Where the Freudians maintained that a painstaking exploration of childhood experience was critical to understanding neurosis and curing it, Dr. Ellis believed in short-term therapy that called on patients to focus on what was happening in their lives at the moment and to take immediate action to change their behavior. â€œNeurosis,â€ he said, was â€œjust a high-class word for whining.â€
The cognitive therapies, for which Ellis stands as one of the key originators, mostly buried the quaint psychodynamic therapies of the early 19th century. Ellis discovered that the ‘subject’ is capable of being objectively pragmatic about their problems and for an array of problems this insight caused a seachange. Just as important, his therapeutic methods were demonstrated to be effective in well-defined applications; which is more than one can say about the odd methods of Freud, Jung, et al. Ellis’s work is one of the cornerstones of short-term therapy, and, elaborated phenomenologically, his theories enrich interesting perspectives on cognitive complexity, social cognition, and folk psychology.
Ellis was a great influence on my own exploration of pragmatic adult learning.