Larry Davidson, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Yale Department of Psychiatry, where he founded and for 22 years directed the Program for Recovery and Community Health. All of Davidson’s work has been informed by his own lived experience of being an on-going user of psychiatric care, and he has received national and international awards for his research, mentoring, and policy making efforts. He is married and has three daughters.
Davidson initially came to Yale for pre- and postdoctoral training. There he met John Strauss, who had produced seminal research on the outcomes of serious mental illnesses, establishing that recovery was just as common, if not more so, as chronicity as a long-term outcome. With Strauss’ guidance, Davidson listened to the perspectives of persons who had recovered and sought to describe the processes of improvement in serious mental illnesses. His first book, Living Outside Mental Illness: Qualitative Studies of Recovery, summarized this body of research, identifying the reconstruction of an effective sense of self in community with others as central to the process of reclaiming one’s life beyond mental illness.
Davidson then turned to translating the implications of what he had learned about processes of improvement into developing new interventions to promote recovery. Utilizing qualitative and community-based participatory action research methods, he and colleagues developed and evaluated person-centered recovery planning and a range of peer-delivered recovery supports. These developments came to be referred to under the rubric of “recovery-oriented practices,” leading Davidson and his colleagues to publish a 2009 book entitled A practical guide to recovery-oriented practice.
In addition to research, this book was informed by work Davidson had been doing for a decade for the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Beginning with the first Commissioner’s Policy to propose re-orienting behavioral health services to the promotion of recovery in 2002, Davidson worked closely with Tom Kirk and Arthur Evans to design and implement the country’s first “recovery-oriented system of care.” This work involved defining and then training providers in recovery-oriented care as part of a system transformation process that shifted the aims of care from symptom and substance use stabilization to the reclaiming of a life worth living. Throughout this work, Davidson and colleagues were committed to identifying and redressing social, cultural, ethnic, racial, and economic disparities as they related to health care, opportunities for recovery, and participation of persons in the communities of their choice.
Davidson was then invited to lead a SAMHSA-funded effort to develop and direct a national initiative entitled “Recovery to Practice.” The aims of this initiative were to identify and disseminate the vision of recovery and newly developed recovery-oriented practices to and through all behavioral health organizations. As Director of this initiative, Davidson spent much of his time between 2009-2014 being a national spokesperson for recovery-oriented care.