#28 – Working with survivors of domestic violence with Psychologist Carmel O’Brien

Carmel O’Brien is a Counselling Psychologist and National Convenor of the APS Women and Psychology Interest Group. For the last 23 years she has worked predominantly with people who have lived with violence at home.  This includes working in child protection services, the Victorian Women’s Prison, in critical incident management and relationship and general counselling practice. Most of Carmel’s work has been in the welfare sector.  Carmel has also conducted a part-time private practice in eastern Melbourne since 1998.

From 2001 to 2015 Carmel managed the clinical services programs for a large community agency, including general counselling and clinical supervision services and a suite of support programs for women and children who have experienced abuse. Her special clinical interest is the recovery of women from family violence. Carmel initiated some unique models of service provision including utilizing trained mentors to aid recovery, commencing a domestic violence prevention program for girls and schools, and starting a successful choir for survivors. She launched two iPhone Apps at Doncare (LiveFree and iMatter) delivering information to the public about domestic violence issues and healthy relationships.

In January, 2008, Carmel received a Menzies Award for her work in innovative service provision. In 2010 she received the Australian Psychological Society (APS) Elaine Dignan Award for her contribution to women through her profession. She is also a Fellow of both the APS and the Cairnmillar Institute.

Carmel has just finished writing a book about intimate partner violence and is assisting the APS to develop practice guidelines for psychologists working with family violence. She has extensive experience delivering training and offering supervision to therapists.

Recommended Resources


Smartphone Apps

  • LiveFree          general information about IPV and direct links to national and Victorian services
  • Aurora            general information about IPV, major services and a special messaging service to friends for help
  • Daisy               links to support services
  • iMatter            sharing app for info about healthy relationships; engaging App for young people


Carmel's Best Self-Care Tip

Laugher and a sense of humour!!!!   Carmel writes funny poetry and says her sense of humour keeps her sane.  So don't ever lose your capacity to laugh!!!  Laugh a lot!!!


Please leave Carmel or myself a comment or some feedback, we'd love to hear from you and I'll respond to everyone!


Amy Felman


  1. Elizabeth on January 9, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Like Carmel, I also had more children than average. Also like Carmel, I’m interested in women’s recovery from trauma and domestic violence.

    I have lived with family violence, and did not find psychologists to be empathetic or knowledgeable. Just as Carmel pointed out, much of their action or advice put me in more danger. It motivated me to study psychology to prevent this happening to others.

    After a difficult journey of helping my children heal and study without any family support (but with the support of a DV-aware psychologist), have qualified as a psychologist. I am still conflicted about whether to report my previous psychologists for their unprofessional conduct, to contact them personally, or to forego any desire for acknowledgement of the harm they caused me. Whenever I went down the route of personally contacting professionals to air my concerns about their lack of understanding of family violence and how it affected my family, it has not gone down well, so I am cautious about going that way. I also know that these psychologists are personally acquainted with the perpetrator and will likely disclose my conversation to him. I have therefore decided for the moment to let things go, but I don’t know how I would react if I were to see them in a professional setting.

    Thankfully, there are psychologists like Carmel who have the interest, curiosity, and empathy to help women trapped in something the community is aware of, but very little understanding of.

    • Amy Felman on January 31, 2019 at 8:13 pm

      Thank you for sharing your personal story Elizabeth. Congratulations on all that you’ve achieved. I’m so pleased you have listened to this podcast episode and know that people like Carmel are doing incredible work in this area. Thank you for a very thought provoking msg. If you would like to continue this conversation please feel free to do so in the WAWID FB group.

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