emotions are: concern, sadness, annoyance, remorse, disappointment, and regret.

These negative emotions usually inspire an action of some type, or at the very least, lend themselves to an easier analytical interpretation of what possible action one could take to better one’s situation. For example, if one feels regret at having unintentionally insulted a friend, one can apologize for his/her action.

Step One: Notice and identify the unhealthy negative emotion/feeling you are having.

I feel depressed because the person I have feelings for is dating someone else.

Step Two: What is the problem that needs to be solved? (Thought work or action)

The problem is that I’m holding onto a belief that this person should be going out with me, not anyone else.

Step Three: State your irrational belief (ie: Everyone whom I love must love and approve of me).

X should feel the same way about me as I do about him/her.

Step Four: Then, ask yourself: (*Remember to answer honestly)

a) Is this belief true?

Yes. I really feel that X should be in love with me.

b) Is this belief logical?

This belief may not be logical. X loves who X loves.

c) Is this belief helping me?

No way. I feel so depressed with this belief.

Step Five: What self-defeating behaviors have you been participating in while you believed this irrational belief was true?

When I believe that X should love only me (and it’s apparent that’s not the case), I feel depressed and then sit around the house all weekend, watching movies and eating junk food. I don’t go out when my friends ask me to, even if it’s to meet other people. I just stay in and feel sorry for myself.

Step Six: What rational belief would you like to replace this irrational belief with?

Although I wish X reciprocated my romantic feelings, X does not and perhaps that’s for the best. Maybe I’ll meet someone who loves and appreciates me the way I would like them to.

Step Seven: What healthy negative emotion does the rational belief inspire? (see above)

Disappointment. I’m disappointed things didn’t work out with X.

Step Eight: What new constructive behaviors will you participate in to demonstrate your acceptance of this new, rational belief?

I’ll go out with my friends and try to meet other people. I’ll stop eating all of this junk food and instead go to the gym so that I can look and feel my best.

Step Nine: What will be the personal reward of participating in these constructive behaviors?

I might meet someone new. At the very least, I’ll feel better if I get out of the house and do something for myself.

Step Ten: What will be the personal consequences of not participating in these constructive behaviors?

If I continue to mope and sit around at home, I’ll never give myself the chance to meet anyone new.

*What I like about Ellis’s work is that he does not ask clients to “give up” or release their negative emotions but to examine them and their adverse effects. When things happen that we don’t want to happen, or when things don’t happen that we were hoping would happen, it’s normal, healthy and very human to feel negative emotions.

However, these negative emotions are only constructive when one is able to feel them, release them and then take appropriate steps to move in the direction one wishes to go. Remember, negative emotions are signals from our bodies telling us that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Hopefully this IBMT will help you clarify the problem you’re facing so that you can see how to move forward.

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