chapter  8
16 Pages

The contribution of social psychology to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

One of the main difficulties that emerges in therapy is when a client holds on strongly to a belief or self-defeating behavior, sometimes even acknowledging that the current way of thinking or behaving is destructive. At such times, the findings on persuasion might prove helpful in aiding clients to relinquish such beliefs and/or behaviors. It is important to review and understand Richard Petty and John Cacioppo's (1986) theory of the elaboration likelihood model. This model states that we are inclined to think deeply about a persuasive argument if the issue is one that is relevant and important to us. The theory posits that there are two major routes to persuasion: the central route and the peripheral route. The central route relies on solid arguments based on relevant facts and figures and involves the prudent, thoughtful deliberation of message content. The central route gets people to think about issues. High elaboration indicates the central route, and requires that the receiver have both motivation and the ability to process the message carefully. Therefore, a client with a career as a computer programmer may do better when the REBT therapist takes the central route to processing. On the other hand, the peripheral route involves simple cues (e.g. an attractive source), and takes short cuts in cognitive processing: therefore, rather than attempting to engage a person's thinking, cues are provided that stimulate acceptance of the argument without much thinking (Fraser and Burchell, 2001). Low elaboration indicates the peripheral route and is likely in the absence of motivation and ability. Therefore, for certain clients, such as adolescents, taking the peripheral route to persuasion may be the recommended course. By providing examples of controversial public figures such as Madonna, who appears to hold the belief that 'I don't need others' approval', acceptance of this belief may emerge faster because the peripheral route was engaged. Taking the elaboration likelihood model's theory into account, emphasizing one route over the other depending on the type of client may result in better outcome, which may include the client's willingness to engage in an alternative, rational way of thinking or behaving. The manner in which any issue is presented can either stimulate thinking or trigger ahnost immediate agreement, depending on the route that the communicator is taking.