Skip to main content

Stephen Coulter

Photo of Stephen Coulter

B.Sc., MSW, M.Soc.Sc. (Psychotherapy)
SRN, CQSW, Advanced Certificate in Social Work, Advanced Award in Social Work, Advanced Diploma in the Psychological Management of Trauma, Registered Family Therapist, Accredited Family Therapy Supervisor.
Lecturer in Social Work
Room 2.27, 6 College Park
Ext: 3641; Email:

Work History

I joined the staff at Queens following a 25 year career in statutory Family and Child Care services in Northern Ireland. Initially, I worked as a field social worker in child protection services, then as a senior social worker in a multidisciplinary Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, and later as Team Leader employed to establish a multi-disciplinary Family Centre in the context of the implementation of the Children (N.I.) Order 1995.  I subsequently represented children’s interests in public law cases as a Guardian–ad-Litem, and most recently worked as a Senior Family Therapist and clinical co-ordinator for a regional psychotherapy service for children, young people and their families specialising in the treatment of psychological trauma.  I maintain a small have a private practice providing systemic psychotherapy and consultation.

Research Interests

My doctoral research at Queens University Belfast used randomised controlled trial methodology to investigate the added benefit of Systemic Family Therapy for traumatised families.  This work has lead to a more general interest in the creation of evidence of effectiveness for complex psychosocial interventions and the related debates regarding ‘evidenced-supported practice’ within the social work and psychotherapy disciplines.

A second main research interest is aspects of trauma and adversity and how people survive, and sometimes thrive, following these experiences, including:

  • Social Support and attachment style as moderators of the adult outcomes of adverse childhood experiences
  • The narration of the impacts of trauma on individuals and families, focusing particularly on maintaining coherence, meaning making, sources of support, resilience and post-traumatic growth
  • The measurement of the impact of traumatic events
  • The trauma of domestic abuse
  • The processes of resilience

I am a member of the ‘Family Policy and Child Welfare’ research cluster, and Multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (MACE) research group,  the Domestic Violence special interest group.

I welcome enquiries from those exploring the possibility of conducting postgraduate research related to these areas of interest.

Professional Activities

I am a member of the ‘Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice’ in the UK, its local N.I. Branch, am a ‘Registered Family Therapist’ with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy and an ‘Accredited Systemic Family Therapy Supervisor’ by the Association for Family Therapy and Systemic Practice.


Oversight of post-graduate taught MaSS - Systemic Pathway Family Therapy, years 1 and 2.

Module Convener - BSW module SWK 1002 - ‘Trends in Psychology for Social Work’.

Tutor - SWK 3003 - ‘Social Work with Children and Families’; SWK3004 - Social Work in Adult Services; SWK 2001 - Practice Learning Level 2; and SWK 2002 - Evidenced Based Practice Level 2

I am currently introducing teaching on issues of ‘spirituality and religion’ into BSW programme, within the wider theme of increasing ‘cultural competence’, via lecture input flexible learning opportunities.

I am involved in co-teaching with members of WAVE (a major voluntary sector organisation supporting victims ‘survivors of the Troubles) on an EU funded teaching project for BSW students on understanding the needs of victims/ survivors of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland

I am personal tutor for a BSW (UGR) tutor group 

Peer Reviewed Publications

Coulter, S. and Mullin, A. (submitted for review) Resilience and Vulnerability in the Midst of Socio-Political Violence in Northern Ireland: One Family’s Experience of a Paramilitary Style Assault. Family Relations.

Coulter, S. (2011).  Systemic Family Therapy for families who have experienced trauma: A Randomised Controlled Trial. British Journal of Social Work. (on advanced online release)

Coulter, S. (2008) Applying the randomised controlled trial (RCT) design in a ‘real world’ community-based clinical setting. Context, 99, 6-9.

Coulter, S. (2007) “The Impact of Engagement Processes on the First Appointment Attendance Rate at a Regional Outpatient Psychological Trauma Service.” Child Care in Practice, 13, 2, 117-123.

Coulter, S. (2004) Working with a child Exposed to Community and Domestic violence in Northern Ireland: An Illustrated Case Example.” Child Care in Practice, 10, 2, 193-203.

Book Chapters

Coulter, S., Healey, A. & Reilly, I. (2007) Hope in the process: developing systemically oriented trauma work as an element of the peace process in Northern Ireland.  In Flaskas, C., McCarthy, I., & Sheehan, J. Hope and despair in family therapy: reflections on adversity, reconciliation and forgiveness. London: Brunner-Routledge.

 Reilly, I., McDermott, M., & Coulter, S. (2004) “Living in the Shadow of Community Violence in Northern Ireland: A Therapeutic Response. Chap. 14 In Boyd Webb, N. (Ed.) Mass Trauma and Violence: Helping Families and Children Cope. New York: Guilford.

Other Publications

Coulter, S. (2002) Conference Reflections.  Some Practice and Practical Implications of Banning the Physical Punishment of Children through Legislation. Child Care in Practice, 7, 3, 258-262.

Coulter, S. (2001) Creating Safety for Trauma Survivors: What can Therapists do?  Child Care in Practice, 7, 1, 45-56.
Healey, A., Coulter, S., Kenny, M., and Reilly, I. (2001) The Family Trauma Centre, Belfast.  Context, 53.

Coulter, S. (1995).  Attending Case Conferences – What You Need to Know.  A video guide for parents/carers attending Child Protection Case Conferences.

Coulter, S. (1995) School Refusal, Parental Control and Wider Systems: Lessons from the management of two cases.   Journal of Psychological Medicine, 12, 4, 46-149.

Coulter, S. (1995) Conference Report. Discovering Personal Resources where there appear to be none: an introduction to Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Dr Ben Furman (Finland) Child Care in Practice, 2, 1 81-86.

Coulter, S. (1994), Changing Categories in Families and Communities in Northern Ireland. Context, Winter 1994.

Coulter, S. (1993), Therapy beyond the Ivory Tower. A 30-minute radio programme explaining the application of the principles of ’Just Therapy’ within the N.I. context, broadcast on the RTE Radio 1 Voiceover programme.