Mind-Body Research in Health Laboratory

The Mind-Body Research in Health Laboratory (MiRth) is a world-leading, multi-disciplinary research lab that aims to understand how the mind-body connection could be harnessed to improve health.

The science of mind-body interactions

The MiRth team is a group of world-class psychology researchers specialising in health and clinical psychology and behavioural medicine, studying the mind-body interactions in a variety of contexts, and developing supportive therapies for debilitating chronic conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis and cancer.

MiRth members are fascinated by the bi-directional links between the brain and other major body systems such as the gastrointestinal tract. Through our work, we describe and try to understand what the mind-body connection means for the treatment of complex chronic illnesses.

In our interventional studies, we don't favour one specific psychotherapeutic approach, and are interested in developing condition-specific cognitive-behavioural, acceptance commitment, mindfulness and hypnotherapy approaches. We are passionate about exploring the efficacy of mind-body therapies such as yoga, expressive writing, forest therapy, cold-water swimming and animal therapy to improve the wellbeing of people living with chronic conditions.

The interventions we test are co-developed with our consumer partners and advocacy groups, as well as our clinical and scientific collaborators in Australia and around the world. We disseminate our work widely including via consumer organisations, scientific journals, books and public-focused publications.

Do you have endometriosis and pain?

We're examining the effectiveness of mind-body interventions for people with endometriosis pain in an upcoming study. Find out if you're eligible and how you can take part.

Download The Happi Study flyer (PDF, 329.4KB)

Focus areas

Psycho-gastroenterology

Within the field of psycho-gastroenterology, our research initiatives aim to document brain-gut interactions in people with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome through large-scale prospective studies.

Alongside consumers, we develop and adapt psychotherapies such as ACT and CBT to support people living with chronic gastrointestinal conditions and co-morbid problems such as fatigue and chronic pain. We also test telehealth-based mind-body interventions such as expressive writing for COVID-19-related distress in people with inflammatory bowel disease and gut-directed hypnotherapy for refractory Crohn’s disease.

Psycho-gynaecology

We have keen interest in improving wellbeing for people living with dysmenorrhea and endometriosis. We have an ongoing cohort study focused on period pain and endometriosis where we monitor both mental and physical outcomes in a large sample of Australians with pelvic pain. We also study self-compassion in people with endometriosis.

We also target pain and aim to improve quality of life through a large-scale clinical trial of CBT and yoga in people with endometriosis. In collaboration with South Australian partners, we are developing a hypnotherapy intervention for chronic pelvic pain.

Psycho-oncology

Within psycho-oncology, we have a specific interest in supporting people living with Stage 4 cancers and people undergoing end-of-life care as well as their carers.

Using a mixed-methods approach, we are currently co-developing with consumers and testing telehealth ACT-based interventions focused on growing acceptance and finding meaning in metastatic breast, prostate and oesophageal cancer.

Our members

MiRth Lead
Antonina Mikocka-Walus

MiRth Deputy Lead
Subhadra Evans

Data Science Advisor
David Skvarc

Members

Consumer organisations collaborators

Scientific and clinical collaborators

International

Professor Alexander C. Ford, University of Leeds and St. James's University Hospital, UK

Professor Douglas A. Drossman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, US

Professor Laurie Keefer, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, US

Professor Lesley Graff, University of Manitoba, Canada

Professor Charles N. Bernstein, University of Manitoba, Canada

Professor Catherine Hewitt, University of York, UK

Professor Gabriele Moser, Medical University Vienna, Austria

Professor Roland  von Känel, University Hospital Zurich and University of Zurich, Switzerland

Professor Miranda van Tilburg, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, US

Professor Nuno Ferreira, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

Professor Richard B. Gearry, University of Otago, NZ

Professor Andreas Stengel, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany

Professor Lonnie Zeltzer, ULCA, US

National

Professor Jane M. Andrews, Royal Adelaide Hospital

Professor Anna Chur-Hansen, University of Adelaide

Professor Peter Gibson, Monash University

Professor Adrian Esterman, University of South Australia

Associate Professor Simon R. Knowles, Swinburne University of Technology

Associate Professor Jim Tsaltas, Monash Health

Dr Marilla Druitt, University Hospital Geelong

Dr Lauren Beswick, Barwon Health

Dr Bec O’Hara, University of Adelaide

Dr Leesa Van Niekerk, University of Tasmania

Representative publications

Scholarly books

Knowles, S., Keefer, L., Mikocka-Walus, A. (2019). Psychogastroenterology with adults: A handbook for mental health professionals, Routledge: London.

Knowles, S., Mikocka-Walus, A. (Editors). (2014). Psychological Aspects of Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A biopsychosocial approach, Routledge: London.

Selected refereed journal articles

Staudacher, H., Mikocka-Walus, A., Ford, A. (2021, in press). Common mental health disorders in gastroenterology: considerations for clinical trials, Lancet Gastro & Hep.

Emerson, C., Barhoun, P., Olive, L., Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M., Gibson, P., Skvarc, S., Mikocka-Walus, A. A systematic review of psychological therapy to manage fatigue in patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease J Psychosom Res.

Emerson, C., Fuller-Tyszkiewicz, M., Orr, R., Olive, L., Beswick, L., Lyall, K., Skvarc, D., Cummins, R., Mikocka-Walus, A. Low subjective wellbeing is associated with psychological distress in people living with inflammatory bowel disease, Dig Dis Sci.

Evans, S., Dowding, C., Druitt, M., Mikocka-Walus, A. "I’m in iso all the time anyway": A mixed methods study on the impact of COVID-19 on Australian women with endometriosis J Psych Res.

Goodoory, V.C., Mikocka-Walus, A., Yiannakou, Y., Houghton, L.A., Black, C.J., Ford, A.C. (2021, in press). Impact of Psychological Co-morbidity on the Natural History of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, American Journal of Gastroenterology.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Olive, L., Skvarc, D., Beswick, L., Massuger, W., Raven, L., Emerson, C., Evans, S. (2020, in press). Expressive writing to combat distress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in people with inflammatory bowel disease: A trial protocol, J Psychosom Res.

Evans, S., Mikocka-Walus, A., Olive, L., Druitt, M., Seidman, L.C., Payne, L.A. (2020, in press). Phenotypes of women with and without endometriosis and relationships to functional pain disability, Pain Medicine.

Dober, M., Mikocka-Walus, A., Olive, L., Evans, S., Beswick, L, Emerson, C. (2020, in press). Perspectives on an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) based program for patients with inflammatory bowel disease and comorbid anxiety and/or depression, Psychother Research.

Hanlon, I., Hewitt, C., Evans, S., Taylor, J., Selinger, C., Mikocka-Walus, A. (2020, in press). Adapting "Tame Your Gut” for patients with inflammatory bowel disease and co-morbid anxiety and/or depression, J Health Psych.

White, V., Linardon, J., Stone, J.E., Holmes-Truscott, E., Olive, L., Mikocka-Walus, A., Hendrieckx, C., Evans, S., Speight, J. (2020, in press). Online psychological interventions to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety and general distress in those with chronic health conditions: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials, Psychological Medicine.

Lores, T., Goess, Ch., Mikocka-Walus, A., Collins, K., Burke, A., Chur-Hansen, A., Delfabbro, P., Andrews, J.M. (2020, in press). Integration of psychological care into an established hospital service reduces healthcare utilisation costs related to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Hanlon, I., Dober, M., Emerson, C., Olive, L., Evans, S., Selinger, C., Taylor, J., Hewitt, C. (2020, in press). Lived experience in people with inflammatory bowel disease and co-morbid anxiety and depression in the UK and Australia, J Health Psychology.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Ford, A., Drossman, D. (2020). Antidepressants in inflammatory bowel disease, Nature Reviews Gastroenterology 17(3), 184–192.

Kantidakis, J., Knowles, S., Mikocka‐Walus, A., Taft, T., Keefer, L., Palsson, O., Drossman, D. (2019). A clinician's quick guide to evidence‐based approaches: Irritable bowel syndrome, Clinical Psychologist, 23 (3), 283–285.

Evans, S., Fernandez, S., Olive, L., Payne, L., Mikocka-Walus, A. (2019). Psychological and Mind-Body Interventions for Endometriosis: A Systematic Review, Journal of Psychosomatic Research,124:109756.

Lores, T., Goess, Ch., Mikocka-Walus, A., Collins, K., Burke, A., Chur-Hansen, A., Delfabbro, P., Andrews, J.M. (2019). Integrated psychological care is needed, welcomed and effective in ambulatory Inflammatory Bowel Disease management: Evaluation of a new initiative, Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, 13(7), 819–827.

Torres, J., Ellul, P., Langhorst, J., Mikocka-Walus, A., Barreiro-de Acosta, M., Basnayake, C., Sheng Ding, N. J., Gilardi, D., Katsanos, K., Moser, G., Opheim, R., Palmela, C., Pellino, G., Van der Marel, S., Vavricka, S.R. (2019). European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation Topical Review on Complementary Medicine and Psychotherapy in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, pii: jjz051. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjz051

Mikocka-Walus, A., Prady, S.L., Pollok, J., Esterman, A.J., Gordon, A., Knowles, S., Andrews, J.M. (2019). Adjuvant therapy with antidepressants for the management of inflammatory bowel disease (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 12;4:CD012680.

Hanlon, I., Hewitt, C., Bell, K., Mikocka-Walus, A. (2018). Systematic Review with Meta-analysis: Online psychological interventions for mental and physical health outcomes in gastrointestinal disorders including irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 48(3), 244–259.

Linedale, E.C., Mikocka-Walus, A., Vincent, A., Gibson, P.R., Andrews, J.M. (2018). Performance of an algorithm-based approach to the diagnosis and management of FGIDs: A pilot trial, Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 30(1), 1–10, DOI: 10.1111/nmo.13243

Mikocka-Walus, A., Hughes, P., Bampton, P., Gordon, A., Campaniello, M. A., Mavrangelos, C., Stewart, B.J., Esterman, A., Andrews, J.M. (2017). Fluoxetine for maintenance of remission and to improve quality of life and mental health in Crohn’s disease (CD): A pilot randomised placebo-controlled trial, Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, 11(4), 509–514.

Gracie, D., Irvine, J.I., Sood, R., Mikocka-Walus, A., Hamlin, J., Ford, A. (2017). Effect of Psychological Therapy on Disease Activity, Psychological Co-morbidity, and Quality of Life in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2(3), 189–199.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Andrews, J., Bampton, P., Hughes, P., Esterman, A. (2017).Cognitive-behavioural therapy for inflammatory bowel disease: 24-month data from a randomised controlled trial Int J Behav Med, 24(1), 127–135.

Linedale, E. C., Chur-Hansen, A., Mikocka-Walus, A. Gibson, P.R., Andrews, J.M. (2016). Uncertain Diagnostic Language Regarding Patients with Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders is Associated with Excess Endoscopic Investigations and Could Promote Repeat Consultations and Discarded Diagnoses, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 14(12), 1735–1741.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Pittet, V., Rossel, J-B., von Kaenel, R. (2016). Symptoms of depression and anxiety are independently associated with clinical recurrence in inflammatory bowel disease: An observational study of a large prospective cohort, Clin Gastr Hepatol, Jun;14(6), 829–835.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Knowles, S., Keefer, L., Graff, L. (2016). Controversies revisited: A systematic review of the co-morbidity of depression and anxiety with inflammatory bowel diseases [an invited systematic review], Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, 22(3), 752–62.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Ahl, A., Gordon, A., Andrews, J.M. (2016). A cognitive-behavioural therapy self-help booklet aimed to reduce anxiety in functional gastrointestinal disorder patients: Patient and health practitioner perspectives, Psychotherapy Research, 26(2), 164–77.

McCombie, A., Gearry, R., Andrews, J., Mulder, R., Mikocka-Walus, A. (2016). Does computerized cognitive behavioral therapy help people with inflammatory bowel disease? A randomized controlled trial, Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, Jan; 22(1), 171–81.

Mikocka-Walus, A., Andrews, J., Bampton, P., Hughes, P., Esterman, A. (2015). Cognitive-behavioural therapy has no effect on disease activity but improves quality of life in subgroups of patients with inflammatory bowel disease: a pilot randomised controlled trial, BMC Gastroenterology, 2;15(1):54.

McCombie, A., Gearry, R., Andrews, J., Mikocka-Walus, A., Mulder, R. (2015). Computerised cognitive behavioural therapy for psychological distress in patients with chronic medical illnesses: a systematic review, Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings, 22(1), 20–44.

Public-focused publications

Mikocka-Walus, A. (2018). IBD and the Gut-Brain Connection: A patient's and carer's guide to taming Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis,Hammersmith Health Books: London, UK

Evans, S., Mikocka-Walus, A., Westrupp, E. We asked over 2,000 Australian parents how they fared in lockdown. Here’s what they said, The Conversation, 2020, 25 November

Mikocka-Walus, A. Mental Health Matters, Connect – the Crohn’s & Colitis UK Magazine, 19 September 2019

Mikocka-Walus, A. The brain and the gut talk to each other: how fixing one could help the other, The Conversation, 2017, 17 July

Participate in our research

Do you have endometriosis and pain and want to improve your wellbeing? We are examining the effectiveness of mind-body interventions for people with endometriosis and pain. Eligible participants will be randomised to 1 of 3 mind-body interventions for 8 weeks. Participants need to meet the study criteria* and participate in an interview to take part in the study.

For more information, please email: thehappistudy@deakin.edu.au.

*To be eligible, you will need to have diagnosed endometriosis (documented in a letter from your physician), and be at least 18 years of age, not currently pregnant, and have access to the internet.

Contact us

Director, MiRth
Associate Professor Antonina Mikocka-Walus
+61 3 9246 8575
mikocka@deakin.edu.au

Deputy Director, MiRth
Dr Subhadra Evans
+61 3 9244 6270
subhadra.evans@deakin.edu.au