Cognitive Therapy in the Treatment of Depression

  • Aaron T. Beck
  • Ruth L. Greenberg


The cognitive model of depression originated in a series of studies of clinical depression conducted by Beck in the late 1950s. Although these studies arose from the desire to secure empirical evidence in support of psychoanalytic theories of depression, the psychoanalytic model proved difficult to confirm empirically. Rather, the data suggested an alternate formulation, namely, that the depressed patient was characterized by a particular kind of thinking: he tended to regard himself as a “loser.” The dreams he reported, his early memories, his responses to projective tests, and the material he generated in a clinical setting all tended to reflect certain stereotyped themes: he saw himself as a person who was continually deprived, frustrated, and thwarted, whose prospects were dim, and who had little chance of improving them. Beck also observed that depressed patients made certain logical errors—among them overgeneralization, arbitrary inference, and selective abstraction. Beck concluded that the negative thinking typical of the depressed patient—his negative bias in interpreting events—might underlie his depressed moods. It followed that correcting this thinking might then improve the mood and other symptoms of depression (Beck, 1967/1972).


Depressed Patient Depressed Mood Cognitive Model Cognitive Therapy Automatic Thought 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron T. Beck
    • 1
  • Ruth L. Greenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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