Aaron Becks Cognitive Therapy Approach to the Treatment of Depression

Aaron Beck developed an approach known as cognitive therapy, which grew from an interest in his clients’ “automatic thoughts.” Gerald Corey in THOERY AND PRACTICE OF COUNSELING AND PSYCHOTHERAPY (2001) describes: Beck defined these “automatic thoughts” as personalized notions triggered by particular stimuli leading to emotional responses.

As a part of Beck’s psychoanalytic study, he was looking for anger issues within the dream content of depressed clients. Beck noticed more than retroflected anger was a bias within clients’ interpretation of their dreams. This discovery led Beck to develop the most comprehensive theory and treatment of depression.


From Beck’s research, he contended: people with emotional difficulties tend to commit characteristic “logical errors” which slant objective reality to the path of self-deprecation. Corey emphasizes: Beck challenged the notion that depression results from anger which is then turned inward. Beck also challenged the idea of having the focus on the content of the depressive’s negative thinking and biased interpretation of events.

To focus on the content, Beck’s approach to the treatment of depression consists of placing a heavy emphasis on schema – core beliefs. A key factor of this therapeutic process involves restructuring distorted beliefs – schema – which have a pivotal impact on changing dysfunctional behaviors.

Corey affirms: Cognitive behavior therapists place a heavy emphasis on examining cognitions among individual family members as well as on the family schemata or family beliefs. With this serious emphasis on schemata, Beck’s belief is: therapeutic sessions typically have the therapist take the lead.

The therapist helps the client make a list of his/her responsibilities, set priorities, and develop a realistic plan of action. On Beckinstitute.org attention is drawn to the therapists’ role: therapist aid to form a team between the client and themselves while assisting in the clients’ plan of action.

Therapists also use cognitive rehearsal techniques to identify and change negative thoughts. Cognitive therapy perceives psychological problems as stemming from commonplace processes such as faulty thinking, failing to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and making incorrect inferences on the basis of inadequate or incorrect information.

By changing thinking, behavior, and emotional responses, therapists assist clients in overcoming challenges and difficulties.

Corey draws attention to the ending result: if the client can learn to combat self-doubts in the therapy session, he/she may be able to apply their newly acquired cognitive and behavioral skills in real-life settings.


Beck’s cognitive therapy consists of the many approaches lessoning psychological suffering through therapy. Therapy aids in helping clients self-signal to correct faulty conceptions. This decisive approach permits the therapist and practitioner to value the integrative nature of cognitive behavior therapy.

For Further Reading:

Beck Institute, on Beckinstitute.org

Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy (2001), by Corey Gerald