Bio

Koa-2.2I am a psychologist with specialisations in both clinical and developmental psychology and a senior research fellow at The University of Queensland. I am also the author of two books: Becoming Mum, a self-help book offering evidence-based psychological support grounded in acceptance and commitment therapy for the transition to motherhood and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy The Clinician’s Guide for Supporting Parents, a clinical manual for all professionals using acceptance and commitment therapy with parents (co-authored with the lovely Lisa Coyne). I live in Brisbane, Australia, with my husband and two children.

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’) and compassion focussed therapy (CFT).  ACT and CFT represent the latest advances in the evidence-based CBT tradition and incorporate mindfulness, acceptance, compassion, and vital living. I am especially interested in applying compassion focussed 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 incredibly fortunate to be able to enjoy a scientific career. In my role as a senior research fellow at The University of Queensland, I lead research projects, I supervise research higher degree scholars and contribute to projects as an investigator. My research falls within three key research interests:

  • Parenting including parenting intervention, parental adjustment, the transition to parenting 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
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Compassion Focussed Therapy particularly the application of ACT and CFT to supporting parents

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

To date, I have over 70 publications in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.  This includes multiple randomised controlled trials of parenting intervention with families of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities or at risk of neurodevelopmental disabilities due to prematurity and multiple randomised controlled trials applying acceptance and commitment therapy or compassion focussed therapy to parenting. 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 the self-help book Becoming Mum because I wanted to give women, all women, access to evidence-based psychological support
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 in 2010 and 2011.

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.

I began Acceptance and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: the Clinician’s Guide for Supporting Parents while on maternity leave for the second time.

It is a collaboration between myself and the wonderful Lisa Coyne.

Although it very much rests on our research and clinical experience to date, we also went back to the wider literature, researched widely and pushed our own thinking forward.

There is much in this book that is completely new and I’m proud of that.

Pregnancy

Koa with baby

When I gave birth to my first child in July 2011 and became a parent myself, I fulfilled a lifelong dream, a dream I’ve added to with a second child in 2017.

I am still in awe of the fact that I get to spend the rest of my life loving and caring for my wonderful children.

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.

As a parent myself, I aim to accept my own imperfections, to hold my mistakes lightly, and to truly ‘be there’ for my children as the whole and imperfect human being that I am. 

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