Alexa Bonacquisti, PhD joined Holy Family University’s Psychology program as its newest Assistant Professor this fall semester. Dr. Bonacquisti brings years of research focused on women’s reproductive health psychology and perinatal mental health. She recently sat down with Holy Family University to discuss her interesting research field, her classroom philosophy, and her favorite hobbies that help her unwind.
HFU: Can you tell us more about your background and how you came to Holy Family University?
AB: “I grew up in the Philadelphia area and earned my PhD in Clinical Psychology at Drexel University. After completing my clinical internship at UNC-Chapel Hill, I returned to Drexel for a postdoctoral fellowship and became a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania. In addition to clinical practice and research pursuits, I have always loved teaching and mentoring students. I am thrilled to be joining the faculty at Holy Family University where I will have the opportunity to teach, train, and mentor students who will contribute so much to others in their future counseling careers.”
HFU: Your research is focused on women’s reproductive health psychology and perinatal mental health. What made you want to pursue these topics?
AB: “When I first began studying psychology, I was drawn to women’s reproductive health because it was an area with so many important implications for the well-being of women, children, and families. Our society expects that the path towards becoming a mother and the transition to motherhood is always an easy, uneventful, and joyful time; however, this is not the case for all women and often any difficulties are endured in silence and frequently stigmatized. Through my work, I want to recognize the range of experiences and emotions women may encounter during their childbearing years, including infertility, pregnancy loss, perinatal psychiatric symptoms, and adverse infant outcomes, such as admission to a neonatal intensive care unit. Through my pursuit of these topics, I hope to increase our knowledge of the psychological aspects of these experiences so we can develop better support systems, refine clinical interventions, and improve public policies to support women and families as they navigate their reproductive journeys. Moreover, as a clinical psychologist, I am very interested in translating research findings to effective interventions and the development of innovative treatments for perinatal women.”
HFU: What are some surprising facts you’ve discovered throughout your research that those who are unfamiliar with the topic might find surprising?
AB: “Postpartum depression is recently gaining attention in terms of recognition by healthcare providers and advocacy efforts to better screen for and treat these symptoms. Often when we consider psychiatric responses after childbirth, we think about depression and many may be surprised to know the range of other symptoms that may occur in the perinatal period. In both my research and clinical work, I’ve found that anxiety is very common during pregnancy and the postpartum period, but often is overlooked or unrecognized. Anxiety reduces quality of life and functioning and also may limit a mother’s ability to live consistently with her values and bond with her baby in the way she might like. Due to these findings, I hope to continue to investigate not only depression but also anxiety and other psychiatric symptoms to better identify and understand the range of emotions women may experience in the perinatal period.”
HFU: What is your classroom philosophy when teaching? How do you get the students engaged in the classroom to fully comprehend the material?
AB: “I emphasize interaction, collaboration, critical thinking, and contextual understanding to cultivate an appreciation and enthusiasm for psychology as a discipline and a science. I strive to create a classroom environment that is interdisciplinary, engaging, and flexible, allowing students to be active participants in the learning process. For example, I facilitate discussions of the material, focus on real-world applications, and incorporate varying perspectives to propel students’ learning and growth. We will often explore an issue in-depth or review case studies together where we can all learn from each other as we hear different perspectives and opinions.”
HFU: Do you have any hobbies you like to do for fun outside of Holy Family?
AB: “Most of my time outside of Holy Family is spent with my husband and young daughter; we enjoy outside activities, exploring museums, and taking walks in new places. I love spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy cooking and practicing yoga.”