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Four Tips for Successful Family Blending

4 Tips for Successful Family Blending

Although blended families are becoming more and more common, the unique difficulties around forming a new family continue to be a challenges experience for all involved.

Some common concerns from the parents include: How do you validate your new partner and your children without alienating the other? How do you create a bond with these new children? And for the children, how do they begin to cope with this new adult in their life while still trying to process the divorce? And… who are these new kids living in their house?

Here are some tips to support blending your family in a healthy and supportive way.

  1. New Couple’s Bond is the glue!

The complex set of challenges ahead in blending a family requires a strong, united front. Ensure communication remains, open, respectful and safe between you and your partner. The commitment to maintaining a strong, healthy connection will support the both of you in addressing whatever problems that show up along the way.

  1. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries

Those first few months, and even years, will require boundary setting with people in your extended network. Firstly, being clear with your previous spouse around your needs and expectations will support the new relationships to formulate and crystallize. Boundary clarification may also be needed for past family members, friends and colleagues.

Additionally, clear communication around the expectations of your new family members will support initial anxiety as the family blends. For example, being open about how affection will be shown between new family members can be helpful in creating safety with one another. Boundaries between you and your partner may also be needed around discipline and parenting conversations with biological and step children.

  1. Allow for Grieving

The grieving does not only happen for you and the end of your marriage. The grieving occurs for your children as well around the loss of the past family unit. This grieving may even extend to their prior home, extended family members, friends and connections in that prior version of their life. 

Reactions to step-family formation is a response to insecurity of a family looking one way and then suddenly looking different. Behaviors in children can show up as an attempt to protect the fear of “will this happen again?”. The experience of loss and need for grieving will be increased if the divorce is high conflict.

  1. Find Support

You and your partner want to ensure you have support around you that will ground you when challenges are feeling tough or unmanageable. As the needs of each family members are likely to increase during this transition, engaging in family therapy can support the entire family system.

Family therapy for blended families allows the space for a professional to support the competing needs of each family member while normalizing the challenges of step-family formation. Additionally, the family can create new patterns of communication and connection in a healthy and intentional way.

Furrow, J., & Palmer, G. (2007). EFFT and Blended Families: Building Bonds from the Inside Out. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 26(4), 44-58. doi:10.1521/jsyt.2007.26.4.44

Stavrianopoulos, K., Faller, G., & Furrow, J. L. (2014). Emotionally Focused Family Therapy: Facilitating Change Within a Family System. Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, 13(1), 25-43. doi:10.1080/15332691.2014.865976

Anxiety and Yoga Therapy

Anxiety & Yoga Therapy

Are you a Pinball Wizard? Racing and bouncing daily between destination points: home, work, carpooling kids, grocery store, last-minute errands. Factor in groan-inducing hurdles like traffic, unexpected deadlines, a miscommunication with someone special, maybe a lost night’s sleep worrying about juggling details or staring at your phone checking emails…

Where does your self-care fit into the list?

We become conditioned to think a Netflix-binge or tunneling into social media allows an escape, but afterward did you find that true calm and grounding you were seeking? Still waiting to catch your breath?

Living in a culture dominated by multi-tasking, material distractions and compulsive screen time, it is easy to feel disconnected and overwhelmed. Many of us have lost the ability to sit in peaceful stillness and feel centered within in our body, mind, and breath.

Consistent and excessive stressors cause anxiety, which can affect the ability to pilot daily living. Forty million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety. Anxiety and stress take a toll on an individual’s ability to navigate the tightrope associated with maintaining life-work balance. Individuals with ongoing anxiety experience symptoms manifesting as restlessness, sleep disturbance, irritability, chronic headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal difficulties, depression, decreased receptiveness to new experiences, disconnection from social support systems, and/or a diminished sense of fulfillment.

With nearly one-fifth of the American population experiencing anxiety and related symptoms, the challenge of maintaining self-care practices and life balance is a very real experience.

Living with chronic anxiety, one’s mind and body struggle excessively to counterbalance stressors. Unable to claim grounding, the stress-response perpetuates. Chronic anxiety creates dysfunction in the body’s stress-response system preventing the mind and body from effectively returning to a state of calm. This imbalance in the nervous system has far-reaching effects on emotional regulation, cognitive function, and social relationships, as well as with proper functioning of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and immunological systems.

Yoga therapy can help. Research shows the yogic elements of breath, meditation/visualization, and mindful movement can address the ramifications of chronic anxiety. Benefits include re-balancing the nervous system’s stress-response cycle, neuroplasticity to retrain the brain how to respond in stressful moments, neuromuscular re-education to teach the body how to be strong yet flexible, and improving a sense of connectedness to self and social networks.

With practice, one can begin to recognize and reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety. Learn how to reset the mind, breath, and body to more calmly and intentionally respond in any given moment.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists (2016). Contemporary Definitions of Yoga Therapy.

Khalsa, S. B. S., Cohen, L., McCall, T., & Telles, S. (2016). The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care. Edinburgh, UK: Handspring Publishing Limited.

Locke, A. B., Kirst, N. and Shultz, C. G. (2015). Diagnosis and Management of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder in Adults. American Family Physician, May 1;91(9):617-624.

Schmalzl, L., Powers, C., & Henje Blom, E. (2015). Neurophysiological and neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the effects of yoga-based practices: towards a comprehensive theoretical framework. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9.

Wisneski, L. A., and Anderson L., (2009). The Scientific Basis of Integrative Medicine. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.


What is the difference between a Yoga Class and Yoga Therapy?

Yoga Class:

In western culture, public yoga classes are generally viewed as a system of exercise – opportunities to develop, deepen, or finesse a physical practice with like-minded individuals. More often than not, the class focus remains primarily on the physical body. While this approach can instill moments of peace and playful challenge that may offer a therapeutic effect, it does not always allow for caution or adaptations or self-advocacy to ensure your injuries or chronic conditions are taken into account.

Yoga Therapy:

Yoga therapy is an integrative mind-body therapeutic modality that adapts the yogic elements of breathing techniques, mindful movement, guided imagery, and meditation/visualization to address the disconnection and dis-ease in breath, body, and mind.

For individual work with a client, a treatment approach begins with an initial consultation to build an understanding of the client’s situation, environment, history and desired goals, and to perform musculoskeletal assessments. Additional sessions allow deeper exploration and continued refinement of how mind, body, and breath align. A client’s collaborative input is integral to creating a specialized, realistic, and sustainable plan of care that respects time allowance, interests, healthy challenge, and which progresses toward identified goals. Consistency and commitment are key.​

Plans of care are developed from scientific research and evidence-based practices proven to relieve suffering and/or illness symptoms; improve functioning across physical, energetic and mental-emotional layers; and, empower individuals through the process of self-reflection, healing, education, and personal evolution. Each approach is uniquely adapted to the needs of the individual client.

One does not need prior knowledge or experience with yoga to benefit from yoga therapy. Everything will be customized to meet you exactly as you are.


Divorce Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is an approach tailored to specifically work with couples in the process of considering the future of their relationship.   Approximately 30% of couples who enter into couples therapy are qualified as ‘mixed agenda’ couples, meaning there is one partner ‘leaning out’ of the relationship, considering moving forward with separation or divorce; the other ‘leaning in,’ meaning they are hoping to save and strengthen their relationship.   Of couples that are already proceeding forward with the divorce process, approximately 40% are deemed ‘mixed agenda’ couples.  This creates a difficult starting point for couples therapy and can often mean that couples counseling falls flat before it can get to the root cause of the problems between partners.

The average legal cost for divorce is $15,000.  Paired with emotional distress, impact on children, financial constraints, and the social implications, it is important to make an informed choice about this important relationship.  The goal of discernment counseling is to provide a structured, brief approach to ‘mixed agenda couples’, in which partners gain clarity and confidence on which path to choose.  Partners utilize sessions to explore their relationship history, emotional injuries, whether they believe their problems are solvable, the impacts on their life and children, their role in getting to this place in their marriage and their emotional needs.  The role of the therapist is as a facilitator and processor, utilizing a nonjudgmental stance in the room, and working with each partner to explore their own longings, needs, roles, and injuries in the relationships.  

We support clients to gain confidence in their decision to either move forward with couples therapy, divorce, or remain in the marriage.   Discernment Counseling can also be a helpful starting point for couples that are unsure if they want to commit to couples therapy.  Couples and therapists can often struggle to gain traction in session f they are feeling protective, ambivalent or lack clear goals.  Once a couple feels their issues are solvable and they want to make the transition to couple’s therapy, we provide referrals to couple’s therapists that are trained and skilled in your particular areas of need.

Separation and divorce are a huge transition for all parties involved.  Individual therapy offers support with: grieving the loss of the relationship and future plans; coping with distress, anger, depression, anxiety, financial constraints, and exploring the impact on how you view your self.  

If couples decide to divorce, the focus shifts to providing support to the children.  Parents can utilize services to transition from a couple to co-parenting individuals.  We provide Co-Parenting and Family Therapy services to facilitate secure and stable family connections going forward. Research shows that children’s ability to cope with divorce tends to reflect and follow the parents’ ability to cope. Children look to their primary secure attachment figures in their life for guidance through distress.  Family Therapy can be an  important tool in providing a safe space for partners as well as for children to explore their difficulties with navigating this new world. 

Blaisure, K. R., Ph.D. & Geasler, M. J. Ph.D., (n.d.). Children and Divorce. Retrieved July 14, 2016, from

Bozzo, A. (2012, May 7). The Cost of Divorce and Marriage. Retrieved July 14, 2016, from

How much Divorce Cost in the USA. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from

Kruk, E., Ph.D. (2012, November 20). Family Therapy and Parenting Coordination to reduce conflict. Retrieved July 14, 2016, from


Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy

What is Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy?

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy supports couples to renew feelings of love and connection. It is proven to be effective in helping couples build trust, communicate clearly, and resolve conflict. EFT focuses on helping couples develop the tools necessary to express needs and desires safely. Couples can learn to trust that their partner is available to hear what they’re feeling, and respond in a way that is constructive and loving. EFT will help you develop close emotional connections with others in your life, as well as improve how you feel about yourself.

If you have tried therapy before, chances are you’ve had some positive results. In many cases, however, those results may not be long-lasting. Many methods of therapy only give you the tools to patch a particular situation. These tools help temporarily, but they are sometimes only a quick-fix. They do not address the deeper hurts, the painful struggles, or the roots of the problem. The greatest benefit of EFT is that it gets to that root of the problem. It provides real, visible results.

When you can say, “I need you to be present. I need you to show me love. I need to believe you are really here for me,” you can allow yourself to open up to accepting your own needs. When you can hear your partner, or even yourself, ask for those deep, basic, emotional needs to be met, you can better provide them. Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy will guide you to a place where you feel safe and comfortable truly expressing and understanding these essential needs.

Does EFT Work?

EFT is extremely effective, especially in the long term. Rather than focusing on the small details of specific disagreements, EFT allows you and your partner to look at the bigger picture of how you relate to each other and where you disconnect. It goes deep down to the root of the problems, rather than just pruning the branches.

EFT depends on a solid, trusting, safe client/therapist relationship. The Center for Connection, Healing and Change in Woodbridge, VA has several therapists with experience in EFT, who will work with you to develop an honest and transparent relationship. In order to help you change, our therapists will support and encourage your emotional recognition and expression, and stand beside you when you begin to get in touch with any fears, longings and unmet needs. The deep empathy involved in EFT relies on a close, professional, client/therapist relationship.

The biggest difference between EFT and other forms of therapy is that EFT will actually help you and your partner truly care for each other again. It helps you connect in a secure and positive way that can only improve your relationship.

Feeling love for each other again is fostered by strengthening your attachment to each other. Strong attachment bonds lead you and your partner to feel safe together and know you are the most important person in each other’s lives. EFT strengthens these bonds by allowing you to open up to each other in a safe and secure environment.

In a sense, EFT is almost like rewiring the way you approach and engage in your relationship as a couple. EFT gives you the tools to recognize and then ask for what you really need in a relationship. It helps you reconstruct how you and your partner connect on an emotional level, which helps you establish deeper trust and understanding.

What does the research say?

EFT relies on a three-stage, nine-step procedure that will be tailored to your specific needs. The methods and effectiveness of EFT are widely accepted in the scientific community. Research by the original founders, Dr. Susan Johnson and Dr. Les Greenberg, has been professionally published and repeatedly explored and retested for more than 30 years. The research shows that EFT really works with family and couples counseling: approximately 90% of couples who participated in EFT research studies reported that their relationship “significantly improved”—no matter how much they had previously struggled—after undergoing Emotionally Focused Therapy.

Emotionally Focused Therapy is a tried and tested method that will provide you and your loved ones with the ability to truly connect and respond to each other at a deep emotional level.

Get in touch with our Intake Coordinator today, who can help you get started with an EFT therapist.

To find out more about EFT, please visit the following resources:

CCHC Couples Therapy Services

International Center for Excellence in EFT

Dr. Sue Johnson, Founder of EFT


Newborn Behavioral Observation

I am often asked what an NBO, or Newborn Behavioral Observation, is and why I do them. I was certified to practice the NBO in 2013 through the Brazelton Institute, and find it one of my most useful tools to use with new parents and their babies.

During the NBO I spend about 90 minutes with each family, though so many interesting topics come up we could easily spend more time if we had it. Usually Mom and/or Dad are present with the baby for the NBO, but any family member or caregiver can participate.

We start off by talking about what the family has already learned about the baby.  The NBO can be done at any time from birth to three months so the family may have had just those nine months before the baby was born to get to know him or her, or more time since birth.

The purpose of the NBO is to get to know what is unique about each baby. It is not an evaluation or a comparison to other babies or to what is “normal,” but a way to give each baby his or her own voice. Together we discover this baby’s preferences and vulnerabilities; this baby’s strengths and challenges. I explain what all infants experience when they leave the protected world of their mother’s body and emerge into a new world where they are bombarded with new stimuli and are learning every moment. With this general knowledge as a background, we look at how this baby has come into the world and how he or she is experiencing sensory stimuli.

There are eighteen structured observation items on the NBO for us to look at together. If we can start while the baby is asleep, we will look at his or her ability to protect sleep against visual and auditory stimuli. We’ll watch how the baby transitions from sleep to being awake, and at the baby’s own capacity and strategies for self-regulation. We’ll watch the baby’s body and facial expressions for clues about how he or she is handling things, and discuss how the baby’s parents or caregivers can support the baby where needed.

Throughout the NBO we’ll watch the baby’s skin color and movements for signs of stress, and together monitor the baby’s motor tone and activity level. We’ll talk about and listen to baby’s cry, what crying means, and what it feels like for both parent and baby. I will put on a glove and let the baby suck on my finger to see how the baby reacts to the new taste and feel, and also to see how strong the sucking response is. This often leads to conversations about how feeding is going and how the baby can be supported to have good breast- or bottle-feedings.

We also look at how the baby is prepared to interact in the social world. I will see if the baby is interested in tracking my red ball, and how she or he responds to my face and voice, and to the faces and voices of family members. We’ll see how baby responds when he or she hears a new sound nearby. Together, we’ll listen to what the baby has to tell us, sharing information with each other as we watch and interact.

In general, people seem to have an expectation that when babies are born they are all pretty similar.  I have found that nothing is further from the truth! From the moment of birth, every baby is his own special person, and it is so much fun to learn to watch for his individuality and help parents learn how to respond to best meet their baby’s needs. When parents start feeling as though they know and understand their babies, they feel more confident as parents, and the relationship is able to thrive. Learning to parent a new baby is a challenge, but the NBO provides tools to make the transition smoother for everyone.

Recently a couple called me for an NBO with their new baby. We had done an NBO with their first child two years ago.   When I asked what the biggest thing they took away the first time was, they said, “Confidence!” They described feeling like they understood their baby better and had more insight to what he needed. Their second baby was very different from the first, and the second NBO gave us a lot of opportunities to learn new strategies that supported the new baby, and gave us all insight into how he is different, not just from his brother, but from every other baby. That’s a special feeling indeed!

Welcome to CCHC!

CCHC is a brand new practice in Woodbridge, opening in May 2015. Our treatment approach values connection, emotional responsiveness and mind-body wellness. We hope to offer experiences of growth, healing and transformation so that clients can create a life that is satisfying and peaceful, whatever this means to them.

We pride ourselves on recruiting therapists that are passionate, skilled and well-trained. We invest heavily in our staff team, offering ongoing professional development in their areas of clinical interest. Our clinicians are not generalists, they choose to work with specific clients and specific issues so they can develop their specialty. When you visit the Center, you will be matched with a therapist who works specifically with the issue you want support with.

Our space was designed as a beautiful sanctuary. Clients and therapists alike describe CCHC as a peaceful and welcoming place. Each of our rooms have been decorated and designed for our different clients. The rooms that focus on couple and family work are large and airy with lots of comfortable seating. We also have rooms that are specifically designed for children and teens, with plenty of Play Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy resources.

If you are interested in one of our services, you will find our Intake Coordination process to be friendly and efficient. We take time to get to know your needs so we can get you connected with the right therapist. We look forward to working with you.