© 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.Aim: This study aimed to assess the effects of rational-emotive education on the rational thinking, subjective well-being and self-efficacy of typical students and their levels of social acceptance of disabled students in mainstream classrooms. Background: Rational-emotive education exercises can be important for eliminating typical students' problem behaviours, such as poor acceptance of disabled classmates, in mainstream classrooms. Method: The study was conducted between 25 October 2017 and 17 January 2018 at two middle schools located in Ankara, Turkey. A quasi-experimental design and nonequivalent control group were used. The research sample consisted of 212 typical students and 16 disabled students from the middle schools. A socio-demographic questionnaire and the Irrational Beliefs Scale for Adolescents, Adolescent Subjective Well-being Scale, General Self-Efficacy Scale and Social Acceptance Scale were used to collect data. Students in the intervention group participated in a 12-week rational-emotive education programme. Results: The results showed that, for the students who took part in the rational emotive-education programme, there was a significant increase in subjective well-being, self-efficacy and social acceptance of peers with special needs, and a significant reduction in irrational beliefs, compared to those in the control group (p < 0.001). Social Validity Questionnaire, which was completed by the parents of the students with special needs to assess the social validity and the effects of the intervention, indicated that the rational-emotive education programme provided a positive classroom atmosphere, which positively affected the disabled students. Conclusions: The study results supported previous findings on rational-emotive education, which has been adopted in Turkey and in the world as a humanistic approach. Rational-emotive education can be used in mental and school health nursing to increase social acceptance of the disabled students, and to eliminate their social–emotional problems, and to create a positive classroom atmosphere for all students.