Professor McCarthy has a social work background and has worked with people with learning disabilities in a variety of residential and field settings. For four years she was the team leader of the Sex Education Team at Harperbury providing a specialist sexuality service to people with learning disabilities and staff.
She has an interest in all matters relating to the sexuality of people with learning disabilities focusing particularly on working with women with learning disabilities on issues of relationships, sexuality and reproductive health.
She has carried out a number of research projects in these areas and written widely on these topics.
Professor McCarthy oversees the PhD programme at the Tizard Centre.
Most of her teaching is on two undergraduate psychology modules; Understanding People with LD (SP601) and Researching People with LD (SP602). The main topics are: sexuality and sexual abuse, parents with LD, qualitative research with people with LD.
She supervises qualitative PhD research on the broad areas of relationships and sexuality, abuse, sexual and reproductive health in relation to women with learning disabilities.