Dr Catriona O'Toole

Education, ALL Institute

Gaeilge agus fáilte

Associate Professor

Maynooth University School of Education
(01) 708 3445



Dr Catriona O’Toole is Associate Professor in Maynooth University Department of Education and chartered psychologist with PSI. 

Catriona’s research focuses on wellbeing and equity in education, she is particularly interested in the school experiences of children whose lives have been impacted by trauma and adversity. Her research incorporates lived experience and co-creation to gain a deeper understanding of complex issues and develop contextually relevant responses. 

Catriona has collaborated with international organisations like UNESCO, on their Futures of Education Report. She developed a bespoke website (www.traumainformededucation.ie) with charity partner, Alcohol Action Ireland, and she is currently collaborating with Kyrie Therapeutic Farm on a potentially transformative initiative for Ireland’s mental health services.  

Catriona is convenor of the European Health and Wellbeing Education Network, and an Executive Committee member of the International Network for School Attendance (INSA). She is representative on Kildare Children and Young People’s Services Committee (CYPSC). Her research has received funding from multiple sources including the Irish Research Council, Tusla, The Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

Her work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing

Goal 4: Quality Education

Research Interests

  • Wellbeing and mental health in school and community settings
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Trauma-Informed Practice
  • Social Justice, equality and diversity
  • Mindfulness and compassion
  • Education for human flourishing and sustainable futures

Research Projects

Title Role Description Start date End date Amount
Project Youth: A Feasibility Study PI 07/01/2022 31/12/2022 7700
‘Design, Delivery & Evaluation of a Trauma-Informed Professional Development Programme for School Personnel’ PI Funded by MUSSI, this project supports the development and evaluation of trauma-informed teaching resources geared for education professionals 01/10/2021 31/03/2022
The impact of Covid-19 on the wellbeing of students, teachers and school community PI With colleague, Professor Venka Simovska at Aarhus University, Denmark, this project explored educators’ experiences during school closures, particularly regarding the impact of the pandemic on the wellbeing of students, school staff and wider school communities. 01/06/2021 15/09/2021
Sanctuary Schools: Building Capacity for Trauma-Informed Practice in Education PI 01/03/2021 01/12/2021 11934
Education for Human Flourishing Co-PI 01/01/2020
Working out? The dynamics of parental employment and childcare and the impact on child wellbeing Co-PI An analysis using the National Longitudinal Study, Growing Up in Ireland, with co-PI, Delma Byrne 01/01/2011 01/01/2013
Good practice guidance for schools: Responding to the complexity of school non-attendance PI Development of School Absenteeism Resource for Co. Kildare 01/12/2021 31/03/2022 4061
Bernadette Phillips- The Montessori School as a healing environment: Translating childhood trauma research into effective trauma-informed educational practice. PI IRC GOI PG 2020 Scholarship on behalf of Bernadette Philips 01/10/2020 30/09/2024 109124.7
A participatory needs analysis with young people in Kildare/West Wicklow PI 01/01/2017 30/06/2017 9000
Frivolous or fundamental? Exploring the nature, value and consequences of children’s play activities in contemporary Ireland. PI 01/10/2015 30/09/2017 47955
Review of the state-of-the-art in Mental Health Promotion in Schools PI Funded by Schools for Health in Europe Network Foundation, this project offers a synthesis of research and approaches in mental health promotion in schools in collaboration with Emily Darlington, University of Lyon, France 01/03/2021 31/12/2021
Sanctuary Schools: Building Capacity for Trauma-Informed Practice in Education PI Irish Research Council New Foundations Award, collaborating with charity partner, Alcohol Action Ireland Childhood adversity - whether resulting from poverty, discrimination or trauma, like abuse and violence - is common and the effects can be devastating. In response, there is increased interest around the world in supporting schools to become trauma-informed. However, to date, schools in Ireland have very little support in this area. This proposal builds on the existing strengths of the principal investigator and partner organisation in areas of research, teaching and advocacy. Through awareness raising and capacity building activities (high profile festival, dedicated website and social media campaign), it will support educators to embed trauma-informed principles across entire school communities. 01/03/2021 31/12/2021 12000
Training Needs Analysis of Professionals working with Children, young people and families in Co Kildare PI 01/11/2019 30/09/2020 3828
Cochrane Systematic Review of preschool and school-based mindfulness interventions Principal investigator 01/01/2017

Post Doctoral Fellows / Research Team

Researcher Name Project Funding Body
Mira Dobutowitsch Training Needs Analysis of Professionals working with Children, young people and families in Co Kildare

Peer Reviewed Journal

Year Publication
2022 Phillips, B. , O'Toole, C., McGilloway, S. & Phillips, S. (2022) 'Montessori, the White Cross and Trauma-Informed Practice: Lessons for Contemporary Education'. Journal of Montessori Research, .
2021 O’Toole C.; Simovska V. (2021) 'Same storm, different boats! The impact of COVID-19 on the wellbeing of school communities'. Health Education (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England), . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2021 Devenney R.; O'toole C. (2021) '‘What Kind of Education System are We Offering’: The Views of Education Professionals on School Refusal'. International Journal Of Educational Psychology, 10 (1):24-27. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2021 Mulholland M.; O'Toole C. (2021) 'When it matters most: a trauma-informed, outdoor learning programme to support children’s wellbeing during COVID-19 and beyond'. Irish Educational Studies, . [DOI] [Full-Text]
2021 O'Toole, C (2021) 'When trauma comes to school: Towards a trauma-informed praxis in education'. International Journal of School Social Work, 6 (6). [Link] https://doi.org/10.4148/2161-4148.1076 [Full-Text]
2019 O’Toole C. (2019) 'Time to teach the politics of mental health: Implications of the power threat meaning framework for teacher education'. Clinical Psychology Forum, 2019 (313):15-19. [Full-Text]
2017 O'Toole C.; Furlong M.; Mcgilloway S.; Bjørndal A. (2017) 'Preschool and school-based mindfulness programmes for improving mental health and cognitive functioning in young people aged 3 to 18 years (Protocol)'. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2017 (1). [DOI]
2021 Simovska, V & O'Toole, C (2021) 'The making of a wellbeing measurement: A (kind of) study protocol'. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, . [Full-Text]
2017 O’Toole C. (2017) 'Towards dynamic and interdisciplinary frameworks for school-based mental health promotion'. Health Education (Bradford, West Yorkshire, England), 117 (5):452-468. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2013 O'Toole, C; Burke, N (2013) 'Ready, willing and able? Attitudes and concerns in relation to inclusion amongst a cohort of Irish pre-service teachers'. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 28 :239-253. [DOI] [Full-Text]
2009 O'Toole C.; Barnes-Holmes D.; Murphy C.; O'Connor J.; Barnes-Holmes Y. (2009) 'Relational flexibility and human intelligence: Extending the remit of skinner's verbal behavior'. International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 9 (1):1-17. [Full-Text]
2007 O'Toole, C; Barnes-Holmes, D; Smyth, S (2007) 'A derived transfer of functions and the implicit association test'. JOURNAL OF THE EXPERIMENTAL ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR, 88 :263-283. [DOI] [Full-Text]

Other Journal

Year Publication
2015 O'Toole, C., and Byrne, D. (2015) 'A Whole New Spectrum of Queries, Concerns and Anxieties' Children's Research Digest, 2 (2) :9-14. [Full-Text]

Book Chapter

Year Publication
2022 O'Toole, C (2022) 'Childhood adversity and education: Integrating trauma-informed practice within school wellbeing and health promotion frameworks' In: Wellbeing and Schooling: Cross Cultural and Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. UK : Springer.
2022 O'Toole, C & Simovska, V. (2022) 'Wellbeing and education: Connecting mind, body and world' In: Wellbeing and Schooling: Cross Cultural and Cross Disciplinary Perspectives. Uk : Springer.
2020 O'Toole, C & Devenney, R (2020) 'School Refusal: What is the problem represented to be? A critical analysis using Carol Bacchi’s questioning approach' In: Social Theory and Education: Forging New Insights in Research. New York : Routledge.
2009 O’Toole, C., Murphy, C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & O’Connor, J. (2009) 'Teaching flexible, intelligent and creative behaviour' In: In Y. Barnes-Holmes, & R. A. Rehfeldt(Eds.). Derived relational responding: Applications for learners with autism and other developmental disabilities. Oakland, CA : New Harbinger.

Published Report

Year Publication
2021 O'Toole, C & Darlington, E. (2021) State-of-the-art in school mental health promotion. Schools for Health in Europe Network Foundation, . [Link]
2020 O'Toole C & Dobutowitsch D (2020) Committed, Caring and Compassionate: Co. Kildare Workforce Wellbeing, Attitudes toward Trauma-informed Care, COVID concerns and Ongoing Training Needs. Kildare CYPSC, . [Full-Text]
2018 O'Toole, C., Maher, M. & Showunmi, V. (2018) ‘Somewhere to Go; Someone to Talk to’ A Report on the Outcome of a Consultation with Young People in West Wicklow. Kildare Youth Services, . [Full-Text]
2015 Byrne, D. and O'Toole, C. (2015) The Influence of Childcare Arrangements on Child Well Being from Infancy to Middle Childhood. TUSLA in association with Maynooth University, . [Full-Text]
2015 O'Toole, C. & Daly, M. (2015) Having a disability makes me a better teacher!” Experiences of disability and systems of support in initial teacher education (final report). Centre for Teaching and Learning, .


Year Publication
2021 Hall T.; Byrne D.; Bryan A.; Kitching K.; Chróinín D.N.; O’Toole C.; Addley J. (2021) COVID-19 and education: positioning the pandemic; facing the future. [Editorial] [DOI]

Invited papers

Year Publication
2021 O'Toole, C & Darlington, E. (2021) School-based mental health promotion: An overview of the current state-of-the-art. Schools for Health in Europe Network Foundation, National Co-ordinators Meeting. [Invited papers]
2021 O'Toole, C (2021) The personal is political! Advancing educational responses to global challenges in mental health & wellbeing. [Invited Speaker Session]. American Educational Research Association, Annual Meeting. [Invited papers]

Invited Seminars

Year Publication
2021 O'Toole, C (2021) Trauma Informed Teaching & Learning in Higher Education: Passing Phase or Best Practice? Institute of Art Design & Technology (IADT). [Invited Seminars]
2021 O'Toole, C (2021) Where to next for school wellbeing and mental health promotion. PSI Division of Educational Psychologists. [Invited Seminars]
2019 O’Toole, C. Furlong, M. McGilloway, S., & Bjørndal A. (2019) School and preschool mindfulness programmes: A systematic review of the effects on children's psychosocial and cognitive functioning. Research Meeting of the Schools for Health in Europe (SHE) Network Foundation, Reykjavik, Iceland. [Invited Seminars]
2017 O'Toole, C. McCormack, D. (2017) Mindfulness as a resource for personal and collective wellbeing in a pluralistic society: Research and Practice. [Invited Seminars]
2016 O'Toole, C (2016) Changing Childhoods. Public seminar, Department of Adult & Community Education. [Invited Seminars]
2016 O'Toole, C. & McGovern, A. (2016) The changing face of childhood and parenthood: Connecting with what really matters in a complex and competitive world. Public talk as part Kildare Library Service, Let’s Talk About Parenting series, Maynooth Public Library. [Invited Seminars]
2016 O'Toole, C (2016) Keep it in Mind. Promoting Well-being and Resilience in Early Years, Kildare County Childcare Committee. [Invited Seminars]
2014 O'Toole, C (2014) Psychology as a Gateway: Developing students' skills for careers outside psychology', Psychological Society of Ireland, DATRiP Conference. [Invited Seminars]


Year Publication
2021 Catriona O'Toole (2021) Why Schools need resources to support traumatised children. [Blog] [Link]

Conference Publication

Year Publication
2021 Catriona O'Toole (2021) American Educational Research Association Culturally responses approaches to mental health in schools Online conference,
2021 McKernan, R. & O'Toole, C. (2021) Psychological Society of Ireland, Annual Conference Supporting schools to co-design and self-assess trauma-informed practices
2021 Catriona O'Toole (2021) Educational Studies Association of Ireland Wellbeing promotion in education: Forging new insights and practices Online conference,
2021 Phillips, B. , O'Toole, C., & McGilloway, S. (2021) Educational Studies Association of Ireland “New Light Through Old Windows: Seeing new possibilities in education for trauma-informed practice, by looking through a historical lens at Montessori's early ‘healing’ schools”
2020 Dobutowitsch, M & O'Toole, C (2020) Educational Studies Association of Ireland Teachers' wellbeing matters: Exploring quality of life, secondary traumatic stress and levels of self-compassion amongst Teachers in Ireland Online conference,
2020 O'Toole (2020) Educational Studies Association of Ireland Toward a trauma-informed praxis in education Online conference, [Full-Text]
2019 O'Toole, C (2019) European Educational Research Association, Hamburg Wellbeing and education: Mind/body attunement and situated ethical actions for a better world
2018 Devanney, R & O'Toole, C. (2018) Psychological Society of Ireland, 48th Annual Conference, Athlone, November 7 – 10 Exploring Current Perceptions in School Refusal
2018 O'Toole, C & Simovska, V. (2018) the European Conference of Educational Research, Bolzano, Italy, September 4th, 2018 Reclaiming wellbeing as an educational goal: Embodied wellbeing and post-critical Bildung
2018 O'Toole, C (2018) Mind and Life European Summer Research Institute (ESRI), August, Lake Chiemsee, Germany Mindfulness, Contemplative Pedagogies and Trauma-informed Praxis in Education
2017 O'Toole, C & O'Connor, C. (2017) Paper presented as part of the symposium: ‘Wellbeing and Schooling: Cross cultural and Cross disciplinary Perspectives A Reprieve but not a Fix for Childhood Stresses: A Participatory Study of School-based Mindfulness in an Irish Primary School European Conference of Educational Research, Copenhagen,
2008 O'Toole, C & Barnes-Holmes, D (2008) Paper presented in the symposium, Intelligence, educational and socially relevant research using the IRAP as a methodology, held during the 34th Annual Convention for the Association of Behavior Analysis, in Chicago, Illinois Relational Flexibility and the WAIS-III: An investigation using the IRAP
2016 O'Toole, C (2016) Annual Childhood Studies Conference, held in Turku, Finland, 6th-8th June Exploring the promise and perils of mindfulness practices with children
2013 Byrne, D & O'Toole, C (2013) 'Learning experiences in early years: an investigation using the Growing up in Ireland dataset
2012 Byrne, D & O'Toole, C (2012) New Perspectives on Family Change in Ireland, NUIM, 12th December 2012 Using Growing Up in Ireland to Explore Family Employment and Childcare Dynamics in a Context of Child Well-Being
2011 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2011) Paper presented at the Division of Behaviour Analysis Annual Conference, Trinity College, Dublin. Behavioural Interventions in Mainstream Schools: A Contextual Approach
2016 O'Toole C (2016) 'Interventions to Promote Wellbeing: Schools and Community’ symposium, held at the European Conference of Educational Research, Dublin, 22nd-26th August Opening the Conversation about Children's Well-being: Tensions, Confluences and Possibilities in School-based Mental Health Promotion Dublin,
2015 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2015) Paper presented at the Educational Studies Association of Ireland, Carton House, Maynooth, 9-11th April, 2015 Mindful schools? Exploring the potential of mindfulness programmes for enhancing resilience and wellbeing in children and adolescents
2015 O'Toole, Furlong, M, McGilloway, S. & Bjørndal, A. (2015) Paper presented at the symposium: Wellbeing and Mental Health Promotion in Schools, held at the European Conference of Educational Research (ECER), in Budapest, Sept 8th-12th School-based mindfulness programmes: Transforming children's lives or merely a passing fad?
2015 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2015) Presented at a Maynooth University Research Seminar entitled, Sustaining Resilient Families, Households and Communities, on May 28th Fostering resilience through education: Creating opportunities for meaningful participation, belonging and cognitive engagement
2014 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2014) Paper presented at the Child Development in School and Community Conference, held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, June 27th-29th Associations between childcare type and children's cognitive development: Results from the National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland
2014 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2014) Paper presented at Education Studies Association of Ireland Annual Conference, held in Athlone, April, 10th-12th Accessing Initial Teacher Education: An exploration of best practice in the support of student teachers with disabilities on school placement.
2014 O'Toole, C & Daly, M. (2014) Presented at the seminar, Enhancing a Positive School Culture through Restorative Practice, on 9th May , hosted by Maynooth University Edward M Kennedy Institute Seeing Things Differently: Restorative Practice in Second Level Education
2014 Maeve Daly, Dr Catriona O'Toole (2014) Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Psychological Society of Ireland, held in Kilkenny, 12-15th November Having a disability makes me a better teacher” Experiences of disability and systems of support in initial teacher education
2013 Byrne, D & O'Toole, C (2013) 43rd Annual Conference of the Psychological Society of Ireland, 6-9th November 2013, Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Sligo Childcare and Child Development at Age Three: A Cross Sectional Analysis of Growing up in Ireland Data
2013 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2013) Education Studies Association of Ireland Student-teachers’ attitudes and concerns about inclusive education: The importance of the emotional climate of the placement school
2013 Byrne, D, & O'Toole, C (2013) Early Childhood Ireland Conference ‘Today’s Children, Tomorrows World, Turning Points? 17th-19th October 2013, Aviva Stadium, Dublin The Impact of Childcare on Children’s Well-Being and Development: An Analysis using the Growing up in Ireland Dataset
2013 Byrne, Delma, Dr Catriona O'Toole (2013) Growing up in Ireland Annual Conference, 27th November, Croke Park Conference Centre, Dublin 'Working out? Family Employment and Childcare Arrangements and their Influence on Child Well Being from Infancy to Middle Childhood
2011 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2011) Educational Studies Association of Ireland Annual Conference, in Dublin A Three tier Model of Positive Behaviour Support: Partnerships to facilitate its adoption in Irish Schools
2010 O'Toole, C & Dench, C (2010) Paper presented in the symposium Positive ABA interventions: Conceptual and Empirical Issues, at the 36th Annual Convention for the Association of Behaviour Analysis in San Antonio, Texas. Exploring Social Validity in the context of Multi- Element Behavior Support (MEBS) Interventions
2009 O'Toole, C., McPeake, K, & Connolly, J. (2009) Paper presented at the Psychological Society of Ireland Annual Conference held in Wexford The Informed Consent Meeting: Making the Most of the Initial Meeting with Prospective Clients
2007 O'Toole, C & Barnes-Holmes D. (2007) Paper presented at the symposium: Applications of Relational Frame Theory: Alternative psychological measures, held during the British Psychological Society Annual Conference, in Dublin. Are you smart enough to get it wrong? The importance of relational flexibility in human intelligence

Policy Contribution

Year Publication
2022 O'Toole, C. Gilheany, S & Hough, J. (2022) Trauma-informed education: A policy brief. [Policy Contribution]

Research Paper

Year Publication
2021 Murphy, R., McGilloway, S., O'Toole, C. MacLachlan, M (2021) Proposed Kyrie Farm Research Programme: Briefing paper. [Research Paper]

Newspaper Articles

Year Publication
2013 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2013) Concerns over practices in early years’ settings: Advice for parents. [Newspaper Articles] [Link]
2013 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2013) 'Poor investment in Early Years care will cost us dear'. [Newspaper Articles]


Year Publication
2020 Quinn, P, McGilloway, S. & O'Toole, C. (2020) Buddies for life”: helping primary school children develop and build emotional resilience, kindness and empathy. In-Touch (INTO) professional teacher journal. [Newsletter]

Online Multimedia

Year Publication
2021 O'Toole, C & Darlington, E. (2021) State-of-the-art in school mental health promotion: Video animation. [Online Multimedia] [Link]


Year Publication
2010 Dr Catriona O'Toole (2010) Investigating the role of relational responding and relational flexibility in human cognition. [Thesis]
Certain data included herein are derived from the © Web of Science (2023) of Clarivate. All rights reserved.

Professional Associations

Description Function From / To
Health and Wellbeing Education Network Co-Convener 01/09/2016 -
Registered Psychologist, Psychological Society of Ireland Registered psychologist 01/01/2011 -
PSI Division of Teachers and Researchers in Psychology Committee member 01/01/2012 -
Educational Studies Association of Ireland Committee member & Membership Secretary 01/01/2012 -
Association of Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Member 01/01/2017 -

Honors and Awards

Date Title Awarding Body
01/06/2018 Winner: Emerald Literati Outstanding Paper Award. Emerald Literati
01/01/2006 John and Pat Hume Postgraduate Scholarship Maynooth University
01/01/2012 Teaching and Learning Fellowship Maynooth University
01/01/2005 Carmel Staunton Award, best final year project Maynooth University
01/01/2006 Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship Irish Research Council


Start date Institution Qualification Subject
Dublin Institute of Technology Cert Early Childhood Care and Education
Maynooth University: National University of Ireland Maynooth Professional Diploma Teaching and Learning
Maynooth University BA Psychology
Maynooth University PhD Psychology

Teaching Interests

Catriona teaches across the Department's Initial Teacher Education programmes, as well as the Postgraduate Diploma in School Guidance and Counseling, and the M.Ed and Doctoral degree programmes.

Her teaching is in areas of psychology of education, including child/adolescent development, learning, mental health and wellbeing, childhood adversity and trauma-informed practice.

Catriona incorporates mindfulness and other contemplative practices into her classes, providing opportunities for students to intimately connect with their own experience, and to engage with the  perspectives and experiences of others.

Recent Students

Graduation date Name Degree
2018 Anne Marie McGovern
2018 Mira Dobutowitsch
2021 Roisin Devenney
2021 Sinead Matson