Aaron T. Beck, the father of cognitive therapy, turns 100 this month! Beck transformed the way psychiatric conditions are treated when he began to challenge the prevailing viewpoint that depression derived from subconscious, misplaced anger towards others. Instead, Beck noticed, depressed people harbor conscious, unrealistic negative perceptions about themselves. This mismatch led him to develop the theory and practice of cognitive therapy.

Instead of asking patients to lie on a couch and make free associations, Beck invited them to sit up and discuss their thoughts and feelings. During these sessions, he would help patients identify and interrogate their negative thoughts. By giving them an active role in therapy, Beck gave his patients tools that they could use in their everyday lives to handle challenges to their emotional well-being.

By discovering a previously unrecognized aspect of mental illness, and developing a therapy based on his observations, Beck has relieved untold amounts of suffering and has made large, lasting impacts on millions of people’s lives.

Aaron Beck, the Father of Cognitive Therapy

Beck discusses how he initially got into psychotherapy and explains the “anomalous finding” that drove him to develop cognitive therapy.

Acceptance Remarks 2006 Lasker Awards Ceremony

Aaron Beck explains how to develop a therapy based on a new theory.

On Being Recognized

Aaron Beck and his daughter Judith, a psychotherapist and the President of the Beck Institute, discuss cognitive therapy and the honor of receiving the 2006 Lasker Award.