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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Pearse McCusker

Pearse McCusker
Dr Pearse McCusker
Senior Lecturer in Social Work
2.23 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)7793 403082
Research Interests
Mental Health, Adult Safeguarding, Critical Mindfulness, Critical pedagogy, Participatory Action Research, Social Work Law and Ethics

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • It varies so best to contact me directly to arrange


I am originally from Northern Ireland and moved to Scotland in 1993, initially settling in Edinburgh and working in homelessness for four years before studying for the Masters in Social Work degree at Glasgow University.  I qualified as a social worker in 1999 and practised for ten years, mainly in mental health in the West of Scotland, including, as a mental health officer and practice team leader in community mental health settings.  The opportunity to move to higher education arose in 2009 when I took up a post at Glasgow Caledonian University, initially as lecturer and then senior lecturer in social work.  My Scottish journey, to some extent, came full circle with a move to the University of Edinburgh in 2019 as senior lecturer in social work.  I am a member of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland and a Senior Fellow of The Higher Education Academy.

Teaching interests

My research and teaching interests are interlinked.  I am currently programme director for the post-qualifying award in Mental Health Social Work at the University of Edinburgh.  This centres on enabling qualified social workers to gain critical understandings of mental health and mental health law, in order to undertake the statutory Mental Health Officer role.  I also teach across the qualifying social work degree programmes on mental health, mindfulness, communication, anti-oppressive practice and research methods.  I have longstanding experience of programme design and innovation, and have made key contributions to institutional and regulatory body reviews, including as External Examiner for HEIs in England and Scotland.  My responsibilities also include supporting the participation of people with lived experience in teaching and learning on the social work degree programmes.  

Research interests

My abiding passion is mental health research, spanning a wide continuum from the ethics of compulsory interventions, conceptualising mental distress and adult safeguarding, to the potential of critical mindfulness for addressing oppression and supporting social justice aims in social work; the latter being the subject of my PhD, which was awarded in 2019.  My work is underpinned by a commitment to critical and contemplative theory and pedagogy, with related research activity exploring the lived experience of mental distress and participatory education and action research methodologies.  

Current projects

Developing self-care and professional identity in the Assessed and Supported Year for newly qualified social workers, funded by the Scottish Social Services Council.

Exploring professionals’ views on elder abuse, including prevalence, attitudes to and the efficacy of adult safeguard legislation, in conjunction with the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships and Action on Elder Abuse.


MacIntyre, G., Stewart, A. and McCusker, P., 2018. (eds) Adult Safeguarding: Key Themes and Issues.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peer reviewed journal articles 

Campbell, J., Davidson, G., McCusker, P., Jobling, H. & Slater, T., 2019.  Community Treatment Orders and Mental Health Social Work: Issues for policy and practice in the UK and Ireland. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. 64, pp.230-237,

DeRidder, R., Molodynski, A., Manning, C., McCusker, P. & Rugkåsa, J., 2016.  Community Treatment Orders in The UK 5 Years on: a repeat national survey of psychiatrists. BJPsych Bull.40 (3): 119–123, doi:10.1192/pb.bp.115.050773.

McCusker, P. and Jackson, J., 2015. Social Work and Mental Distress: Articulating the Connection. British Journal of Social Work.46(6), pp.1654-1670,doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcv083.

McCusker, P., 2013. Harnessing the potential of Constructive Developmental Pedagogy to achieve transformative learning in social work education, Journal of Transformative Education. 11 (1), pp.3-25.

McCusker, P., MacIntyre, G., Stewart, A. & Jackson, J., 2012.  Evaluating the Effectiveness of Service User and Carer Involvement in Post Qualifying Mental Health Social Work Education in Scotland: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of Mental Health, Training, Education and Practice7(3), pp.143-153.

McCusker, P. 2011. ‘Mental Health in Social Work: A burning issue for higher education?’ In:

Burning Issues in Learning and Teaching about Mental Health, Occasional Paper 13. London: Higher Education Academy.

Book chapters

McCusker, P. and Jackson, J., 2018, Suicide and Self-Harm. In: MacIntyre, G., Stewart, A. and McCusker,P., 2018. (eds) Adult Safeguarding: Key Themes and Issues.  Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

MacIntyre, G. and McCusker, P. 2015. Involving Service Users and Carers in Social Work Education: A consideration of UK and Global Perspectives. In: Palattiyli, G., Sidhva, D. & Chakrabarti, M.,  Social Work in A Global Context: Issues & Challenges, London: Routledge.

Topics interested in supervising

Mental Health, Adult Safeguarding, Social Work Law and Ethics, Mindfulness, Critical and Contemplative Pedagogy, Participatory Approaches in Teaching and Learning, Participatory Research Methadologies

If you are interested in being supervised by Pearse McCusker, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Work; MSc (R) Social Work