Joanne Nicholson

Professor of the Practice

Joanne  Nicholson's photo


Office: Heller-Brown Building 252
Phone: 63978
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families and mental health, intervention development and testing, community engagement, implementation/adaptation science, mixed methods research, technology-based solutions, psychiatric rehabilitation


  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Syracuse University

Joanne Nicholson

Professor of the Practice


Joanne Nicholson, Ph.D., is Professor in the Institute for Behavioral Health and a clinical and research psychologist with over 30 years of experience working with parents with serious mental illnesses and their families. She is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Nicholson has an active program of research on parents and their children, in partnership with people in recovery. She and her collaborators have developed rehabilitation education and training programs and materials for parents, integrating the current knowledge on parents with serious mental illnesses and evaluating interventions for families, including the pilot Family Options intervention and, more recently, the ParentingWell initiative in Massachusetts, USA. Nicholson and colleagues are exploiting emerging technologies on behalf of individuals with serious mental illnesses, developing and testing the WorkingWell mobile app to provide support for individuals in the workplace.

Nicholson has provided training and consultation to local, regional, and national organizations such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the Manic Depressive/ Depressive Association, Mental Health America, Families for Depression Awareness, the Institute on Family-Centered Care, and the Child Welfare League of America. She has visited parents and programs around the world as a consultant and trainer, providing keynote presentations and working together with national and international groups in Australia, The Netherlands, Spain, Norway, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Austria, Finland and provinces across Canada. Nicholson and her colleagues published the first guide for parents living with mental illness written by parents, Parenting Well When You’re Depressed and a guide for professionals written by professionals, Creating Options for Family Recovery: A Provider’s Guide to Promoting Parental Mental Health. She has published over 150 papers and original articles in professional journals and edited volumes, as well as provided interviews for newspapers, magazines and radio in the U.S. and other countries, and has been an invited contributor to the Huffington Post.

Nicholson has received funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the National Alliance for Mental Illness Research Institute, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Library of Medicine, PCORI, the National Science Foundation, private foundations and industry sources. She is an Advisory Group member and consultant to numerous research initiatives and community-based organizations serving parents and families in the U.S. and abroad.

Awards and Honors

  • National Science Foundation I-Corps National Initiative (2021 - 2022)
  • Fellow, National Science Foundation I-CORPS Initiative, Brandeis University (2020)
  • Finalist, MassChallenge HealthTech 2020 Cohort (2020)
  • Invited Member, Advisory Board, Rutgers University, PCORI “Comparative Effectiveness of Perinatal Psychiatry Access Programs.” (2020)
  • Senior Advisor, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, PCORI-funded “Empowering Mothers and Providers and Other Stakeholders to Weigh In as Experts in Research.” (2020)
  • Co-Editor, Journal of Parent and Family Mental Health (2019)
  • Deputy Chair, Steering Committee, Prato International Research Collaborative for Change in Parent & Child Mental Health (2019)
  • Disability Scholar. Orchestrating Change: The Me2/Orchestra. Massachusetts Humanities Council. (2019)
  • Invited Member, Advisory Board, Simmons University IMLS initiative, “Retooling the Librarian Workforce: Innovative Post-Master’s Certificate Program for Developing Inter-Professional Informationists (IPI).” (2019)
  • Invited Advisory Board Chair. Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft, Open Innovation in Science Center, Vienna, Austria. (2018)
  • Gailanne Reeh Annual Lecture, Children's Behavioral Health Knowledge Center, Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (2017)
  • NIDILRR International Rehabilitation Research Travel Fellowship (2017)
  • Ambassador Award, Children of Parents with Mental Illness National Initiative, Adelaide, Australia (2016)
  • President's Choice Book Award, British Medical Association, for Parental Psychiatric Disorder, 3rd edition (2016)
  • Inaugural Fellow, Gender Research Institute at Dartmouth (2013)
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Senate Official Citation for Outstanding Woman in Medicine and Science (2011)
  • Katharine F. Erskine Award for Outstanding Woman in Medicine and Science (2011)
  • 11th Annual Bruce Woodcock Memorial Lecture, Mental Illness Fellowship Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2010)
  • Distinguished Service Award, Children of Mentally Ill Consumers of Western Australia (2010)
  • International Guest Speaker, Mental Illness Fellowship of Australia, National Schizophrenia Awareness Week (2010)
  • Women's Faculty Community Service Award, University of Massachusetts Medical School (2010)
  • Lilly Reintegration Award in Social Support with community agency partner Employment Options, Inc., Marlborough, MA (2009)
  • Fellow, American Psychological Association, Division 37 (2008)
  • Mary E. Switzer Distinguished Research Fellow, NIDILRR (2008)
  • Steven Banks Award for Outstanding Research Mentoring, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School (2008)
  • Armin Loeb Award for Distinguished Career Contribution, US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association (2006)
  • Distinguished Fellow, William T. Grant Foundation (2005)


  • Goff, S. L., Gurewich, D., Alcusky, M., Kachoria, A. G., Nicholson, J. & Himmelstein, J. "Barriers and facilitators to implementation and sustainment of 17 new Medicaid accountable care organizations in Massachusetts: A study protocol." Frontiers in Public Health (2021).
  • Mazel, S., Zisman-Ilani, Y., Hennig, S., Garnick, D., & Nicholson, J. "Virtual engagement in a social media community of mothers with substance use disorders: Content analysis." JMIR Form Res 5. 6 (2021): e24353.
  • Nicholson, J., English, K., & Heyman, M. "The ParentingWell learning collaborative feasibility study: Training adult mental health service practitioners in a family-focused practice approach." Community Mental Health Journal (2021).
  • Nicholson, Joanne. "Risks linked with parental mental illness and substance use are undeniable, but efforts to scale-out and sustain evidence-based practices are challenging." Frontiers Featured News in Psychiatry (2021)
  • Powell, R. M., & Nicholson, J. "Addressing risk factors among parents with serious mental illness: Commentary on Ostrow et al." Psychiatric Services 72. 4 (2021): 466-467.
  • Reupert, Andrea, Bee, Penny, Hosman, Clemens, ... Nicholson, Joanne ... & Ruud, Torlief. "Prato Research Collaborative for change in parent and family mental health - principles and recommendations for working with children and parents living with parental mental illness." Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi:10.1111/jcpp.13521. (2021).
  • Valentine, Anne; Walker, Robert; Nicholson, Joanne. "Key considerations in building the organizational capacity to implement peer support for parents with mental illness." Advances in Mental Health (2021).
  • Nicholson, J., de Girolamo, G., & Schrank, B. "Editorial: Parents with mental and/or substance use disorders and their children." Front. Psychiatry 10. 915 (2020): doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00915.
  • Nicholson, J., de Girolamo, G., & Schrank, B., ed. Parents with mental and/or substance use disorders and their children. Lausanne: Frontiers Media SA. doi: 10.3389/978-2-88963-8, 2020.
  • Powell, R. M., Mitra, M., Nicholson, J. & Parish, S. L. "Perceived community-based needs of low-income parents with psychiatric disabilities who experienced legal challenges to their parenting rights." Children and Youth Services Review 112. (2020):
  • Powell, R. M., Parish, S. L., Mitra, M. & Nicholson, J. "Responding to the legal needs of parents with psychiatric disabilities: Insights from parent interviews." Law & Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice, The University of Minnesota XXXVIII. (2020): 69-114.
  • Foster, K., Goodyear, M., Grant, A., Weimand, B. & Nicholson, J. "Family-focused practice with EASE: A practice framework for strengthening relational recovery when mental health consumers are parents." International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 28. 1 (2019): 351-360.
  • Mazel, S., Hennig, S., Zisman Ilani, Y., Nicholson, J. "Mothers, mental health and opioids: Engaging with researchers" Journal of Parent and Family Mental Health 4. 1 (2019): 1012.
  • Namkung, E. H., Mitra, M., & Nicholson, J. "Do disability, parenthood, and gender matter for health disparities?: A US population-based study." Disability and Health Journal 12. 4 (2019): 594-601.
  • Nicholson, J. & English, K. The ParentingWell Practice Profile. Waltham, MA: National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities, Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, 2019.
  • Nicholson, J. & English, K. The ParentingWell Workbook. Waltham, MA: National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities, Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, 2019.
  • Nicholson, J. & Valentine, A. "Key informants specify core elements of peer supports for parents with serious mental illness." Front. Psychiatry 10. (2019): 106.
  • Powell, R. & Nicholson, J. "Commentary: Disparities in child protective services." Psychiatric Services 70. 3 (2019): 209-210.
  • Nicholson, J. & Valentine, A. "Defining “Peerness”: Developing peer supports for parents with mental illnesses." Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 41. 2 (2018): 157-159.
  • Nicholson, J., Wright, S., Carlisle, A., Sweeney, M.A. & McHugo, G. J. "The WorkingWell Smartphone App for Individuals with Serious Mental Illnesses: Proof-of-Concept, Mixed Methods Feasibility Study." JMIR Mental Health 5. 4 (2018): e11383.
  • Sonik, R.A., Parish, S.L., Mitra, M., & Nicholson, J. "Material hardship and program participation among parents with and without disabilities." Review of Disability Studies: An International Journal 14. 4 (2018).