Letters to the Editor
History Lesson on CBT
Psychiatric News
Volume 46 Number 16 page 21-21

Mark Moran's otherwise excellent article on CBT in the May 20 issue lacked a couple of historical references. It is true that Dr. Aaron Beck developed cognitive-behavioral therapy some 50 years ago, but the origin of this genre of treatment goes back to our colleague, the late Moses Maimonides of Cordoba (1135-1204).

Dr. Maimonides was a rabbi, a theologian, a pastor to his flock, a philosopher, a writer, and a superior clinician. Although he was Jewish, he was chosen to be the personal physician to the Muslim caliph and had a thriving private practice. Yet he had time to conduct research and make discoveries. In his early 30s, he worked on a group of patients who had pan-neuroses with symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder prominent. His experiments were successful.

Dr. Maimonides later cooperated with a Muslim physician and polymath who was nine years his senior, Ibn Rushd (Averroës) (1126-1198), in a collegial scientific atmosphere. Their joint writings cover a wide array of topics including mental illness and infectious diseases. They both had studied the work of the Persian clinician and research scientist, Avicenna (980-1037), who had advanced a conceptual architecture of treating psychiatric illness including malikhoulia (melancholia) and forms of schizophrenia using CBT methodology.

Throughout the 12th century, Cordoba was the cradle of La Convivencia, where Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived and worked together. Kudos to Mr. Moran for his excellent reporting.


Raleigh, N.C.

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