Aaron Beck

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Aaron Beck In the 1960s, Aaron Beck, a famous psychiatrist with a background in psychoanalytical training, further explored the untouched arenas of human personality, like depression and procrastination. If Ellis was supposedly the founder of cognitive behavioral theory, Aaron took a leap ahead and explored more into this theory and came up with cognitive behavioral therapy for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety. He has stated that many a times, people tend to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders because of a pre formed negative assessment of themselves. Such an assessment could be attributed to various reasons such as a prolonged mental trauma, social aloofness and low self esteem. His theory has been used for devising the modern day cognitive behavioral therapies. To get a comprehensive understanding on this theory, one should read The Cognitive Theory of Depression by Aaron Beck. You can also get a brief idea about the same by going through Aaron Beck cognitive behavior theory. Cognitive Behavior Theory According to Beck,"If beliefs do not change, there is no improvement. If beliefs change, symptoms change. Beliefs function as little operational units,"which means that one's thoughts and beliefs (schema) affect one’s behavior and subsequent actions. He believed that dysfunctional behavior is caused due to dysfunctional thinking, and that thinking is shaped by our beliefs. Our beliefs decide the course of our actions. Beck was convinced of positive results if patients could be persuaded to think constructively and forsake negative thinking. Cognitive Approach to Depression Behavioral theorists suggest that depression results from faulty and irrational psychological perception, causing distorted learning and reasoning. These depressive cognition could be a result of traumatic experience or incapability of adaptive coping skills. Depressive people have a negative perception or belief about themselves and their environment. More the severity of one's negative thoughts more is the severity of one's depression symptoms. Beck devised the negative cognitive triad, which includes the following three main dysfunctional belief themes or schemas, a depressive person experiences.    The depressed patients see themselves as inadequate, incapable of success and always as a victim of circumstances. The patient considers all past and present experiences through the kaleidoscope of negativity, constantly emphasizing on defeats, failures and a victim mentality. The depressed individual envisions the future, just as he interprets the past and present and sees only despair and hopelessness.

These beliefs focus attention towards negative aspects of life and the way information is processed. As perception becomes more distorted, selective attention is placed on failures and everything is approached negatively. The depressed person maneuvers all his feelings towards hopelessness unconsciously. In 1961, he developed the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) that has a 21 item scale that uses a Likert scale to determine the severity of depression. It is one of the most widely used and referenced scales to measure depression. Treating Depression Aaron Beck put major emphasis on understanding and changing core beliefs as an approach to treating depression. By restructuring destructive thinking, he believed that positive changes could be brought in the patient. He considered the role of a therapist as crucial in the treatment. The therapist involves the patient in setting realistic goals and taking responsibilities for action and thought. By changing thought and perception, a change can be brought in behavior and emotional responses. A course is outlined to educate the patient on the concept of faulty thinking. New ideas and ways are generated to develop a positive outlook of oneself, experiences and the environment around. Sometimes, home assignments are also given to help the depressed person review and understand the impact of faulty thinking on his behavior and emotional well-being. Beck combined Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis with his own understanding and observations of schema and developed the cognitive behavior theory. He further developed Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation, Beck Hopelessness Scale, Beck Anxiety Inventory and Beck Youth Inventories to help treat all kinds of mental disorders. Today, psychiatrists worldwide use his cognitive behavior theory and various scales to treat patients suffering from depression.

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