Marriage/family therapy practice opens in Dallas

DALLAS -- Marriage and family therapist Denise VanDewalker has opened a practice in Dallas at 128 SE Mill St. in Dallas, next to the Fox Theater.

VanDewalker shares the office with Michelle Cox. The two are longtime friends and attended George Fox University together.

VanDewalker is a graduate of Western Baptist College and earned her masters degree at George Fox. She has lived in the Salem area all her life and did internship work for her masters in Polk County.

"Before, I worked for the state, and I really felt pulled toward actually working with families," VanDewalker said. "I was doing a lot of paperwork and court work, and I wasn't able to spend time with the families. That's when I decided to go back and get my masters so I could work with families and children."

VanDewalker is trained in all forms of counseling but specializes in marriage and family therapy. She also took additional classes in play therapy and has a special "play therapy" room in the Mill Street office.

"Play therapy is built around the theory that all children play, no matter what the culture," VanDewalker said. "Play is a child's work, and toys are the language they use to work out things going on in their lives.

"So many people just need a push to get through certain circumstances. Sometimes marriages come to a stagnant point. A lot of people have problems with teenagers. Their bodies are changing, their hormones are changing, their minds are changing. It can be a brutal time for parents. You try to teach them there is an end in sight, and most teens come out OK."

VanDewalker is an adherent of Bowenian Theory, developed in the mid-1900's by family therapy pioneer Murray Bowen. The main tenet of the Bowenian model is differentiation of self, or the ability to remain oneself in the face of group influences, especially the intense pressures of family life.

"It's allowing families to interact," VanDewalker said. "It's finding out where the anxiety really lays and setting plans for anxious times. It's about allowing people to be individuals and trying to find areas of dysfunction and improving on those."

Grants to provide counseling for some individuals or families is available through the Charms Program.

Appointments with VanDewalker can be set up by calling 503-831-0618.

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