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Dr. Derina Johnson
Research Fellow, Social Studies


Derina was awarded her PhD from the School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College Dublin in 2018. Her research, under the supervision of Professor Robbie Gilligan, explored the lived experience of young migrants and refugees growing up in legal and social marginalisation on the Thailand-Myanmar border.

Her PhD was motivated by the three years Derina spent living on the Thailand-Myanmar border as field director for a small mental health organisation. In collaboration with local refugee and migrant groups, Derina worked on developing culturally appropriate and sustainable psychosocial care programmes, trainings and initiatives for children and youth.

Prior to her work in Thailand, Derina ran her own play therapy practice working predominately with children and young people in the inner city and other disadvantaged areas of Dublin. Derina obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Psychology from University College Dublin, and studied Play Therapy and Psychotherapy at the Children's Therapy Centre with Eileen Prendiville.

Derina is currently the Research Coordinator for the Children's Research Network / Trinity Research in Childhood Centre. She also lectures on child psychology in DCU, is involved in refugee family research in UCD, teaches research methods and supervises final year dissertations on the MA in Creative Psychotherapy at the Children's Therapy Centre, and continues to work on publications from her PhD.

Publications and Further Research Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Johnson, D. & Gilligan, R., Youth agency in everyday precarity: the experiences of young migrants and refugees growing up on the Thailand-Myanmar border, Journal of Youth Studies, 2020 Journal Article, 2020 DOI

Discovering Culturally Appropriate Psychosocial Care for Children and Young People in, editor(s)Kathleen Allden and Nancy Murakami , Trauma and Recovery on War's Border: A Guide for Global Health Workers, New Hampshire, University Press New England, 2015, pp109 - 140, [Johnson, D., Thawda, L., Thwe, S., Hay Mar San ] Book Chapter, 2015

Non-Peer-Reviewed Publications

Derina Johnson, Adul Sam-on: the stateless boy who survived the Thai cave - and helped with the rescue, 2018, - Miscellaneous, 2018

Research Expertise


IMMIGRANTS; Refugees; resilience; social research; youth; Youth transition


Awards and Honours

PhD thesis passed with no corrections 2018