Rebecca Graber

Research activity per year

Personal profile

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising students in any of the following areas:

  • peer relationships, peer support and/or friendships
  • resilience to complex risks
  • social/community approaches to health and well-being

Projects might use creative visual methods, qualitative methods, non-experimental quantitative methods, or mixed/multiple methods. I particularly welcome students who are curious about expanding mainstream psychology by, for example, taking a resilience-based approach; working with marginalised, underrepresented and/or vulnerable persons; taking an intercultural or international perspective; and/or working in a participatory manner.

Scholarly biography

I teach on a range of modules with a focus on applied psychology, well-being, developmental psychology and the use of qualitative methods. My research since arriving at SASS has focused on using qualitative and mixed methods to explore peer- and social contributions to resilience. I am currently working on a GCRF-funded project exploring recovery and resilience to substance misuse in Assam, India and with Dr Charlie Lea exploring social contributions to resilience and well-being.

Before this, I was a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex working with Dr Richard de Visser and a multidisciplinary team of colleagues on projects funded by ERAB and the NIHR exploring young people's resilience to problematic alcohol use. I obtained my PhD from the University of Leeds under the supervision of Professor Anna Madill and Professor Rhiannon Turner. My PhD used mixed methods to explored the meanings of best friendship to socioeconomically vulnerable young people and determined that a good quality best friendship significantly predicts increased psychological resilience in this group. One of the resulting papers was selected by the New Yorker as one of the six most interesting psychology papers of the year (2015). As a New Yorker myself I was very proud of this! Prior to my PhD I worked with the NHS and in education research. 

Research interests

My work centres on how peer relationships can contribute to the development of psychological resilience in the face of complex challenges to mental health and wellbeing, with a particular orientation to lived experience. My research aims to identify, understand and promote the contributions of informal social relationships and practices, especially as these arise in resistance to or as consequence of broad social risks (such as austerity, poverty, stigma, discrimination, colonial legacy, and prevalence of harmful substances). While this may sound grim, my work consistently engages with the strength, humour, support and lightheartedness that can be wrought through social connection.

While I am very much a (critical) psychologist, I believe that successfully engagement with the meanings, opportunities and adaptive benefits of social connection often requires thoughtful inter- and multi-discipinary perspective. For example, my current research involves working with colleagues in public health, media studies, and rehabilitation services. This ESRC/AHRC funded GCRF project is in collaboration with the University of Leeds, Mind India, NIRMAAN Rehabilitation Institute and the Hope Foundation, and uses participatory photography and filmmaking to explore resistance and resilience to problematic substance use among young people in Assam, India. Previously I collaborated with the Overseas Development Institute to draw lessons on psychological resilience for practitioners and researchers working in climate change and humanitarian disaster response. I have also worked with a counselling psychologist to explore the lived experience of peer support in a queer community pub.

I have worked with adults, young people and adolescents facing challenges from alcohol and substance use, socioeconomic vulnerability, and discrimination based on their LGBTQIA+ identity. I primarily use qualitative methods these days, including descriptive and interpretive phenomenological analysis, thematic analysis, and visual methods, but I use non-experimental quantitative methods, too. 



Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Close Friendships and Development of Psychological Resilience across the Lifespan: A Dual-Cohort Study, University of Leeds

Award Date: 4 Nov 2013

Bachelor, McGill University

Master, Nottingham Trent University


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