Beck, Aaron Tempkin

Beck, Aaron Tempkin, 1921-2021, American psychiatrist, b. Providence, R.I., Brown Univ. (B.A., 1942), Yale Univ. (M.D., 1946). Following earning his medical degree, Beck was a Fellow in psychiatry at the Austen Riggs Center (1950-52) and then served as assistant chief of neuropsychiatry at Valley Forge Army Hospital (1952-54). In 1954, he joined the Dept. of Psychiatry at the Univ. of Pennsylvania, where he would remain for his entire academic career. Trained in Freudian therapy, he began to experiment with ideas developed by other psychiatrists, including Albert Ellis, whose "rational emotive behavior therapy" utilized the patient's cognitive skills to attack common psychological problems. Beck believed that people's own negative thoughts based on unquestioned assumptions could lead to unwarranted self-defeating behaviors. By asking patients to actively challenge these assumptions in their everyday life, he was able to help them diminish their symptoms on a wide range of psychological conditions, including panic and anxiety, obsessive-com pulsive disorder, eating disorders, and social disorders. Beck's and Ellis's independent work became the basis for Cognitive Behavior Therapy (C.B.T.), which is now widely taught and practiced around the world. He also developed the Beck Depression Inventory (B.D.I.), a self-reporting system to measure depression and anxiety. Along with his daughter, Judith, he cofounded the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in 1994 to provide training in this technique. He authored or coauthored over 25 books and won many awards and honors, including election as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2007) and the 7th annual Heinz Award in the Human Condition.

See his Depression: Causes and Treatment (1967), Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders (1979), Cognitive Therapy of Anxiety Disorders: Science and Practice (2011, with D.A. Clark), Cognitive Therapy of Personality Disorders (3rd. ed. 2015, ed. with D.D. Davis and A. Freeman), Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond (3rd ed. 2020, with J.S. Beck).

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