About Koa

Koa-2.2I am a psychologist with specialisations in both clinical and developmental psychology, a research fellow at the University of Queensland and the author of Becoming Mum, a self-help book offering evidence-based psychological support grounded in acceptance and commitment therapy for the transition to motherhood. I live in Brisbane, Australia, with my husband and daughter. 

I completed my clinical training as a psychologist at the University of Queensland, obtaining general registration as a psychologist in Australia in 2008.  I continued to seek clinical supervision and professional development, obtaining specialist registration in 2010 in both educational/developmental and clinical psychology. From the beginning of my clinical training, I was drawn to ‘third wave’ contextual cognitive behavioural therapies (CBT), particularly to acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT said as the word ‘act’).  Contextual cognitive behavioural therapies represent the latest advances in the evidence-based CBT tradition and incorporate mindfulness, acceptance and vital living. I am especially interested in applying acceptance and commitment therapy to parenting, empowering parents to build loving relationships with their children and to live out their own values as parents.   I am a member of the Australian Psychological Society (including the educational/developmental and clinical colleges) and the Association for Contextual Behavioural Science.

I feel privileged to have a scientific career. In my role as a research fellow at the University of Queensland, I supervise research higher degree students and I am involved as an investigator in diverse research projects within my areas of interest: 

  • Parenting including parenting intervention, parental adjustment, the transition to parenting, parent-infant sleep and postnatal care
  • Neurodevelopmental disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury and infants at risk of neurodevelopmental disability, including due to prematurity
  • Contextual behavioural science and contextual cognitive behavioural therapy including acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness and compassion

Many of the research projects that I’m involved in occur at the crossroads of these research interests.

Through my partnership with the not-for-profit organisation Possums and Dr Pamela Douglas, I am leading the integration of acceptance and commitment therapy into the innovative and interdisciplinary new Possums approach to postnatal care and to the support of families of children with learning and developmental challenges early in life.  As a part of this work, I am the lead author of a radically different approach to parent-infant sleep: the Possums sleep intervention.  Possums has a clinic in Brisbane offering face to face consultations and online outreach and also runs health professional training.  I am leading efforts to build science into these clinical and training activities, collecting real data on how families and health professionals experience the Possums approach, allowing us to build a solid evidence base and refine our innovative solutions. 

To date, I have over 40 publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.  This includes three completed randomised controlled trials of parenting intervention with families of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities and two completed randomised controlled trials applying acceptance and commitment therapy to parenting.  I am the lead author of the first randomised controlled trial to test the additive benefits of acceptance and commitment therapy above and beyond established parenting intervention. In 2010, I obtained the Early Career Research Award at the International Helping Families Change Conference and in 2014, I received the Award for the best paper for effective intervention for people living with Cerebral Palsy at the Australasian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.

I wrote Becoming Mum because I wanted to give women, all women, access to evidence-based psychological supportPregnancy-3.6 for the transition to motherhood.  Becoming Mum is grounded in the latest science including acceptance and commitment therapy, attachment theory and research on compassion, mindfulness and living a rewarding, active life.  The idea for Becoming Mum grew along with my first pregnancy.  I found myself writing an outline and the first chapters while heavily pregnant and impatiently waiting for labour to begin.  Most of the content of Becoming Mum was literally written on a laptop propped up on my knees while my baby slept across my chest.  I think this makes Becoming Mum a uniquely sincere book.  Although I can claim the relevant expertise to write Becoming Mum, literally holding my own baby as I wrote it meant I had to drop the veil of being ‘an expert’.  Instead, I wrote honestly and openly grounded on the evidence and from my own heart. 

When I gave birth to my first child in July 2011 and became a parent myself, I fulfilled a lifelong dream. I am still in Koa-with-baby1-783x1024awe of the fact that I get to spend the rest of my life loving someone so utterly wonderful.  Although I am familiar with the scientific literature on parenting and have plenty of clinical expertise in helping parents with parenting I am certainly not the perfect parent.  I am riddled with imperfections, as any human being is. I aim to accept my own imperfections, to hold my mistakes lightly, and to truly ‘be there’ for my child as the whole and imperfect human being that I am.  Again and again, I remind myself to relish in enjoying each moment of parenthood, even the tough ones.  Again and again, I return to what has become a central fact of my life: I love my child with an unrelenting passion.