The REBT intervention for anxiety from Covid-19 – Report from Dr. Sarracino’s webinar

The Webinars of Cognitive Studies, on aspects related to psychological suffering emerged following the Covid-19 emergency, continue with the intervention of Dr. Sarracino, who on May 05 showed how to adapt the REBT intervention (Emotional Rational Behavioral Therapy) anxiety caused by the pandemic.


We live in a society full of anxieties of all kinds and with the advent of Covid-19 the situation has worsened. Eurodap (European Association for Panic Attack Disorder) surveys have shown that most respondents (78%) are experiencing this historical period with anxiety and a sense of oppression, mainly due to concerns related to contagion and future repercussions.

At a time when reality appears gloomy, REBT invites us to look at the worst scenario straight in the eye, without using distracting techniques or going around the problem. In fact, in the face of frightened patients the speech cannot be avoided (“everything will be fine”, “we won’t think about it”), because it would implicitly communicate that they are right to be afraid and to consider the scenario unbearable. If we are convinced that we cannot tolerate and overcome the events of the world we will be able to do nothing but live in anxiety.

Ellis starts from the assumption that what we feel mainly reflects what we think. It follows that the discomfort reported by the patients derives from their thoughts. Furthermore, the founder of REBT underlines the importance of being able to distinguish and recognize what can be controlled from what is beyond our control (Epictetus). Man has a tendency to expect the world to follow his will and when the gap between his claims and reality becomes too broad experiences of great suffering emerge. The main tool to reduce this discomfort is to change the way we perceive reality, to accept that it takes its course.

The principles on which REBT is based are:

In the current situation it is important to emphasize that it is not coronavirus that causes anxiety, but our thoughts on it. It is human and right to worry about the pandemic and its consequences. Emotions become dysfunctional (anxiety, panic) because they are associated with irrational beliefs that amplify the suffering of an already existing difficulty. The goal is therefore not to cancel emotions, but to change irrational beliefs and replace them with rational ones, so as to alleviate psychological distress.

The first thing to teach patients is the connection between BC (beliefs – emotional and behavioral consequences). The client must share this vision of how it works with the therapist.

We continue with the ABC assessment to identify the irrational thoughts that support suffering:

The interventions that REBT proposes to alleviate the patient’s suffering are:

Dr. Sarracino also recommended some functional behaviors (F) to counteract anxiety from Covid-19:

The teacher managed to decline the characteristics of the REBT intervention in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic we are experiencing, providing useful advice and allowing students to experiment in disputing through exercises created for the occasion.