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Journal Article

The “Splendid Isolation” of Aaron T. Beck

Rachael I. Rosner
Isis
Vol. 105, No. 4 (December 2014), pp. 734-758
DOI: 10.1086/679421
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/679421
Page Count: 25
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The “Splendid Isolation” of Aaron T. Beck
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Abstract

AbstractAaron T. Beck’s Cognitive Therapy (CT) is a school of psychotherapy, conceived in the 1960s, that is celebrated by many clinicians for having provided the scientific antidote to all that was wrong with psychoanalysis. This essay situates the origins of CT in the crisis of legitimacy in psychiatry in the 1960s and 1970s, when, among many charges, psychoanalysts had to face the accusation that analysis was not adequately scientific. Beck actually began his career as both a psychoanalyst and an experimentalist. Contrary to common triumphalist accounts, Beck created CT to be a neutral space, not a partisan one, in turbulent times. Other notable psychoanalysts also sought compromise, rather than partisanship, to bridge the transition to biomedical science. The biographical approach of this essay to the origins of Beck’s CT both situates him historiographically and articulates the complex experiences of a generation of psychoanalysts otherwise opaque to standard narratives.

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