No stranger to conflict

PhD in Legal Practice

Dr Thompson has been a law enforcement detective for 15 years.

Based in New York, he spends his days combing data on mental health, trying to find patterns or clues to identify the signs of a person approaching crisis point.

He uses this information to develop mental health training programs ensuring people in crisis are supported.

“It’s my job to help people in the worst moment of their lives,” Dr Thompson said.

“In my work I can apply the science to real life situations, something I would not have been able to do without my PhD.”

Dr Thompson’s law enforcement career meant he often worked in volatile situations, de-escalating high pressure incidents.

“It is an artform and I wanted to understand the science behind what I was doing to give me confidence in my work and to share it with others outside of law enforcement,” he said.

He considers himself a practitioner who infiltrated academia, completing a PhD in mediation, conflict resolution and non-verbal crisis communication at Griffith in 2011.

“I have been able to use my PhD to apply the science and data to working with people,” he said.

“By reviewing the existing research and conducting my own studies, I had a deeper understanding of everything – rapport, empathy, influencing tactics, and the important role of active listening.”

Although based in the United States, Dr Thompson chose Griffith after connecting with the University when visiting his wife’s family in northern New South Wales.

The distance was not a factor in his decision.

“A PhD is independent research and I was in frequent contact with my supervisors online,” he said.

“They were amazing, I would not have finished without their help and support.

“I never felt alone in my PhD journey. Yes, it did get tough at times but that’s where I was reminded I had the support of my supervisors.

“I also loved my topic, you have to love your topic because it will be with you for four years.”

Since completing his PhD, Dr Thompson has been a mental health and wellness research coordinator.

He continues to conduct research in collaboration with peers across the world, including Griffith University, on terrorism, hostage negotiation, mental illness, crisis communication and suicide prevention.

Dr Thompson’s mental health programs have been rolled out to tens of thousands of law enforcement officers in the United States and worldwide.

“When I teach and train people, I tell them what seems like common sense, may not seem like common sense to the person in crisis, they need to talk and know they have been understood,” he said.

“Therefore, listening to the person is key – you don’t have to solve their issues.

“We’re there to help and guide them to a path of long-term health and support.”

When he is not at work, Dr Thompson is a crisis counsellor volunteer with, Crisis Text Line, a not-for-profit organisation offering counselling services to Americans via text message.

“Imagine someone in the worst moment of their life,” he said.

“They can’t talk to anyone close to them, they won’t call a hotline, but in a last effort they send a text, I’m one of the thousands of volunteer crisis counsellors ready to help and listen,” he said.

“It is my privilege to help people in the worst moments of their lives.”

For anyone seeking support regarding any of the issues highlighted, call the Suicide Call Back Service on its 24/7 Helpline 1300 659 467 or alternatively, Lifeline Australia on 13 11 44.

Dr Thompson’s Griffith PhD thesis

Nonverbal Communication and the Skills of Effective Mediators: Developing Rapport, Building Trust, and Displaying Professionalism.

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