Penn Psychology Professor Martin Seligman’s contributions to the field of psychology were recognized when he received the Philadelphia Behavior Therapy Association’s second Lifetime Achievement Award on May 26.

Following the award ceremony at Drexel University’s Bossone Research Enterprise Center, Seligman gave a lecture, and later there was a wine and cheese reception.

Seligman received the award because of his unique career — “both in terms of scholarship and bringing information to the public,” said Drexel University Associate Professor of Medicine and Psychiatry David Bennett, who also serves on the board of the PBTA.

In addition to serving as the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at Penn, Seligman is the Director of the Positive Psychology Network and the former president of the American Psychological Association.

However, his most notable contributions to psychology have been in the field known as positive psychology, particularly in the areas of learned helplessness, depression and the four elements of happiness.

“He’s been the driving force of positive psychology,” Bennett said.

Positive psychology is the study of four modes of happiness: the pleasant life, the engaged life, the meaningful life, and the achieving life, according to a PBTA press release.

Seligman’s books—which are more than 20 in number—are largely about motivation and personality. These include: Learned Optimism, What You Can Change & What You Can’t, and Learned Helplessness.

During his lecture, Seligman gave an overview of positive psychology and outlined ways for increase well-being. He also presented outcome studies on positive education—the teaching of positive psychology skills in schools to help to prevent depression and build lifelong happiness among the youth.

The audience’s response to the lecture was overwhelmingly positive, according to PBTA President Deborah Roth Ledley.

Dr. Seligman “is a fantastic speaker” who had a “lot of insightful things to say,” she said.

The PBTA promotes scientifically-based psychotherapy in the Philadelphia region by sponsoring lectures, workshops, and discussions in order to educate practicioners, clinical scientists, and the public.

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