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Thomas Nilsson

PhD in Clinical psychology

Senior Lecturer in psychological assessment in forensic psychiatry at the Department of Forensic Psychiatry, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, the University of Gothenburg, and a licensed psychologist affiliated with the Forensic Psychiatric Clinic.


My research interest in the field of Forensic Psychiatry took a real leap forward in 2004 when I joined “the Research Group in Forensic Psychiatry” led by Professor Henrik Anckarsäter. This step into research was preceded by several years of clinical practice at the Department of Forensic Psychiatry, the National Board of Medicine (RMV). RMV is a state agency that supports the legal system with expert testimony in the field of medicine, which in my case meant working with court ordered forensic psychiatric expert evaluations of mentally disordered perpetrators and risk assessment of prisoners sentenced to life-time. It was after years of clinical practice stimulating to deepening the dialog between clinical experience and scientific thinking, where my clinical experience were challenged by intriguing questions and innovative perspectives. Since then my work focus have changed from primarily being a clinical practitioner to a researcher with only a foot left in the field of clinical practice. I was a member of CELAM from the start in 2012, when the Research Group in Forensic Psychiatry were changed into an interdisciplinary centre focusing on a broad spectrum of questions of importance for the practice of forensic psychiatry. Most of my time today centres on the following two main areas of work; conducting research and supervision of graduate and postgraduate students. As for CELAM I have a broad interest covering many aspects within the field of Forensic Psychiatry, such as factors behind the development of aggressive antisocial behaviours to the concept of accountability, from predictors of recidivism into criminality to the scientific status of psychiatric classification systems. My research have, however, mainly been focused on the long-time outcome of different clinical groups such as delinquent juveniles, mentally disordered perpetrators, and forensic psychiatric patients, with regard to mental health, substance abuse and criminal recidivism.

Current main research areas

1. Follow-up studies of different clinical study groups and cohorts of forensic psychiatric investigees, convicted perpetrators of violent and sexual crimes, and youths placed in institutional care, with the aim of describing the development of aggressive antisocial behaviours and mental disorders during periods from 3-5 years up to 10-15 years, and in some cases even nearly 20 years. During the next few years, we intend to further explore risk and protective factors in mentally disordered offenders, especially with regard to intimate partnership violence and sexual crimes against adults, along with the explanatory value of such factors in terms of long-term outcome. Another focus will be on victim preferences among child sexual abusers with repeated criminality and whether they are stable with regard to victim-offender relationship and age, as well as gender, of victims. Finally, we plan to broaden this research, which up till now mainly have focused on individual aspects of importance for the understanding of aggressive antisocial behaviours, with data describing situational factors that interacts with the affected individuals and contributes to the process that leads to aggressive antisocial acts.

2. Community supervision is one of the most used sanctions among all forms of correctional treatment, but the effects of this, often rather unstructured, treatment is hitherto quite unknown. This practice have hardly not been in the focus for any systematic evaluations, and the actual execution of this practice have mainly rested on the shoulders of probation officers without any systematized instrument for how to carry out this mission. Nevertheless, to judge from contemporary knowledge within this field there is reason to believe that non-institutional care is more efficacious than institutional care with regard to prevention of criminal recidivism and a successful re-entry into society. With the aim to enhance community supervision and make it more effective with regard to its outcome, the Canadian researchers Donald Andrews and James Bonta developed a programme based on the principles of Risk, Need and Responsivity labelled “Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision” (STICS). This treatment programme has been implemented and evaluated in Canada with rather promising results, and it is now transferred into Swedish and currently tested in a randomized clinical trial. The aim of this study is to evaluate the effects of this programme on outcome in terms of criminal recidivism and pro-social re-entry into society.

3. A randomized control pilot trial investigating whether a pharmacological substance (OSU6162) has any positive effect on the level of aggressive behaviours. This pilot study will be carried out in a prison setting where prisoners persistent in violent criminality (≥ 3 convictions for violent criminality) will be given the opportunity to participate in a double blind 4 plus 1 plus 4 weeks cross-over treatment study. The primary outcome measure is occurrence of aggressive antisocial behaviours, and if the result of this pilot study is positive we plane to go on with a new more extensive RCT study in either a forensic psychiatric setting or a high secure prison.
















Thomas Nilsson

Contact Information

Centre for Ethics, Law and Mental Health; Thomas Nilsson

Rågården, Hus 1, SU-Östra sjukhuset, 416 85 Göteborg, Sweden

Visiting Address:
SU, Rättspsykiatri, Rågårdsvägen 5, Gunnilse

46 (0)31 343 87 30

Page Manager: Stefan Axelsson|Last update: 3/13/2014

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