Helle Thorning, PhD

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Academic Appointments

  • Clinical Professor of Psychiatric Social Work (in Psychiatry)

Administrative Titles

  • Director, ACT Institute. Center for Practice Innovations

Dr. Helle Thorning is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatric Social Work (in Psychiatry) Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York-Presbyterian. She serves on the leadership team of the Center for Practice Innovations in the Division of Behavioral Health Services and Policy Research at the Center for Practice Innovations at New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University. Here she is a Research Scientist and the Director of the ACT Institute (Assertive Community Treatment).

Dr. Thorning completed her bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Copenhagen, her MS at Columbia University School of Social Work, and her PhD at the Silver School of Social Work, New York University.

Prior to her current position, Dr. Helle Thorning served as Clinical Professor, Program Chair of Field Education and Assistant Dean of Field Learning and Community Partnership at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University where she directed the field learning curriculum for social work bachelor's and master's students.  Before that, she was the Director of Social work at New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) and Assistant Professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. An experienced clinician in hospital and community mental health, Dr. Thorning is also a licensed clinical social worker, training clinicians and working with people facing mental health challenges and their families in the US and abroad and has a practice in New York City.

Dr. Thorning's main research area is in the development and application of educational and psychoeducational interventions designed to improve quality of life and outcomes for individuals and families faced with trauma, mental illness, parenting in the context of behavioral health challenges or other significant life challenges as well as transitional care. She has published widely on the topic of interventions and the experience of families and siblings. Moreover, she studies implementation science to change practice through workforce development, transformative learning processes, organizational change and quality improvement and has published in this emergent area of study.  


  • Danish

Credentials & Experience

Education & Training

  • BS, 1979 Psychology, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  • MS, 1983 Social Work , Columbia University
  • PhD, 2004 Clinical Social Work, New York University (NYU)


Selected Publications

Peer reviewed journal articles:

Thorning, H., Marino, L., Jean-Noel, P., Lopez, L., Covell, N. H., Chiang, I.-C., . . . Dixon, L. B. Adoption of a Blended Training Curriculum for ACT in New York State. Psychiatric Services, 0(0), appi.ps.201600143. doi:doi:10.1176/appi.ps.201600143

Stanhope, V *.,Videka, L., Thorning, H., McKay, M. (2015) Moving Toward Integrated Health: An Opportunity for Social Work. Social Work in Health CarCovell, N.H*,

Margolies, P. J., Myers, R., Ruderman, D. Fazio, M.L., McNabb, L., Gurran, S., Thorning, H., Watkins, L., Dixon, L. (2014) Scaling up evidence-based behavioral healthcare practices in New York State. Psychiatric Services.

Thorning, H*., Shibusawa,T., Lukens, E. & Fang, L (2012). Developing a train-the-trainer (TTT) model for social work education in Kazakhstan.  International Social Work 56 (4)534-54

Lohrer, S., Lukens, E., & Thorning, H. (2007). Economic expenditures associated with instrumental caregiving roles of adult siblings of persons with severe mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 43(2), 129-151.

Lohrer, S., Lukens, E., & Thorning, H. (2006). The costs of caring: Instrumental caregiving involvement among adult siblings of persons with mental illness. Community Mental Health Journal, 3, 1573-1589.

 Lukens, E., Thorning, H., & Lohrer, S. (2004). Sibling perspectives on severe mental illness: Reflections on self and family. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(4), 489-501.

Lukens, E., O'Neill, P., Thorning, H., Cecutti, J., Gubiseh-Ayala, D., Batista, M., et al. (2004). When disaster strikes: prevention groups for diverse communities affected by trauma using a model of brief Integrative Psychoeducation. Traumatology.

Lukens, E., Thorning, H., & Lohrer, S. (2002). Reflections on service and support among siblings of persons with severe mental illness. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 8, 354-364.

Lohrer, S., Lukens, E., & Thorning, H. (2002). Evaluating awareness of New York's assisted outpatient treatment law among adult siblings of persons with severe mental illness. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 8, 365-36

 Lukens, E., Thorning, H., & Herman, D. (1999). Family psychoeducation in schizophrenia: Emerging themes and challenges. Journal of Behavioral Health, 9, 314-325.

 Malaspina, D. H., Friedman, J., Kauffman, C., Bruder, G., Xavier, A., Strauss, D., Clark, S., et al. (1998). Psychobiological heterogeneity of familial and sporadic schizophrenia. Biological Psychiatry.

Thorning, H. (1997). Psychotherapy and schizophrenia Harold Searles revisited. The Clinician, 28(1).Langdon, G. S., Pearson, J., Stastny, P., & Thorning, H. (1989). The integration of music therapy into a treatment approach in the transition of adult psychiatric patients from institution to community. Music Therapy, 8(1).

Thorning, H. (1981). The mother-daughter relationship and sexual ambivalence. Heresies 12

Thorning, H (1980). Contradictions in the mother-daughter relationship- A review of literature. Udkast 2.

Book chapters:

Thorning, H. Transitional Care. Stanhope, V. and Straussner (Eds.) (in press). Social Work and Integrated Health: From Policy to Practice. Oxford University Press

Thorning*, H. and Dixon, L.  Caregiving for Persons with Serious Mental Illness. (2015) In L. Burgio, J. Gaugler, and M. Hilgeman (Eds). The Spectrum of Family Caregiving for Adults and Elders with Chronic Conditions.  Oxford University Press,

Lukens, E., Thorning, H. (2010) Siblings in families with mental illness. In J. Caspi (Ed.), Sibling relationships in practice: Cultural and environmental influences, Oxford University Press, New York.  Pp 193-218.

Lukens, E., Thorning, H. (2010). Psychoeducational Family Groups.In A. Rubin & D.W. Springer (Eds.),Psychosocial treatment of schizophrenia, John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, New Jersey. Pp 89-144.

Thorning, H. (2006). On a Mission from God. An integrative psychoeducational treatment approach to schizophrenia. In R. Spitzer, M. First, J. Williams & M. Gibbon (Eds.), DSM IV TR. Casebook, Volume 2. Experts tell how they treated their own patients. Washington, DC: M. American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.  PP 139-147.

Thorning, H., & Lukens, E. (2001). Brief treatment with schizophrenic patients. In B. Dane, C. Tosone & A. Wolson (Eds.), Doing more with less. Using long-term skills in short-term treatment. Northwhale, New Jersey, London: Jason Aronson Inc.

Lukens, E., & Thorning, H (1998). Psychoeducation and severe mental illness: Implications for social work practice and research. In J. Williams & K. Ell (Eds.), Breakthrough in mental health research.: NASW Press.

Thorning, H, & Lukens, E. (1998). Clinical social work in psychiatry: Mental illness. In B. Fallon & J. Gorman (Eds.), The Hidden Sorrow. New York: New York State Psychiatric Institute.

Thorning, H., & Lukens, E. (1996). Schizophrenia and the self. In C. Kauffman & C. Gorman (Eds.), Schizophrenia: New directions for clinical research and treatment. Larchmont, New York: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

Lukens, E., & Thorning, H (1996). Schizophrenia and the family. In C. Kaufman & J. Gorman (Eds.), Schizophrenia.  New directions for clinical research and treatment. Larchmont, NY: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

Lukens, E., & Thorning, H. (1991). A comparison of two short term models for multiple family group treatment. Schizophrenia Research, 4, 306.