Sample Presentations

I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from their Parents, Caregivers, and Schools

How can we show children we love them even when they push us away? How do we make children more resilient when they are angry, self-harming, anxious, abusive or delinquent? In this story-filled presentation, Dr. Michael Ungar provides nine practical strategies parents, caregivers and educators need to help young people of all ages heal, no matter a child’s emotional, psychological or behavioral problems. Based on material from his new book, I Still Love You, his clinical practice and his research around the world, Michael will share what families and schools have taught him about the power of unconditional love. Be prepared for an inspiring presentation. Michael’s words will help you understand the importance of the everyday heroics that change children’s lives, even when children’s parents, caregivers and educators are frustrated and unsure what to do next.

The Risk-Taker’s Advantage: How to Make Kids More Resilient by not Bubblewrapping Them

As both a family therapist and a world-renowned researcher on resilience, Michael Ungar has noticed that many families and schools have become so overprotective that children never have a chance to develop the normal coping strategies children need for independent lives. Though the stats tell us that children today are safer than ever before in history, parents are failing to give them what Michael has called ‘the risk-taker’s advantage.’ The results are a generation of bubblewrapped kids with anxiety disorders, an inflated sense of entitlement, or misguided efforts to find their own rites of passage into adulthood, often with catastrophic results. Based on his best-selling book, Too Safe For Their Own Good, Michael shows us how to help families and schools stop being overprotective and provide kids with what they need to grow up well. You can expect:

  • A very amusing, and at times, shocking presentation that debunks the myth of the dangerous middle-class community.
  • To hear practical ways therapist can help families and schools reconsider their children’s developmental needs and offer them more risk and responsibility.
  • To laugh and be inspired by stories of schools and communities that have helped parents give their children the risk-taker’s advantage.

Tough Conversations: Nurturing Resilience when Young People’s Problems are Very Complex

Do you ever feel that your clinical work with young people avoids tough conversations about race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, where one lives, and exposure to violence? Or that young people’s problems are so complex that therapy never has a chance to build momentum because their caregivers are too stressed to get themselves or their kids to sessions? In this story-filled presentation, we’ll explore concrete ways we can make young people and their families more resilient, especially when the places they live are socially, emotionally, or physically dangerous.

  • Discover how to use a real-life social ecological ‘map’ to engage young clients more fully in therapy.
  • Discuss how to build a mutual contract to achieve useful therapeutic goals that are personally and culturally meaningful to the child.
  • Explore how to help young clients successfully transition their success in therapy to their real-life social ecology.

Why Young People Go to School, and Why They Don’t

There is much we can learn from young people themselves about why they go to school, and why they don’t. Typically, we measure school engagement by a child’s behaviour (attendance, grades, motivation, self-discipline), cognitions (perception that attending school is going to contribute to success in life), and feelings (a sense of belonging at school). Dr. Ungar’s research and clinical work with children around the world is showing that vulnerable learners, delinquent youth, children with mental health challenges, victims of family violence and neglect, and youth marginalized because of their ethnicity, race, abilities or sexual orientation, all value an education. However, they are more likely to engage with their teachers and attend class when they feel that school is a place where they are treated fairly (in the classroom and on the playground), when they have opportunities to develop skills they perceive as useful later in life, when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum, and they can make a contribution to the welfare of others. In this story-filled presentation, Michael will discuss the importance of thinking about schools as a part of a complex social ecology that is necessary to meet children’s psychological, social and emotional needs. He will show with examples from his research and practice what young people want from their schools and how schools can make themselves engaging spaces where children find meaningful and culturally relevant support.

The Social Ecology of Resilience: Families, Schools, and Communities

Resilience is not just an individual’s capacity to overcome adversity. It is also the result of how well individuals, their families and communities work together to help vulnerable individuals navigate their way to the resources they need for wellbeing, and whether those resources are made available in ways that people say are meaningful to them. In this presentation, Dr. Michael Ungar will use examples from his clinical practice and research collaborations on six continents to explore the nature of resilience among children and adults. His work suggests the need for an ecological, culturally sensitive interpretation of what resilience means to people who are confronting great adversity. His work challenges us to think about resilience as something nurtured rather than something innate. With stories from the individuals and families whom he’s met around the world, Michael will show how seven factors associated with resilience make it more likely people will do well. He’ll discuss each factor along with strategies families, communities and governments can use to make each more available and accessible.

Diagnosing” Resilience Across Cultures and Contexts: Seeing The Positive in Young People Even When There are Serious Problems

With growing interest in resilience among mental health care providers, there is a need for a simple way to think about the complex interactions that predict which children will do well despite the seriousness of the challenges they face. A focus on resilience helps us to understand children’s individual adaptive and maladaptive coping strategies, as well as the social and physical ecologies that facilitate processes associated with resilience. Using case examples of children who have been exposed to high levels of adversity such as family violence, mental illness of a child or caregiver, natural disasters, forced migration, poverty, racism and other types of social marginalization and political conflict, Michael will show how we can assess childhood resilience and use that assessment to guide practice. He will show that by “diagnosing” resilience, we are in a better position to design interventions that are sensitive to the individual, family, school and community factors that influence a child’s wellbeing. Seven factors common to children who cope well under adversity and avoid problems like depression, PTSD, and delinquency will be discussed. This presentation will also explore ways we can intervene to help children cope by changing the social and physical environments that surround them.

Breaking the Silos: Possibilities and Perils of Interagency Collaborations

While interagency collaboration may have many advantages, there has been a tendency by mental health professionals and the courts to over-use referrals and assessments. With stories from his work around the world, Michael will show that collaboration between service providers can, ironically, be experienced by clients as disruptive to the continuity of a well-designed plan of care. As a clinical supervisor and co-Director of the Resilience Research Centre, Michael has observed a disturbing trend: more referrals have led to less casework, client confusion, and lower client satisfaction with the services they receive. Furthermore, those with the most complex needs may still not be accessing services because of the burden multiple referrals place on them. While not an argument for reductions in spending for health and social services, Michael will show that clients who engage well with a single service provider are more likely to report both service satisfaction and higher scores on measures of well-being. A number of ways to effectively break down service silos, without damaging the client-worker relationship, will be discussed such as Children’s Houses/Child Advocacy Centers, system navigators, Wraparound services, and more collaborative models of treatment.

Resilience on the Job: Maintaining Our Capacity to Cope During Times of Change and Challenge

Despite the myth of the rugged individual, studies of resilience are showing that our ability to cope with change is not just about having the right personal qualities. Our resilience is as, and sometimes more, dependent upon the types of support we receive from our employers, families and communities when workplace stress is high. In this inspiring, story-filled presentation, Dr. Ungar will use his research from around the world and examples from his clinical practice to explain nine factors that are critical to the resilience of employees on the job. Dr. Ungar will discuss:

  1. The need for structure and opportunities for advancement.
  2. The benefits of predictable consequences related to performance.
  3. The value of the many different relationships people need to cope well and the sense of belonging that results.
  4. Strategies to maintain a powerful identity during employment disruptions.
  5. Ways to experience personal control when job stress increases.
  6. The need for employees to advocate for fair treatment.
  7. The importance of ensuring basic needs get met.
  8. The need for one’s work to be meaningful.
  9. The necessity of making workplaces physical and psychologically safe.

In the second part of Dr. Ungar’s presentation, he will show that while all nine factors help people maintain their wellbeing during periods of transition in their workplaces, these factors can also offer employers ways to motivate their employees to contribute more to the growth and innovation taking place around them.

Helping those Who Help Nurture and Maintain Their Resilience

Sustaining our resilience as professional helpers can be a challenge during times of change. Based on Dr. Ungar’s research around the world, and his clinical practice, this presentation will explore how those who help others can avoid burnout and maintain their own career and life resilience when stressors pile up at home and on the job. Seven factors that make us more resilient as adults will be discussed, along with practical tips for coping successfully in culturally and contextually relevant ways. Using the concepts of navigation and negotiation that are key to understanding resilience in complex, changing environments, participants will have an opportunity to reflect on their own resilience in life, as well as times at work and at home where they had the resources they needed to succeed. Finally, Dr. Ungar will talk about vicarious resilience, the positive impact we experience as helpers when we nurture resilience in others.

Career Resilience

Career resilience is our ability to cope with changing employment opportunities. With exercises and stories from his research and clinical work, Dr. Ungar will show how people can increase their career resilience from their first job through to their retirement. Using two concepts borrowed from studies of resilience across the lifespan (navigation and negotiation) Dr. Ungar will offer seven principles that make people more likely to sustain healthy career paths. These principles include:

  1. Balance dreaming and reality.
  2. Do what you love somewhere in your life.
  3. Plan with positive uncertainty.
  4. Find a starting point rather than a destination.
  5. Expect the unexpected.
  6. Always have a Plan ‘B’.
  7. Expect to be uncomfortable.

Participants will have an opportunity to reflect on their own resilience at work and to develop strategies for accessing the resources they need to cope well during times of change. While participants will be invited to reflect on the value of both career disruptions and how to survive in difficult work environments, the focus will be on thinking about work as just one part of people’s complex lives. Be prepared for a fascinating, inspiring exploration of career possibilities.

Researching Resilience Across Cultures and Contexts: An Example of Mixed Methods, Transformative Research

In this presentation, Dr. Michael Ungar will explore how we can study resilience and wellbeing using mixed methods designs. The focus will be on how to use these methods in participatory ways to develop knowledge that informs policy and practice. A brief introduction to the theory of resilience and wellbeing will be followed by an overview of mixed methods and examples of their use in studies conducted by the Resilience Research Centre. Discussion will include topics such as contextualization, measure development, sample selection, data collection, analysis, seeking convergence between the qualitative and quantitative data, and knowledge mobilization. Participants are encouraged to bring questions relating to their own research topics.

To book Michael for your next event or conference, email