The Story of Aaron Beck & Cognitive Therapy in Isis

The December 2014 issue of Isis, the official journal of the History of Science Society, features on article on the work of psychiatrist Aaron Beck (above). Adopting a biographical approach, the article describes how Beck came to articulate his cognitive therapy as a new mode of psychotherapy. Full title, author, and abstract follow below.

“The “Splendid Isolation” of Aaron T. Beck,” by Rachael I. Rosner. The abstract reads,

Aaron T. Beck’s Cognitive Therapy (CT) is a school of psychotherapy, conceived in the 1960s, that is celebrated by many clinicians for having provided the scientific antidote to all that was wrong with psychoanalysis. This essay situates the origins of CT in the crisis of legitimacy in psychiatry in the 1960s and 1970s, when, among many charges, psycho-analysts had to face the accusation that analysis was not adequately scientific. Beck actually began his career as both a psychoanalyst and an experimentalist. Contrary to common triumphalist accounts, Beck created CT to be a neutral space, not a partisan one, in turbulent times. Other notable psychoanalysts also sought compromise, rather than partisanship, to bridge the transition to biomedical science. The biographical approach of this essay to the origins of Beck’s CT both situates him historiographically and articulates the complex experiences of a generation of psychoanalysts otherwise opaque to standard narratives.

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About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She completed her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

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