Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive Therapy is a focused, problem-solving approach to psychological treatment that was developed by Aaron T. Beck, M.D., in the 1950' s and standardized in the 1970's. Early in his career as a Psychiatrist, Dr. Beck,  treated patients according the popular psychoanalytic tradition developed by Freud and his disciples.  Beck observed that this  treatment modality offered little short term relief to the patient and was effective only after painfully long periods of treatment.  Using the experience and knowledge that he had gained through his practice, Dr. Beck was able to identify and classify learned thought and behavioral patterns that were demonstrated consistently over patient populations with similar diagnoses. Using this knowledge he was able to create a data based strategy for the treatment of psychological disorders,  which has become widely known as Cognitive Therapy.  Beck first applied this practice to the treatment of depression, expanding later to
many other "thought mediated" disorders.

Cognitive therapy identifies thoughts that are related to negative or painful feelings that  result in maladaptive behaviors or reactions. Beck determined that it was more effective to treat patients by starting with their conscious thoughts and emotions rather than trying to unwind their unconscious thoughts as in the psychoanalytic tradition. By  assisting the patient in changing their thought patterns that are related their painful or negative feelings, corresponding changes in emotions and behavior will follow. In addition to this form of conscious intervention, behavioral techniques and strategies are employed as needed to enhance the effectiveness of treatment.  (anger management, relaxation training, graduated exposure to feared situations, assertiveness training). The course of treatment is typically brief, and people usually experience relatively rapid relief and enduring progress.

Since the widespread introduction of Cognitive Therapy in the 1970's, many studies have concluded that this direct form of "talk" therapy is the most effective treatment for a wide variety of disorders.

Articles & Links

  The Beck Scales

Center for Cognitive Therapy

Beck Institute















Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004
Dr. Robert Berchick