Meet Deborah MacNamara, PhD

Counsellor, Scientist, Storyteller.

Teacher. Guide. Mother.


Something special happens in the space when developmental science meets the practical, everyday life...

Dynamics shift within families and communities; relationships transform between children and parents; children and teens grow up to realize their full human potential and parents reach their full human potential as caretakers.

There is nothing like the immature ways of kids to test the maturity level in their caretakers. (Rest, Play, Grow)




From topics on human development, parenthood, and education, courses are available in-person or online.




Counselling is available to support parents and teens in their journey to parenthood/adulthood, and headway on challenging issues.




Deborah's books, articles, infographics, and newsletter share relevant developmental and relational science.




Deborah translates developmental science for use in the home, school, to clinical settings, for parents, professionals, and educators.

As a trusted and experienced clinical counsellor for over 25 years in mental health and educational settings as well as private practice, Deborah serves as a leading international expert who provides counselling and educational services to support parents, professionals, and educators. She is also a professional speaker who has presented to the United Nations and The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.


Deborah specializes in the relational-developmental approach based on the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, empowering parents to become the expert on their children with everyday questions and practical strategies. She came to this work as a new mother herself, curious and confident that his approach could shift not only her children’s futures forever, but also her professional approach to supporting and helping others. Today, she serves on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute.

Deborah is the author of the best selling book, Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (or anyone who acts like one) which has been translated into 14 languages and the children’s picture book, The Sorry Plane, which is available in three languages. Her new book Nourished: Connection, Food, and Caring for our Kids (and everyone else we love), will be released September 19, 2023.

How did Deborah evolve as a developmentalist?


As far back as I can remember, I have had a fascination with the natural world and how things grow. From watching bean seeds unfold in paper towel-lined jars, to witnessing new life, I am curious about the developmental force that exists inside living things. People's stories and lived experiences also fascinate me, especially the way we make sense of the world. Simply put, I was a developmentalist long before I had words or knowledge of such things.

My interests in the natural world and people led me to pursue studies in psychology, education, human development, emotions, and research. I was fortunate to find a Master of Arts in Counselling and a Doctoral program at the University of British Columbia that were grounded in humanistic and existential traditions. It was here I learned to listen deeply to what others said - or didn't say. My thesis and dissertation projects were based on qualitative research methods that focussed on meaning-making and lived experiences. They honed my capacity to listen to others and to construct theoretical models of understanding.

My work as a counsellor and educator has included mental health settings, educational ones with youth-at-risk, to designing and teaching university courses and counselling adults in private practice for over 25 years. The continuous thread through these experiences is an understanding of how relationships are central to survival and well-being. The separation we face from ourselves or others is at the heart of human distress. The stories we hold onto and tell are what matter most. When we feel safe to tell our story we can heal, and we will transform. The relationship we have with ourselves is the foundation from which we engage in relationships with others and most importantly, our children.

The experience that shaped me the most as a developmentalist was becoming a parent. I yearned for a deeper understanding of human development beyond my academic experience. It was then I found the work of Dr. Gordon Neufeld, an internationally respected developmentalist, theorist, and attachment-based expert who coauthored Hold Onto Your Kids, with Dr. Gabor Maté. When I first heard Gordon speak I knew I had to learn from him and completed a two-year post-doctoral internship at the Neufeld Institute. My studies included making sense of human development based on neuroscience, emotional development, vulnerability from depth psychology, attachment theory, developmental psychology, and the science of play, while honouring Indigenous wisdom and practice. I continue to serve on Faculty at the Neufeld Institute in addition to my counselling practice, research, and writing.

We have become so focused on what food to serve that we have lost sight of how food was meant to serve relationships (Nourished).