Aaron Beck: The Founder of CBT

Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 18th, 1924. He studied at Brown University and the University of Chicago before becoming a professor at Yale School of Medicine. In 1975 he published his first book “Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders” which outlined CBT as an alternative to psychoanalysis. 

Beck’s work is considered by many to be revolutionary because it emphasizes internal thoughts over external events in determining one’s emotional state. His research also led him to conclude that people are not always aware they may have false beliefs about themselves or their environment which can lead them to unhealthy behavior patterns.

Is Beck Institute named after Aaron Beck?

Aaron Beck is the founder of cognitive therapy and the Beck Institute is named after him.

Aaron Beck’s Early Life

aaron beck
Beck Institute

Aaron Beck was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Harry was born to Elizabeth Temkin and Harry Beck, two Ukrainian Jewish immigrants. He was the youngest of four children.

He graduated from Brown University in 1942 with magna cum laude.

He started to specialize in neurology after becoming interested in the precision of its procedures, according to reports. However, due to a dearth of psychiatric residents, he was instructed to do a six-month rotation there and became enamored with psychoanalysis despite his initial trepidation.

Beck became a fellow in psychiatry at the Austen Riggs Center, a private mental hospital in the mountains of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, from 1952 to 1956. At the time, it was a haven for ego psychology with an unusual amount of collaboration between psychiatrists and psychologists, including David Rapaport.

Aaron Beck completed his military service as an assistant chief of neuropsychiatry at Valley Forge Army Hospital in the United States Military.

Aaron Beck’s Personal Life

In 1950, Beck married Phyllis W. Beck, and they had four children together: Roy, Judy, Dan, and Alice. Phyllis was the first woman to serve on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s appellate court. Alice Beck Dubow, the youngest daughter, serves as a judge on the court where both of her parents serve. Judith is a renowned CBT therapist and clinician who wrote the original text in the field, and she’s also a co-founder of the nonprofit Beck Institute. 

On July 18, 2021, he turned 100 years old, and he died in his sleep later that year on November 1 at his house in Philadelphia.

Foundations of Cognitive Therapy

Beck discovered that people with severe depression had a continuous supply of unpleasant ideas that appeared to come on their own. He termed these ideas “automatic thoughts,” and they were found to be made up of three sorts: beliefs about oneself, the world, and the future that are negative.

Dr. Beck found that by assisting individuals in identifying and evaluating their thinking, people were able to think more realistically, which resulted in a greater sense of well-being and functioning behavior. He introduced important concepts in CBT, including the fact that various psychological conditions were linked to distinct sorts of distorted thinking. According to him, distorted thinking has a detrimental influence on a person’s actions, regardless of the type of illness they have. He discovered that frequent negative automatic thoughts expose a person’s fundamental ideas. He stated that core beliefs are formed through our life of continuous experiences; we “believe” them to be real.

Since then, Beck and his colleagues have studied the effectiveness of this type of therapy in treating a wide range of illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, drug addiction, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and other medical issues with psychological components. In addition, cognitive therapy has been shown to be beneficial for individuals suffering from anxiety and schizophrenia. He also concentrated on cognitive psychotherapy for schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and those who have had recurrent suicide attempts.

According to a recent study by Beck, persons previously thought to be non-responsive to therapy may be amenable to positive change. Even the most severe manifestations of schizophrenia, such as lengthy hospitalizations, unusual behavior, poor personal hygiene, self-harm, and aggressiveness can benefit from a modified form of cognitive behavioral therapy.

Last Updated on December 11, 2022 by Lucas Berg


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