Photography by Barbara Olson
As an educator and author, I deeply believe we can break through the barriers that isolate us by building community, friendships, and a sense of belonging. With classes, groups, and writing, I share the wisdom I’ve learned from resourceful people who rebuilt support networks after isolating ordeals in their lives.
Val is the author of The Art of Comforting: What to Say and Do for Others in Distress (Penguin/Random House, 2010). With a Master of Science degree in rehabilitation counseling from Virginia Commonwealth University, she has followed her passion for comforting others since facilitating her first support group in 1993 for people living with cancer. Reaching isolated and disadvantaged communities for 24 years, she has organized and led support groups, outreach initiatives, and training programs for people living with serious illness, disability, grief, and trauma.
After her first book, The Art of Comforting, was published, her speaking and training venues have grown to include hospitals, government agencies, hospices, colleges, and women’s organizations. Val’s articles and interviews about comforting have appeared in publications such as TIME, AARP Bulletin, Whole Living, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Coping with Cancer magazine, Boston Globe magazine, Chicago Tribune, McClean’s magazine (Canada), and others.
Val is now working on a new book, 400 Friends and No One to Call, about breaking out of isolation and building friendships, community and a sense of belonging. On that topic, she teaches a course called Brave New Friendships, and has discovered that millennials and boomers alike want to learn how to build more face-to-face opportunities for meaningful conversation, purposeful activities, and expanding our sense of belonging.
Blogging on the topic of breaking out of isolation, she contributes to the Boston-based Health Story Collaborative, founded by Annie Brewster, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital. With her series, Brave New Normal: Keeping Conversations Vital in Healthcare, she provides Q&As with authors and healthcare professionals such as Dhruv Khullar, MD, a contributor to the New York Times, and Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D., co-author of the bestselling self-help guide, There Is No Good Card for This.
Val is represented by FinePrint Literary Management.
The Art of Comforting is a Nautilus Book Award Gold Medalist, 2011, Grief and Loss Category
- SPEAKING VENUES IN GREATER BOSTON:
- Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Blum Resource Center, Boston
- Hospice of the Good Shepherd (Good Shepherd Community Care), Newton, MA
- Osher Lifelong Learning Center at UMass Boston
- Thrive Support and Advocacy, Marlborough, MA
- Massachusetts Council on Aging, Center at the Heights, Needham, MA
- Brookline Adult and Community Education
- Arlington Community Education
- Newton Community Education
- SPEAKING VENUES, East Coast US:
- Medical College of Virginia, School of Allied Health Professions, Richmond, Virginia
- New Seminary, New York, NY
- American Rehabilitation Counseling Association, Virginia Chapter
- Lifelong Learning Institute, affiliated with Virginia Commonwealth University
- NASW, Virginia Chapter
- Virginia Association of Hospices and Palliative Care
- Maine Medical Center
- Cancer Community Center, S. Portland, Maine
- Department of Health and Human Services, State of Maine
- University of Southern Maine, Continuing Education, Maine
- Redington-Fairview General Hospital, Skowhegan, Maine
Author, Narrator & Producer, The Even Keel Program, a self-help relaxation tool. Even Keel clients include:
- Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota—Even Keel relaxation training programs were used on their Video-on-Demand broadcast system for patients throughout their hospitals
- Portland Adult Education, Maine
- Virginia Housing Development Authority
“For five years, Val Walker’s presentations have drawn large groups interested in learning the vital skills of comforting. Family and professional caregivers have enjoyed her warm, compassionate and practical approach.” —Michele Johns, Executive Director, Cancer Community Center, South Portland, Maine
“When Val Walker taught our students training to be chaplains for several years, they gained a greater understanding of how to provide comfort and care. I would recommend Val as an inspirational speaker for anyone who wishes to be a comforting presence for others and also wishes to find ways to comfort themselves.” —The Reverend Dr. Robert Morse, Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor, Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (Retired)
“Val is a warmly engaging speaker who allows us to address the unique issues of loss, grieving and ultimately the comfort so needed by those in distress. With her heartfelt compassion and knowledge, she gives us the language and behaviors to help comfort others and ourselves. I have learned so much from her presentations.” —Marie Worley, MS, CRC, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and Sponsoring Member Virginia Rehabilitation Counseling Association
M.S. Rehabilitation Counseling, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. Specialized training in life transitions and loss
Human Rights Advocate and Trainer, Certification with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Developmental Disabilities Services (2017)
M.H.R.T/C. Mental Health Rehabilitation Technician, State of Maine.
Mandt System, Portland Maine
Communication Skills, Conflict Resolution, Trauma Informed Services
C.R.C. Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, 1993-98.
Certified Rehabilitation Provider, Board of Professional Counselors, Commonwealth of Virginia, 1993-96.
B.F.A. Applied Theatre, minor in Dance, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia. Including 2 years in Scotland and England teaching speech and drama to people with disabilities (Worked as Youth Drama Specialist at the Craigmillar Festival Society)
Val Walker, MS