The IOCDF Advocate Program is a volunteer grassroots effort designed to empower those in the community to raise awareness and educate the public about OCD and related disorders.
Led by National Advocates Ethan Smith and Dr. Liz McIngvale, the IOCDF Advocates lead the community in various advocacy projects, such as our OCD Awareness Week initiatives, awareness-raising PSAs, inspirational social media content, and much more.
Want to become an advocate?
There are so many ways for you to raise awareness for OCD and related disorders. IOCDF has created several different resources and tools for you to help you get started on your advocacy journey. For those interested in joining the Advocacy Program, we invite you to sign-up as an IOCDF Grassroots Advocate. Once you join the program as a Grassroots Advocate, you will receive action items that include invitations to participate in IOCDF Advocate-led projects and events. We invite you to learn more about our Advocacy Program and to check out the resources available to help you raise awareness in your own unique way:
Request an Interview or Speaker for an Event:
- Are you an organization looking for an Advocate to speak at your next event? Visit our Request a Speaker page for more information.
- Interested in interviewing an Advocate? Please visit our Contact Us page to submit your media request.
- Are you an IOCDF Affiliate? Please contact us directly for any speaking request needs and we will be happy to connect you with an Advocate.
What does the IOCDF Advocate Program look like?
IOCDF Advocate Program is organized into four levels:
Our National Advocates, Lead Advocates, and IOCDF Advocates meet regularly to brainstorm projects and action items before enlisting the help of the IOCDF Grassroots Advocates. Learn more about the different Advocate levels below!
Meet our National Advocates
Our National Advocates Ethan Smith and Dr. Liz McIngvale are the leaders of the IOCDF Advocate Program.
Together, they organize the Advocates in various initiatives and represent the International OCD Foundation on the national level. Ethan and Liz each host weekly live streams as part of the IOCDF's Peace of Mind Virtual Community resources.
Elizabeth McIngvale, PhD
Elizabeth McIngvale, PhD is the director of the McLean Houston OCD Program. She was the founder of the Peace of Mind Foundation — now a part of the International OCD Foundation — and helps run OCDChallenge.org, a self-help website for OCD. Elizabeth was the first-ever national spokesperson for the IOCDF, where she now serves as a board member. She was diagnosed with OCD at age 12 and underwent both inpatient and outpatient therapy. Elizabeth engages in clinical work, research, and advocacy with the goal of improving access to care and OCD treatment. Her life goal is to make a difference in the lives of those with OCD.
Ethan S. Smith currently lives in the Los Angeles and Atlanta areas working as a writer/director/producer and OCD advocate and consultant. Ethan was born with OCD and struggled the majority of his life until receiving life-changing treatment in 2010. Ethan was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Annual OCD Conference in Los Angeles. He served as an IOCDF National Spokesperson from 2015–2017, as the IOCDF National Ambassador from 2018–2020, and currently serves as an IOCDF National Advocate. He’s devoted his life to reducing stigma around OCD and mental health, to education, and to supporting the OCD community. You can see Ethan every week moderating a virtual IOCDF town hall event, or hosting his popular IOCDF live stream “JUST, Ethan.” Ethan is currently a girl dad to two adorable kitties.
Meet our Lead Advocates
Our Lead Advocates are those who have been recognized as leaders within the IOCDF Advocate Program. They are charged with developing projects that fall within their interest area before engaging the IOCDF Advocates and IOCDF Grassroots Advocates.
Valerie Andrews is a retired schoolteacher and full-time wife, mother, and grandmother. Following her OCD diagnosis in 2011, she began advocating in hopes of bringing awareness and inclusion within her own community and communities of faith.
Today, she spends the majority of her time focusing on her new nonprofit (msmablesparrows, Inc) a nonprofit for women of age, color, and faith. Her goal is to continue working as an IOCDF Advocate and promoting change.
Rev. Katie O'Dunne graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory with her master of divinity and certificate of religion & health in May 2015. She has spent the last five years serving as the academy chaplain and the Pauline and R.L. Brand Jr. '35 Chair of Religious Studies at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. There, she seeks to inspire students of various faiths to develop a sense of empathy through respectful, ecumenical dialogue by teaching religious literacy. Katie hopes to develop programs to encourage a deeper understanding of mental illness within diverse religious communities, while fostering positive, collaborative relationships between religious practitioners and mental health providers. She also helps to inspire those struggling to live joyfully, as she seeks to do through running, triathlon, and kitty snuggles.
Tom Smalley, MS, CSCS is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association living in New York, NY. He has masters degree in exercise and sport science from Merrimack College. He was diagnosed with OCD in 2014 at the age of 16 and shortly after became passionate about spreading awareness about what OCD really is in an effort to break down the wall of stigma around the mental disorder and mental health in general. Tom was the recipient of the 2019 IOCDF Hero Award. Tom speaks at the Annual OCD Conferences along with different schools around the northeast. He has also appeared on a variety of blogs and podcasts as well. A topic Tom is particularly passionate about is athletes and OCD and how it affects performance along with the stigma of mental health in sports.
Chris Trondsen, MS, AMFT, APCC
Chris Trondsen suffered from undiagnosed, severe OCD, BDD, major depressive disorder, and anxiety and panic attacks beginning as a young child. It was not until his early 20s that Chris received both a formal diagnosis and specialized treatment. Chris began advocating publically for mental health and shared his story of recovery on TV, including the Dr. Drew Show, as well as in various newspapers. Additionally, Chris began speaking at Annual OCD Conferences, including giving the keynote with his mom at the 2011 conference. He also helped start the Young Adult Track at the annual conference. Chris treats individuals with OCD and BDD at The Gateway Institute in Costa Mesa, California. He also currently serves as the vice president of OCD Southern California, and is a member of the BDD Special Interest Group. As a lead advocate, Chris's passions include expanding BDD awareness and education, addressing LGBTQ+ issues in mental health treatment, and expanding the IOCDF's services to the young adult community.
Meet the IOCDF Advocates
IOCDF Advocates are strong and dedicated leaders in the OCD community. Advocates work together as a group, with direction from their Lead Advocates as well as National Advocates and the IOCDF staff, and they help to direct the Grassroots Advocates, as well as serving as a point of contact for those within their community.
Chris Baier is a parent of a teenager with OCD living in Brooklyn, NY, so he understands the struggles parents and young kids go through on a daily basis dealing with this disorder. Over the past few years, he’s used his affiliation with producing UNSTUCK: an OCD kids movie to advocate for those with OCD and their families around the world. Chris has spoken at mental health conferences, created OCDeconstruct, a global digital OCD Conference, and hosted OCD Kids Speak Out, a monthly live stream show. You can connect with him on Twitter/Instagram @baierman.
Ryan Bernstein is a student studying biology and psychology with the hopes of making a difference for people with OCD. He is the author of OCD To Me: an Anthology of Anxieties, a book where he collected stories of people who suffer with OCD from around the world. Advocacy is very important to him and he hopes to develop programs that support college-aged youths.
Debbie Miller Massa
Debbie Miller Massa runs three Facebook Groups and a website, to bring awareness to OCD/SUD & Mental Illness. She has been treated for OCD in a residential program and want to help others find peace, connection & happiness while living with OCD. Let's break the Stigma together and know you are not alone.
Megan Dailey is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina studying psychology. She has been a part of the IOCDF community since 2009 after she was diagnosed with OCD and PANDAS when she was six years old. Now, she is passionate about telling her story to help other kids suffering the same way she did. After graduation, she hopes to attend graduate school and get her PhD in clinical psychology so that she may continue helping children diagnosed with OCD. When not advocating or learning, Megan loves to read, hang out with her friends, and go on runs.
Molly Fishback is a teacher and co-founder of Not Alone Notes. She became an OCD Advocate by co-founding Not Alone Notes in 2017. Not Alone Notes started as a little project to send others with OCD notes to remind them they aren't alone, and now it has grown into a non-profit! Not Alone Notes allows Molly to use her creativity to help others and show them that they aren't alone with their battle with OCD and related disorders. When not teaching or advocating for mental health awareness, Molly makes art, listens to podcasts, and hangs out with friends.
Shira Folberg is a freshman at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. She was diagnosed with OCD at age nine and has been passionate about fighting stigma and spreading accurate information since receiving residential treatment in 2018. She is involved in social media advocacy and posts frequently about topics related to OCD and ADHD on her Twitter page (@shiraisinspired). Shira plans to major in creative writing and minor in either psychology or philosophy.
Epifania Gallina is an adjunct lecturer of psychology and a student of mental health counseling at Hunter College. She advocates for herself and for the entire community. The right therapy gave her back hope and courage and she wants the community to experience the same amount of courage as she has in combating OCD.
Epifania is interested in constantly raising awareness about stigma and mental health. She also writes about these topics and is currently a researcher in a developmental psych lab.
Zoe Homonoff is a graduate student studying school psychology at Lehigh University. She was diagnosed with OCD at 12 years old, although she has experienced OCD symptoms since elementary school. Zoe founded ThisIsOCD.blog on Tumblr in 2015, one of the first blogs on the platform to spread OCD awareness.
Daniel N. Jones
Daniel N. Jones is an Associate Professor of Management and Social Psychology at the University of Nevada Reno. He received his PhD in personality/social psychology in 2011 from the University of British Columbia. He was first diagnosed with OCD in 1994 at the age of 14 when the disorder became unmanageable. Driven by a desire to work through the disorder on his own, he initially refused medication. However, he has become a strong advocate for a myriad of treatment methods including medication. His passion is conducting research on human behavior. He hopes to provide further insight into the destructive nature of OCD and advocate for those going through the difficult process of dealing with it.
Caroline is a recent college grad from a small school in Boston, MA and is now pursuing her career in Child and Adolescent Psychology. Caroline has been working with the IOCDF for about 4 years including membership on their conference planning committee for kids and interning with the events team. Caroline is also on the Board of Directors for Not Alone Notes and enjoys running her mental health advocacy shop Stick With It ink. When Caroline isn't advocating in the mental health community, she loves working on her calligraphy, spending time with her friends, or finding a great coffee shop!
Kyle is a first year student at Yale University studying neuroscience and is a research assistant at the Yale OCD research clinic. Since recovering from OCD in 8th grade, he has had a passion for advocacy and empowering others to fight their OCD, participating and helping organize many IOCDF events. Aside from his work with the IOCDF, Kyle enjoys singing, playing guitar, and tutoring kids around New Haven
Melanie Lefebvre is a professor from Canada who openly shares her lived experience with OCD after keeping it a secret for years. Her advocacy work began by entering the IOCDF’s 2014 OCD Awareness Video Contest and expanded into more awareness videos, working closely with Dr. Baer as a writer and peer consultant, sitting on the advisory committee for the Ontario Health Quality Standards for OCD, and sharing her experience for an OCD documentary with Biohaven Pharmaceuticals.
Sarah Judith Anne Paquette joined the IOCDF in 2018. Since being diagnosed around the age of nine, she has been outspoken on her experience, and focuses on breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in children and teenagers, while increasing their access to education and resources. Aside from her advocacy, she spends her time surrounded by music, dance, and friends.
Kimberley Quinlan is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of California and the founder of CBTschool.com, an online psycho-education platform that provides online courses for those with OCD and body-focused repetitive behaviors who do not have access to mental health care.
Kimberley also the host of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, a podcast aimed at providing mindfulness-based tools for anxiety, OCD, depression, and BFRBs.
Morgan Rondinelli is a mental health blogger (myocdvoice.com) and co-founder of Not Alone Notes (notalonenotes.org). She is passionate about helping others feel less alone through the written word and art. Morgan is also a graduate student in writing.
Alex Rosenberg is an 11th-grade student in Rockville, Maryland. He was diagnosed with OCD when he was 10 years old. He improved a great deal with medication and therapy and tries to reach out to others with OCD who may need extra support.
Adira Weixlmann is a graphic designer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has struggled with OCD since her diagnosis at age 17. Her symptoms became severe quickly, but after numerous outpatient programs and two valuable stays in a residential OCD program, Adira has a much stronger grip on how to talk back to her OCD. Though she knows there is no easy cure, it’s much more manageable these days.
Become an IOCDF Grassroots Advocate
Any member of the community is invited to become a Grassroots Advocate!
Each month, our IOCDF Advocates will reach out to Grassroots Advocates via our Advocates in Action e-Newsletter, including challenges, projects, and ways you can join them to work together and make a big impact. Examples of Action Items may include:
- Participate in online (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) social media campaigns
- Participate in on-site “calls to action" (e.g., conference-based projects)
- Participate in coordinated national events (e.g., 1 Million Steps 4 OCD Walks, OCD Awareness Week events)
- Contribute to a blog or newsletter feature
- Opportunities to display your support of the IOCDF (e.g., “Proud IOCDF Advocate” badges, stickers)