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CBT Pioneers

Imagine being there when a major scientific breakthrough is made – When Darwin presented to the Royal Society, when the Wright brothers first took flight. Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a practice that, for many of us, came to prominence in our living memory. This means that even though CBT is already a “mature” field, we are lucky enough to have many of the first influential thinkers, researchers, and practitioners still with us today. These sessions are a treat to so many of us, and we invite you to watch history being made alongside us. Meet our CBT Pioneers.


Meet our CBT Pioneers!

Russell Barkley

Meet Russell Barkley, who has explored ADHD and its implications for half a century, looking at parental relationships, its effects on executive functioning as well as it long-term health and occupational outcomes.

Lately, he’s been studying mortality rates and life expectancy as he has followed ADHD through adulthood, showing it is not only a mental health problem but a health concern as well.

David Barlow

David Barlow explores a new approach to therapy, using Transdiagnostic Therapeutic Elements that would be applicable across a range of disorders.

Watch as he tells us more about Transdiagnostic Therapy.

Judy Beck

Listen to Judy Beck in this teacher coming full circle moment, returning to her roots.

Beck’s interview includes fascinating insights, including a discussion of the principles and fidelity inherent in manuals, as well as the need to conceptualize the patient’s individual needs.

David Burns

David Burns explores his approach to a patient-focused approach to therapy.

Andrew Christensen

Andrew recounts his interesting path- from what he describes as “deep South chicken-farming family” to a Southern California researcher, therapist, and innovator.

From “practice dating” and family systems, he’s moved to couples’ conflict and couples’ intervention, studying the push-pull patterns and the roles the partners take.

With the late Neil Jacobson, he developed Integrated Couple Behavior Therapy that focuses on understanding broad patterns, causal analysis, and behavioral change and, especially, emotional acceptance.

Esther Deblinger

Esther Deblinger shares her personal and professional journey, choosing a career in clinical psychology and focusing her research on helping children and families overcome adversity.

Her research in collaboration with colleagues not only led to highly effective evidence-based treatments that are utilized worldwide, but her academic pursuits deepened her understanding of the impact of childhood trauma on her own parents.

Her training, research and service efforts continue to be inspired by the resilience she has seen in her parents as well as the many children and families with whom she has worked.

Steve Hayes

Perhaps most famous for Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Hayes is equally passionate about social justice and societal concerns and his hope that psychology can leave the protocols behind and focus on the competencies.

When asked about dissemination, he said he hates the word and hates the very idea. We shouldn’t be telling, or showing, he says, but, instead, creating a safe space in which we welcome all to talk about their perspectives before talking about ours.

At the same time, Hayes relishes the work of Ronan and Klepac’s Organizational Task Force and wishes we were banging the drums more loudly about their findings.

Stefan G. Hofmann

In this video, Stefan Hoffman talks about what’s most important in CBT, asking: What are the core competencies? What allows us to properly target a problem?

Hofmann notes that it is essential that approaches must not lead to tunnel vision, but, instead, we must always be prepared to tear the walls down, using what is demonstrated to work.

Hofmann mentions that being an ABCT member is incredibly rewarding, creating a community that is inclusive of both of people and approaches to treatment.

Steve Hollon

One of CBT’s recognized experts in depression, Steve Hollon looks at the landscape in clinical practice today, seeing a need for change. He wants us to use what we know works, not what we know best.

Hollon lauds those, like Vikram Patel, who are researching ways to increase access to mental health care in less developed countries, exploring new ways of task shifting.

Alan Kazdin

Alan Kazdin recounts how he came to be a psychologist and discusses where his emphasis is now: studying models of treatment delivery with the idea of completely changing who, and how many, can access treatment.

Kazdin notes that “most people in need of psychological help receive no treatment,” based on current delivery models. He’s hoping to find ways to make delivery scalable and accessible, overcoming the current inherent limits.

Phil Kendall
Art Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu

Art Nezu and Christine Maguth Nezu have done outstanding work in developing problem solving approaches and specialty competencies in psychology, as well as promoting multiculturalism and diversity within the field.

Listen as they discuss early days in art, theatre, and social activism through their fortune telling for the field.

Tom Ollendick

Tom Ollendick talks pediatric anxiety treatments, focusing especially on his early work with one-session treatments that had success rates as high as 75%.

Jacqueline B. Persons


Jacquelin Persons has been a tireless promoter of integrating clinical work and research. Case formulation and case conceptualization are virtually synonymous with her work. She studies change in outcomes.

Persons recommends that clinicians collect data to inform treatment and treatment’s progress. She says that data, and those viewed changes, can be repurposed to help develop refinements to treatment approaches. Data helps the patient and informs the science. She notes that all her own work comes out of the clinical work she does, which led her to found the Research in Clinical Practice SIG at ABCT.

Persons notes that she was trained by Tim Beck and David Burns.

Patricia Resick

Patricia Resick looks to the future, discussing the potential of technology, not only in treatment where remote sessions are being shown to be as effective as in-camera ones, but also in helping train front-line providers, like the social workers who are often the ones administering most of the treatment that people will receive.

Resick states that courses in CBT, especially basics, diagnosis, and assessment, could supplement the two years required of masters-level training.

Steven Safren

Steve Safren recounts his work on “Life Steps,” which promotes adherence to taking HIV medicine. In 1996, medicines were becoming available that changed HIV from a death sentence to something manageable, but the drugs were difficult to take, had huge side effects, and had complex dosages. Life Steps helped people break those complex dosages into manageable steps. He notes that this adherence intervention has since been adapted to other areas, include comorbid depression and other mental health problems. And, he says, it’s become the standard of care for Doctors without Borders in their fights against HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Safren notes that what science shows isn’t always practiced. He remakes that when confronted with severe mental health problems, instead of sequencing various solutions, such as medicines and cognitive-behavioral therapy, which science shows is the most effective approach, practitioners might just throw everything at it at once.

Safren is also looking forward to seeing more studies comparing new technologies to in person treatment, to see which has more success for which clients; he hopes to involve CBT in the medical system more effectively.

Greg Siegle


Greg Siegle leads a discussion, laying out  elements that can help better address patients’ needs. Siegle points to neuroscience, mindfulness, dissemination and implementation, as well as brain mechanisms. Incredibly, his lecture makes it all visible, understandable, and come to life.

Siegle states that negative emotions are visible, referencing  neuroscience and its role in CBT. We can literally see these emotions when we look at the brain: Siegle has watched 30-second responses to a negative words, each word uttered in a nanosecond. This can help patients- Through showing them these observable phenomenon, we help them realize that are not the sole cause of their negative emotions.

Ultimately, Siegle thinks we might be able to personalize medicine, finding those who are more likely to respond better to CBT or, even better, find ways to prepare those who might not so that they could better benefit.

He hopes we can harmonize the language of psychology, as researchers, clinicians, and patients. We should aim to build dissemination and implementation into research so our findings can be used.

Mentioning ABCT, Siegle notes that the Association keeps him, as a researcher, in touch with what clinicians care about.

Gail Steketee

One of the foremost experts in hoarding, Gail Steketee reflects on her past and psychology’s future. She thinks it essential to find out what works best, for whom, and under what conditions. She believes we need to take advantage of new information available now from our research findings in neuroscience and biology in order to better help people.

Steketee notes the importance of distinguishing when diagnostic categorizing works for us; when the “lumping and splitting we all do as humans is used to best advantage.”

Richard Stuart

Click here to view the Integrative Theory of Therapy Model, as discussed by Richard Stuart in the above video.

Richard Suinn

Former ABCT President (1992 – 1993) Richard Suinn is interviewed by ABCT, detailing his professional journey, including how sports psychology- Being approached as a grad student by a undergraduate athlete seeking help for anxiety- Began his interest in behavioral therapy.

Suinn also shares his thoughts on applying research to practice, learning psychology in high school and in higher education, and the need for diversity.

In what he hopes is not his last interview, Suinn notes that ABCT helped provide a single focus for his career, connecting his work with behavior therapy. He appreciates being recognized as a pioneer by ABCT.

Maureen Whittal

In her interview, Maureen Whittal notes that early influences are among the strongest in our lives. She connects having a good mentor in early life stages to being an individual properly prepared to experience the world we live in. 

Whittal mentions that Jack Rachman was her first psychology mentor, and that “he made research fun.”  More than that, he approached teaching as a team sport, often seeing tough patients together so they could learn from one another, something that she still does to this day, 30 years later. 

Whittal also credits Michael Otto, calling it “the best internship in the country,” and Peter MacLean, who stressed that theory is at least as important as the mechanism in terms of understanding how an approach does or does not work. 

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Membership in ABCT grants you access to three journals.


We are now accepting Abstract submissions for Continuing Education Ticketed Sessions at the 2024 ABCT Convention in Philadelphia, PA.

My Account Info

Manage your Membership information, email preferences, and more.


Membership in ABCT grants you access to three journals.


We are now accepting Abstract submissions for Continuing Education Ticketed Sessions at the 2024 ABCT Convention in Philadelphia, PA.