Thursday, 27 October 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: Could I, should I? Parenting aspirations and personal considerations of five young women with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome

Miss Lisa Phillips is a Clinical Psychologist who did her Masters of Clinical Psychology at the University of Newcastle in Australia with Dr Linda Campbell and Dr Martin Johnson from the School of Psychology. Recently her Masters research was published in collaboration with Miss Jane Goodwin, and is available here:

Establishing relationships and considering parenthood can present both challenges and joys for any young adult. However, young people with an intellectual disability (ID) can encounter extra obstacles on the road to achieving their aspirations. This phenomenological study explores the perceptions, hopes, and dreams of relationships and parenting of women with a genetic intellectual disability, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.

After significant analysis four main themes emerged from the interviews, that is patterns in the data that was shared between the participants: (a) challenges and acceptance of having 22q11DS, (b) desire for social acceptance and normality, (c) welcoming of emotional and practical support, and (d) individuation. The themes describe the discordance between the challenges and acceptance of having a genetic disorder, the need to be “normal,” the importance and appreciation of social support, and the women’s aspirations for independence.

Overall, the conclusions from the study highlight that these young women with 22q11DS approaches their adulthood with a sense of optimism and personal competence yet recognise their unique challenges. Parental support is valued despite the need for independence. The findings provide insight into the lived experience of women with 22q11DS.

Citation: Phillips, L., Goodwin, J., Johnson, M. P., & Campbell, L. E. (2016). Could I, should I? Parenting aspirations and personal considerations of five young women with 22q11. 2 deletion syndrome. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 1-11.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: The experiences of women who have accessed a perinatal and infant mental health service: a qualitative investigation

Eliza Davis recently graduated with a Master of Clinical Psychology from the University of Newcastle. She undertook her research with Dr Linda Campbell and Dr Dominiek Coates at the Perinatal Infant Mental Health (PIMH) service in Gosford. The research was recently published online:

Client feedback is an essential part of service evaluation and can aid both the development and delivery of client-centred services. The current study is an investigation into the experiences of women who have accessed a perinatal infant mental health (PIMH) service. The purpose of the perinatal infant mental health (PIMH) service in Gosford, Central Coast (Australia) is to support vulnerable women to connect with and care for their infant, however it is not well understood how effectively the service supports the needs of the consumers.

Overall, it was found that trusting therapeutic relationships with a regular clinician facilitated a safe environment conducive to counselling, which allowed for reflections on trauma, mental health and parenting. Implications: Findings from this study highlight the positive impact of PIMH services on consumers with a particular emphasis on the importance of the consumer–clinician relationship. Importantly, it was also found that dealing with past trauma was critically important for the women to enable them to move on with their lives as mothers.

Citation: Coates, D., Davis, E., & Campbell, L. (2016). The experiences of women who have accessed a perinatal and infant mental health service: a qualitative investigation. Advances in Mental Health, 1-13.

Monday, 24 October 2016

SCAN PhD Students win awards at PRC-Brain and Mental Health Post-graduate Conference

Students from SCAN’s Cognitive Control group headed by A/Prof Frini Karayanidis excelled at the recent Priority Research Centre for Brain and Mental Health Post-doctoral and Post-graduate conference that was held at HMRI on Wednesday 12 October. 

Patrick Cooper was awarded the prize for best oral presentation, Olivia Whalen was awarded the prize for best poster and Montana McKewen was a runner up for the poster prize. The titles of their presentations are listed below; readers interested in more details concerning these presentations are invited to contact the authors via the email addresses listed below.

Functional gradients of prefrontal cortex organisation have corresponding oscillatory hierarchies. 
Patrick S. Cooper, Frini Karayanidis, Francisco Barceló

The methodology behind eye tracking in early infancy.
Olivia Whalen, Frini Karayanidis, Linda Campbell, Alison Lane

Rapid adjustments of frontoparietal networks underpin proactive cognitive control.
Montana McKewen, Patrick S. Cooper, Aaron S. W. Wong, W. Ross Fulham, Patricia T. Michie, & Frini Karayanidis

Friday, 21 October 2016

Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group Seminar

Prosocial attitudes as mediators of the attachment and psychological health relationship: The case for self-compassion and gratitude.

Associate Professor Ross Wilkinson
School of Psychology, University of Newcastle

Date: 26th October
Time: 12 noon
Place: Keats Reading Room (video to Ourimbah Science Offices)

Abstract: There is an increasing interest in the link between prosocial attitudes and psychological health from both a ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ psychology perspective. In this talk I will present data examining the extent to which a prosocial construct (gratitude) and a quasi-prosocial construct (self-compassion) are related to interpersonal expectancies (attachment) and psychological adjustment (depression, anxiety, stress). A model is proposed in which both gratitude and self-compassion partially mediate the link between attachment and psychological (ill-)health. Participants were 506 (397 women) university students and members of the general public who completed an online survey. Ages ranged from 18 to 82 years (M = 31.4, SD = 14.2). Correlations between all variables investigated were significant. Using structural equation modelling, the hypothesized mediational model was evaluated and supported, with some modifications based on whether psychological health was indicated by anxiety, stress, or depression. In the models evaluated attachment anxiety was more related to self-compassion while attachment avoidance was more related to gratitude. Overall, the pattern of direct and indirect effects indicate that a self-compassionate attitude plays a greater role in psychological adjustment than dispositional gratitude both directly and as a mediator of attachment insecurity. Limitations of the research are discussed and implications for clinical practice explored.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

SCAN seminar hosting Prof. Jakob Hohwy from Monash, Monday Oct 24

The SCAN seminar on Monday 24th October will be delivered by Prof. Jakob Hohwy from Monash University at 12:00 noon in the Keats Reading Room.

Title: "Better believe the free energy principle"

Many believe that an important part of brain function is to form predictions of sensory input. Fewer believe the free energy principle, which is an extreme version of the idea that the brain is predictive. So it ought to be reasonable to believe that prediction is an important part of brain function while not believing the free energy principle. Using simple considerations from philosophy of science, I argue that if one begins with the idea that prediction is an important part of brain function, then it is reasonable to also believe the free energy principle.

Jakob is Professor of Philosophy at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He studied in Aarhus, Denmark, obtained his masters from St. Andrews, Scotland, and did his PhD at the Australian National University. Jakob has established the Cognition & Philosophy Lab at Monash University, which conducts empirical experiments and theoretical explorations in consciousness science. His approach is highly interdisciplinary, and he collaborates with neuroscientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists on topics such as the neural correlates of consciousness, bistable perception, multisensory integration in autism, and bodily self-awareness. Jakob is the author of The Predictive Mind (OUP, 2013), which seeks to unify many aspects of consciousness under the notion of prediction error minimisation.

Jakob will be available to meet with staff and students after 2pm on Monday. Please contact Dr. Bryan Paton ( if you wish to meet with Jakob.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

JUST PUBLISHED: new paper examines whether mental health problems in high school students vary by socio-demographic factors

PhD candidate Julia Dray and A/Prof Jenny Bowman of the Health and Clinical Psychology Research Group and colleagues, recently published a study which investigated prevalence of mental health problems in high school students, and how such prevalence varies by age, gender, Aboriginal status, remoteness of residential location and socio-economic disadvantage.

The recently published paper relates to one of three studies presented last month by Julia at the 22nd International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions World Congress, Calgary Canada, which Julia attended as one of twenty international early career researchers to be awarded a place in the Donald J Cohen Fellow program at the World Congress.

The research team surveyed a regional sample of almost 7,000 high school students… so what did they find?

Almost 1 in 5 students scored in the ‘very high’ range for general mental health problems, with girls more likely to have mental health problems overall and in particular internalising problems (e.g. emotional symptoms), and boys more likely to have externalising problems (e.g. hyperactivity). Aboriginal students consistently scored higher for mental health problems than non-Aboriginal students.

A particular strength of the study, the research team developed the paper through a cultural advice process which involved an internal cultural advice group within the research team, an external cultural steering group and external Aboriginal researchers and community members to ensure that results relating to Aboriginal students were correctly interpreted embedded in the context of multi-generational trauma for Aboriginal people in Australia. The paper highlights the need for the development and validation of culturally appropriate measures of mental health for use with Aboriginal young people, and the equal importance of considering resilience and strengths within Aboriginal individuals and communities including strong family and interpersonal relationships, maintenance of a unique cultural identity and connection, and the development of coping skills.    

You can read the full paper at:

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Health and Clinical Research Group Seminar
Applications of positive psychology to psychotherapy and clinical practice

Presenter: Professor Stephen Joseph (University of Nottingham)
Time: 19th October, Noon
Location: Keats  Room (AVLG17), Callaghan Campus (video to Ourimbah Science Offices) University of Newcastle

In this seminar Stephen will discuss his research interests in the field of positive psychology. It was in the late 1980’s as a new researcher in the field of posttraumatic stress he observed that survivors of disaster reported positive changes in their outlook on life. Changing the course of his career to focus on how adversity can be a springboard to higher levels of psychological functioning he was one of the pioneers of the field of study now known as posttraumatic growth. Posttraumatic growth attracted much research interest in the subsequent two decades becoming one of the flagship topics of the positive psychology movement. It offered clinicians new ways of thinking about psychotherapeutic practice with survivors of trauma. More recently, as a positive psychologist concerned not only with the alleviation of suffering but also the promotion of well-being, and curious as to how these ideas can be applied more widely, he has gone on to develop new research into the psychology of authenticity. Can helping people to live a life that is true to themselves be a road to a fully functioning life?

Stephen Joseph, PhD, is a professor at the University of Nottingham where is convenor of the human flourishing research group. Known internationally as a leading expert in positive psychology, he is the editor of the ground breaking book Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting human flourishing in work, health, education and everyday life. He studied at the London School of Economics, before going on to gain his doctorate from Kings College London Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience for his pioneering work in the field of psychological trauma. His previous book What Doesn’t Kill us: The new psychology of posttraumatic growth is available in translation across the world. His most recent book is Authentic. How to be yourself and why it matters (