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Support for PhD students researching in the areas of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

There has been little research into the impacts of studying DVSA for doctoral and novice researchers. Limited evidence shows that novice researchers may experience greater distress than more experienced researchers when working in sensitive research areas (Pearlman & MacIan 1995; Bell, Kulkarni & Dalton, 2003). A lack of training, and inexperience around responses to those who have been subjected to DVSA can also exacerbate the impact of trauma on these researchers (Coles et al., 2010). There is also a risk to researchers’ wellbeing when their past or present experiences are similar to those of whom they are researching (Johnson, 2009).


In general, dissertation students experience high levels of stress and mental health issues with some studies showing one in two PhD students experience mental distress (Levecque et al., 2017). Completion rates for PhDs are low. For example from 2010-2016, 437,030 domestic and international students enrolled in postgraduate research programs in Australian public universities. Only 65,101 (15 percent) completed within the same six year period (Bendall, 2018). 


We believe that there are specific ways that dissertation students researching in the areas of DVSA need support. Students who might be experiencing emotional distress from the content of their work may also have difficulties meeting deadlines, and moving through the process of their dissertation.


We can offer PhD students:


  • Month-by-month support where we provide assistance and guidance around any issues raised by your research in DVSA but also work with you to develop your project management skills. This includes working with you around your long and short term goals, and designing a plan that is workable and manageable for you. We will also check in with you during the week to ensure you are keeping on track with your project management goals and about any issues that might be raised in your work. 


Please note our dissertation support does not involve reading or editing your PhD. We are also not replacements for your university supervisors. We are here to provide support and guidance from our expertise in understanding and managing the impacts of researching in the area of DVSA as well as supporting you around how researching in this area might have specific impacts on the progress of your dissertation.


Please book here to organise a 15 minute session where you can see if our approaches are a good match for you and your needs. We are available to work with students throughout Australia, as well as internationally. We are based in Melbourne, Australia (Australian Eastern Daylight Time), and our work is governed by the laws of Victoria.

Month-by-month intensive support includes:

  • weekly 55 minute support sessions

  • week day check-ins  (each week day we will check in with you to see how your work is going and if any issues need discussing) 

  • unlimited email support to respond to any issues and to keep you on track.

Students are also welcome to book single supervision sessions. See our research supervision section for more information.



Our fees are based on a sliding scale in proportion to income, please contact us for more information.

Recommended reading


Our approach to dissertation support is influenced by the work of Dr Alison Miller. Alison’s book ‘Finish Your Dissertation Once and for All!: How to Overcome Psychological Barriers, Get Results, and Move on With Your Life’ is highly recommended to understand how we will work with you regarding your PhD.


Bell, H., S. Kulkarni and L. Dalton (2003). “Organizational Prevention of Vicarious Trauma.” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services. 84(4): 463-470.

Bendall, T. C. (2018). PhD completion: an evidence-based guide for students, supervisors and universities. Retrieved from

Coles, J., E. Dartnall, S. Limjerwala and J. Astbury (2010) “Researcher Trauma, Safety and Sexual Violence Research.” SVRI Briefing Paper.

Johnson, N. (2009). The role of self and emotion within qualitative sensitive research: A reflective account. Enquire, 2(2), 191–214.

Levecque, K., Anseel, F., De Beuckelaer, A., Van der Heyden, J., & Gisle, L. (2017). Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students. Research Policy, 46(4), 868-879.

Pearlman, L. & P. MacIan (1995). “Vicarious traumatization: An empirical study of the effects of trauma work on trauma therapists.” Professional Psychology, Research and Practice, 26(6): 558–565.

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