ABOUT VIRGINIA WALTON, MSW, MFTC
No one ever gets married intending to be divorced - especially after having children. But, that's exactly the situation I found myself in 10 years ago. All of the sudden I was a single mother with a small child trying to navigate new territory: managing the painful emotions about the divorce itself, wondering how my son was adjusting to his new reality, and trying to co-parent with my former husband who has a different parenting philosophy from my own.
Fast forward 3 years and I am remarried and part of a new stepfamily. Like so many that find themselves in this situation, I had high hopes and more than a few unrealistic expectations. Through the years, many of the typical stepfamily challenges have presented themselves, and sometimes I wondered if there was something wrong with me, and/or us. I know now there was nothing wrong, and much of what we experienced was a completely normal part of blending our two families.
Looking back, I always come to the same conclusion: I wish we would have been more prepared, and when things got rough, better able to access support from a therapist who understood the unique challenges of stepfamilies and remarried couples. From these experiences the desire to help families like mine was born.
How I Help Couples and Families
The ultimate goal of our work together is for you to experience less distress and more happiness in your family relationships. My focus is typically to help you change your usual (and often destructive) pattern of communication and facilitate experiences in session that leave you feeling closer and more understood by each other.
Changing the Way You Communicate.
With stepfamily challenges come communication breakdowns. Often people come to me when they feel hopelessly stuck in destructive patterns of communication that leave them feeling angry, misunderstood and alone.
I work to identify what's happening underneath that causes us to lash out defensively or build walls between one another. Many times we are simply looking for our spouse or family member to hear us and tell us that they "get it." When we feel more understood we are naturally less defensive and more open to each other.
My Clinical Approach.
I start by recognizing that stepfamilies are inherently different than first-time families in many ways. Step-parenting, difficult ex's and managing an "instant family" all put pressure on remarried couples and their children. I use a clinical approach developed by stepfamily expert Dr. Patricia Papernow that highlights specific challenges and stages of stepfamily development. I use a number of therapeutic models depending on the situation, including Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT), Gottman Method and Narrative Therapy.
(2002-2004) University of Denver, Masters in Social Work
(2014-2016) Denver Family Institute, Advanced Training Program for Marriage and Family Therapy Certification
Additional Specialized Training and Professional Memberships
Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) Externship and Core Skills
Gottman Method Training
Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy Training (Attachment-Based Family Therapy)
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)
International Center for Excellence in EFT Therapy (ICEET)