Courtenay M. Harding

(Biography written at time of nomination.)

Courtenay M. Harding, who was a member of the ISPS International Board from 1997 to 2003, is probably one, of the contemporary professionals, who has contributed the most to changing the image, prognosis and rehabilitation of persons diagnosed with schizophrenia.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, she conducted a series of longitudinal studies in the United States which gave detailed descriptions of the 30-year plus positive evolution of the worst cases ever studied. These NIMH studies have dismantled a series of prejudices, or as she has stated, “myths” that had become classic dogmas of psychiatry. Such myths had focused upon an expected downward course which, in turn, negatively impacted care and expectations and made many self-fulfilling prophesies.

She turned her attention to retraining the caring professions and revamping systems of care. She helped lead several centers focusing on clinical work, public policy, education, and research on recovery, rehabilitation and resilience in Connecticut, Colorado and Massachusetts. Her current position is the Director of the Center for Rehabilitation and Recovery at The Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, in New York City. She and her team serve 120 agencies, which are, in turn, in charge of 350,000 persons with serious and persistent psychiatric disorders.

Professor Harding has devoted nearly three decades with much effort and great enthusiasm to study, teach, and demonstrate empirically that the future of these patients is more associated with their lives, hopes and dreams, interpersonal relationships, the work that they perform, the rehabilitation resources, and support networks they receive rather than to the external manifestations of the psychotic experiences which clinical psychiatry has been calling symptoms.

She is tireless advocate and renovator of the concepts and practices of rehabilitation and recovery, trying to promote a more integrated model. She emphasizes the key role of shifting the responsibility and control to these struggling persons, themselves, in regaining their life projects by improving their skills, interests and environments, in the behaviors that facilitate independence, family relationships and work activity, in learning from the present to improve their future, in overcoming stigma and discrimination to become full citizens in the community. Sometimes these efforts are in partnership with clinicians and sometimes by themselves with peer and/or family supports.

Dr. Harding has been an excellent pioneer challenging the status quo and changing the paradigm. Her longitudinal studies, many publications, and interventions have been a determining factor in dissolving the nosological crossword puzzle, which descriptive psychiatry had constructed, about the hopeless prognosis of schizophrenia. She has been tenacious in demonstrating the need to overcome the embedded pessimism and helping a return to the world of common sense, to the person themselves, to their daily life, their attitudes, coping strategies, capacities and hopes.

From within all of the institutions in which she has participated and headed, from the Universities of Vermont, Yale, Colorado or Boston where she was a Professor of Psychiatry, and now from New York, as well as from the ISPS and from all the other associations in which she is a member, she has been a tireless fighter for the recovery of the psychotic patients and to bridge the gaps between and the integration of rehabilitation and psychotherapy for those persons who are experiencing or have experienced these disorders.

That is why our Society is proud and honored to have her as one of our Honorary Members.