Hannah completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at Monash University in 2003, and obtained her Professional Doctorate of Psychology (Counselling) from Swinburne University in 2011. Following graduation from her doctorate, Hannah began working in private practice in South Yarra, specialising in the treatment of postnatal depression, while also continuing a successful research career in the area of maternal mental health. Throughout Hannah’s career she has been dedicated to improving the well-being of women – beginning with work at a women’s telephone counselling service, followed by over 15 years working on The Maternal Health Study research project, plus work in hospital antenatal clinics, assisting pregnant women with their emotional preparation for birth and motherhood.
In 2013, Hannah relocated to the Mornington Peninsula where she now works in private practice with perinatal women. Here, Hannah sees women who are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, adjustment difficulties, relationship difficulties, reproductive loss, pregnancy decision making, issues around termination, and parenting.
Hannah has achieved great success in her research career which spans close to 20 years. She has published over 20 peer-reviewed journal articles on maternal mental and physical health, presented her research findings at national and international conferences, and run invited training sessions in the areas of mindfulness, maternal mental health, and relationship conflict and domestic violence. Most recently, Hannah has been a Senior Research Officer with the Maternal Health Study at Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, exploring women’s mental and physical health in the first 10 years after childbirth. One of Hannah’s most influential papers (published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) demonstrated that maternal depression is more common at four years postpartum than at any time in the first postnatal year. This paper generated worldwide media attention, and the implications of this finding are informing policy developments in perinatal services in Australia and the UK.
Hannah’s doctoral thesis explored the effectiveness of a group mindfulness program for women with binge eating problems. Building on this work, Hannah led a pilot study to evaluate a mindfulness-based group program for pregnant women at the Royal Women’s Hospital. For this study, she co-wrote the MindBabyBody program, an intervention specifically designed to reduce anxiety and depression in pregnancy and the postnatal period.
Hannah is passionate about communicating the findings of her research with the general public, and advocating for the importance of mother’s mental health. Her work is regularly profiled in the media, including articles in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The Age, and regular radio interviews (including an invited interview with the BBC). She has written for The Conversation (New mothers making time for themselves reduces chance of postnatal depression) and was selected to appear in the Brilliant Minds campaign, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.
Approach to Therapy
Hannah takes an eclectic and individualised approach to her work with women. She believes first and foremost in the importance of a strong, safe, and comfortable relationship with her clients. From this foundation, she uses strategies from a range of treatment approaches including:
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to cultivate qualities of presence, awareness, acceptance, and self-compassion
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to explore thinking patterns which may be contributing to distress
- Interpersonal Therapy to explore relevant life experiences and understand the dynamics of current relationships
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to connect with the values which are important to you, and
- Emotion-Focused Therapy to understand the important role of emotions in a satisfying life.
Hannah is particularly passionate about the potential benefits of mindfulness for women and their families, and has participated in meditation retreats in Australia and overseas. She has extensive experience facilitating mindfulness groups for women and has undertaken specific training for the use of mindfulness in the perinatal period (Mindful Motherhood training for Professionals).
Hannah is committed to a holistic approach to mental health, taking into account the psychological, social, physical, and cultural contributors to maternal mental health. This may include understanding the role of intimate relationships, acknowledging the significance of time out and social support, and assessing the cultural expectations of motherhood.
Hannah loves sharing the perinatal period with her clients – it is a time of such excitement and joy, but also often a time of great hardship and stress. Through counselling, Hannah has seen how the experience of motherhood can act as a catalyst for extraordinary and lasting changes in women’s lives.
Registered with the Psychology Board of Australia (PBA)
Associate Member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS)
Member of the Australasian Marcé Society
Hannah has produced over 20 peer-reviewed journal publications in the area of maternal mental and physical health, including in top-ranking international journals in this field.
Hannah Woolhouse, Rhonda Small, Kirsty Miller, Stephanie Brown. Frequency of “Time for Self” Is a Significant Predictor of Postnatal Depressive Symptoms: Results from a Prospective Pregnancy Cohort Study. Birth, 2016; 43:1, 58–67.
Hannah Woolhouse, Kristine Mercuri, Fiona Judd, Stephanie Brown. Antenatal mindfulness intervention to reduce depression, anxiety and stress: A pilot randomised controlled trial. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth, 2014;14:369.
Hannah Woolhouse, Deirdre Gartland, Fiona Mensah, Stephanie Brown. Maternal depression from early pregnancy to four years postpartum in a prospective pregnancy cohort study. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2015;122:312-21
Hannah Woolhouse, Deirdre Gartland, Kelsey Hegarty, Susan Donath, Stephanie Brown. Depressive symptoms and intimate partner violence in the 12 months after childbirth. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 2012;119 (3); 315-323.