Michael Ungar


School of Social Work

Email: michael.ungar@dal.ca
Phone: 902-494-3445
Fax: 902-494-6709
Mailing Address: 
School of Social Work
Dalhousie University
Suite 3242, Mona Campbell Building,
1459 LeMarchant Street
PO Box 15000 Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Mixed methods
  • Resilence
  • Child and adolescent mental health
  • Family therapy
  • Ecological social work
  • Program evaluation
  • Cross-cultural diversity research
  • Delinquency
  • Child development
  • Social constructionism


  • BA, McGill
  • BSW, McGill
  • MSW, McGill
  • PhD, Wilfred Laurier


  • Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University (cross appointment, Department of Psychology) (2007-present)
  • Clinical Supervisor and Therapist, Phoenix Youth Prevention Programs (2003-present)
  • Marriage and Family Clinical and Consultation Services, Charlottetown, P.E.I. and Halifax, N.S. (1993-2002)
  • Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Dalhousie University (2001)
  • Senior Case Consultant, Young Offender Custody Programs, P.E.I. (1994-1998)

Professional Awards

  • 2014 Thinker in Residence, Commissioner for Children and Young People, Western Australia
  • Canadian Association of Social Workers National Distinguished Service Award (2012)
  • Killam Professorship - Social Work (2011-present)
  • Canadian Association of Social Workers Distinguished Service Award for Nova Scotia (2010)
  • University Research Professorship (2007-2011)
  • First Prize ($10,000), Short Fiction, Toronto Sunday Star (2003)
  • S.S.H.R.C. Doctoral Research Fellowship (1992-1995)
  • F.C.A.R. Post-Graduate Scholarship (1987-1988)
  • Gold Medal for Academic Excellence, Wilfrid Laurier University (1995)


  • Treasurer, American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA)
  • Conference Chair: American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) Annual Meeting (2012); Resilience Research Centre, Pathways to Resilience I, II, and III (2005, 2010, 2015)
  • Co-Chair, Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Advisory Committee (2010-2012)
  • Member, National Framework Review Committee, Child and Youth Advisory Committee of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (The Evergreen Project)
  • Clinical Supervisor, American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
  • Board Member, Chair of Disciplinary Committee, NSASW Board of Examiners (2004-2010)
  • Member, Editorial Committee: Qualitative Social Work (2004-present); Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (2013-present); Family Process (2008-present) 
  • Member, Consulting Editorial Committee, American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (2012-present); British Journal of Social Work (2008-2012).

Brief Biography

Michael Ungar, Ph.D., is both a family therapist and the Izaak Walton Killam Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University where he founded and now co-directs the Resilience Research Centre that coordinates more than five million dollars in funded research in over a dozen countries.

He has designed multisite longitudinal research and evaluation projects in collaboration with organizations as diverse as The Human Development and Education Branch of the World Bank, The Red Cross, and national public health agencies. Those projects are focused on resilience among children, youth and families and how they together survive adversity in culturally diverse ways.

Michael has published over 135 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on this topic and is the author of 14 books for mental health professionals, researchers and parents.  Among his most recent works are Working with Children and Youth with Complex Needs: 20 Skills to Build Resilience (2015), a book for mental health professionals, The Social Ecology of Resilience: A Handbook of Theory and Practice (2012), for researchers, and I Still Love You: Nine Things Troubled Kids Need from their Parents (2015), a book for caregivers and educators. He is also a prize winning short-story writer and in 2011 published his first novel, The Social Worker.

Since 2003, Michael has made more than 500 presentations, many of them keynotes for academic congresses and professional meetings in Canada and more than 30 other countries. Among the organizations that have hosted him are the International Family Therapy Association, The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, The International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, and the European Parliament’s Roundtable on Strengthening Families.

In 2012 Michael was the recipient of the Canadian Association of Social Workers National Distinguished Service Award. Among his many contributions to his community has been his role as Co-Chair of the Nova Scotia Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, executive board member of the American Family Therapy Academy, and clinical supervisor for staff at Phoenix Youth Programs, a multiservice centre for homeless youth. His blog, Nurturing Resilience, can be read on Psychology Today’s website.

Selected Publications (Recent)

  • Ungar, M. (2015). Practitioner Review: Diagnosing childhood resilience: A systemic approach to the diagnosis of adaptation in adverse social ecologies. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 56(1), 4-17.
  • Ungar, M. (2013). Resilience after maltreatment: The importance of social services as facilitators of positive adaptation. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(2-3), 110-115.
  • Ungar, M., Ghazinour, M., & Richter, J. (2013). What is Resilience Within the Ecology of Human Development? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(4), 348-366. Doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12025
  • Ungar, M. (2013). Resilience, trauma, context and culture. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 14(3), 253 - 264. Doi: 10.1177/1524838013487805
  • Ungar, M. (2012). Researching and theorizing resilience across cultures and contexts. Preventive Medicine, 55(5), 387-389. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.07.021
  • Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L.,& Ikeda, J. (2012). Young people with complex needs: Designing coordinated interventions to promote resilience across child welfare, juvenile corrections, mental health and education services. British Journal of Social Work. doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcs147
  • Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L., Armstrong, M., Dudding, P., & van de Vijver, F. J. R. (2012). Patterns of service use, individual and contextual risk factors, and resilience among adolescents using multiple psychosocial services. Child Abuse & Neglect, 37(2-3), 150-159. DOI: org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2012.05.007
  • Ungar, M., Liebenberg, L., Landry, N., & Ikeda, J. (2012). Caregivers, young people with complex needs, and multiple service providers: A study of triangulated relationships and their impact on resilience. Family Process, 51(2), 193-206.
  • Liebenberg, L., Ungar, M., & Van de Vijver, F. (2012). Validation of the Child and Youth Resilience Measure-28 (CYRM-28) among Canadian youth. Research on Social Work Practice, 22(2), 219-226.
  • Ungar, M. (2011). Community resilience for youth and families: Facilitative physical and social capital in contexts of adversity. Children and Youth Social Services Review, 33, 1742–1748.
  • Ungar, M., Theron, L., & Didkowsky, N. (2011). Adolescents' precocious and developmentally appropriate contributions to their families' well-being and resilience in five countries. Family Relations, 60(2),231–246.
  • Ungar, M., & Liebenberg, L. (2011). Assessing resilience across cultures using mixed methods: Construction of the Child and Youth Resilience Measure. Journal of Multiple Methods in Research, 5(2), 126–149.
  • Ungar, M. (2011). The social ecology of resilience. Addressing contextual and cultural ambiguity of a nascent construct. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 81, 1–17.

Selected Grants (Recent)

  • Ungar, M. [PI], Amarasingam, A., & Liebenberg, L. (Start date April 1, 2014). Barriers to Violent Radicalization: Understanding Pathways to Resilience Among Canadian Youth. Public Safety Kanishka Project Grant. Value: $200,000 over two years.
  • Ungar, M. [PI], Whitman, S., McGrath, P., Black, D., &Kutcher, S. [Co-Applicants] (Start date: 2012, July). Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts Institute. SRIF (Special Research Initiatives Fund) Dalhousie University. Value: $200,000 over three years.
  • Denov, M. [PI] &Guzder, J., Mitchell, C., Blanchet-Cohen [Co-Applicant]; M. Ungar [Collaborator] (Start date: 2012, May). Children and global adversity: A rights-based approach. Fonds de Recherche du Quebec sur la Societe et la Culture. Value: $56,320 over two years.
  • Akiyama, K. [PI], & Ungar, M. [collaborator] (Start date: 2012, May). Grants-in-aid of Scientific Research, KAKENHI. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Value: $60,000 over one year.
  • Liebenberg, L. [PI], & Ungar, M. [Co-Applicant] (Start date: 2012, April). Spaces and places: Understanding sense of belonging and cultural engagement among Aboriginal youth. SSHRC Partnership Grant. Value: $200,000 over 2 years.
  • Ungar, M. [PI], McGrath, P., & Black, D. [Co-Investigators] (2011, January – 2015, December).Networks of Centres of Excellence for Children and Youth in Challenging Contexts: Mobilizing network knowledge to prevent problems and promote resilience. NCE-Knowledge Mobilization Grant. Value: $1,600,000
  • Ungar, M., & Debicki, A. (2011, January-April). A national review of Wraparound initiatives and the NCPC. NCPC Research Grant (unsolicited). Value: $24,999.
  • Munford, R. [Co-PI], Sanders, J. [Co-PI], & Ungar, M. [Co-Investigator] (2009, April – 2017, March). Long term successful youth transitions study(LTsYT). The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, New Zealand. Value: NZ$ 6,400,000 over eight years.
  • Ungar, M. [International site Co-PI, Canada], & Engelbrecht, P. [International site Co-PI, South Africa] (2009, April – 2014, March). Pathways to resilience: Formal service and informal support use patterns among youth in challenging social ecologies. International Community-University Research Alliance, joint funding from the International Development Research Council of Canada and The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Value  $2,000,000.
  • Ungar, M. [Co-PI], & Liebenberg, L. [Co-PI] (2009, January – 2010, December). Pathways to resilience: Expanding the community focus. Atlantic Aboriginal Health Research Program. Value $30,000.
  • Ungar, M. [PI] (2008, September – 2014, August). Adversity and resilience among early teens: What predicts positive outcomes in later adolescence? Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Operating Grant. Value $682,310.