Tag Archives: Aaron Beck

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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New Issue: History of Psychology

The February 2012 issue of History of Psychology has just been released online and is chock full of new articles. Included in this issue are articles on the origins of the therapeutic theories of Aaron Beck (right) and Carl Rogers, respectively. Other articles address developments in historical methods, including one on transcending “Great Man” histories and another on the new neurohistory. Further articles recount how Wundt’s philosophical studies influenced his early theory of the unconscious and describe the development of anglophone psychology’s vocabulary. The issue ends with a short piece on the fate of John Dillingham Dodson, the co-creator of the Yerkes-Dodson law. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Aaron T. Beck’s drawings and the psychoanalytic origin story of cognitive therapy,” by Rachael I. Rosner. The abstract reads,

In this essay the author challenges the standard origin story of cognitive therapy, namely, that its founder Aaron T. Beck broke with psychoanalysis to pursue a more pragmatic, parsimonious, and experimentalist cognitive model. It is true that Beck broke with psychoanalysis in large measure as a result of his experimental disconfirmation of key psychoanalytic ideas. His new school of cognitive therapy brought the experimental ethos into every corner of psychological life, extending outward into the largest multisite randomized controlled studies of psychotherapy ever attempted and inward into the deepest recesses of our private worlds. But newly discovered hand-sketched drawings from 1964 of the schema, a conceptual centerpiece of cognitive therapy, as well as unpublished personal correspondence show that Beck continued to think psychoanalytically even after he broke with psychoanalysis. The drawings urge us to consider an origin story much more complex than the one of inherited tradition. This new, multifaceted origin story of cognitive therapy reaches beyond sectarian disagreements and speaks to a broader understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of cognitive therapy.

“The Roosevelt years: Crucial milieu for Carl Rogers’ innovation,” by Godfrey T. Barrett-Lennard. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of Psychology

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