U of T Scarborough psychology professor Zindel Segal can now add President’s Impact Award winner to his already impressive resume of achievements.
His pioneering work in exploring ways to enable those suffering from depression to stay well has earned Segal the U of T award given to faculty whose work has made a significant impact beyond academia.
“It’s a real honour,” says Segal, who recently joined four other U of T researchers in receiving the award.
Segal has spent his entire research career exploring ways to enable people suffering from depression to stay well over time. His initial approach relied on basic research in mood dependent memory retrieval to identify markers of relapse vulnerability, and then to engage these markers through intervention strategies.
The data generated by this work led him in a number of novel directions, most notably, the development of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), an approach that combines the practice of mindfulness meditation with the tools of cognitive therapy.
“The intervention is delivered in a group format in which participants learn to pay attention to thinking, feeling and body sensations in ways that do not rely on automatic routines,” says Segal. “With practice, patients sharpen a lens of investigation that can eventually be used to observe emotionally challenging events and their accompanying mental states.”
MBCT’s potential led to funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for two controlled trials. He has also co-authored books on MBCT for patients and the general public that have sold over 350,000 copies and continues to guide MBCT’s dissemination into online formats, along with it being applied within health systems in the UK and Canada.
In addition to serving on the board of several influential journals in his field, Segal was named a Distinguished Professor by U of T and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Ontario Association of Consultants, Counselors, Psychometrists, and Psychotherapists in 2012.
In receiving the award Segal is also appointed to the newly created President’s Research Academy for a period of five years. The committee will meet to talk about matters relevant to research impact, offer advice to the Vice President or Research & Innovation, and also advocate for the impact of research and innovation within and outside the university.