American psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck, considered the father of cognitive therapy, an approach developed in the 1960s that revolutionized the field of psychotherapy, died Monday at age 100.
Beck died at his home in Philadelphia, in the northeastern United States, according to a statement from his daughter Judith Beck, president of the Beck Institute, an organization that has trained thousands of professionals who practice cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
“My father dedicated his life to developing and testing treatments to improve the lives of countless people around the world facing health problems,” he said. “It really transformed the field of mental health.”
Unlike the psychoanalysis developed by Sigmund Freud, which emphasizes the role of the subconscious and encourages patients to delve into their memories, cognitive therapy deals with the present.
In his early years as a psychiatrist, Beck noted that his patients frequently expressed negative thoughts, such as “I am incapable of …”, which he called “automatic thoughts.”
Cognitive therapy encourages patients to change the way they see certain situations and to identify these “automatic thoughts” to overcome them. Then he invites them to test those modified beliefs in everyday life.
This approach is now the most practiced therapy method in the world, used to treat depression, anxiety, eating disorders, personality disorders, and other psychiatric problems.
Previously, “the idea was that if you would just sit and listen and say ‘ah, ah’, somehow the secrets would come out,” Beck told the New York Times in 2000. “And you would be exhausted just by powerlessness. of that”.
“I think, ultimately, I am a pragmatist,” he said during the same interview. “And if it doesn’t work, I don’t.”
Beck was born in July 1921 in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Brown University and Yale University, and wrote or co-wrote about 20 books.
He founded the Beck Institute with his daughter Judith in 1994, which has since trained more than 25,000 mental health professionals in 130 countries in cognitive behavioral therapy.
More than 2,000 studies have shown the effectiveness of CBT, according to this institute.
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