School of Social and Political Science

Pearse McCusker

Job Title

Senior Lecturer in Social Work

Pearse McCusker

Room number


Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square

City (Address)


Country (Address)


Post code (Address)


Research interests

Research interests

Mental Health, Adult Safeguarding, Critical Mindfulness, Critical pedagogy, Participatory Action Research, Social Work Law and Ethics

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

I am currently working with care experienced young people (CEYP) on a University of Edinburgh Knowledge Exchange and Impact funded project which is looking at their mental health needs. The project adopted a co-produced approach in order to address a lack of CEYP involvement in research. Through it, we're developing a training workshop for students and qualified workers in residential child care, social care and social work so that they can better understand and support CEYP's mental health.

I'm also working with colleagues from Queen's University, Belfast in developing and delivering a bespoke mindfulness programme for social work students. A key aspect involves exploring how mindfulness practices, when viewed from a critical lens, can enhance reflexivity and anti-oppressive practice.

I also support the Mental Health Officer Research Network in the East of Scotland and have a number of active projects, including one with a MHO colleague based in Edinburgh City Council which is evaluating a Family Group Decision-Making service - in line with my interest in supported decision-making.

Topics interested in supervising

Mental Health, Adult Safeguarding, Supported Decision-Making, Social Work Law and Ethics, Critical Mindfulness, Contemplative Pedagogy, Participatory Approaches in Teaching and Learning, Participatory Research Methodologies

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


+44 (0)7793 403082

I'm 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.


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

Peer reviewed journal articles

Allen, S. & McCusker, P., 2020. A Hidden Dynamic: Examining the Impact of Fear on Mental Health Officers’ Decisions to Use Powers of Compulsory Detention, Practice, 32:4, 301-315, DOI: 10.1080/09503153.2020.1782873

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.

Other publications

McCusker, P., 2020. Mindfulness in social work education and practice, IRISS Insight 56….

Works within

Staff Hours and Guidance

It varies so best to contact me directly to arrange

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
Maddock A, Mccusker P, Blair C, Roulston A. The Mindfulness-Based Social Work and Self-Care Programme: A mixed methods evaluation study. The British Journal of Social Work . 2022 Jul;52(5):2760-2777. bcab203.
Maddock A, McCusker P. Implementing the learning from the mindfulness-based social work and self-care programme to social work student practice during COVID-19: A qualitative study. The British Journal of Social Work. 2022 May 13;1-20. bcac094.
Maddock A, Mccusker P. Exploring the potential mechanisms of action of the mindfulness-based social work and self-care programme. The British Journal of Social Work . 2022 Apr 9.
Stone K, Mccusker P, Davidson G, Vicary S. An exploratory survey of mental health social work in Europe. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021 Oct 5;18(19):1-15.
Mccusker P. Critical mindfulness in social work: Exploring the potential of reflexive self-care in the journey from student to social worker. The British Journal of Social Work . 2021 Jan 11. bcaa246.
Vicary S, Stone K, McCusker P, Davidson G, Spencer-Lane T. “It's about how much we can do, and not how little we can get away with”: Coronavirus-related legislative changes for social care in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;72. 101601.
Mccusker P. Mindfulness in social work education and practice. 2020. 20 p.
Allen S, McCusker P. A hidden dynamic: Examining the impact of fear on mental health officers’ decisions to use powers of compulsory detention. Practice: Social Work in Action (Practice). 2020 Jul 6.
Campbell J, Davidson G, Mccusker P, Jobling H, Slater T. Community treatment orders and mental health social work: Issues for policy and practice in the UK and Ireland. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. 2019 May;64:230-237.
MacIntyre G, (ed.), Stewart A, (ed.), McCusker P, (ed.). Safeguarding Adults: Key Themes and Issues. Red Globe Press, 2018. 218 p.
McCusker P, Jackson J. Safeguarding Adults at Risk of Suicide and Self-Harm. In MacIntyre G, Stewart A, McCusker P, editors, Safeguarding Adults: Key Themes and Issues. Red Globe Press. 2018. p. 151-169
McCusker P, Jackson J. Social work and mental distress: Articulating the connection. The British Journal of Social Work . 2016 Sep;46(6):1654-1670.
DeRidder R, Molodynski A, Manning C, McCusker P, Rugkasa J. Community treatment orders in the UK 5 years on: a repeat national survey of psychiatrists. BJPsych Bulletin. 2016 Jun;40(3):119-123.
MacIntyre G, McCusker P. Involving service users and carers in social work education: a consideration of the UK and global perspectives: Social Work in a Global Context: Issues and Challenges. In Palattiyil G, Sidhva D, Chakrabarti M, editors, Social Work in a Global Context: Issues and Challenges. 1 ed. Routledge. 2015. p. 193-206. (Routledge Advances in Social Work).
McCusker P. Harnessing the potential of constructive develop-mental pedagogy to achieve transformative learning in social work education. Journal of Transformative Education. 2013 Jun 10;11(1):3-25.
McCusker P, MacIntyre G, Stewart A, Jackson J. 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 Practice. 2012 Sep 14;7(3):143-153.