What Is ABC Model In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- How It Works

Abc Model Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
abc model cognitive behavioral therapy

You invite all your colleagues for lunch at your home, but two close friends don’t come to that lunch, this can trigger many thoughts in your mind, both positive and negative. These thoughts will shape your behavior the next day you meet those two friends.

Positive thinking will keep your behavior positive; otherwise, negative thinking can make you prone to depression, anxiety, loneliness, and substance abuse disorder. And for all the people who are prone to negative thoughts in such daily situations, the ABC model is used to save them from mental depression.

ABC is basically an approach of CBT that therapists use to change the perception and behavior of people toward a particular event to cause a positive and healthier change.

There are many more things to unveil, so let’s understand the ABC model in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and how it works.

What Is ABC Model In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

The ABC model is a part of REBT, meaning Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. Therapists use REBT to recognize irrational perceptions and beliefs and change them into positive ones to treat mental health issues.

RBT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy based on the cognitive model. This model tells that it is not the situation that affects people’s behavior but how they perceive it.

ABC sometimes referred to as ABCDE, is a therapy used to transform illogical ideas into reasonable ones, leading to healthy responses when faced with challenging circumstances.

So, it means a person doesn’t need to change his environment or the people around him; he just needs to change his perceptions, which will ultimately affect his reaction to situations that will make things better.

Components of ABC

The ABC model, presented by psychologist and researcher Dr. Albert Ellis, is a shortened form of the names of three components of this therapy. The components are

A Is For Antecedents

A is for antecedents or activating events. Though everyone talks about the B component and considers it the most important, there is nothing to exist without A. It is the trigger, the main event that will ruin your life if you misperceive it.

Don’t think that only adverse situations or happening are triggers because it varies from person to person, and any small event can cause substantial emotional and behavioral issues for a person. The following are some situations you may face on regular days:

Example 1: Someone rudely talks to you

Example 2: A person or colleague ignores you

Example 3: Siblings or friends ask for help from other people instead of you

Example 4: You message someone but get no reply

B for Beliefs

Then comes the next step, B for belief, which actually links the A and C. This point shows how you perceive/understand the situation. According to the ABC-REBT model, the beliefs are categorized into two groups.

Irrational Beliefs

Irrational beliefs are rigid and of extreme level, and primarily illogical, like thinking a person who is rude to you hates you. It further comprises primary and three secondary beliefs.

Demandingness is a primary belief that urges the person to do something, even forcing himself.

Awfulizing: It is a secondary belief in which a person assumes or believes that something bad or negative things will happen. According to Dryden and Neenan, it is 101% bad, which means “worse than it absolutely must be.”

LFT (low frustration tolerance): This secondary belief prevents people from tolerating unpleasant and stressful happenings.

Self/other depreciation: It shows two beliefs;

  • Self-depreciation means you are a terrible person or unable to do anything; in other words, you start doubting yourself and consider yourself at fault.
  • Other depreciation means the other person is wrong and is at fault.

Examples of Irrational beliefs by considering example 1: Someone rudely talks to you

  • He hates me.
  • I am an unappealing and unlikeable person.
  • He is not a good person, and he is terrible and intolerable.

Rational Beliefs

These beliefs are flexible and are of a non-extreme level, and are primarily logical. It is also further categorized into one primary and three secondary beliefs.

Preferences: This belief tells a person to do something but does not compel him.

Anti-awfulizing: It makes people believe that if something goes not well, it’s not awful.

HFT (high frustration tolerance): In this, people tolerate the most undesirable and stressful situations.

Self/other acceptance: It shows two beliefs;

  • Self-acceptance If some bad happens doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person or at fault.
  • Other acceptance Others are not always bad or at fault.

Examples of Rational beliefs by considering example 2: A person or colleague ignores you.

  • May be due to off mode/bad day
  • Maybe unintentionally
  • Perhaps he was late or in a rush.

Emotions that are rational, healthy, and adaptable are not always pleasant. Some unpleasant feelings and negative but constructive emotions, such as the following, are essential:

  • Concern
  • Sadness
  • Annoyance
  • Regret/remorse
  • Disappointment

C for Consequences

The C is for consequences, in a more simplified form, what action at the end you perform. What will be your reaction to a particular activity or situation?

Your beliefs are the main thing that constructs the outcome. The way you perceive the other person’s behavior may shape your one. Let’s discuss it by considering example 3: Siblings or friends ask for help from other people instead of you.

Irrational Beliefs

  • They have doubts about your ability to complete the task.
  • They don’t trust you.
  • Or they hate you.

In these cases, you feel anger, hate, depression, anxiety, sadness, etc. According to one study, irrational beliefs are the primary cause of anger traits than rational beliefs.

Rational Beliefs

  • Perhaps they think you are busy.
  • Maybe they want not to disturb you.

The Working Of ABC Model

The working of the ABC model seems very simple, just changing the person’s approach to perception and making him/her reevaluate the scenario.

Its primary aim is to highlight that what people think and feel controls the person’s behavior. People can recognize unproductive habits of thought and feeling and then learn to replace those patterns with ones more advantageous to their overall well-being. This ability allows people to improve their mental and emotional health. It has the capacity to make a complicated concept simpler to comprehend and provides folks with the chance to study how they individually react to a variety of events.


ABC has three components; active event, belief, and consequences. ABCDE is an extensive term in which D stands for “disputation” and E for “new effect.” The D and E come after ABC, and the fundamental change occurs here.

A person preoccupied with negative thoughts argues with himself and questions his previous view. Then he comes with a new belief/reason/thought, mostly constructive and positive. Thus, this helps the person rejuvenate his mental health and figure out solutions instead of getting depressed and sad or running away from the situation.

How do Therapists Use The ABC Model?

Although the ABC model of CBT is not too complicated, the therapist uses a series of questions to find out your beliefs and reaction to different scenarios. The following is a little sequence of the process:

  • The therapist describes a series of scenarios, from simpler situations in everyday life to worst conditions.
  • He will ask how you perceive it and extracts your reaction to each scenario.
  • Then he categorizes your beliefs based on your responses.
  • Ask different questions just to make you realize your beliefs and reaction consequences.
  • Then he properly guides you on changing your beliefs and how you see things and perceive situations and tackle them with positive and constructive approaches.

What Are The Benefits Of The ABC Model?

Numerous research has shown evidence that the ABC approach is beneficial. It is used in several therapy modalities, with individuals from a broad range of demographics and life experiences, in various venues, and for a wide range of ailments and goals. Therapeutic benefits include reduced severity or elimination of the following disorders and symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Addiction
  • Anger issues
  • Phobias
  • Dysfunctional thinking
  • isolation/abandonment
  • Eating disorders

It is a simple model, easy to understand, and genuinely helpful in combating negative thoughts.

Its most significant benefit is that it can make people aware of what wrong they are doing with themselves by misperceiving events. It helps them find out what triggers their emotions, understand and accept even the worst situation sensibly, and react positively and more healthily instead of cowardly.

It helps people fill with positive and constructive thoughts and keeps them away from negativity, anger, and grudge.

How Do You Find A Therapist?

To find the right therapist, you can ask your general physician, friends, and relatives and seek help from your state or country’s psychological help centers.

If you are already struggling with any other mental health problem, then discussing your situation and irrational beliefs with your therapists is the best suggestion.


The ABC model’s primary aim is to handle stressful and worst situations (according to you) positively, practically, rationally, and constructively. All the efforts are to convert irrational beliefs into rational ones and make a person mentally and physically healthy.