Albert Ellis is one of the most influential and well-known psychologists in the world of clinical psychology, not least due to the fact that the author or developer of what is called rational emotional therapy. But although this was his best-known contribution, his work was actually much more prolific, including several works relating to sexuality, religion, or the practice of psychological therapy in general.
Ellis’ contributions and research were and continue to be very relevant to the practice of psychology, with a particular emphasis that has inspired many other models.
Knowing the life of this author can be of great interest both to those engaged in clinical psychology and to those who wish to meet one of the most prominent personalities in this field, which is why throughout This article Let’s look at a light biography of Albert Ellis.
A brief biography of Albert Ellis
Albert Ellis was born September 27, 1913 in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Being the eldest of three brothers born to a couple of Jewish origin. Her relationship with her parents was cold and distant, her father being an unsuccessful businessman who spent very little time at home and her mother a cold and distant person with possible bipolar disorder.
Ellis himself considered that as a child he and his siblings had been neglected by his parents and that he should take care of his younger siblings. Although this situation caused him great pain at first, over time he learned to be indifferent to it. The family economy was precarious and especially at the time of the Great DepressionSomething that forced the miners to work in order to survive.
Ellis’ health was delicate from childhood, suffering from kidney problems from the age of five requiring hospitalization, in addition to serious infections that caused him to spend up to seven years visiting hospitals regularly. This severely affected his socialization, as he could not participate in intense games.
Academic training and entry into the world of work
After completing his basic training, Ellis he enrolled at New York University to study economics and commerce, Specifically pursuing a career in business administration in 1934. After that he began working as such and worked alongside his younger brother to open a quilting and pants business.
In his memoir, Ellis recounts that throughout his life he was afraid to come into contact with women, which led him at nineteen to decide to start trying to force himself to talk to anyone. which he found sitting on the benches of the “ Bronx Botanical Garden ”, in order. to overcome his fear.
In 1936, he met actress Karyl Corper, With whom he had a stormy but intense relationship that would culminate in marriage. However, in 1938 and a year after their marriage the couple would ask for the annulment, although they would maintain good relations and the author would even give him his sperm to have children.
He was appointed director of personnel in 1938 in a well-known company, while using his spare time to write works of various literary and theatrical genres. Although he came to have a large number of books, he did not publish them, so he decided to stay away from the academic.
Early interest in psychology and sexuality
Around this time, he also began to take an interest in love, eroticism and sexuality, writing several articles and even a book called The Case for Promiscuity which however would not be published.
All this eventually led him to take an interest in sexology and clinical psychology.. This interest, which grew thanks to the work of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalytic theory, led him to enroll in the College of Professors at Columbia University. There he graduated in 1943 and then began to work in private practice.
He would later do his doctorate in clinical psychology. While he initially wanted his dissertation to deal with the subject of student love, he eventually had to change it due to the censorship and controversy generated.
Instead, he conducted him on personality questionnaires, which he harshly criticized, and would state that for him alone the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory was scientifically valid. He completed his doctorate in 1947, while living and continuing his clinical practice in his apartment in the Bronx. He tried to work as a psychology teacher, but at this point in his life he was not accepted. He also participated in Kinsey’s experiments and research on human sexuality.
Its relationship with psychoanalysis
Throughout his training Ellis he acquired a great admiration for psychoanalysis, Which led him to discuss with Richard Huelsenbeck for several years and to train at the Karen Horney Institute. There he also discovered a concept that would later be useful in developing his own therapy: debos. His career also progressed: he was contacted by Rutgers University and New York University to teach in the late 1940s, and gradually rose to the position of chief of clinical psychology in New Jersey.
However, the ineffectiveness of the method in his psychoanalytic patients and the influence of authors who had separated from this branch to generate their own school (such as Adler, Horney or Sullivan) ended. away from that vision and focused on brief therapy. In fact, in 1953 he abandoned psychoanalysis and began to research and develop his own more directive theory.
Rational emotional therapy
In his clinic, Ellis began to apply more active and direct techniques when treating his patients, Which has improved more than in the face of other types of approaches. It would be in 1955 that Ellis would leave psychoanalysis altogether to try and focus on changing people’s maladaptive ideas and building more rational alternatives.
He would undertake rational emotional behavioral therapy, initially called rational therapy in 1955, and begin showing his theory to the American Psychological Association. His focus on cognition and beliefs (in a fundamentally psychoanalytic era) generally underestimated him academically in his early days. His theory indicates that our behavior is determined by the presence of an activating event that generates an emotional response based on the prior activation of a belief system. Thus, the cause of the behavior or the emotion is not the event itself but the belief system that it awakens.
In 1956 with dancer Rhoda Winter Russell, a union that ended in divorce a few years later. His first major publication, in which he would explain his vision and his therapy, appeared in 1959 under the title Comment vivre avec un neurosé. That same year, he founded the Albert Ellis Institute, in a Manhattan building that he would compare in 1965. In addition to his original therapy, Ellis also organized a series of workshops on Friday evenings which would become a great source of satisfaction. for him. .
His interest in sexuality and his contact with Kinsey continued over the years, so much so that he also published various books on the subject, including “Sex Without Guilt”. He also initially viewed homosexuality as a pathology, but over the years this view has changed and has come to be viewed as a sexual orientation.
He has also participated and collaborated with professionals such as Aaron Beck on issues such as beliefs and cognition. The rise of the cognitive-behavioral stream has propelled his career by receiving more support for your theory, and over time he changed the name of his therapy to the current Rational Emotional Therapy. It also worked on aspects such as integrity and religion for the next two decades, and founded the Children’s School of Life in 1970.
He lived as a couple with Janet Wolfe between 1965 and 2002, when she decided to end their relationship. After this breakup and over time would begin a relationship with psychologist Debbie Joffe, With whom he married in 2004. Throughout his life he was considered with Rogers and Freud as one of the most influential figures in the field of psychology, as well as multiple distinctions at the professional level .
The last years and death
Despite his great prestige, this did not prevent his last years from having to face various difficulties. Among them stands out the attempt on the part of the board of directors of the Institute to put an end to its participation in the board and to professional practice within the same center (by maintaining the administrators whose author had a conflicting, eccentric and wasteful style which put the good functioning of the institute at risk), even if in 2006 the Supreme Court took the decision to reinstate the board of directors of the Institute which took its name.
In the spring of that same 2006 Ellis had to be hospitalized with pneumonia, A hospitalization that would last up to fourteen months (during which despite this he continued to write and give interviews). After another year of hospitalization, Albert Ellis asked to be taken home to the top of the Albert Ellis Institute. His death occurred during the year of July 24, 2007, in his wife’s arms, due to heart and kidney failure.
Albert Ellis’ legacy is immense: his rational emotional therapy, in addition to being still used today, can be considered a precursor of great cognitive-behavioral developments. He is also linked to a large number of professionals with whom he has remained in contact and with whom he has contributed to multiple studies.
- Chávez, A EL (2015). Albert Ellis (1913-2007): The life and work of a cognitive therapist. Rev. PSicol, 5 (1): 137-146. St. Paul Catholic University.
- Ellis, A. (2010) All out: an autobiography. United States: Prometheus Books.
- Lega, L and Velten, E. (2007). Albert Ellis: an authorized biography. New York: Insight Media.