Cognitive Therapy And Interpersonal Psychotherapy: 30 Years Later

Weissman, Myrna M.

It has been a good year for psychotherapy. Aaron Beck won the prestigious Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research for the development of cognitive therapy, giving psychotherapy new recognition in the scientific community. In his acceptance speech, Beck noted that if his young postdoc John Rush hadn’t prodded him, cognitive therapy would not have gone anywhere. Rush told him that no one would believe his new therapy was effective until he did a clinical trial.

Around the same time, Gerry Klerman was planning the first large maintenance medication trial of depression. Most patients receiving medication also received psychotherapy, and Klerman wanted to mimic clinical practice. He admired Beck’s manual, but most patients, he said, were receiving supportive therapy, which was undefined and untested. He gave the Beck manual to his researchers and said, “Do something as specified as this for supportive psychotherapy.” In the first draft of the manual, which we used in the maintenance trial, we called the treatment “high-contact psychotherapy.” Later, after efficacy was demonstrated, we termed it interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). Thirty years later, cognitive therapy and IPT remain the most widely tested psychotherapies for the treatment of unipolar major depression. In this issue, articles by Thase et al., Wisniewski et al., Frank et al., and Schramm et al. present refinement data on cognitive therapy and IPT in relation to medication—Thase and Wisniewski on effectiveness, Frank on dose, and Schramm on a new indication.


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The American Journal of Psychiatry

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February 1, 2022