How Can Disputation Help Manage Social Anxiety?

Disputation is Part of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

man talking with female therapist
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Disputation is a technique used in rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT) within cognitive restructuring to treat social anxiety and other mental illnesses. The basic process involves questioning thoughts and beliefs that maintain your anxiety and make it hard for you to move forward.

What Are REBT and Disputation?

REBT is a form of psychotherapy focused on changing emotional and behavioral problems to empower you to live a fuller life.

Developed in the 1950's by psychologist Albert Ellis, REBT is based on the belief that we aren't destabilized by circumstances, but instead by how we process information and construct our views.

Through REBT, you will better understand your motivations and how you create irrational or self-defeating thoughts. It is an educational process in which your therapist will work with you to identify these thoughts and practice how to question them and replace them with more productive and rational ideas. 

Disputation is the process through which you question your irrational thoughts and take a step back to dispute them. In order for you to change your behaviors and lessen your social anxiety, you need to identify the irrational constructs in your thoughts and then actively work to correct them yourself. This is a strategy that can help you continually combat your anxiety. 

How Does Your Therapist Help?

Unlike some other forms of therapy, your healthcare provider will likely be very involved in your treatment, actively working with you to identify key issues and correcting irrational behaviors.

A good therapist is empathetic and persistent, helping you lead a productive life.

While other forms of therapy look to identify the causes of irrational behavior and anxiety, in REBT and disputation, the cause is not necessarily explored. Instead, through disputation you look to correct the behaviors and move forward, without recognizing the root cause.

 

But It's Hard Work!

REBT and disputation is not easy. It is not simple like taking medication; however, if you work hard at it, it can have much longer-lasting results. It requires a great deal of dedication and effort on your part.

Outside of your therapy sessions, your therapist will likely assign you homework assignments to work on through your daily routine. These assignments can be as simple as reflection or as difficult as confronting something you fear head on, like forcing yourself to attend a party or event that would normally trigger your social anxiety. Through this, you will actively work against your fears.

Disputation can take two forms:

  • cognitive disputation  
  • imaginal disputation

In cognitive disputation, your therapist will ask you questions challenging the logic of your responses. This can be an emotional experience and unsettling. It can cause you to reinterpret long-held beliefs and perceptions.

In imaginal disputation, your therapist will encourage you to use imagery to examine different aspects of siutuations that upset you. By imagining different angles in a given situation, you can change how you reflect on a situation and adjust your responses accordingly. 

A Word From Verywell

Through disputation, you become empowered to manage your anxiety by managing future adversity. It a lifelong technique to promote your ability to handle your fears moving forward. Though it is hard work, the effort that you put in now will allow you to reap benefits for years to come. If you feel as though you are living with social anxiety, ask your doctor whether therapy such as REBT might be an option.

Sources:

Ellis, A., The Practice of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, 2nd edition, 2007. 

Ellis, A. Early theories and practices of rational emotive behavior theory and how they have been augmented and revised during the last three decades. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. 2003;21(3/4).

Ellis, A. The Albert Ellis Reader: A Guide to Well-Being Using Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy. 1998.

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