Imelda has been working with individuals, families, organisations and communities since the mid 1970’s.  With Nollaig Byrne and Philip Kearney she developed the internationally known, Fifth Province Approach which is now translated into eight languages.   Her professional international affiliations also include the Taos Institute, and The Houston-Galveston Institute HGI (USA), the web-based Planet Therapy, (Canada), The G & I Institute (Czech Republic) and The Institute for Systemic Studies (Hamburg, Germany),  Context (Berlin, Germany)


Her book, co-edited with Dr Carmel Flaskas and Professor Jim Sheehan, Hope and Despair in Narrative and Family Therapy: Adversity, Resilience & Reconciliation was published by Routledge in Publications. May 2007.

Full CV Here

List of Keynote and Plenary Presentations

Imelda was born and educated in Dublin, Ireland.     She studied Social Science at University College Dublin followed by her Masters and PhD at the same University.    In 1978 she qualified as a professional social worker and spent some years working in poor urban communities in Dublin.    At this time her interest in working with families emerged and she went on to complete her Master’s Degree on the theory and practice of Systemic Family Therapy.    

This focus was developed further in her PhD on the development and analysis of ‘The Fifth Province Model: Systemic Consultation with families where Father-Daughter incest has been disclosed.     During her University years she also studied at the well known Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic where Professor Salvador Minuchin developed ‘Structural Family Therapy’.

In the early 1980’s Imelda linked with two colleagues, Dr. Nollaig Byrne and Philip Kearney to develop the Fifth Province Approach to working with families and professionals in extreme situations of poverty and abuse.   To date they have presented in twenty three countries and their work has been translated into eight languages.   During this time the Fifth Province Associates were closely linked to the Milan Team of Drs. Gianfranco Cecchin and Luigi Boscolo.   Through this association they were part of a group of systemic therapists who met through the 1980’s in ‘Teams’ Conferences’.    These conferences were contexts which saw the growth of much of the innovative collaborative therapy which is changing the face of psychotherapy today.   From the  1995 - 2005 she also co-presented internationally with Ernst Salamon her Swedish colleague.

From 1992 to 2007 Imelda has been a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at the School of Applied Social Science, University College Dublin where she has directed PhD and Masters’ programmes in the areas of social work and family therapy.   She has been an extern examiner for the systemic therapy courses with Kensington Consultation Centre/Luton University and a visiting teacher at the Family Institute of New Jersey (USA),  Kensington Consultation Centre, (UK), DISPUK (Denmark), The Institute for Systemic Studies (Hamburg), the Institute for Systemic Experience (Prague).  She is currently an affiliate of the TAOS Institute (USA) a leading group in the areas of Social Constructionism and Appreciative Inquiry where she is on the faculty of their PhD Programme with Tilburg University, Holland. 

Imelda presents her work widely throughout the world and has been a prominent keynote speaker at conferences organised by such bodies as the UN/Akron Child Guidance Clinic, The Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic, the International Family Therapy Association, The European Family Therapy Association, The Association of Family Therapy (UK), The Stockholm Family Therapy Association, The Family Therapy Association of Ireland, The International Therapeutic Conversations Conferences (USA & Canada).    She was also on an Irish Government advisory panel in devising the National Children’s Strategy (2000 - 2010)

In 1999 she met her meditation teacher, Sri Vasudeva and for a period of twelve months she was under his personal guidance.   Following this she travelled with Sri Vasudeva presenting a spiritually oriented therapy to therapist groups internationally.     This approach to therapy is called ‘Co-Creative Therapy’.    

Imelda lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband Michael McCarthy who is a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner, herbalist and physical therapist.   Michael was editor in chief of the Thieme Almanac in Chinese Medicine from 2006 - 2008. 



University College Dublin

B.Soc.Sc. Sociology and Social Administration, 1969 - 1972

Diploma in Applied Social Studies and Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) 1976 - 1977 (Distinction)

University College Dublin

M.Soc.Sc:  Social Work.   ‘Stability, Change and Co-Evolution in Family Thearpy’.(First Class Honours)

Ph. D:  The Fifth Province Model: Systemic Consultation with families where Father-Daughter incest has been disclosed, 1986-1992

Current & Past Academic Affiliations:  University College Dublin, TAOS/Tilburg University PhD Programme, The University of the West Indies (extern examiner)


1994  Poverty and Social Exclusion.   A Special Issue of Human Systems

1995  Irish Family Studies.  Dublin: The Family Studies Centre.

2007  Hope and Despair in Narrative and Family Therapy:  Adversity, Resilience and Reconciliation. (Eds)  Carmel Flaskas, Imelda McCarthy & Jim Sheehan.  Hove/New York:  Brunner Routledge.


Irish Association of Social Workers, Irish Family Therapy Association (Therapist/Supervisor), Irish Council of Psychotherapy, European Association of Psychotherapy (Therapist/Supervisor), TAOS Institute (Associate Member/PhD Faculty) Blue Star Counselling and Therapy Programme (Trinidad, WI),

Professional Journals:  The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, (Australia) Human Systems, (UK) The Journal of Family Therapy (UK), International Journal of Collaborative Practices (USA)


Bulgaria (1995), Canada (1990, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005)  Czech Republic (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2005),  Denmark (1988, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002)  England (1985, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) ,  Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1999), Finland (1991, 1993, 1995), Germany (1994, 2004), Greece (2000)  Holland (1993, 2006, 2007),  Israel (1997) Italy (1988, 1997, 2007),  Republic of Ireland (1982, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009)  New Zealand (1998) Northern Ireland, (1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2004),  Norway (1988, 1989, 1991, 1996),  Scotland (1998), Spain (1997, 2006) Sweden (1987, 1988, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005),  Switzerland (2007) Trinidad & Tobago (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) United States of America (1983 - 1996),  Wales (1991)  (23 countries)