Aaron Beck || Humanizing Psychiatry

November 2, 2021

Hi everyone, today is a very special episode of The Psychology Podcast. A few nights ago, the legendary psychiatrist Dr. Aaron Temkin Beck passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 100. Tim, as his friends and family affectionally called him, lived an exemplary, full life well lived. Personally, he was a dear mentor and friend of mine. I used to live in the building next door to him in Philadelphia and we’d have tuna sandwiches together on Sundays at his place and discuss humanistic psychology and how to treat patients as humans first. He was always so encouraging of my work, and I enjoyed our discussions about his life and work immensely. I will miss his bow tie, fist bumps, and a sharp mind, which lasted all the way until the end. In my last in-person meeting with him just before the pandemic hit, I handed him a microphone and asked if he would talk about what research he was most excited about these days and whether he could give any advice to young psychologists. That recording is what you will hear today on the podcast.

Remarkably, Tim worked all the way up until his death. To many, he is most known for his work in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), which is a time-sensitive, structured, present-oriented psychotherapy that has been scientifically tested and found to be effective in more than 2,000 studies for the treatment of many different health and mental health conditions. When implemented correctly, CBT can help individuals get better and stay better.

However, not many people know this, but Tim’s work was much more than the seminal work he did pioneering CBT. Tim was recently working on a new form of psychotherapy with his colleagues Ellen Inverso and Paul Grant called “Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy”, which deeply humanizes psychiatric patients.

Guided by Tim’s cognitive model, Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy (CT-R) is an evidence-based practice that provides concrete, actionable steps to promote recovery and resiliency. Originally developed to empower individuals given a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy applies broadly to individuals experiencing extensive behavioral, social, and physical health challenges. It is a highly collaborative, person-centered, and strengths-based approach, as it is focused on developing and strengthening positive beliefs of purpose, hope, efficacy, empowerment and belonging. The approach is specially formulated and effective for individuals (i) who have a history of feeling disconnected and distrustful of service providers, (ii) who are not help-seeking, or (iii) who experience challenges that impede action towards aspirations. The reach of Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy extends to mental health professionals across all disciplines, families and loved ones, and peers with lived experience.

One other thing I’d like to mention before we get to today’s episode is the Beck Institute. In 1994, Tim and his daughter, Dr. Judith S. Beck, founded Beck Institute as a 501(c)3 nonprofit with the mission of improving lives worldwide through excellence and innovation in Cognitive Behavior Therapy training, practice, and research. In 2019, Beck Institute opened the Beck Institute Center for Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy to train professionals and staff who work with individuals given a diagnosis of a serious mental health condition, such as schizophrenia.

Beck Institute honors the legacy of Dr. Aaron Beck by providing training and resources in both CBT and CT-R to people around the world. In the nonprofit’s 27-year history, over 28,000 health and mental health professionals have received training in CBT or CT-R through a variety of programs.

You can help honor Dr. Aaron Beck’s legacy by making a gift to the Aaron T. Beck Fund at Beck Institute. This enables the organization to continue Dr. Beck’s latest work with the Center for CT-R at Beck Institute, develop programs, fund scholarships for trainees, and everything in between. The Beck Institute website can be found at beckinstitute.org.

OK, now without further ado, I bring you our guest today, Dr. Aaron Beck.

RIP,  Tim.



One Response to “Aaron Beck || Humanizing Psychiatry”

  1. Heidi Maxwell says:

    Hello Scott,

    I just wanted to thank you for your thoughtful post and I will be listening to the podcast with Dr. Beck later today. I am sorry that we have lost an amazing man whose legacy will live on. I have shared your post with my class (an MACP program), and I hope you gain some new followers this way. I’m a huge fan of yours – your lively, honest, thoughtful and open expression brings me so much joy. I originally heard you in Sam Harris’ Waking Up app and now own your latest book (I love your take on Maslow!) and listen to your podcast regularly. Keep on keeping on, my friend,

    Warmly, Heidi

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