Dr. Donald Walker
- Integrative psychotherapy with children who have been abused
- The role of religion and spirituality in resolving childhood abuse
- Prevention and treatment research with child trafficking victims
- Spiritual interventions in psychotherapy
I was raised in the United Methodist Church by my parents with my younger brother and sister in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. My mom is a nurse, and my dad was an accountant for many years before getting his PhD in History. I think that I get my warmth from my mom and my analytical side from my dad in my clinical practice and research.
I attended the University of Akron and got a BA in psychology. I originally planned to get a degree in psychology with an eye toward becoming a pastor later. Toward the end of my time in college, I began attending a Baptist church and I taught a Junior High Sunday School class. The summer after I graduated, I completed an internship as a youth director in my church. This internship allowed me the opportunity to direct my first Vacation Bible School, which was an outer space theme that summer. Somewhere, I still have pictures of me leading devotionals in a VBS version of an astronaut suit.
While in college, in addition to my church service, I also discovered that I loved reading, doing, and publishing research. I read a number of books and articles by noted Christian psychologists such as Siang Yang Tan, Richard Gorsuch, Mark McMinn, Stan Jones, and Everett L. Worthington, Jr. Through my own research, I discovered that there were a number of APA-accredited Christian psychology programs, and I enrolled in the PhD program in clinical psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
While I was at Fuller, I became interested in research on spiritual interventions in therapy. I left Akron for an explicitly Christian program because I wanted to be a distinctively Christian psychologist. Outside of classes, I gained some more youth ministry experience working in an urban setting in Pasadena. I eventually discovered that I could combine my interest in working with children with my interests in psychotherapy. I focused exclusively on working with children, teens, and families my last several years at Fuller. I also worked for several years doing in home therapy work with autistic children.
Having lived in California for several years in my early twenties was an adventure, but, by the time I left Fuller, I was ready to come home to Ohio. I completed my APA-accredited internship at Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health in Canton, Ohio. This was about twenty minutes south of where I grew up. I chose CABH because they had clients with a variety of presenting problems, but also allowed me to get in depth training in ADHD assessment and treatment, parent training for child behavior problems, and, most importantly to me now – a child trauma team.
While I was working at Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health, I worked with a number of children who had been physically or sexually abused. I began to notice that some kids turned away from God or the church after abuse, whereas other children turned to God for comfort and support. Nothing in my training had extensively prepared me to engage in some kind of integrative psychotherapy with the kids I was seeing. My clinical experience there became the driving force behind making integrative treatment approaches with children who have been abused my life’s calling.
After completing my postdoc at CABH, I taught at a small Christian school in Atlanta for four years before coming to Regent. I direct the Child Trauma Team and devote the majority of my research time to integrative psychotherapy with children and teens who have been abused. I supervise students in the Psychological Services Center. I have also been blessed to maintain a small private practice with Genesis Counseling Center in the Hampton Roads area.
When I’m not at Regent, I enjoy hiking, cooking, rooting for Cleveland sports teams and any team playing the Miami Heat, and watching Top Chef and Thursday night sitcoms with my wife. My wife and I are also active in small groups at our church.