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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR)


The Division of Services and Intervention Research (DSIR) supports two critical areas of research:

  • Intervention research to evaluate the effectiveness of pharmacologic, psychosocial (psychotherapeutic and behavioral), somatic, rehabilitative and combination interventions on mental and behavior disorders-including acute and longer-term therapeutic effects on functioning across domains (such as school, family, peer functioning) for children, adolescents, and adults.
  • Mental health services research.

The interventions focus is broad and inclusive with respect to the heterogeneity of patients, the severity and chronicity of disorders, and the variety of community and institutional settings in which treatment is provided. It includes clinical trials evaluating the effectiveness of known efficacious interventions, as well as studies evaluating modified or adapted forms of interventions for use with additional populations (such as women, ethnic, and racial groups), new settings (public sector, pediatric primary care, schools, other non-academic settings, communities at large), and people with co-occurring disorders. Other foci include: identifying subgroups who may be more likely to benefit from treatment, evaluating the combined or sequential use of interventions (such as to extend effect among refractory subgroups), determining the optimal length of intervention, establishing the utility of continuation or maintenance treatment (that is, for prevention of relapse or recurrence), and evaluating the long-term impact of efficacious interventions on symptoms and functioning.

Services research covers all mental health services research issues across the lifespan and disorders, including but not limited to:

  • Services organization, delivery (process and receipt of care), and related health economics at the individual, clinical, program, community and systems levels in specialty mental health, general health, and other delivery settings (such as the workplace).
  • Interventions to improve the quality and outcomes of care (including diagnostic, treatment, preventive, and rehabilitation services).
  • Enhanced capacity for conducting services research.
  • The clinical epidemiology of mental disorders across all clinical and service settings.
  • The dissemination and implementation of evidence-based interventions into service settings.

The Division also provides biostatistical analysis and clinical trials operations expertise for research studies; analyzes and evaluates national mental health needs and community research partnership opportunities; and supports research on health disparities.

For the Division and each program we also provide Areas of High Priority and Areas of Emphasis. In addition, we continue to encourage innovative applications in any area relevant to the mission of the Institute.

Areas of High Priority

  • Develop innovative interventions, including treatment regimens, prevention strategies, and innovative service delivery approaches, and personalize them for optimal use in diverse populations (e.g, across geographic locations, underserved groups, those with comorbid conditions, and all age groups).
  • Test interventions through effectiveness research and practical clinical trials, to ensure that they are safe, maximize recovery and functioning, cost-effective, and personalized (e.g., by determining optimal lengths, combinations, and sequences of interventions as well as subgroups in whom they work best).
  • Reduce the significant burden and mortality associated with suicidality through research on early detection, assessment, interventions, and services for individuals at risk in populations of all ages.
  • Identify effective dissemination and implementation processes and mechanisms to increase the uptake of scientifically informed treatments and services.
  • Employ strategic partnerships and community engagement/ participation to enhance research capacity and infrastructure to conduct research in underserved and diverse populations, as well as traditional and nontraditional service settings.
  • Identify new targets for innovative intervention (development/ refinement) and service delivery models through research that examines the burdens from mental illness as well as the current use, benefits, safety, costs, and unmet needs for mental health care.


Robert K. Heinssen, Ph.D., ABPP
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7141, MSC 9629

Deputy Director

Joel Sherrill, Ph.D.
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 7147, MSC 9629