Aaron T. Beck, the creator of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), has been awarded the Lasker Award – a prestigious prize that is given to those who are deemed to have made a significant contribution to the understanding and treatment of medical disorders.
Randomised controlled trials have shown cognitive behaviour therapy to be one of the most effective treatments for depression and anxiety (typically as good as, or better than, drug therapy) and has also been shown to be effective in a wide range of other disorders, such as psychosis, eating disorders and chronic pain.
In serious cases, both CBT and drug treatment will be used at the same time, and this often gives the best results.
Instead of focusing on early experience and childhood trauma, CBT tends to focus on the here and now, and works with clients to develop more effective ways of thinking about situations which typically lead to disturbed thoughts and emotions.
This can be achieved by understanding the link between thoughts, emotions and behaviour, by testing out assumptions and ideas, and challenging negative thoughts as they occur in the mind.
Lasker Awards are often thought to be hints as to who might win a future Nobel Prize, as 71 Lasker winners have gone on to win a Nobel.
However, the Nobel Prize committee tends not to give awards for psychological discoveries. The nearest, perhaps, was when Daniel Kahneman won the ‘Nobel Prize for Economics’ for his contributions to understanding rationality in economic reasoning.
The New York Times also has some coverage of the story and looks at some of this year’s other Lasker Award winners.