Helle Thorning, PhD

  • Clinical Professor of Psychiatric Social Work (in Psychiatry)
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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.

Dr. Thorning is an experienced clinician in both hospital and community behavioral health settings and a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. She specializes in the treatment of individuals and families navigating psychiatric and brain disorders, trauma, behavioral challenges, as well as provides support in parenting, caregiving, and managing significant life obstacles. She works from a life span perspective and emphasizes a recovery-focused approach imbued with hope. Her practice is informed by trauma-sensitive perspectives, underpinned by a profound understanding of how social determinants and structural racism can affect health and overall well-being.

Dr. Thorning’s experience as a consultant spans several domains in behavioral health, including, supervision, teaching, curriculum development, e-learning, administration, project management, and research. Throughout her career, she has led and participated in numerous projects to develop and implement new practice-informed and evidence-based practices in various settings nationally and internationally. Consequently, cultural, and structural considerations of the service delivery system have been integral to the design and execution of the implementation process. Changing practice behaviors and adopting new skills is not an easy task. It requires sensitivity to the individual practitioner’s values, attitude, knowledge, and skills to support the acquisition of new practice skills. During her tenure, providers of all disciplines were (and still are) challenged, as the field moved from a medical to a recovery-oriented practice model, to include a trauma-informed perspective, and the heightened awareness of the impact social determinants and structural racism on health and well-being. Consequently, a person-centered perspective is essential in her design of programs to enhance practice skills. Moreover, optimizing this approach is hugely important as it models person-centeredness important for a successful relationship between provider and client/participant(s).  Dr. Thorning has worked with behavioral health providers and educators in Chile, Canada, Denmark. Kazakhstan, Mexico, and Vietnam.

Academic Appointments

  • Clinical Professor of Psychiatric Social Work (in Psychiatry)


  • Female

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)



Research Interests

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, behavioral health challenges, parenting and caregiving of offspring and partners or other significant life challenges as well as transitional care. (911 and Oct 7th She has published widely on the topic of interventions and the experience of the trauma of receiving a diagnosis of mental illness or other brain impacted illnesses, and the impact on parents, siblings, and caregivers.


Moreover, she studies implementation science to change practice through workforce development, training and implementing TTT transformative learning processes, organizational change and quality improvement for the emerging and existing workforce.


2017–2023                  Training and Implementation Support for Assertive Community Treatment Teams in New York State

                                    Research to Service Grant

                                    Principle Investigator and Project Director

                                    New York State Office OF Mental Health



2017 – 2018                Community Integration of Individuals with severe mental illness - the Social Networks Qualitative Study

                                    New York University Research Challenge Fund (URCF)


One year


2017 – 2018                Parents who are served by Assertive Community Teams (ACT): Assessing Risks and Service Needs

                                    New York Community Trust

                                    Co-Principal Investigator



2014 – 2019                Recovery to Practice. Subcontract with Advocates for Human Potential to develop a training manual and e-module for Interprofessional Practice

                                    Principle Investigator (active role 2014- 2015)

                                    (five-year grant)


09/2012- 09/2015       Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)

                                    Principle Investigator and Project Director (active role 2012-2013)

                                    NYU Integrated Behavior Health Project



2008 – 2009            Silver School of Social Work – Faculty Research Grant: Older family caregivers of adult children with severe mental illness and future care planning: An exploratory study Co- Investigator (one-year grant: $ 8,000) (Co-PI:  Tazuko Shibusawa)


2006 - 2007                 Mental Health Association/ New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene   Curriculum Development: Enhancing Public Health Emergency Communication and Coping Skills for Community/Spiritual Leaders and DOHMH Staff Active in Decision Making during Crisis. 

                                    Co- Investigator



2005- 2006                  American Group Psychotherapy Foundation.  CAPE: Community Awareness through Psychoeducation.

                                    Co- Investigator

                                    (One-year grant, $5,000)


2004- 2006                  American International Health Alliance.  Development of Social Work Training Center, Astana, Kazakhstan.

                                    Co- Investigator



2003 - 2004                 The September 11th  Fund

                                    Healing Outreach Through Psychoeducation (HOPE-NY)

                                    Principal Investigator



2003                            Project Liberty Funding (FEMA/CMHS)

                                    Enhanced Services Grant

                                    Healing Communities Through Psychoeducation (HOPE-NY)

                                    Principal Investigator



2003                                  Lutheran Disaster Relief Fund

                                    Healing Communities Through Psychoeducation (HOPE-NY)




2002 - 2003                 Project Liberty Funding (FEMA/CMHS)

Healing Communities Through Psychoeducation (HOPE-NY)

                                    Principal Investigator



1999 - 2000                 Psychiatric Institute Research Support Grant (PIRSG)

                                    Principal Investigator

A Comparison of Two Models of Psychoeducation with Families of Patients in Transition from Hospital to Community


1998 - 2000                 National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD) 

                                    Co-Principal Investigator

Assessing the Impact of Severe Mental Illness on Adult Siblings Using a Triangulated Research Design



1996 - 1998                 National Alliance for Research in Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD)

                                    Co-Principal Investigator

A Prospective Study of Stress and Outcome among Patients with Schizophrenia and their Family Caregivers



1991 - 1992                 Developmental Schizophrenia Fund Award. 

                                    New York State Psychiatric Institute, Columbia University

                                    Co-Principal Investigator

                                    Multiple Family Groups on an Inpatient Unit

Selected Publications


Thorning, H*. Sandø, M. Smith, A.  Vet, Renée de, Wolf, J. CTI in the context of Western Europe: Adaptation and Implementation (in press) Herman, D. (Eds) Critical Time Intervention. Supporting Vulnerable People during period of transitions. Oxford University Press, New York

Thorning, H, Felding T., Shapiro, A. ( in review)




Kelly, E.L., Pasquarelle, F., Davis, L., Hunt, A., Lee, S., Fairhurst, S., Giambone, L., Murch, L., Thorning, H., Brekke, J.S. (2022). Managing substance use for clients with serious mental illnesses: Knowledge, attitude, and training challenges among outpatient behavioral health providers in California, Ohio, and New York. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatmenthttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108547



Pahwa, R., Smith, M., Kelly, E., Dougherty, R., Davis, L., Thorning, H., Brekke, J., & Hamilton, A. (2021). Definitions of community for individuals with SMIs: Implications for community integration. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 48, 143-154. DOI: doi: 10.1007/s10488-020-01055-w




Thorning, H., & Dixon, L. (2020). Forty-five years later: the challenge of optimizing assertive community treatment. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 33(4), 397-406.


Pahwa, R., Smith, M. E., Kelly, E. L., Dougherty, R. J., Thorning, H., Brekke, J. S., & Hamilton, A. (2020). Definitions of community for individuals with serious mental illnesses: Implications for community integration and recovery. Administration And Policy In Mental Health And Mental Health Services Research. doi:10.1007/s10488-020-01055-w




Thorning, H.,*Transitional Care. In V. Stanhope. and S.L.A. Straussner (Eds.), Social Work and Integrated Health: From Policy to Practice. Oxford University Press.



Haselden, M., Dixon, L. B., Overley, A., Cohen, A. N., Glynn, S. M., Drapalski, A., Piscitelli, S., & Thorning, H*. Giving back to families: Evidence and predictors of persons with serious mental illness contributing help and support to families. Community Mental Health Journal, #, P-P. doi: 10.1007/s10597-017-0172-1


Huz, S.  Thorning, H.* White, C. Fang, L. Smith, B., Radigan, M., Dixon, L. Time in Assertive Community Treatment: A Statewide Quality Improvement Initiative to Reduce Length of Participation.  Psychiatric Services (doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201700127)




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




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


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



Covell, 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. (2014). On the Road to Recovery: ACT and Beyond. NYS-OMH Newsletter, September 2014.




            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.


  1. 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.



            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.


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.


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