Beck Wins Grawemeyer Award

Aaron Beck


APS Fellow and Charter Member Aaron Beck – widely considered to be the founder of cognitive therapy – won the 2004 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for psychology.

Beck is credited with the cognitive method of helping people learn techniques to help themselves. He developed this system of psychotherapy in the 1960s in what was considered a radical departure from the traditional Freudian theories, analysis, and behavioral approaches of that era.

The Grawemeyer Award, which carries a hefty $200,000 prize, is presented annually for outstanding ideas in the field of psychology. Beck received the award and his unofficial title as a psychological pioneer by applying cognitive techniques to modify people’s thought processes and, in turn, to improve their mood. This approach has had a wide impact on the treatment of emotional disorders.

He believes that people suffering from mood and personality disorders compound their ailments with biases and distortions of thought that adversely affect their behavior. This belief is contrary to earlier assumptions that negative mood was the chief cause of negative thought.

His research efforts have been the catalyst for several of the most widely used assessment scales in the field. These tools evaluate patients with tendencies toward depression, anxiety, and suicide.

For decades the renowned mental scientist has directed funded research into cognitive therapy and the various disorders for which it is effective. The National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control have funded his work into therapy and assessment of disorders. He also directed an international group of scientists testing cognitive therapy for schizophrenia. His more recent work has focused on using cognitive therapy to reduce suicide attempts.

Beck earned his bachelor’s in 1942 from Brown University and his medical degree in 1946 from Yale University. In addition to serving as professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine, he is also president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, located in Philadelphia. The non-profit Institute was founded in 1994 to provide therapy and research opportunities as well as an international training site for cognitive therapists from beginning to advanced levels. His daughter Judith Beck, a clinical associate professor at Pennsylvania, is the Institute’s director.

About the Grawemeyer Foundation
The Grawemeyer Foundation at the University of Louisville annually awards $1 million for works in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion, and psychology.

Charles Grawemeyer was an industrialist, entrepreneur, and University of Louisville graduate who had a lifelong passion for music, education, and religious studies. Rather than rewarding personal achievements, he chose to recognize powerful ideas or creative works in the sciences, arts, and humanities.

The Grawemeyer Foundation received 30 nominations from around the world for the 2004 psychology award. For more information visit www.grawemeyer.org.

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