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.
Those who wish to join the National Advocate Program are invited to learn more and take the IOCDF Grassroots Advocate Pledge. Once you take the pledge, you will be sent monthly newsletters with action items, including invitations to participate in Advocate-led projects. Of course, feel free to create your own initiatives and email us your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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.
Tom Smalley is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association living in North Andover, MA. He’s currently working on his masters degree in exercise and sport science. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jesse Paris Smith
Jesse Paris Smith is a musician, writer, composer, activist, and producer based in New York City. She has been working for years in the field of therapeutic music, and is also trained as a grief coach, focusing on creative expression as a means to healing and recovery. Through concerts, events, online initiatives, workshops, and diverse collaborations, she uses her voice and platforms to raise critical awareness on important issues regarding mental health and wellness, both on an individual level and as a collective globe.
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)