ABCDE Model – moving beyond self chat
Albert Ellis has been considered as one of the most influential psychologists of all time, alongside Carl Rogers and Sigmund Freud. When Ellis started thinking about cognitive behaviour therapy, he probably never thought about the impact his thinking around Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) would leave us with. Its aim is to encourage thinking around emotional and behavioural challenges and introduce us to several models that can be used to assist in a transition. One such model has been coined the “ABCDE” model. It invites us as a coach (or therapist) to encourage our clients to challenge a self-defeating belief by restructuring our thinking. We follow a process to explore and encourage our coachees to think differently.

The ABCDE Model

A Activating Event or Adversity This is a situation that caused stress, worry or unhelpful change in emotion. As a coach, we encourage our clients to accept what this situation is. Sometimes, they may not know what is causing this stress, worry or unhelpful emotion and we need to skillfully help the client to uncover what this is.
B Belief System The belief system is the cognitive part of the reaction to the event. It could be a self-limiting belief or a meta program. As a coach, we should help our clients understand this negative self-talk and identify the phrases that perhaps they reinforce.
C Consequences The consequences of how a belief system presents can be self-fulfilling. There is a strong link between the two.
D Disputing the irrational or limiting belief system We work with the client to establish a dispute about the logic of the belief system. Does the belief system make sense (Logical)? Is the belief system supporting a different outcome (functional)? Can the belief system be challenged through empirical or scientific evidence?
E Effect of the dispute If we can help the client in their belief that the disputing of their belief system has taken their understanding of the activating event to a new place, then this could be a good outcome. Think about questions such as “with this new understanding of your original activating event, what does this mean to this activating event now?”
The ABCDE activity is involved and working with belief systems perhaps could be challenging for the client. The key is to remain at one with the client. We need to stay with the not knowing. We need to allow the conversation to calmly develop in a supportive space.