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Prof Tim O'Brien
Prof Tim O'Brien profile picture
  • Honorary Professor
  • IOE - Psychology & Human Development
  • UCL Institute of Education

Honorary Professor in Psychology and Human Development. UCL Institute of Education.

Professor (part-time) in Psychology and Inclusion at MIC, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Inaugural Fellow of The UCL Centre for Inclusive Education.

Former Senior Lecturer, Westminster College, Oxford. 

CPsychol [British Psychological Society]


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

He was awarded The Hines Page Scholarship (UK/USA).

Work in the field includes:

Has been First Team Psychologist for three English Premier League Teams. He is currently Head of Psychology and Wellbeing at a Premiership club. 

Coaching in a range of global businesses. 

Working with teams on meta-level distributed cognition and co-construction of narratives to create higher performance. 

Consultant to two UK National Health Service Trusts. 

Tim worked in mainstream and special education:
Mainstream Education: 
Secondary (11-16) 
Special Education
Severe Learning Difficulties/Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (Primary) 
Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (age 4-16). 

Tim is a member of the UK Department for Education Expert Advisory Group on Mental Health and Wellbeing.

He was a judge in the first debating competition in the UK to take place inside a prison between prisoners. The competition took place at HMP Birmingham. 

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

Tim gives keynote presentations nationally and internationally.


He has authored, co-authored and edited many books, contributed chapters to books and published peer-reviewed articles. Tim's first book Promoting Positive Behaviour was published in 1998. His most recent book Inner Story: understand your mind was published in 2015. 

[For selected publications, please see the 'publications' tab]

Forthcoming publications:

O'Brien, T. (2020) Has inclusion become a barrier to inclusion? 

O'Brien, T. and Guiney. D. (2021) Wellbeing: How we make sense of it and what this means for wellbeing in the workplace (in press) 

Editorial Board: Support for Learning, NASEN.
Peer reviewer British Journal of Music Education.

Research Summary


Empirical Field:  Psychology. 

Empirical Setting: Psychological constructions - including constructions of reality, constructions of meaning, constructions of emotional and behavioural needs and difficulties. 

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

Methodological Framework: Qualitative. Grounded Theory. 

Tim's current research focus areas include:

Meta-level distributed cognition in teams and its impact on performance.

Construction of reality and shared mental models/narratives in groups/teams.

Domains and dimensions of wellbeing in multiple contexts 

Inclusive provision for children and young people who experience social, emotional and mental health needs [SEMH].

He designed and co-led, with Dr. Dennis Guiney, the Teacher Wellbeing programme for The Chartered College of Teaching. This programme incorporates both psychology and phenomenology, has a practical focus and took place in Government Opportunity Areas across the UK.The focus is on improving teacher wellbeing through action research, exploring the lived experience of teachers and defining and understanding what wellbeing means to teachers in their own schools.  

In 2018 with Dr. Amelia Roberts and Dr Dennis Guiney he led a ten month research and knowledge exchange programme [Supporting Wellbeing, Emotional Resilience and Learning: SWERL] in the area of children's wellbeing, resilience and learning in primary schools with a particular focus on young children who experience SEMH. The schools were mainly from London Boroughs.

In 2019 the SWERL programme took place with 15 rural schools in one of the UK government Opportunity areas [Suffolk] 

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

Tim completed the 'Staff Wellbeing in Higher Education' research study for The Education Support Partnership - the only charity in the UK to offer wellbeing and mental health services to education staff and organisations. The research applies an a posteriori inductive analytic methodology and is a signposting study for future large scale research. Outcomes and recommendations were reported in 2019 - see 'publications' (O'Brien and Guiney, 2019).


Teaching Summary

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