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Engaging, story-filled style containing real examples

Dr. Michael Ungar

travels from Canada

Expert on resilience, parenting, and risk speaking about his experiences and research results working with families

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Keynote speaker Michael Ungar is an acknowledged expert on resilience in the world. As a professional keynote speaker he talks about his experiences and research results from working with youth, families and the professionals that support them in clinical, community and workplace settings. Through his engaging story-filled style Michael Ungar is able to help his audiences explore the many ways we find resilience at home and at work.

Speaker Michael Ungar, Ph.D., is a Family Therapist and Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University where he holds a national Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience. His research on resilience around the world and across cultures has made him one of the best-known scholars in the field.

Michael is the author of 17 books for parents, educators, mental health professionals, and employers, including his most recent work Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success, a book for adults experiencing stress at work and at home.

In addition to delivering keynotes on the topic of child development, parenting and engaging hard to reach children at school, his ground-breaking work is recognized around the world by numerous Fortune 500 corporations and NGOs, as well as thought leaders such as the Boston Consulting Group and Canvas8, who have integrated Dr. Ungar’s work into their human resources policies and social responsibility strategies.

Dr. Ungar’s presentations emphasizes how to use the theory of resilience to increase both individual and institutional agility during crises. His blog, Nurturing Resilience, can be read on Psychology Today’s website.

See keynotes with Dr. Michael Ungar
Keynote by speaker Michael Ungar

Working with Children, Youth and Families with Complex Needs: Skills to Build Resilience

When working with children and adolescents from emotionally turbulent or physically dangerous backgrounds, and their families, we often focus too narrowly on the individual’s complex needs and problems—like delinquency, anxiety or conflict with caregivers—and miss the broader sources of healing and resilience in young people’s lives.

  • This workshop will present a strengths-focused, resistance-proof model for clinical and community work that makes therapeutic interventions more effective and change more sustainable.
  • This keynote also demonstrates 20 skills that mental health professionals and educators can use to nurture the resilience of those with whom they work.
  • Why audience members need to work just as hard changing the environments that surround children as we do changing children themselves.
  • Workshop participants will learn how to identify and enhance access to protective and promotive processes that exert a positive influence on young people’s wellbeing.
  • How to contract to achieve useful therapeutic goals that are culturally meaningful.
  • Participants will leave knowing how to help their clients successfully transition their success in clinical, residential and community settings back into their “real-life” social environments at home.
Keynote by speaker Michael Ungar

Nurturing Resilience: Finding the Personal Qualities and Social Supports We Need to Thrive

Throughout this fast-paced, story-filled workshop/keynote, Dr. Ungar will show that resilience is much more than just personal ruggedness in the face of adversity.

It is instead a reflection of how well individuals, families, educators and employers work together to create opportunities for us to find our way to the resources we need for well-being while making those resources available in ways that we experience as meaningful.

Audience takeaways:

  • Twelve factors that make us more resilient as adults will be discussed, along with practical tools participants can use to find the resources they need to cope successfully in culturally and contextually relevant ways, even during a pandemic.
  • Dr. Ungar will also show how factors can help the people we work with achieve their life goals, and the value of continuing education as a resource for resilience.
  • Dr. Ungar will talk about vicarious resilience, the positive impact we experience as helpers when we nurture resilience in others.
Keynote by speaker Michael Ungar

The Risk-Taker’s Advantage: How to Make Kids More Resilient by not Over-protecting Them

Though the stats tell us that children today are safer than ever before in history, parents are failing to give them what Michael has called ‘the risk-taker’s advantage.’ The results are a generation of bubblewrapped kids with anxiety disorders, an inflated sense of entitlement, or misguided efforts to find their own rites of passage into adulthood, often with catastrophic results.

Based on his best-selling book, Too Safe For Their Own Good, Michael shows us how to help families and schools stop being overprotective and provide kids with what they need to grow up well.

Audience takeaways:

  • A very amusing, and at times, shocking presentation that debunks common myths regarding the things that put children at risk.
  • Practical ways educators, life coaches and therapists can help families and schools reconsider children’s developmental needs and offer them more risk and responsibility.
  • To laugh and be inspired by stories of schools and communities that have helped parents give their children the risk-taker’s advantage.
Keynote by speaker Michael Ungar

Diagnosing” Resilience Across Cultures and Contexts: Seeing the Positives in Young People Even When There are Serious Problems

With growing interest in resilience among mental health care providers, there is a need for a simple way to think about the complex interactions that predict which children will do well despite the seriousness of the challenges they face.

Using case examples of children who have been exposed to high levels of adversity such as family violence, mental illness of a child or caregiver, natural disasters, forced migration, poverty, racism and other types of social marginalization and political conflict, Michael will show how we can assess childhood resilience and use that assessment to guide practice.

Audience takeaways:

  • Speaker Michael Ungar will show that by “diagnosing” resilience, we are in a better position to design interventions that are sensitive to the individual, family, school and community factors that influence a child’s wellbeing.
  • Seven factors common to children who cope well under adversity and avoid problems like depression, PTSD, and delinquency will be discussed.
  • This presentation will also explore ways we can intervene to help children cope by changing the social and physical environments that surround them.
Keynote by speaker Michael Ungar

Nurturing Resilience through a Strong [Community/Organization]*

Throughout this fast-paced, story-filled presentation, Dr. Ungar will show that resilience is much more than our personal capacity to overcome adversity.

It is instead a reflection of how well individuals, families, employers and communities work together to create opportunities for people to navigate their way to the resources they need for well-being while making those resources available in ways that people experience as meaningful.

His work around the world suggests the need for a culturally sensitive interpretation of what resilience means to people from diverse backgrounds living in diverse communities.

Audience takeaways:

  • Dr. Ungar will end with ideas for how [communities/organizations] can make resilience-promoting resources more available and accessible to everyone.


Professor Ungar is regarded internationally as a vital resource for enhancing science, policies, and programs fostering well-being amongst young people everywhere

Richard Lerner

Ph.D, Director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, Tuffs University

“Michael Ungar was a very engaging speaker and so well informed on his subject”

Keynote audience member and Human Resources Professional

“Dr. Ungar is an engaging presenter, concise and presents material in an accessible format. His style is very engaging and the material he presented was incredibly relevant to me as an advisor, and as a parent.”

Academic Advisor and parent

“Michael Ungar was a very engaging speaker and so well informed on his subject”

Keynote audience member and Human Resources Professional

Interview with Dr. Michael Ungar

What are the most important things to consider when you are confronted with troubled kids?

Both my research and clinical work has taught me that pathways to resilience can look very different in different situations. I always assume a child is coping as best he or she can with the resources they have available. So, when I’m meeting a troubled kid for the first time I’m always trying to see the world from their point of view. The good news is that if I change the circumstances around a child, all the evidence shows that children will respond and change their behaviors too. Maybe not instantly, but over time.

Of course relationships are a big part of this change, but there is far more we can do to help kids get away from troubling patterns of behaviour. That’s what my book, I Still Love You is all about. Showing parents how children respond to structure and consequences, lots of positive relationships (with them and other people), help finding a powerful identity, experiences of control and decision making, even a sense of belonging and one’s culture. All of these things together give children an expectable environment, a social world rich in opportunities. The more stressed a child, the bigger the impact these external things have on a child’s development.

In your keynote about resilience on the job one of the factors you mention is “The necessity of making workplaces physical and psychologically safe”. What can an employer do to support that?

Resilience is something we plan for. Much like an immunization prepares us for future exposure to disease. Workplaces that are already providing employees with a predictable environment, one which rewards effort but also supports employees as they take risks, that is the type of space one thrives in.

Add to that opportunities to use one’s talents, to have some say over some aspect of one’s work, fair compensation, and a workplace that is free of harassment, and suddenly you have a place where people are going to be much better able to withstand change. They’ll feel like they belong. They’ll share the mission of the business. They may even feel like their success at work tells others they are valuable.

It’s not one thing that makes us safe. It’s the cumulative effect of many things that employers do and the way the work environment is structured that makes the difference during tough times. That’s what resilience is: the capacity of individuals and their workplaces to cope when bad things happen.

Can you give three tips to individuals struggling with resilience in their private life?

  • Before you blame yourself for your problems, look around and see if you can find the supports you need to change the things that are causing your life to be miserable. Being bullied? Find a friend to hang out with. Feeling unmotivated at work? Ask for help to make your work more interesting, or look outside the workplace for opportunities to use your talents.
  • Insist on being treated fairly. Accommodating ourselves to an unjust world is a formula for disaster. We are more resilient when we are treated well and we have the allies to help us gain the respect we need from others.
  • Embrace positive uncertainty. Look for opportunities to make your life more fulfilling.

What kinds of clients have you worked with in the past?

In my private practice I specialized in working with children and families where there has been serious problems like domestic violence, family breakdown, child abuse, and addictions. With organizations, my work has been much more about how to develop systems around people to meet their needs, especially during a crisis.

Whether it was looking at developing mental health services for children in schools, or studying the career pathways of young adults during their 20s, this work has always focused on helping people find environments where they can thrive. Where those environments don’t exist, I’ve worked with health care systems, school boards, and governments to develop coordinated approaches to services that help workers and clients reach their potential.

What types of unique experiences have you had as a result of your profession?

By far, the most interesting part of my work is the travel I do. I get to immerse myself in many different communities from the Arctic of Canada to rural Botswana. I get to see the many varied patterns of resilience in people’s lives and to ask them about the people and services that have made their success possible.

There is something humbling about seeing so many different ways of being resilient. I’m constantly challenging myself to bring what I learn into my own life and to share it with others. Many times I feel like a travelling troubadour, carrying stories of resilience from one community to another, hopefully inspiring new solutions to old problems.

See keynotes with Dr. Michael Ungar
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Keynote topics with Dr. Michael Ungar