Ryan J. Dougherty’s research explores how political and social systems shape the ways that mental health services are delivered and experienced. Broadly, he aims to understand how governments can most ethically respond to the inequities experienced by people labeled with a serious mental illness, such as poverty, homelessness, and mass incarceration. To do so, Ryan explores ethical dilemmas that emerge in service delivery, particularly between providers and clients, and how broader political discourses shape decision-making in these scenarios. His dissertation examines how coercion in involuntary outpatient commitment is negotiated between treatment providers, the courts, and clients in relation to delivering psychiatric medications.
Ryan does applied research to impact mental health scholarship, policy, and practice. He specializes in qualitative methods and serves as a lead ethnographer for the UCLA Center for Social Medicine and Humanities, an interdisciplinary research team that works in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. He also serves as a qualitative researcher for the Recovery-Oriented Care Collaborative, a practice-based research network that connects researchers and providers to produce research relevant to pressing issues in services. He is particularly interested in interdisciplinary research and draws from theories in sociology, anthropology, and disability and mad studies. Ryan aims to pursue his interests in the philosophy of science and qualitative methodologies to support social workers in addressing complex social problems.