BC Mental Health and Addictions Research Institute
Tonia Nicholls

Tonia Nicholls

Associate Professor, Psychiatry
Faculty of Medicine
UBC – Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission (FPSC)
BC Mental Health and Addiction Services / PHSA
Phone: 604-524-7790
Email: [email protected]

Description of Research Program

The intersection of law and mental health is fraught with challenges for individuals living with mental illness, their families, and for criminal justice and mental health professionals, alike. My students and I focus our scholarly work at this important juncture and concentrate our research on projects that have strong bench-to-bedside application. Our study results are intended to have direct relevance and speedy application to shaping practice and policy decisions in civil, forensic, and correctional settings. We have several large-scale programs of research:

  • Our CIHR-funded PATHWAYS study is documenting and evaluating the Redevelopment of Riverview Hospital;
  • CIHR is also funding a study of risk assessment and risk management to inform treatment planning and ultimately improve outcomes among former BC Corrections inmates and probationers;
  • We developed a concise clinical measure for the assessment and management of risk to self and others (Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability, START);
  • We are also studying success and resiliency among individuals returning to the community following hospitalization and/or incarceration in jails and prison;
  • I am part of two national teams funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.The first project is studying mentally ill individuals who have come into conflict with the law and ultimately have been found 'not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder' in three Canadian provinces: Quebec, Ontario and BC (The National Trajectory Project). The second project is based on a "Housing First" approach. The At Home/Chez Soi Research Demonstration Project is investigating mental health and homelessness in five Canadian cities: Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Research Information

Mental Illness / Substance

Personality disorders, Psychopathy, Schizophrenia, Suicide

Area of Research

Desistance, Forensic psychiatry/psychology, Gender, Homelessness, Protective factors, Resiliency and recovery, Risk assessment, Victimization, Violence

Keyword Terms

Forensic, Protective factors, Schizophrenic spectrum disorders, Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START), Victimization, Violence, Gender

Selected Publications

View Complete List of Publications

Nicholls, T.L., Crocker, A.G., Seto, M.C., Wilson, C., Charette, Y., & Cote, G. (2015). The National Trajectory Project of individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Part 5: How essential are gender-specific forensic psychiatric services? The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 135-145. Click to access.

Nicholls, T., Pritchard, M., Reeves, K, & Hilterman, E. (2013). Risk assessment in intimate partner violence: A review of contemporary approaches. Partner Abuse, 4(1), 77-168. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.4.1.76

Nicholls, T. L., Petersen, K., Brink, J., & Webster, C. (2011). A clinical risk profile of forensic psychiatric patients: Treatment team STARTs in a Canadian service. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 10(3), 187-199. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2011.600234

Nicholls, T. L., Brink, J., Greaves, C., Lussier, P., & Verdun-Jones, S. (2009). Forensic psychiatric inpatients and aggression: An exploration of incidence, prevalence, severity, and interventions by patient gender. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 32(1), 23-30. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2008.11.007

Nicholls, T. L., Brink, J., Desmarais, S., Webster, C. D., & Martin, M. L. (2006). The Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability (START): A prospective validation study in a forensic psychiatric sample. Assessment, 13, 313-327.