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Through My Eyes – A Profile of Joanne Holmes, OTR, MS (Psych), BCN, PhD Candidate

🕑 8 minutes read
Posted February 22, 2019

I’ve known Joanne Holmes for many years now. An iLs user, she eventually became a trainer, traveling the country, sharing her knowledge with people new to our family of tools. Always high energy, Joanne inspires through her enthusiasm, engaging people all the more with her lovely Australian accent. What can I say, she loves movement! She gets iLs trainees up and moving in the classroom, giving ideas on adapting activities, leaving them breathless while she is still going strong.

Joanne applies the same energy to her thirst for learning. When we first met, she was an OT who had been living in the US for many years. As she was running her practice and training for iLs in the US and Canada, she set off to gain her Masters of Science in Psychology. Without a second breath, she completed Board Certification in Neurofeedback. Now that she has returned to Australia as Co-Director of Integrated Listening Systems Australia which requires continued teaching, training and consultation, she is pursuing her Doctorate in Psychology.

Her personal life is also fast-paced. Along with her husband, John, a Physical Therapist and Co-Director of Integrated Listening Systems Australia, she is raising three children and keeps up with her physical training by running almost daily. Notably, on a trip from Florida to Colorado, where she was already at an elevation of 6000 feet (2000m), she proceeded to complete the Manitou Incline (which climbs 2000 feet of elevation in less than a mile) 4 times over the week. The thought of it leaves most people aghast!

iLs has been an important part of her work over years. Read on to learn about Joanne’s journey with iLs, iLs in Australia and her current research.

Kate O’Brien-Minson
Integrated Listening Systems, Co-Founder & President


Through My Eyes                                                              

Joanne McIntyre, OT, MS (Psych), PhD Candidate

It is an interesting journey that life takes from Queensland to Queensland via Florida.

Back in the 1990’s I completed my degree in Occupational Therapy at Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia. I couldn’t wait to leave and travel the world. My first stop was my final clinical affiliation at Cairns Base Hospital in FNQ (that’s Far North Queensland). The tropical climate, relaxed atmosphere and a great clinical environment- what’s not to love? From there I was recruited to Largo, Florida. I thought I was heading to the Florida Keys, but Largo was on the Gulf of Mexico. I left with a backpack knowing nothing of Florida; I had no idea about Disney or gators or hurricanes! The travel opportunity was possible as there was a severe shortage of therapists in America at the time. One year turned into 23.

While living in Florida, I went from general hospital work (medically fragile outpatient pediatric) before starting my own pediatric practice, Koala Kids Children’s Therapy Center, focusing on sensory regulation. Like most young therapists I took advantage of attending many continuing education opportunities and completing certifications in NDT, SIPT, Neuronet and IM.  My love of learning led me to complete my Masters in Psychology. It was my exposure to iLs that triggered an interest in learning about technologies that help drive neuroplasticity. I completed Board Certification in Neurofeedback and training in HRV biofeedback and implemented both with iLs when working with clients. In fact, I presented at the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research Conference in 2015 about integrating iLs with Neurofeedback to optimise neural regulation.

I was introduced to iLs via my friend and colleague (thanks, Mary Jones). And although I was already utilising other sound-based therapy programs, upon learning the theoretical background and program design of iLs, which highlighted a bottom-up approach to integrating the nervous system, I wanted to learn more. After implementing the Focus System in my practice and seeing the results, completing the Advanced Training program with Dr. Minson was the logical next step.

Teaching for iLs

I think the stars were aligned when I was given the opportunity to become an instructor for iLs. For my first presentation, I used the Calming Program and movement activities to help quell my initial nerves of teaching in front of a group.  I was always well supported by Kate and the other iLs instructors each step of the way. Through the process of becoming a trained iLs instructor, I discovered what I found most rewarding…..teaching…..teaching neuroscience around iLs; teaching iLs program design and implementation, and teaching clinical outcomes. I loved the whole teaching experience. Sharing the knowledge of iLs with new practitioners was incredibly rewarding. I also had the privilege of hearing success stories from those attendees retaking the course as a refresher. During the introductions at the start of the training day, many would share a personal experience of using iLs in their practice.

The support and guidance I received from Kate, Dr. Ron (Minson), Randall, and the other instructors enriched my experience and made me feel a part of a special community.

I do have to share that the most exciting experience for me was when Kate organised for me to teach in Alaska….wow!! I still get excited butterflies in my stomach just remembering the experience and the scenery!

iLs Australia

I never would have thought my journey would lead me to have the privilege and honour to take on the responsibility to represent iLs in Australia and New Zealand. However, I am not the first to bring iLs to Australia. A group of clinicians brought Dr. Ron out in 2009 to train the first group of dedicated practitioners. Over time, Dr. Mariane Judd, a psychologist, kept up the momentum by providing training, clinical support, and equipment. Upon returning to Australia in 2015 I became part of iLs Australia with a renewed desire to share iLs and the positive change it enables. I soon learned that the clinical and educational framework is very different from the USA and required me to rethink how I introduce and teach iLs. I developed a workshop called “The Power of Neuroplasticity” and received approval to teach it through the Australian Occupational Therapy Association. This workshop taught the science around neuroplasticity and introduced tools (iLs) that help drive neuroplasticity. Often attendees then completed iLs’ Focus Systems Training.

From my earlier studies, I became aware of Dr. Stephen Porges’ Polyvagal Theory and research in the field of Heart Rate Variability as a physiological measure which could predict and be used to affect an individual’s stress level and induce calm. I was excited when I first heard that he was collaborating with iLs to make the Safe & Sound Protocol (SSP) available to practitioners.

Dr. Porges has already made a few trips DownUnder to trauma conferences to speak about his Polyvagal Theory and has a strong connection with the Australian Childhood Foundation.

Australia: New Connections, Collaborations and Developments

Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF)

ACF is an organisation serving thousands of children across Australia who have experienced trauma. They provide services to support foster families, families in crisis and special services for the indigenous population in remote areas. ACF partnered with Stephen Porges about 4 years ago to conduct a clinical trial using the “Listening Project” (now The Safe & Sound Protocol – SSP) with children who have experienced trauma. The trial is ongoing but via this connection, we formed a collaboration to provide live training opportunities for practitioners to learn about the SSP and how to implement it in a trauma-informed practice.

Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

STARTTS is a non-profit providing culturally relevant psychological treatment and support to help people and communities heal the scars of torture and rebuild their lives in Australia.

I feel so fortunate to be working with STARTTS. We commenced with training staff to integrate the Focus System into their services to children.

This is a unique population with special needs around trauma as well as challenges with resettlement and learning a new language. In fact, Kate and Dr. Ron developed a special trauma-based program just for STARTTS. I have learned much about the challenges faced by the children and families they support. The organisation is devoted to offering the best services to the special population they work with.

STARTTS staff were very familiar with Porges’ work; they actually invited him to Australia in 2008 to speak about his Polyvagal Theory. With ongoing consultation, the specialty Neurofeedback team within STARTTS began utilising the SSP. One of the outstanding features of STARTTS is their commitment to evidence-based practice utilizing pre- and post-testing to analyze the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions. They are currently collecting pre- and post-SSP TOVA (Test of Variable Attention) with adults and integrating the SSP with Neurofeedback.

Based on our ongoing collaborations we are offering a live training in June 2019 around the therapeutic applications of the Polyvagal Theory and the SSP in trauma.

Royal Women’s Hospital- Melbourne

On the horizon is a new pilot program being developed for the SSP involving new moms who struggle with postnatal depression, as well as others with undiagnosed mental health conditions. This program will be undertaken by the psychiatrists and nurses at this major women’s hospital in Melbourne.

From my learning of Attachment Theory, neuroplasticity, neurodevelopment, and Polyvagal Theory, my hope is that by being able to intervene at such a critical bonding period, the social engagement system can be enhanced for both newborns and their mothers leading to improved bonding.

PhD Candidate

As I mentioned….I like to enrich my brain with education and ongoing learning (or I am just crazy!)  I am in my second year of Doctoral studies at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, conducting a Randomized Controlled Trial titled “The Safe & Sound Protocol: A Neurophysiological, Pro-Social Behaviour Investigation aimed at Decreasing Defensive Responses in Children with ASD.” This study is supported by the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre the first dedicated autism research centre in Australia. Unique to this study is the use of EEG brain mapping pre-, post-, and at 2 months, as well as standardised measures including the Social Responsiveness Scale and the Vineland. Additional measures include: Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC): Scan- 3 subscales; Dynamic Affect Recognition Evaluation (DARE); PROSODY: HRV (during the Scan & DARE). These diverse behavioural and neurophysiological measures will provide a unique data set to further our understanding of the SSP.


I find myself coming full circle, returning to the same state where I completed my last clinical placement as a student, once again enjoying the relaxed atmosphere and tropical climate. After living half my life in each country, both are considered home. I have found each country to offer a wealth of opportunities for those willing to seek and embrace them. I look forward to continuing my journey with iLs.

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