Aaron T. Beck developed cognitive therapy starting in the early 1960s. While empirically testing Freud's "anger turned inward" theory of depression, Beck instead found that depression involved a negative bias in thinking that often led patients to feel despondent and hopeless. Through clinical observations and research, Dr. Beck refined his cognitive theory of depression and developed techniques (e.g., Socratic questioning, hypothesis testing, cognitive reevaluation, behavioral experiments) to treat patients by modifying their biased thought processes. Beck's developing theory was influenced by ego-oriented psychodynamic psychotherapy (Adler, 1936), developmental cognitive psychology (Piaget, 1954), personal construct therapy (Kelly, 1955), social-learning theory (Bandura, 1977), behavior therapy (Mahoney, 1974), and the phenomenological school of psychology (Frankl, 1985). Beck integrated these diverse approaches into a powerful, new clinical methodology.
Although initially developed as a treatment for unipolar depression (A. T. Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979), cognitive therapy subsequently has been applied to a wider range of psychological disorders (e.g., personality disorders), daily living difficulties, medical problems, and other clinical populations. Cognitive therapy can be used in individual, couples, family, and group formats, with adults, adolescents, and children.
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