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 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.
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
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.
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 in engaging and developing strategies to meet the needs of our highly challenging students
Ivan Araujo - Dandenong West Primary School Wellbeing Youth Worker