The Power of Cognitive Therapy

The Beck Diet Solution is based on the principles of Cognitive Therapy (also known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or CBT), the most highly researched and effective form of talk therapy in the world. My father, Aaron T. Beck, M.D., spurred a revolution in the field of mental health when, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, his research challenged the theories of Sigmund Freud. Freud and his followers be- lieved that depression and other types of mental illness stemmed from a patient’s 

repressed fears and conflicts, and they kept patients in daily psychoanalytic ses- sions over a period of years. My father discovered, however, that depressed patients could get better quick- ly—often with just 10 or 12 sessions of therapy. When he helped his patients set goals, solve problems, and change their depressed thinking, their depression quickly abated. Because a major component of the treatment focused on correcting people’s distorted thinking, he called this new form of treatment “Cognitive Ther- apy.” The word cognitive refers to thinking. In the ensuing years, my father and researchers all over the world adapted Cognitive Therapy for many different psychological disorders and problems. Hun- dreds and hundreds of research studies have demonstrated that it helps people with a wide range of difficulties, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, obesity, smoking, and addictions. Even more impressive, people not only get bet- ter, but also they stay better. They learn how to change their inaccurate, unhelpful thinking in order to feel better emotionally and behave in more productive ways to reach their goals. A recent study in Sweden demonstrated the effectiveness of Cognitive Therapy for weight loss. People enrolled in the Cognitive Therapy program lost an average 

of 18 pounds over 10 weeks of treatment. (Meanwhile, people on a waiting list to get into the program didn’t lose any weight.) But here’s the truly impressive part: When the study participants were evaluated a year and a half after their treatment, nearly all of them—92 percent—had not only maintained their weight loss, but also most had lost even more weight. This is what sets Cognitive Therapy apart from other types of therapy and other types of weight-loss programs. Compare this result with people who diet but don’t receive Cognitive Therapy treatment. Research completed at Tufts University found that between 50 to 70 per- cent of people who started one of four widely used diets were unable to stay on their diets and continue to lose weight for a year. Even more discouraging, other studies that track how people fare after they lose weight reveal a sobering trend: Most people who lose weight on any given diet regain most of the lost weight with- in a year.

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