Commentary: Dr. Aaron T. Beck's enduring impact on mental health

Few individuals have had as great an impact on psychiatry as Dr. Aaron T. Beck, who is often referred to as the father of cognitive therapy (CT). In 2011, Dr. Beck celebrated his 90th birthday. As such, this seems like an ideal time to reflect on his many contributions over the years.

In the 1950s, when Dr. Beck was beginning his career in psychiatry, psychoanalytic theory dominated the field. Psychoanalysis recognizes that the relationships and circumstances of early life continue to affect people as adults, and that human behavior results from unconscious as well as conscious or rational motives. Psychoanalysts and patients engage in an extended — often years-long — effort to make the unconscious conscious, the aim being to understand and resolve (or at least to help the patient bear) the conflicts at the root of suffering.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »