Helen (Lena) Verdeli, MSc. PhD.

Associate Professor, Columbia University

Lena Verdeli, Ph.D, MSc,  is Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Director of Clinical Training at Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Founder and Director of the Teachers College Global Mental Health lab. Over the years Dr. Verdeli has received funding from governments (US-NIMH; Canadian government –Grand Challenges Canada; UK- Medical Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council); intergovernmental agencies (WHO, UNHCR); and foundations (NARSAD, Eleanor Cook Foundation, etc) to test  psychotherapy for prevention and treatment of mood disorders. In the past fifteen years Lena Verdeli has played a key role in landmark studies involving adaptation, training, and testing of psychotherapy protocols used by both specialists and non-specialists around the globe (psychologists, psychiatrists, primary care staff, community health workers, etc). She collaborated internationally with academic groups, ministries of health, local NGOs and international agencies to alleviate the suffering of adults locally defined as depressed in southern Uganda; war-affected adolescents in IDP camps in northern Uganda; traumatized IDP women in Colombia; distressed patients in primary care in Goa, India; depressed community members in Haiti; war-affected Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; displaced Congolese and Burundian refugees in Tanzania and Venezuelans in Peru.


Dr. Verdeli is a Scientific Advisory Council member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Scientific Advisory Board of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.  She received the Klerman Young Scientist award; the APA Division 52 Mentoring Award; and chaired the research workgroup of the Family NGO at the UN. She is the first author of the manual on Group Interpersonal Psychotherapy which has been disseminated globally online by WHO (http://www.who.int/mental_health/mhgap/interpersonal_therapy/en/)


Verdeli's research in Uganda was instrumental to collecting the data necessary for WHO to recommend interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) – together with cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressant medicines – as a recommended treatment for depression. In her words: “IPT is not new; what’s new is our delivery of it and our model of training others to use it. Whether we train laypeople to use IPT with their fellow community members, as we did in Uganda, or train professionals through a systematic national effort, as we’re doing now in Lebanon, our hallmark is to employ inexpensive, feasible and culturally relevant approaches. The work has to be the result of real partnerships on the ground, in which all the players have a voice – including refugees themselves."