Dr Aaron T Beck, the father of cognitive and behavioural therapy (CBT), has died at the age of 100. Dr Beck was best known for developing CBT during his time as a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania.
CBT is often used to treat and manage depression as well as other psychiatric disorders by altering thinking and behavioural patterns. Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of CBT in treating such disorders.
Dr Beck’s methods were developed as a compromise between directive and non-directive counselling. He hoped to empower his patients through person-centred approaches that granted them agency in changing their thinking and behaviour.
“These people have some capacity to do better, but they have all these defeatist attitudes and expectations; they assume they’re going to fail,” Dr Beck told the New York Times.
“Aaron T Beck was a giant among men in the field of psychology,” said Mark Cresswell, trainer at the Australian College of Community Services and Care.
“It could be argued that the shift to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy was the seismic event that took psychology into the realm of evidence-based practice. Along with other luminaries, such as Albert Ellis and Carl Rogers, Beck’s influence permeates our courses as it will continue to do so in therapeutic practice and society in general,” said Cresswell.
CBT encourages people to question their own thought and behavioural processes to transform how they understand and experience the world around them. Much of the technique is based around altering the individual’s perspective and outlook.
Dr Beck co-founded the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy with his daughter, Dr Judith Beck.
“My father dedicated his life to the development and testing of treatments to improve the lives of countless people throughout the world facing health and mental health challenges. He truly transformed the field of mental health with his development of and decades of research in cognitive behaviour therapy,” said Dr Judith Beck.
Dr Beck published more than 600 articles and almost two dozen books over his career spanning seven decades.