Aaron T. Beck, a pioneering psychotherapist, was killed at his Philadelphia home on Monday. He was 100 years old.
His work revolutionized the treatment and diagnosis of depression and other psychological disorders. According to a statement by the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (which he co-founded along with his daughter Dr Judith Beck), he died peacefully in the early morning.
His daughter said that her father was an extraordinary person who dedicated his entire life to helping others. She also noted that her father worked right up until his death. His passion and groundbreaking work inspired many generations of students, clinicians and researchers.
Cognitive behavioural therapy was a form of psychotherapy that Beck created at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. Patients are encouraged to concentrate on the distortions in their daily thinking rather than on childhood conflicts.
After seeing that depressed patients often had distorted negative thoughts, he developed the treatment.
Cognitive therapy, unlike Freudian psychoanalysis which digs into the patient's childhood and seeks out hidden conflicts, suggests that turning around one's self-deprecating inner monologue can help to solve many psychological problems.
The idea was promoted by him with an anti-Freudian maxim, There's more beneath the surface than meets your eye.
Beck found that patients who could recognize the flawed logic of their automatic thoughts, such as "Ill always be a fail or no one loves me", were able to overcome their fears. This helped them to think more rationally and reduced their anxiety. Because patients were able to face those thoughts themselves, he found that the therapy's effects lasted long.
Cognitive therapy sessions follow a specific format. This includes setting goals and assigning homework. It can be used to treat depression and other conditions such as panic attacks, bulimia, social phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, drug abuse, and social phobia.
Beck's pragmatic approach to psychotherapy was not without its critics. Cognitive therapy was criticized by some psychologists as a superficial approach to psychotherapy. However, it became a requirement for training psychiatrist residents.
Beck responded to criticisms with data from his studies. Because other mental health professionals ignored his findings, Beck published much of his research in Cognitive Therapy and Research.
He co-wrote or co-wrote 17 books and published over 500 articles. He was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Research in 2006, the Heinz Award for the Human Condition 2001, and the Sarnat Award by the Institute of Medicine.
American Psychologist Magazine in 1982 named Beck as one of the 10 most influential psychotherapists.
Beck, a native of Providence, Rhode Island and the third child of middle-class Russian Jewish immigrants was Beck's first exercise in cognitive therapy. He had been admitted to hospital at age eight as a result of a childhood injury. Beck, a Boy Scout and athletic child, became afraid of blood and hospitals. He could faint from the smell of ether.
He claimed that he was able to overcome his fears by learning how to ignore his wooziness, and keeping busy with other activities.
We regret to inform you that Dr. Aaron T. Beck has died at the age 100. Dr. Beck was an unwavering advocate for evidence-based mental health treatments and his efforts touched many lives. https://t.co/3vAVRRkVLN Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy (@BeckInstitute) November 1, 2021
He was a young psychologist who conducted experiments to disprove Freudian's theory that people are depressed because they need to suffer. He discovered that depression did not come from masochism as Freud believed. It was caused by low self-worth.
He had private and public dialogues with the Dalai Lama in 2005 and 2014. They came to the conclusion that CBT is closely related to Buddhism.
Beck's wife, Phyllis Beck (ex-state Judge Phyllis Beck), survived him. They also had three children, 10 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren.