Dr. Aaron T. Beck, University Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and the man who developed the form of psychotherapy known as cognitive therapy, has been awarded the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research. The Lasker, regarded as “America’s Nobel” in some circles, is considered the nation’s most distinguished honor for outstanding contributions to basic and clinical medical research.
Beck, who joined the Department of Psychiatry in 1954, is president of the nonprofit Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania; he has won many other awards, published more than 500 articles, and written or co-authored 17 books. He developed his groundbreaking therapy—in which therapists help patients change their thinking and thus their behavior and emotional responses—in the 1960s, and it has since proven to be effective for a wide variety of psychological disorders. Ironically, Beck himself has stated that in the late 1950s he had set out to prove a standard tenet of Freudian analysis—that anger turned against the self played a central role in depression—but found that the results “ultimately refuted this hypothesis.”
Dr. Joseph Goldstein, chairman of the Lasker jury, described cognitive therapy as “one of the most important advances—if not the most important advance—in the treatment of mental diseases in the last 50 years.”—S.H.