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NU7420 Theoretical Perspectives in Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health Practice (10 ECTS)

Learning Outcomes

Following completion of this module the student should be able to:

  • MLO1. Critically discuss the impact of mental illness or distress on the psychological, social and interpersonal world of young people
  • MLO2. Identify and critically evaluate cognitive, psychodynamic, family systems and behavioural schools of thought in terms of contribution to understanding mental distress in children and adolescent and contemporary responses to that distress
  • MLO3. Critique the role of diagnosis in child and adolescent mental health, and discuss diagnosis in the context of developing recovery oriented mental health services for young people
  • MLO4. Characterise the developmental issues and challenges facing all young people and differentiate how mental distress may impact on child and adolescent development
  • MLO5. Critically evaluate the application of psychotherapeutic skills with young people within a recovery-oriented ethos in clinical practice.
  • MLO6. Critically appraise different schools of thought (i.e. cognitive, psychodynamic and systemic approaches) and integrate these in a way that fits most appropriately with the needs of young people and families, bearing in mind the evidence available to support interventions
  • MLO7. Critically discuss and appraise the theoretical underpinnings behind child and family assessment and gain a knowledge of the skills required to complete a comprehensive assessment in order to establish the complexities of common presentations.

Module Learning Aims & Rationale

One in ten young people in Ireland suffer from mental health problems. 75% of adults with mental health problems exhibit symptoms before the age of 16. One in five of these young people will come in contact with a mental health service. Community CAFMHS teams are made up of inter-disciplinary teams with many different perspectives/schools of thought.

The aim of this module is to introduce the learner to a collection of perspectives and make them a critical consumer of CAFMH approaches. According to the Vision of Change (2006), CAHMS need to have a collection of competencies and double in numbers to meet population need. This module will provide the student a robust theoretical understanding coupled with the practical application of this knowledge. This module provides the student with an opportunity to critique theoretical understandings that underpin the assessment care and treatment of mental distress in children and young people. The module explores and critiques theories in the context of common ‘diagnostic categories’ and their utility, relevance and supplication to the contemporary child and adolescent world, referring to the technological evolution, cyber psychology and current childhood narratives.

Recommended Reading List

Indicative Resources

  • Bettelheim, B (1976) The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. Random House, New York.
  • Bion, W.R. (1962a). A Theory of Thinking. In E. Bott Spillius (ed.) Melanie Klein Today: Developments in theory and practice. Volume 1: Mainly Theory. 1988. London: Routledge.
  • Boyd, D. (2014) It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Yale University Press.
  • Chua, A (2011). "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Penguin Press Hard Cover.
  • Gunderson, J. (1978) Defining the therapeutic process in psychiatric milieus, Psychiatry: Journal for the Study of Interpersonal Process, 41, 327-335.
  • Headstrong (2012). My World Survey: National Study of Youth Mental Health. The National Centre for Youth Mental Health, UCD School of Psychology, Dublin. Available:
  • Prensky, M. (2001a) "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1" On the Horizon Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001, pp.1-6 (This journal was published by MCB University Press, now Emerald.) This paper is also available from and from here. URLs
  • Skues, J.L., Williams, B. and Wise, L. 2012. The effects of personality traits, self-esteem, loneliness, and narcissism on Facebook use among university students. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(6), pp.2414-2419.
  • Starr,C.R. & Ferguson,G.M.(2012). Sexy dolls, sexy –grade schoolers? Media & Maternal influences on young girls self-actualisation. Sex Roles, 67(7), 463-476.
  • Turkle, S. 2011. Alone together. Karnac Books..
  • Twenge, J.M. & Foster, J.D. 2008, "Mapping the scale of the narcissism epidemic: Increases in narcissism 2002–2007 within ethnic groups", Journal of Research in Personality, vol. 42, no. 6, pp. 1619-1622.
  • Winnicott, D.W. (1960c). Counter-transference. In The maturational process and the facilitating environment (Ch 14). London & New York: Karnac
  • (1963b). Communicating and not-communicating leading to a study of certain opposites. In The maturational process and the facilitating environment (Ch 17). London & New York: Karnac
  • Winnicott, D.W. (1971). Mirror role of mother and family in child development. In Playing and Reality. Hove & New York: Brunner-Routledge.
  • Winnicott, D.W. (1971). The Transitional objects and transitional phenomena. In Playing and Reality. Hove & New York: Brunner-Routledge.
  • Williams, L (2004) Porn Studies. Durham and London. Duke University Press.

*Other readings will be provided by individual lecturers.