This is an interesting thread. I've been interested in the differences between the two approaches for a while. I think what complicates trying to differentiate between the two approaches is that Ellis has often provided a vary expansive definition of RET. He's claimed that general RET is essentially synonymous with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Preferential RET, and I think he's also used the term Elegant RET, refer to a more specific approach, which he describes as holding several assumptions (I won't list them, but they seem to me like the basic assumptions I've always attributed to plain old RET).
What further complicates the matter is that, while the interpersonal styles of Beck and Ellis certainly influence how they've laid out there approaches, I don't think you need to adopt their style to practice either, particularly RET. That is, many therapists consider themselves RET practitioners even though they show a great deal of warmth and don't use foul language.
Definitions and interpersonal styles aside, I'd like to suggest two differences that jump out to me- I'll leave it up to someone out there more knowledgable to elaborate and clarify if I have it wrong...
One difference seems to be the specificity of maladaptive cognition across various people, various disorders. It seems CT encourages the development of a cognitive conceptualization that is specific to each problem and the idiosyncracies of the client. RET, in contrast, traces all emotional distress to the same 11 (or however many there are) irrational beliefs.
Another difference seems to be the order in which one addresses the hierarchy of cognitions. CT seems to work with immediate, idiosyncratic distortions first, while RET seems to jump right to the core beliefs. So if a depressed man complains that his wife doesn't love him anymore, the CT approach would encourage him to examine the evidence that this is true (through socratic questioning, behavioral assignments, etc.). The RET approach would seem to encourage a forceful disputation of the belief that "My wife must love me unconditionally or else I'm rotten and cannot be happy" (or something like that). The intermediate issue of whether in fact she does love him or not is irrelevant to the core irrational belief he has.
Would someone else care to clarify/add to these?
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