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Dr Tim O'Brien
  • Honorary Senior Lecturer
  • IOE - Social Science
  • UCL Institute of Education

Honorary Senior Lecturer and Visiting Fellow in Psychology and Human Development at UCL, Institute of Education. 

Former Senior Lecturer, Westminster College, Oxford. 

Former Lecturer in Psychology and Special Needs [specialising in Emotional and Behavioural needs] at the Institute of Education, University of London.


Tim was the first person to be awarded The Fulton Fellowship. 

The Hines Page Scholarship (UK/USA).

Work in the field of psychology, human development and wellbeing includes:

First Team Psychologist/Club Psychologist for three English Premier League Teams. This included over 10 years as First Team Psychologist at Arsenal Football Club. Tim left Arsenal FC three years ago to return to academic work.

Coaching individuals and teams in a range of global businesses. Tim has applied Grounded Theory as an analytic methodology for insight into, and development of, higher performance in business teams in multiple business sectors. 

Consulting to National Health Service executive teams across the UK. 

Tim worked in mainstream and specialist education...

Mainstream education: 

Secondary, Comprehensive (11-16) 

Specialist education: 

Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs (SEMH age 4-16) 

Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD, primary) [Advanced Diploma in Psychology and SLD].

He was recently a judge in the first debating competition in the UK to take place inside a prison between prisoners. This took place at HMP Birmingham and was organised by the Institute of Ideas. 

He has also been a judge for the national TES School Awards.


Tim's first book 'Promoting Positive Behaviour' was published in 1998. 

His most recent book, 'Inner Story: Understand Your Mind. Change Your World', was published in 2016. 

He has co-written, edited and contributed to books in the field of psychology and human development, inclusion and pedagogy since 1998.

Examples include ...

O'Brien, T. (2001) Enabling Inclusion: Blue Skies...Dark Clouds? London: The Stationery Office.

O'Brien, T. and Guiney, D. (2001) Differentiation in Teaching and Learning: principles and practice. London: Continuum.

O'Brien, T. and Garner, P. (eds) (2001) Untold Stories: Learning Support Assistants and their work. Stoke-on-Trent: Trentham.

O'Brien, T. (2002) 'As Chaotic as a Box of Frogs' in B.Rogers (ed) Leadership and Behaviour Management. London: Paul Chapman

O'Brien, T. and Guiney, D. (2004) 'The Problem is not the Problem: Hard Cases in Modernist Systems' in P. Garner, P. Clough, T. Pardeck and F. Yuen (eds) Handbook of Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties. London: Sage

O'Brien, T. (2005) 'Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties' in Lewis, A and Norwich, B. (eds) Special Teaching for Special Children? Pedagogies for Inclusion.  Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

O'Brien, T. (2017) 'Psychology and... ' in McGill, R. (2017) Mark. Plan. Teach. London: Bloomsbury.

Member of the British Psychological Society.
Peer Reviewer for The British Journal of Music Education. 

Research Summary

PhD 2003:

Empirical Field: Psychology: Emotional and Behavioural Needs. 

Empirical Setting: Psychological constructions  
[including, constructions of reality; constructions of pedagogy; constructions of similarity and difference].

Theoretical Framework: Psychology, Phenomenology, Philosophy. Conceptual Pluralism.

Methodological Framework: Qualitative. Grounded Theory. 

Current Research:

- In 2017/2018 co-led, with Dr. Amelia Roberts, a ten month research and knowledge exchange programme (SWERL) in the area of wellbeing, resilience and learning in primary schools with a particular focus on young children who experience social, emotional and mental health needs [SEMH]. 

In 2018/2019 the SWERL programme is taking place with 12 secondary schools in one of the government Opportunity areas.

SWERL research is being conducted through the UCL Centre for Inclusive Education and the UCL Department of Psychology and Human Development.

- Currently leading 'Staff wellbeing in Higher Education' research project for The Education Support Partnership using an inductive analytic methodology for thematising data. Outcomes will be reported to the government. 

- Tim is a member of the Educator Wellbeing Steering Group for The Education Support Partnership, the only charity in the UK to offer wellbeing and mental heath services to education staff and organisations. He is a also a member of the Wellbeing advisory group reporting to Lucy Powell MP, Education Select Committee.

- Designed and co-leads, with Dr. Dennis Guiney, a Teacher Wellbeing programme for The Chartered College of Teaching. This programme includes action research, incorporates both psychology and phenomenology, has a practical focus and is currently taking place in Government Opportunity Areas across the UK. 

Teaching Summary

Teaching at Masters level.

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