Dr Dagmar Edwards is a foremost expert in the field of neurobiology. She founded Psychology Matters, an organisation set up to provide cutting edge training on fields within psychology and psychotherapy. In addition, she runs her private practice in London. Dr Dagmar Edwards is hosting our upcoming workshop on Interpersonal Neurobiology.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Dagmar to discuss her life, her career, her passions and much more in this fascinating interview.
Speaking to Dr Dagmar Edwards
1. How did you start out in counselling & psychotherapy?
I had my first experience of psychotherapy in my late twenties which was very helpful in enabling me to clarify different choices in my life. I had set my heart on joining the air force and becoming an engineer, but this proved impossible due to eyesight problems. As a result, I turned towards the communications industry where I settled for some 17 years. Following a company restructuring I took a redundancy option and decided to change my focus. My new journey had begun. I embarked on training as a Person-Centred counsellor from 1989 at Metanoia Institute and qualified in 1991. I then went on to train and qualify as a UKCP Registered Gestalt Psychotherapist. Over time I began to take on some training and group work at Metanoia alongside my private practice. This consolidated my desire to work in the psychotherapeutic domain and helped me to develop my interests in working both with individuals and groups.
2. You set up Psychology Matters Ltd over 20 years ago. What was the catalyst for this, and what is your proudest achievement with PM?
Twenty years ago, my partner and I were involved in some very exciting new developments in the therapeutic field. We decided to share this excitement by setting up our own organisation that promoted our developing leading edge interests for professionals working in the fields of psychotherapy, counselling, counselling psychology, consultancy and wider mental health services. Our key motivation was to ‘step outside the box’ of modalities or apparently confirmed ways of working and to bring in cutting edge and research based ideas that might be both challenging and energising for clinical practitioners. As Co-Directors, we both feel proud that Psychology Matters has been successful for 20 years. We have stayed true to our initial aspirations that has involved an openness to many changes within the psychotherapeutic and counselling domains. We continue to grapple with new ideas and concepts that can make a difference to practitioners’ practice as we bring them into training and CPD programmes. One key achievement for me personally was the opportunity to use some of our Psychology Matters activities as the basis for my own doctoral research.
3. You’ve been working as a therapist for almost three decades. What are the main changes or differences that you’ve noticed in the way we practice counselling and psychotherapy in the UK?
There have been significant changes in our understanding of clinical issues over this time, prompted both by research and conceptual developments. However, it often seems to me that these understandings have not been fully utilised. Some practitioners appear to want to stay with the security of a ‘modality’ domain whereas others want to pursue the unfolding knowledge that we can now so excitingly track and utilise in our work with clients.
4. In your view what are the top three ideas from the vast field of counselling and psychotherapy that you believe invaluable to all therapists (no matter what modality they work with); what would these three key ideas be and why?
There are a few key ideas that strike me as particularly important in the context of recent research studies and related clinical thinking. The first is the importance of ‘responsiveness’ in practice – really seeing the person and the issues that have appeared in your consulting room. This involves a commitment to phenomenology and good listening, as well as a capacity to step outside of the box of your original training and being committed to meeting ‘this particular person’ with ‘this particular difficulty’. Taking such a position does challenge us as practitioners to be life-long learners, willing to track new developments and new skill requirements. A second is a focus on containment and presence that I view as encompassing the position of fully ‘being there’ and providing the ground for a trusting relationship that enables creative intersubjectivity. The therapist’s and client’s subjectivities engage and interact, and the therapist cannot be a neutral observer. From birth throughout our life span intersubjectivity theory points to an intrinsic need to relate as person to person. Finally, our much more recent learnings from the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology offers us a further specific and nuanced view of early relating and the effects of this on physical, psychological and social engagement and development. These areas of research and practice cover a very wide landscape of ideas, concepts and research that have significant implications for us as practitioners.
5. We’re honoured that you will be paying your first visit to Brighton Therapy Partnership in April with your workshop on *Interpersonal Neurobiology*. Briefly, can you tell us what’s so ground-breaking about interpersonal neurobiology (IPNB)? Why should we all be sitting up and taking notice of this way of thinking?
Over the last few decades we have seen very important advances in our understanding of infant development, the implications of these developments on the development of the brains of individuals and the further implications for later development. As a result, we have needed to revisit aspects of attachment theory and to review our understanding of how we develop both individual and socially over the lifespan. This research and the implications for practice have enabled us to develop our understanding of complex trauma as well as ways of helping our clients both manage and resolve such challenging issues.
6. You’ve been a Primary Tutor at the Metanoia Institute for many years. What got you into teaching and training in the first place? What was your motivation? And what is the one thing that students would say about you if we asked them?!
I love the opportunity of helping individuals learn and develop their own ideas that support their confidence and their understanding of their practice. These values have been fuelled both by my own psychotherapeutic training but also by my own rather depressing experiences in the UK school system. I think that my students and workshop participants probably pick up these values and have generally appreciated my desire to engender a different energy into their learning.
7. If you weren’t a therapist, what would you be and why?
I cannot image not being part of the psychotherapeutic profession. However, I have another very key love in my life which is my dogs! Not just any dogs but specifically border collies! Leisure time is allocated to dog agility training and competing, and I have, at times, imagined myself as a dog trainer and full time competitor. Dogs have been part of my life since I was 10 years old and have been significantly important to me as meaning makers and life companions.
8. Where can people hear more from you? (e.g. your own Blog, Website, Twitter, Email?)
We are in the process of constructing a new Psychology Matters website and people will be able to contact me there.
For more from Dagmar, you can still grab tickets for our upcoming April workshop that she’s hosting on interpersonal neurobiology.