Patricia Deldin, Ph.D.
“We acknowledge that depression is not simple. Rather, it is a complex illness that impacts every aspect of a person's life, and must therefore be addressed through expertise in prevention, outreach, research, and treatment.”
Patricia Deldin decided on a career in psychology because, as she puts it, “I wanted to help people – period.”
“The people I know with depression are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, and I don’t want to see them suffer. This is what motivates me to do my job every day,” she says.
Although Deldin says she wanted to be a psychologist since the age of 17, initially drawn to the field after witnessing how a boyfriend’s family was affected by his father’s alcoholism, it wasn’t always clear to her that graduate studies, let alone college, would be part of her future. Like many of her high school classmates, her employment goal was to work in a factory, and the fact that she had the opportunity to pursue higher learning makes Deldin feel “personally responsible to make whatever difference I can.” She credits powerful mentors for encouraging her to reach beyond her perceived limits at each stage in her educational and professional development, and says those supportive relationships also influenced her to become a teacher. She currently teaches both undergraduate and graduate students in psychology.
Deldin’s research program concerns the biological aspects of cognition and emotion in mood disorders, focusing on better understanding the relationship between the brain, emotion, cognition and behavior in psychopathology. She directs the Mood and Schizophrenia Lab within the Department of Psychology, and some of her other major lines of research involve examining the relationship between thinking and feeling, sleep, and cardiovascular changes in people with depression. She is also an associate director of the Depression Center.
Although she was a full-time clinician for two years, Deldin elected to focus on research over clinical work because she felt that research would allow her to help greater numbers of people with mental health conditions by discovering ways to improve treatments.
“I really admire the people who come to therapy and really work at it. I have more respect for them than almost anyone in the world because it is really hard to do. The fact that some people have the courage and fortitude to take on these tough issues in their life is amazing to me,” says Deldin, who is also leading a community-focused mental health research recruitment project in collaboration with the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.
“I find doing psychotherapy very fulfilling and I really admire people who can do it full-time. A really good therapist can make a huge difference in people’s lives,” she says. “But I chose to do research because I realized that our treatments are still not 100% effective, so there are people that we still can’t help with our current knowledge,” she says. “I’m in research because I want to learn about the basic underlying processes so that we can improve our treatments and actually help everybody who needs it.”
For the future, Deldin hopes for more effective treatments for depression and bipolar disorder, including the ability to offer more targeted drug therapies, more targeted psychotherapy methods, and that depression will be “seen and accepted as a legitimate illness by the public and the medical institution as well.”