Dr James Donnelly

Senior Clinical Psychologist

  • Ph.D. (Clinical) MSc (Clinical) BSc (Bio Sci Hons) MAPS
Dr James Donnelly

Clinical Expertise

Psychological and behavioural treatments for children, adolescents, adults and older adults. Work with couples and parents in addressing interpersonal or parent-child issues. Grief and loss, and other life transition or existential concerns. Therapy for those coping with the effects of neuropsychological impairments (mild traumatic brain injury (concussion), dementia, seizure disorders, or stroke). Assessment of cognitive, behavioural or emotional difficulties. Consultation with schools regarding behaviour management and organisations regarding stress and wellbeing. Psychological effects of medical conditions in children, adolescents and adults.

Treatment Approaches

Dr Donnelly applies a range of client-centred, strengths-based therapeutic approaches depending on what the research and clinical evidence indicates would be most effective, and the cultural background of clients.

  • Play Therapy
  • CBT
  • ACT
  • Applied Polyvagal Theory
  • Applied Behaviour Analysis
  • Systematic Desensitisation
  • Psychoeducation
  • Biofeedback and mindfulness
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Cognitive and Behavioural Assessments
  • Couples Therapy

Location & Availability

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
- Hawthorn East Hawthorn East Hawthorn East -


Dr Donnelly earned his Masters and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and Human Development with extensive training in psychotherapy, developmental disabilities, dementia and neuropsychology at Vanderbilt University. He then obtained further specialised training at the University of California at San Francisco in the USA. Dr Donnelly has been practicing as a psychologist for 30 years while also conducting brain, emotion and mental health research and lecturing in Psychology in the US, and since 2001, in Australia. He moved from San Francisco to Armidale, NSW to join the clinical psychology training program at the University of New England and was then privileged to serve as the first Head of Psychology at Sydney Children’s Hospital. Dr Donnelly attracted the first funding in Australia to conduct school-based research on concussion, and with colleagues, set up the first dementia clinic in regional Australia.  He returned to academia from 2009 to 2021 at Southern Cross University, Coffs Harbour, NSW to provide units in Abnormal Psychology, Psychological Assessment, and Ethics, and conducted research with Honours and Doctoral students on a wide range of mental health related topics. Dr Donnelly has made partnerships with Indigenous and healthcare community collaborators a priority, and offers community education via radio, television, and local agencies. He is now focusing on his clinical practice, and clinical and doctoral supervision at Cairnmillar Institute. When he is not working, he enjoys time and a coffee with his partner, friends, and family, being a parent, reading, learning guitar, cycling, and swimming in the ocean.

Dr Donnelly applies a biopsychosocial model in working with clients with a wide range of presenting issues across the age range; how unique attention, values and beliefs, behavioural repertoires and vulnerabilities interact are explored to promote wellbeing. Individual therapy for mood disorders with children, adolescents, adults, and older adults, have included work on coping with life transitions, grief and loss, and medical illness and neurological disorders. Dr Donnelly has extensive experience in providing clinical support for those dealing with workplace stress, and compassion fatigue, and the challenges that can arise when parenting or maintaining intimate or family relationships.

Specialised assessment is viewed as the beginning of treatment, and close collaboration with clients regarding the definition of potential issues and solutions are key aspects of Dr Donnelly’s therapy with clients. He is a certified practitioner and trainer in Motivational Interviewing which is a helpful approach when someone is wanting to make a behavioural change. His background in both clinical and neuropsychology allows him to help clients understand how the mind and body interact, and to use wholistic approaches in addressing emotional and physical concerns. When not at work, he tries to practice good self-care by eating well, riding his bicycle, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. Dr Donnelly brings rich life experience from all over the US and in regional and urban Australia, serving as a father, brother to nine siblings, and a Vietnam-Era Veteran, being an athlete who recovered from injury, and making the move to his true home in Australia, in 2001.


  • Postgraduate Fellowship (Clinical and Neuropsychology)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Clinical Psychology and Human Development)
  • Master of Science (Clinical Psychology and Human Development)
  • Bachelor of Science (Biological Sciences)
  • Associate in Arts Degree