Why I study social support

IMG_4750Hi, I am John. I am a PhD student in Psychology. My research is in the area of social support in emergency first responders.

My interest in social support research began when I was analysing my data for my master’s thesis. I was, then, doing research on caregiver and organisational attachment as predictors of compassion fatigue and satisfaction in humanitarian workers in the Philippines, when I stumbled upon what was then irreconcilable to me: avoidant attachment patterns predicting lower levels of negative psychological outcomes. It dawned on me that perhaps, some (groups of) people “benefit” from avoiding  attachments with (certain types of) people and that although social relationships and support from others was generally considered helpful, not all social relationships  and forms of social support contribute to one’s well-being.

While looking for PhD opportunities, I was fortunate to have met Dr Ian de Terte in a disaster research workshop in China. Ian’s expertise includes clinical psychological research on the role of social support in post-traumatic psychological outcomes. Luckily, he took me in as his student, and the rest is history (and that I am also guided by Prof. Chris Stephens, a brilliant methodologist, and Prof. Krys Kaniasty, a world-renowned expert on social support in disasters, is super cool).

Social support is considered one of the cornerstones of psychosocial recovery after disasters. How it works in the context of emergency responders and across different socio-cultural contexts, however, still remains to be uncovered. I see so much potential in social support interventions. It is sustainable and practical, but we need to understand how it works. This is where my research comes in.