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Tonia Nicholls

Associate Professor, Psychiatry
Faculty of Medicine, UBC

Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission (FPSC)
BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services / PHSA

E-mail: tnicholls@forensic.bc.ca
Mailing address:
70 Colony Farm Road, Coquitlam,
British Columbia, Canada, V3C 5X9

Research areas
  • Mental Illness / Substance
  • Personality disorders, Psychopathy, Schizophrenia, Suicide
  • 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

About Dr. Nicholls

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.

Recent Publications

View Dr. Nicholls' recent publications on ORCID

Selected Publications

The National Trajectory Project of individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Crocker, A.G., Nicholls, T.L., Seto, M.C., & Cote, G. (2015).  The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 96-97.

The National Trajectory Project of individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Part 1: Context and methods. Crocker, A.G., Nicholls, T.L., Seto, M.C., Cote, G., Charette, Y., & Caulet, M. (2015).  The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 98-105. 

The National Trajectory Project of individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Part 2: The people behind the label. Crocker, A.G., Nicholls, T.L., Seto, M.C., Charette, Y., Cote, G., & Caulet, M. (2015). The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 106-116. 

 The National Trajectory Project of individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Part 3: Trajectories and outcomes through the forensic system. Crocker, A.G., Charette, Y., Seto, M.C., Nicholls, T.L., Cote, G., & Caulet, M. (2015).The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 117-126.

 The National Trajectory Project of individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Part 4: Criminal recidivism. Charette, Y., Crocker, A.G., Seto, M.C., Salem, L., Nicholls, T.L., & Caulet, M. (2015). The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 127-134. 

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? Nicholls, T.L., Crocker, A.G., Seto, M.C., Wilson, C., Charette, Y., & Cote, G. (2015).  The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(3), 135-145. 

The use of risk and need factors in forensic mental health decision-making and the role of gender and index offense severity. Wilson, C., Crocker, A., Nicholls, T.L., Charette, Y., & Seto, M. (2015).  Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 33, 19-25.doi: 10.1002/bsl.2162

The validity of Version 3 of the HCR-20 violence risk assessment scheme amongst offenders and civil psychiatric patients. Strub, D., Douglas, K., & Nicholls, T.L. (2014).  International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 13(2), 148-159.

Supportive housing and forensic patient outcomes. Salem, L., Crocker, A., Charette, Y., Seto, M.C., Nicholls, T.L. & Cote, G. (2014). Law and Human Behavior.Advance online publication.doi:10.1037/lhb0000112

 Dynamic and static factors associated with discharge dispositions: The National Trajectory Project of Individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on Account of Mental Disorder in Canada. Crocker, A., Nicholls, T.L., Charette, Y., & Seto, M. (2014). Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 32(5), 577-595. doi:10.1002/bsl.2133

Criminal behavior and victimization among homeless individuals with severe mental illness: a systematic review. Roy,L., Crocker, A., Nicholls, T., Reyes, A., & Latimer, E. (2014).  Psychiatric Services, 65(6), 739-750.

Predictive validity of risk assessments in juvenile offenders: Comparing the SAVRY, PCL:YV and YLS/CMI with unstructured clinical assessments. Hilterman, E., Nicholls, T., & van Nieuwenhuizen, C. (2014).  Assessment, 21(3), 324-339. doi: 10.1177/1073191113498113

Towards a national agenda on mental health and criminal justice. Seto, M. C., Crocker, A. G., Nicholls, T. L., Cote, G. (2014).  Psynopsis, 36(1), 12-13.

Personality disorders, types of violence, and stress responses in females who perpetrate intimate partner violence. Spidel, A., Greaves, C., Nicholls, T.L., Goldenson, J., & Dutton, D.G. (2013). (Special Issue on Criminal Investigative Psychology) Psychology,4(9), 5-11.

Redevelopment of tertiary psychiatric services in British Columbia: A prospective study of clinical, social, and residential outcomes of former long-stay inpatients. Petersen, K.L., Nicholls, T.L., Groden, D., Schmitz, N., Stip, E., Goldner, E.M., Arnold, L.M., & Lesage, A. (2013).  Schizophrenia Research, 149(1-3), 96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.schres.2013.05.022

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

Assessment of multiple risk outcomes, strengths, and change with the START:AV: A short- term prospective study with adolescent offenders. Viljoen, J.L., Beneteau, J.L., Gulbransen, E., Brodersen, E., Desmarais, S. L., Nicholls, T. L., & Cruise, K. R. (2012).  International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 11(3), 165-180. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2012.737406

 Pilot implementation and preliminary evaluation of START:AV assessments in secure juvenile correctional facilities. Desmarais, S., Sellers, B., Viljoen, J., Cruise, C., Nicholls, T. L., & Dvoskin, J. (2012). International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 11(3), 150-164. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2012.737405

Taking stock and taking steps: The case for an adolescent version of the Short-Term Assessment of Risk and Treatability. Viljoen, J. L., Cruise, K. R., Nicholls, T. L., Desmarais, S. L., & Webster, C. D. (2012)  International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 11(3), 135-149. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2012.737406

Using dynamic risk and protective factors to predict inpatient aggression: Reliability and validity of START assessments. Desmarais, S., Nicholls, T. L., Wilson, C., & Brink, J. (2012). Psychological Assessment, 24(3), 685-700. doi: 10.1037/a0026668

 Risk assessment instruments in clinical practice. Cote, G., Crocker, A. G., Nicholls, T. L., & Seto, M. C. (2012).Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(4), 238-244

Prevalence of physical violence in intimate relationships: Part 2. Rates of male and female perpetration. Desmarais, S. L., Reeves, K. A., Nicholls, T. L., Telford, R., & Fiebert, M. S. (2012). Partner Abuse, 3(2), 170-198. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.3.2.17

Prevalence of physical violence in intimate relationships: Part 1. Rates of male and female victimization. Desmarais, S. L., Reeves, K. A., Nicholls, T. L., Telford, R., & Fiebert, M. S. (2012).  Partner Abuse, 3(2), 140-169. doi: 10.1891/1946-6560.3.2.140

 International trends in demand for forensic mental health services. Jansman-Hart, E. M., Seto, M. C. Crocker, A., G., Nicholls, T. L., & Cote, G. (2011). International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 10(4), 326-336. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2011.625591

Resilience and successful community reintegration among female forensic psychiatric patients: A preliminary investigation. Viljoen, S., Nicholls, T.L., Greaves, C., de Ruiter, C., & Brink, J. (2011) Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 29(5), 752-770. doi: 10.1002/bsl.1001

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

The impact of realigning a provincial tertiary hospital system on other Institutional sectors. Livingston, J. D., Nicholls, T. L., & Brink, J. (2011).  Psychiatric Services, 62(2), 200-205.

To detain or release?: Correlates of dispositions for individuals declared not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. Crocker, A., Braithwaite, E., Cote, G., Nicholls, T., & Seto, M. (2011).  Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(5), 293-302.

 Protective factors in forensic psychiatry: A new frontier. de Ruiter, C. & Nicholls, T. L. (2011). Guest editor for this special issue of International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 10(3), 160-170. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2010.534694

 Individuals found Not Criminally Responsible on account of Mental Disorder: Are we providing equal protection and equivalent access to mental health services to accused mentally ill individuals across Canada? Crocker, A. G., Nicholls, T. L., Cote, G., Latimer, E., & Seto, M. C. (2010). Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 29(2), 55-63.


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