Walker Karraa, Ph.D. is a provocative thought leader in the field of maternal mental health and leadership. She earned her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology from Sofia in 2013. Her first book, Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth, presents her research revealing the traumatic and transformative nature of postpartum depression. Her book’s been on the top ten for postpartum depression every week since publication.
After the birth of my first son, I suffered postpartum depression and it changed the trajectory of my life. It truly influenced what I wanted to do. From that experience I wanted to learn more. I became a birth doula for a decade. I wanted to explore the role mental health played for childbearing women. I knew I wanted to go back to school and gain a doctorate degree so I could research it. I was familiar with literature on quantitative data, yet there was a smaller body of qualitative literature. There was no literature on either side that talked about how women changed through their experience. So many people were talking about it being a change-agent. My own personal experience was very different from the studies.
Tell us a little bit about your Sofia experience
I received solid training from core faculty at the time regarding what it meant to be a researcher. I was taught how to bring my own experience as a researcher into my work, and reflect on it. I was guided on how to be aware of my own experience and not to show my bias. I didn’t want to write about myself because of this bias, but looked to others and used their experiences to look for a theory of how postpartum depression can change women.
There’s also the transpersonal piece. Knowing that I was in a community of researchers who were all interested in scholarship to express the fullest range of the human experience felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity. The support I got at Sofia should be honored and represented.
What advice would you offer a PhD student considering a Sofia education?
Pick your chair carefully. Never underestimate the importance of that relationship. It’s not just someone who will sign off on your paper. It’s a mentorship. Choosing from someone can guide you as a researcher. Someone familiar with your methods. Also, don’t be afraid of the review. It’s all good. When you have access to a library salon of scholars whom you can have a conversation with is really valuable.
What are one or two of your more meaningful professional experiences?
I’m very happy with having published a book. I was able to take the gift that was offered to me. I spoke with 20 women and I was able to put their wisdom to work in the world. I dedicated my book to them because they deserved it. They shared something so devastating, yet so transformative. The stories are personal and intimate. I’m really pleased and honored for them that their story has made a difference in helping other women.
Also, I’m happy I could work with my mentor at Sofia and that he and I continue to work together. To me, I feel like I learned to be an active, engaged scholar and researcher by working with him.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not really advice I’ve received, but more the way I conduct myself as a Buddhist, especially when people behave badly. I am mindful of how I cultivate more wisdom, compassion, breath, and more transpersonal awareness through difficult situations.
What’s one thing your colleagues would be surprised to know about you?
That I am an incurable introvert. INFJ with 80% Intuition. And that I am an empathy who comes from a long line of empathic women. My grandmother was an inventor and psychic who published two books on her work with channeling using a talking board! Fascinating.
Who inspires you?
When I need inspiration, I read the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Also, I really appreciated Sofia’s Dr. Mark Gonnerman’s inspiring classes. They were very transformative. The women who write for my site, STIGMAMA™ inspire me. Against all odds they rise to the occasion of the human spirit with grit and grace.