12 new PhD fellowships in psychotraumatology

  • October 5, 2016
October 5, 2016

In January 2016 12 PhD fellows join “The COllaborative Network for Training and EXcellence in psychoTraumatology (CONTEXT)”. They will spend three years doing research within the areas of

  • EU-based asylum seekers and refugees;
  • Emergency-service personnel and humanitarian first-responders; and
  • Survivors and perpetrators of childhood- and gender-based violence

The goal of CONTEXT is to conduct high quality, innovative research, build capacity and expertise, and foster innovative practice in the area of global psychotraumatology.

CONTEXT is an international, interdisciplinary collaboration between nine European partner organisations spanning the academic, non-governmental, voluntary, and public sectors.

The PS Centre will host two PhD fellows from Trinity College, who will be working in two of the Centre’s core fields: “Effectiveness of the WHO’s low-intensity psychosocial interventions for refugees” and “Managerial practices to ensure the well-being of humanitarian volunteers in post-conflict situations”.

“CONTEXT is a unique opportunity for the PS Centre and by extension the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. There is a great need for evidence of what doesn’t work, and – more importantly – what does work.  In the CONTEXT project two talented young researchers will work intensively on two of the PS Centre’s core priorities while being under the excellent academic guidance of senior researchers at Trinity College in Dublin.

With low-intensity psychological interventions we can shift specific, well-defined tasks from mental health professionals to trained volunteers in situations where there is not sufficient access to mental health care. This will improve the quality of service, but we also need to be sure of what works. After the project we will have more evidence about providing low-intensity psychological interventions to refugees.

We will also know more about how the organisational structures influence the mental health and psychosocial well-being of staff and volunteers in post-conflict situations. This is important knowledge, which can guide National Societies in taking the best possible care of their staff and volunteers” says Nana Wiedemann, Head of the PS Centre.

CONTEXT fellows will receive a unique PhD training experience, working across populations not accessible in any other doctoral training programme. Each research project has been designed to address current and emergent skill and professional deficiencies, essential for curbing the adverse social consequences of trauma-related psychological distress. Fellows will graduate with an advanced knowledge of how to translate psychotraumatology research into practice, thereby contributing to mitigating the impact of psychotrauma in the EU.

Effectiveness of the WHO’s low-intensity psychosocial interventions for refugees

Early trials show promising results for the use of low-intensity psychological interventions. The effectiveness of low-intensity psychological interventions in preventing psychological distress among refugees however, has yet to be systematically examined. Research Project 1 will build on the PS Centre’s need to progress the World Health Organization’s low-intensity psychological interventions for use with refugee populations.

The fellow will contribute to determining the efficacy of ‘task-shifting’ as a low-cost, WHO-endorsed intervention, to mid-level cadres as an innovative solution for the human capital shortage for refugee response in the EU and within the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies.

Managerial practices to ensure the wellbeing of humanitarian volunteers in post-conflict situations

Volunteers in humanitarian crises often encounter the same losses and grief as individuals to whom they are providing aid, with 30% of aid workers reporting symptoms of PTSD. The field of humanitarian work psychology has highlighted the importance of organisational factors in the response to psychotrauma. Despite large investments in psychosocial support for victims, little attention is given to protecting the mental health of humanitarian response staff and volunteers.

The objective of the project is to investigate the mechanisms by which existing International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) National Societies organisational factors (i.e. supervision, training) impact on the psychological wellbeing of humanitarian volunteers in post-conflict settings.

The fellow will conduct a realist review of psychosocial interventions for aid workers in post-conflict settings and conduct a multi-site case study realist evaluation of psychosocial interventions for humanitarian volunteers.

Findings from Research Project 5 will be used to increase the utilisation of mental health and psychosocial support structures within the IFRC National Societies and to develop better policies and guidelines for Good Practice for volunteer care in emergency responses (i.e. ANTARES Guidelines).

How to apply

Please go to the CONTEXT website for more information about application, renumeration and other practicalities.

The deadline for application is 21 November 2016 and the fellowship starts on 1 January 2017


CONTEXT has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 722523.