Dr Aaron Beck, Father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Passes Away at the Age of 100 | Psychology

Dr Aaron T Beck, a revolutionary psychotherapist widely regarded as the father of cognitive therapy, died at his home in Philadelphia on Monday at the age of 100.

Beck’s work revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of depression and other psychological disorders. He passed away peacefully early in the morning, according to a declaration issued by the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which he co-founded with his daughter, Dr. Judith Beck.

“My father was an amazing person who dedicated his life to helping others,” said his daughter, noting that her father continued to work until his death. “He has inspired students, clinicians and researchers for generations with his passion and groundbreaking work. “

Beck developed the field of cognitive behavioral therapy, a clinical form of psychotherapy, at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s. He encourages patients to focus on the distortions of their everyday thinking, rather than on the conflicts. buried in childhood.

He developed the treatment after discovering that his depressed patients frequently experienced distorted negative ideas – he dubbed them “automatic thoughts”.

Unlike Freudian psychoanalysis, which delves into a patient’s childhood and searches for hidden internal conflicts, cognitive therapy says that revolving around a self-deprecating inner monologue is the key to alleviating many psychological problems.

He praised the idea with an anti-Freudian maxim: “There is more to the surface than it seems. “

Beck found that patients who learn to recognize the flawed logic of their negative automatic thoughts – such as “I will always be a failure” or “no one likes me” – could learn to overcome their fears and think more rationally. , which reduced their anxiety and improved their mood. He found that the results last long after treatment was finished, as patients learned to cope with these thoughts on their own.

Cognitive therapy sessions follow a strict format, which always includes setting goals for the session and homework. Besides depression, it has been used to treat conditions such as bulimia, panic attacks, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance abuse.

Beck’s pragmatic view of psychotherapy had its skeptics. Some psychologists have called cognitive therapy superficial and little more than a morale booster, but it has become mandatory training for psychiatric residents.

Beck has always responded to criticism with his research data. He published much of his work in his own journal, Cognitive Therapy and Research, in part because other mental health professionals ignored his findings.

He has written or co-authored 17 books, published over 500 articles and received accolades for his work, including the Albert Lasker Prize for Clinical Medical Research in 2006, the Heinz Prize for the Human Condition in 2001 and the Sarnat Prize for the Institute of Medicines.

American Psychologist magazine in 1982 named Beck one of the 10 most influential psychotherapists of all time.

A native of Providence, Rhode Island, and the third son of middle-class Russian Jewish immigrants, Beck’s first cognitive therapy exercises were on his own, after being hospitalized at age eight. The athletic kid and the Boy Scout were afraid of hospitals and blood, and the smell of the ether could make him pass out.

He said he overcame these fears by learning to ignore his dizziness and take care of other activities.

As a young psychologist, he conducted experiments refuting the Freudian theory that people were depressed because they somehow needed to suffer. He concluded that depression did not come from masochism, as Freud believed, but from low self-esteem.

In 2005 and 2014, he engaged in public and private dialogues with the Dalai Lama. They concluded that CBT and Buddhism have a lot in common.

Beck is survived by his wife of over 70 years, former State Judge Phyllis Beck, as well as three other children, 10 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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