About Us

About Donna Lai

Donna has a passion for providing practical and creative strategies to families who are supporting a child or young person with social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties.

Donna reflects warmth and empathy when working with children and their families.  She has a collaborative and reflective approach, empowering all to make positive changes in their lives, and as a result, strengthening and improving relationships.  She creates an environment which allows children to feel safe to tell their story through their natural language of play, where instead of words, children ‘play out’ their feelings and problems to make sense of their world and hence build resilience.

Donna has specialised in providing therapeutic services to children and their families who have challenging needs, with particular experience in grief and/or loss, complex trauma and attachment issues.  She also works with children impacted by life events such as parental separation or divorce, peer and/or social issues, bullying and bereavement which can lead to a wide range of emotional, developmental and behavioural difficulties.  She counsels with the goal of enabling the child to build self-worth, emotional maturity and mastery over their behaviours, which results in long term growth.

Donna works closely with parents and/or caregivers who are an integral part of the therapeutic process.  Keeping parents informed and involved at each stage of therapy and provides parents with support to understand their child’s feelings and motivations and how this might be expressed through behaviour.  Donna has a passion for providing practical and creative strategies to families who are supporting a child or young person with social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties.  Her extensive skill sets and knowledge allows her to provide families with practical strategies that are sensitive and responsive to their child’s emotional, social, behavioural or developmental needs.  These strategies, when applied, lead to healthier and more positive relationships at home.

Donna’s Qualifications

Donna holds a Masters in Advanced Practice Social Work with over 30 years experience working with children, youth and families.  Her work has predominately been in schools, hospitals and not-for-profits, both in Australia and abroad.

Donna’s certifications in this area include Parent Effectiveness TrainingTriple P Parenting, and Filial therapy as well as being a registered facilitator of the Circle of Security Parenting (COS – P) and Tuning Into Kids programs.

Donna is always delighted to integrate Animal Assisted Therapy into her therapeutic sessions to ensure outcomes are optimised.  She believes passionately in the benefits of Dog-Assisted Intervention, especially in supporting children on their emotional regulation and learning journey and feels blessed to have three dogs trained for Animal Assisted Therapeutic work.  These dogs, depending on the client, join her in therapy, and provide a calm supportive environment for change to occur.

On top of her therapeutic work, Donna provides clinical supervision to Social Workers and/or Primary Wellbeing Officers in schools, plus social work/counselling students on clinical placement in the educational field.

Donna Lai

Principal Clinician

Play Therapy Hub

On Wednesday’s, Donna is located at the Play Therapy Hub, Preston.

Find Out More

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Testimonials

Welcoming and Engaging

Donna’s play therapy and animal-assisted therapy work has been instrumental in developing an understanding of the underlying issues of our disengaged refugee students. Her expertise has also been welcomed by wellbeing staff and teaching staff who need insight into engaging and developing strategies to meet the needs of our highly challenging students.

Ivan Araujo
Dandenong West Primary School Wellbeing Youth Worker

Strong and Lasting Connections

Donna is warm and engaging. She has a wonderful ability to correlate her dogs’ behaviours and personalities with the students she works with.

By doing this she is able to help her students make strong and lasting connections with her therapeutic process. The positive outcomes Donna has made in the lives of the young people she works with is remarkable.

Sarah Macdonald
Director, Canine Comprehension

Calm, culturally sensitive, extremely knowledgeable and adaptable

When my children were young I was living abroad, with no family support and few friends with children. I enrolled in Donna’s Parent Effectiveness Training course and it was an absolute delight!. Not only did she bring together parents from diverse cultures and backgrounds but we were also mothers of children of all ages – from babies to almost adult teens. With such cultural diversity, not everyone’s parenting practices were the same yet there was never any judgement – we all learnt from each other but at all times were gently guided and directed by Donna in an inclusive, respectful way. We all benefited from the material covered and from being in the group environment.

One of the things that impressed me most about Donna during the course was her calmness, her ability to create a space for everyone even though we were at times a rowdy bunch. And also how we were never told what to do – the solution evolved through discussions and became what was right for each of us, regardless of the age and stage of our children, or our cultural differences. That takes a real connection to people, and an understanding of her own material and how to apply it appropriately in individual cases.

I highly recommend Donna as a parent counsellor for anyone – because I have not only found her to be a great support to me but also seen in this group setting how she deals with others. Calm, culturally sensitive, extremely knowledgable and adaptable as the case may require.

Marcia Ward
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Social Worker (Locum/Student)
  • Organized and chaired “Learning for Living: Living with AIDS”, a three-day conference for over 300 people.
  • Provided crisis counselling to the medical wards.
  • Helped coordinate and run an annual National camp for children living with AIDS and their families.
Intensive Care Social Worker
  • Counselling and therapeutic services was provided to those families whose children were admitted to hospital for general, neonatal or cardiac intensive care treatment.
  • Developed and coordinated the Cardiac and the Neo-natal Support Groups.
  • Conflict resolution, bereavement, family law, and stress management training and counselling provided to nursing staff.
Head of Pastoral Care – School Counsellor
  • Provided individual counselling, family therapy and bereavement counselling to students and their families identified as ‘at risk’.
  • Developed, implemented and evaluated student welfare services. Student welfare services included career counselling, pastoral care, special educational needs and psychological support.
  • Developed relations with specialists and outside agencies for the school to support their community.
  • Developed, implemented and evaluated critical incidents plan and pastoral care programmes for the College.
  • Managed, supported, trained and supervised teachers when required. Training was on psychological issues and classroom behavioural matters.
Country Outreach Programme Coordinator / Counsellor
  • Managed the running of the Victorian Country Outreach Programme:
    • Coordinated the recruitment, orientation and accreditation of volunteers and psychologists in Victoria.
    • Provided ongoing support, training, leadership and supervision to over 40 volunteers, 50 psychologists and 6 centre staff.
    • Produced needs analyses and resource listings for non-metropolitan regions in Victoria.
    • Provided monthly reports and statistical analysis on service usage, budget issues/constraints, and service needs to Head Office.
    • Management and control of the Country Outreach Budget.
  • Developed good working relationships with relevant government and non-government organizations to provide better services to our clients, throughout Victoria.
  • Developed, implemented and coordinated psycho-educational Programmes for veterans and their families in anger management, stress management and lifestyle skills.
  • Provided Post Traumatic Stress Disorder counselling for Australian and Allied veterans from a theatre of war or a peacekeeping force.
  • Provided individual and group counselling sessions for children, adolescence and adults who were direct relatives of return serviceman.
Group Therapist / Counsellor
  • Supervised and trained teachers/ counsellors from the Port Moresby International School.
  • Red Cross project – Assessment, development, implementation and evaluation of programmes required by those affected in the 1999 Tsunami disaster.
  • Red Cross project – Assessment of needs and programme development for those involved in the Bougainville Civil War.
  • Reported on the emotional impact of expatriate postings on trailing spouses who have transitioned from home country employment to dependent lifestyles. Report presented to Charles Sturt University.
  • Provided short and long-term therapy to those affected by trauma or issues arising from expatriation.
  • Provided bereavement, acute and chronic trauma counselling services to those in need, utilizing the ability to assess and intervene in distressed family relationships.
Counsellor / Consultant for Caulfield Grammar School
  • Provided psycho-educational counselling and group therapy to the Nanjing International School and Caulfield Grammar School (Nanjing Campus).
  • Provided ongoing individual, couple and family counselling to clients from the expatriate community.
  • Four-month clinic assessment and training of administrative and medical staff in communication, customer service, quality assurance and management.
Clinic Manager and Counsellor
  • Provided ongoing counselling services for people in crisis – including advice for problem solving, information and referral, education and prevention.
  • Provided psychosocial, conflict resolution, education and cultural adjustment counselling and group therapy to International Companies establishing joint ventures in Nanjing, to ensure the social and emotion wellbeing of their employees and their families.
  • Managed day-to-day operations of the medical facilities. This included all issues and reporting requirements, pertaining to finance, administration, operations, sales and marketing.
  • Evaluated, developed and implemented policy and procedures for the medical facilities.
  • Recruitment and training of both administrative and medical staff. Training was in the areas of better communication skills, customer service, quality assurance and management.
  • Conducted a market analysis of medical and social needs for local expatriates and foreign joint venture companies located in the Suzhou District.
School Counsellor
  • Provided ongoing psychological support to all members of the school community.
  • Provided crisis, individual counselling, couple/family therapy and bereavement counselling to students and their families identified as ‘at risk’, as well as staff.
  • Conflict resolution, mediation and support counselling to adolescents, parents and staff.
  • Consulted in the development and implementation of pastoral care initiatives, and the school-counselling programme.
  • Developed relations with specialist and outside agencies to help support the local community.
Group Therapist / Counsellor
  • Conducted psycho-education programmes on personal empowerment for individuals and developing better communication styles within family environments.
  • Provided counselling services to families and individuals. Issues ranged from families struggling to adjust to the transition of living in another country, marital and family matters, and individual social and psychological needs.
Social Worker
  • Provide counselling and/or case management for those admitted into Cabrini.
  • Coordinate inpatient discharge planning, community referrals and develop social work networks.
  • Develop and implement strategic interventions or group programmes for inpatient/ community groups on a need’s bases.
  • Provide educational seminars to other multidisciplinary team members when required.
Social Worker
  • Provide counselling and/or case management for those admitted into Cabrini.
  • Coordinate inpatient discharge planning, community referrals and develop social work networks.
  • Develop and implement strategic interventions or group programmes for inpatient/ community groups on a need’s bases.
  • Provide educational seminars to other multidisciplinary team members when required.
Social Worker
  • Promote the development and implementation of wellbeing strategies within the classroom and school.
  • Run psychosocial/ psycho-education support groups for students, their parents and staff.
  • Provide counselling and/or case management for students and their families with needs.
  • Provide support, education programmes and counselling to staff members.
  • Run communication workshops and wellbeing seminar to parents and staff when required.
  • Conflict resolution, mediation and restorative conversations to students, parents and staff.
External Field Liaison Officer/ Social Worker Supervisor (Field Educator)
  • Provide clinical supervision and education to 3rd and 4th Year Social Work Students on clinical placement within schools, community and hospital settings.
Group Facilitator
  • Facilitate 8-week animal assisted group therapy programs for primary and secondary school students who have high social and emotional needs, and /or at significant level of risk.
  • Facilitate one on one animal assisted therapy for secondary students who are having difficulty engaging with their education due to personal social and emotional needs,
External Field Liaison Officer/ Social Worker Supervisor (Field Educator)
  • Provide clinical supervision and education to 3rd and 4th Year Social Work Students on clinical placement within schools, community and hospital settings.
External Field Liaison Officer/ Social Worker Supervisor (Field Educator) External Master of Counselling Supervisor
  • Provide clinical supervision and education to Counselling and/or Social Work Students on clinical placement within schools, community and hospital settings.
Senior Consultant, Rapid Response Team
  • Provide Psychological First aid to organisations and/or Individuals following a Critical Incident.
  • Provide short term counselling via Employee Assistance Program
  • Provide crisis telephone counselling to those in need, under the employee assistance program.
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Professional Profile

Experienced clinical social worker and counsellor with +20 years practice in 3 countries
  • Worked with thousands of service users to develop positive self-concept, problem solving skills, better ways of communicating and establishing effective relationships.
  • Experience in providing supervision and clinical support to fellow practitioners and university students in social work and counselling.
  • Experienced in the development and implementation of programmes, procedures and policies that foster resilience and positive mental health, with special attention on their social and emotional needs.
  • Capacity to work under pressure as part of collaborative multidisciplinary teams, with a track record of significant contribution.
  • Intuitively identifies stakeholder needs and generates sensible solutions, whilst meeting challenges in a logical manner.
  • Communicates in an effective manner across all levels and with key stakeholders, supported by extensive experience in responding collaboratively to client, volunteers and staff needs.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”1382″ img_size=”large” css=”.vc_custom_1570599390541{margin-top: 50px !important;margin-bottom: 0px !important;border-bottom-width: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1570598031891{margin-top: 0px !important;border-top-width: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}”]

Donna Lai

Principal Clinician

[/vc_column_text][vc_hoverbox image=”1634″ primary_title=”Play Therapy Hub Melbourne”]Donna works at the Play Therapy Hub in Preston on Wednesdays.  Find out more[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row disable_element=”yes”][vc_column][vc_column_text]Strong skill-sets and clinical credibility proven in diverse roles and environments
  • Managing teams with client/customer focus: Led teams in environments of measured authorities with strict guidelines and accountabilities to deliver programme/practice objectives and quality service, whilst building job satisfaction and development to supervised individuals.
  • Counselling: Proven track record of providing effective counselling services in schools, hospitals, community and veterans’ services. Specific expertise in family and child/adolescent, disaster-affected individuals/communities, and life trauma.
  • Education/Training: Passionate provider of many group communication/education programmes for staff, families, university student, children and adolescents on issues including Animal Assisted therapy, Restorative Conversations, Parent Effectiveness Training, suicide awareness, peer pressure, assertiveness, personal empowerment and anger management.
  • Programme Development and Management: Successful operational experience and in-depth knowledge in developing/executing health and psychosocial programmes and clinical delivery of procedures and practices.
  • Professional skills upgrade: Masters in Social Work (Advance Practice) was completed in 2000. Licensed practitioner of Parent Effectiveness Training completed 2009 and Triple P completed 2014. Licensed Animal Assist Therapist completed 2015. As a strong believer in lifelong learning, I have also completed a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology 2013, Youth Mental Health First Aid, 2013, Susan Lewis Supervision course in 2016. I hope to complete my 150 hours play therapy course and Expressive Therapies in 2017.
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Education and Professional Development

  • Graduate Certificate in Gerontology; Charles Sturt University, Australia; 2013
  • Master of Social Work; Charles Sturt University, Australia; 2000
  • Bachelor of Social Work; University of New South Wales; 1990
Certificates on all other attended courses/conferences available on request

Professional Memberships

  • Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW No: 193046)
  • Australian Play Therapy Association
  • Effectiveness Training Institute of Australia
  • Australian Association of Gerontology
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About Donna Lai

Donna has a passion for providing practical and creative strategies to families who are supporting a child or young person with social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties.
[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”20px”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row css=”.vc_custom_1570678155458{margin-top: 30px !important;}”][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Donna reflects warmth and empathy when working with children and their families.  She has a collaborative and reflective approach, empowering all to make positive changes in their lives, and as a result, strengthening and improving relationships.  She creates an environment which allows children to feel safe to tell their story through their natural language of play, where instead of words, children ‘play out’ their feelings and problems to make sense of their world and hence build resilience. Donna has specialised in providing therapeutic services to children and their families who have challenging needs, with particular experience in grief and/or loss, complex trauma and attachment issues.  She also works with children impacted by life events such as parental separation or divorce, peer and/or social issues, bullying and bereavement which can lead to a wide range of emotional, developmental and behavioural difficulties.  She counsels with the goal of enabling the child to build self-worth, emotional maturity and mastery over their behaviours, which results in long term growth. Donna works closely with parents and/or caregivers who are an integral part of the therapeutic process.  Keeping parents informed and involved at each stage of therapy and provides parents with support to understand their child’s feelings and motivations and how this might be expressed through behaviour.  Donna has a passion for providing practical and creative strategies to families who are supporting a child or young person with social, emotional, or behavioural difficulties.  Her extensive skill sets and knowledge allows her to provide families with practical strategies that are sensitive and responsive to their child’s emotional, social, behavioural or developmental needs.  These strategies, when applied, lead to healthier and more positive relationships at home. Donna’s Qualifications Donna holds a Masters in Advanced Practice Social Work with over 30 years experience working with children, youth and families.  Her work has predominately been in schools, hospitals and not-for-profits, both in Australia and abroad. Donna’s certifications in this area include Parent Effectiveness Training, Triple P Parenting, and Filial therapy as well as being a registered facilitator of the Circle of Security Parenting (COS – P) and Tuning Into Kids programs. Donna is always delighted to integrate Animal Assisted Therapy into her therapeutic sessions to ensure outcomes are optimised.  She believes passionately in the benefits of Dog-Assisted Intervention, especially in supporting children on their emotional regulation and learning journey and feels blessed to have three dogs trained for Animal Assisted Therapeutic work.  These dogs, depending on the client, join her in therapy, and provide a calm supportive environment for change to occur. On top of her therapeutic work, Donna provides clinical supervision to Social Workers and/or Primary Wellbeing Officers in schools, plus social work/counselling students on clinical placement in the educational field.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”1382″ img_size=”full” css=”.vc_custom_1570677918655{margin-bottom: 0px !important;border-bottom-width: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1570598031891{margin-top: 0px !important;border-top-width: 0px !important;padding-top: 0px !important;}”]

Donna Lai

Principal Clinician

[/vc_column_text][vc_hoverbox image=”1643″ primary_title=”” hover_title=”Play Therapy Hub” shape=”square” hover_background_color=”custom” hover_btn_title=”Find out more” hover_add_button=”true” hover_btn_link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fplaytherapyhub.com%2Fmeet-play-therapy-melbourne%2F|||” hover_custom_background=”#f4f9f9″]On Wednesday’s, Donna is located at the Play Therapy Hub, Preston.[/vc_hoverbox][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row disable_element=”yes”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Career Details

2013 – 2014
2013 – 2018
2015 – Present
2017- Present
2017 – Present
2018 – Present
2018 – Present

2013 – 2014

CABRINI HOSPITAL, MALVERN, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA

Social Worker

  • Provide counselling and/or case management for those admitted into Cabrini.
  • Coordinate inpatient discharge planning, community referrals and develop social work networks.
  • Develop and implement strategic interventions or group programmes for inpatient/ community groups on a need’s bases.
  • Provide educational seminars to other multidisciplinary team members when required.

2013 – 2018

DANDENONG WEST PRIMARY SCHOOL, DANDENONG, AUSTRALIA

Social Worker

  • Promote the development and implementation of wellbeing strategies within the classroom and school.
  • Run psychosocial/ psycho-education support groups for students, their parents and staff.
  • Provide counselling and/or case management for students and their families with needs.
  • Provide support, education programmes and counselling to staff members.
  • Run communication workshops and wellbeing seminar to parents and staff when required.
  • Conflict resolution, mediation and restorative conversations to students, parents and staff.

2015 – Present

VICTORIA UNIVERSITY, MELBOURNE

External Field Liaison Officer/ Social Worker Supervisor (Field Educator)

  • Provide clinical supervision and education to 3rd and 4th Year Social Work Students on clinical placement within schools, community and hospital settings.

2017- Present

CANINE COMPREHENSION, MELBOURNE                                                                              

Group Facilitator

  • Facilitate 8-week animal assisted group therapy programs for primary and secondary school students who have high social and emotional needs, and /or at significant level of risk.
  • Facilitate one on one animal assisted therapy for secondary students who are having difficulty engaging with their education due to personal social and emotional needs,

2017 – Present

RMIT, MELBOURNE

External Field Liaison Officer/ Social Worker Supervisor (Field Educator)

  • Provide clinical supervision and education to 3rd and 4th Year Social Work Students on clinical placement within schools, community and hospital settings.

2018 – Present

Monash University, MELBOURNE

External Field Liaison Officer/ Social Worker Supervisor (Field Educator)

External Master of Counselling Supervisor

  • Provide clinical supervision and education to Counselling and/or Social Work Students on clinical placement within schools, community and hospital settings.

2018 – Present

Converge International, MELBOURNE

Senior Consultant, Rapid Response Team

  • Provide Psychological First aid to organisations and/or Individuals following a Critical Incident.
  • Provide short term counselling via Employee Assistance Program
  • Provide crisis telephone counselling to those in need, under the employee assistance program.
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Registered With

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Certified In

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Testimonials

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