Robert DeRubeis Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Psychological Science

June 20, 2017

Robert DeRubeis, Samuel H. Preston Term Professor in the Social Sciences and professor of psychology, has been named the 2017 James McKeen Cattell Fellow, a lifetime achievement award given by the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Each year the association selects a fellow to honor for his or her lifetime of outstanding contributions in applied psychological research. DeRubeis was recognized and delivered an award address at the 29th APS Annual Convention, held at the end of May.

In its recognition, the APS wrote, “Robert DeRubeis is internationally known for his innovative and influential psychotherapy treatment outcomes research. His work identifying the underlying causal mechanisms of psychotherapy, as well as the methodological sophistication of his research, has established beyond doubt the efficacy of psychological treatments for depression and has clarified what works for whom and why … His creativity and rigorous approach to research is unprecedented.”

DeRubeis found that cognitive therapy is as effective as antidepressant medications for the treatment of depression, and that, unlike medications, it has an enduring effect that protects against relapse. He has also shown that patients’ response to cognitive therapy is driven by their adherence to concrete behaviors specified by theory rather than generic nonspecific relationship factors common to all psychotherapies.

DeRubeis’ groundbreaking investigation of common antidepressant medications for patients with different levels of depression led to his finding that medications are beneficial for severely depressed patients, but less so for patients with mild or moderate symptoms. At Penn, he works closely with neuroscientists examining the neural mechanisms of cognitive therapy versus medication for depression. The application of DeRubeis’ research findings has clear and direct influence on clinical practice and the treatment of depression.

DeRubeis received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Minnesota. He was chair of the Department of Psychology at Penn from 2001 to 2005 and associate dean for the social sciences in the School from 2005 to 2009. He holds a secondary appointment in Penn’s Graduate School of Education. DeRubeis has also received the Academy of Cognitive Therapy’s Aaron T. Beck Award for his contributions to research on cognitive therapy. His research comparing the benefits of cognitive therapy and medications for severe depression has been the subject of national and international media reports.