Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Albert Ellis, 1913-2007

Albert Ellis has died. Ellis was a massively influential psychotherapist who thought Freud was full of it (in short) and helped pioneer cognitive behavioral therapy. The New York Times obit includes this:
If his ideas broke with conventions, so did his manner of imparting them. Irreverent, charismatic, he was called the Lenny Bruce of psychotherapy. In popular Friday evening seminars that ran for decades, he counseled, prodded, provoked and entertained groups of 100 or more students, psychologists and others looking for answers, often lacing his comments with obscenities for effect.
In addition to talking to a few people about Ellis' methods lately, I've always remembered a great short piece about him that Adam Green published in The New Yorker in 2003. Among other things, it backs up the obscenity claim:
Ellis started out as a psychoanalyst, in 1947, but soon decided that exploring his patients’ childhood traumas had “nothing to do with the price of spinach.” By the mid-fifties, he had devised his own method, based on the premise, set forth by the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, that people are disturbed not by what happens to them but by their view of what happens to them, and also on his personal observation that, as he said the other day, “all humans are out of their fucking minds—every single one of them.”


Anonymous JPW said...

I love Ellis's irreverence. Now that I am living with a professional whiner (i.e. a toddler), I appreciate as never before Ellis's anti-whine-and-wallow approach. ;-) Of his seventy-odd books (all with enticing and/or humorous titles), the best title has to be: "How to Live with a Neurotic If You Absolutely Have To."

11:24 PM  

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