New York Times: Bala Cynwyd’s Aaron T. Beck, Developer of Cognitive Theory, Dies Aged 100

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Image via The Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
Dr. Aaron T Beck.

Dr. Aaron Beck, who co-founded the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy with his daughter, Dr. Judith Beck, died on November 1 aged 100, writes Benedict Carey for The New York Times.

His pragmatic and thought-monitoring psychotherapy became the foundation of a scientific transformation over the treatment of depression, anxiety, and numerous related mental disorders.

Beck was trained in Freudian analysis, but in the late 1950s, he began prompting his patients to focus on their day-to-day thinking distortions instead of any conflicts buried in their childhood.

He concluded that many people have the tendency to generate what he refers to as “automatic thoughts.”

He defined those as unexamined assumptions such as “I’m just unlucky in love” or “I’ve always been socially inept.” Those thoughts could lead to self-criticism and self-defeating attempts to compensate, like through heavy drinking.

He found that he could undermine these assumptions by inviting patients to test them in the world to see what happens. These techniques gradually improved people’s moods.

His work, along with that of psychologist Albert Ellis, provided the architecture for cognitive behavior therapy.

Read more about Dr. Aaron Beck in The New York Times.


Dr. Aaron Beck offers techniques for anxiety disorders in this panel session.