Albert Ellis Biography

Born: September 27, 1913
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Died: July 24, 2007

Albert Ellis introduced a new approach to the field of psychology in the 1950s called rational emotive behavior therapy, a treatment that stressed short-term counseling and immediate action on the part of the patient. His ideas differed sharply from the prevailing treatment of the time, which was still largely Freudian-based, and held that extended exploration and analysis of childhood experiences would lead patients to an understanding of their problems. Ellis dismissed those theories as a waste of time, deciding that patients should confront the irrational thoughts that led to self-destructive behaviors, and then follow up with action.

A controversial figure, Ellis was disliked and derided by many of his peers, but his influence continued to grow. He opened his own practice in 1950, specializing in sex and marriage therapy, and founded the Manhattan Institute in 1959. He also led Friday night group seminars for gatherings of 100 or more at the Institute for many years, and was known for his humorous, provocative delivery.

Ellis is credited with helping to provide the basis for cognitive behavior therapy, a form of treatment that has been shown to be at least as effective as medication for many people in dealing with anxiety, depression, and other conditions. His confrontational, pragmatic style has been hugely influential in modern psychology and in American culture. (Dr. Phil's approach, for example, owes much to Albert Ellis.)

Ellis remained very active until his death at 93 from kidney and heart failure.