Aaron Beck

MD, Founder of Cognitive Therapy

Aaron Beck is a contemporary psychiatrist who played a seminal role in the development of cognitive behavioral therapy. Although he spent most of his career studying psychoanalysis, in the 1960s his research began to focus on distorted thoughts that led to problematic behaviors. While at the University of Pennsylvania working as a psychiatrist, he struggled to find a way to help his depressed clients to better capture their emotions. He realized that many of his clients experienced recurring negative thoughts and that as long as they believed these thoughts to be true, they would continue to have symptoms of depression. His theorized that in order to change the symptoms, he must change their distorted thinking. This led to the development of cognitive behavioral therapy. He is the recipient of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinicial Medical Research Award for his work. He is Honorary President of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The President Emeritus of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, he is the director of the Psychopathology Research Unit at the University of Pennsylvania.