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, Ph.D. is the director of the McLean OCD Institute at Houston and on faculty at Harvard Medical School in the department of Psychiatry. Elizabeth founded the Peace of Mind foundation, now a part of the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) 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 at 12 with OCD and engaged in inpatient and outpatient therapy. Dr. McIngvale engages in clinical work, research and advocacy with the goal of improving access to care and OCD treatment 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 “Community Conversations.” 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 is the founder of Faith & Mental Health Integrative Services, an organization helping individuals with OCD and related disorders live into their faith traditions as they navigate evidence-based treatment. Prior to this, she spent 7 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. While serving in this role, she also served as a consultant on interfaith programming for schools around the country. Katie is proud to be an IOCDF lead advocate, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, and an endurance athlete tackling 50 ultra-marathons for OCD. She is currently pursuing her doctorate at Vanderbilt to continue with her focus on faith & mental health. She graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory with her Master of Divinity and Certificate of Religion & Health in May 2015.
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. He is a member of the Mental Health Awareness in Sports SIG and co-creator of Anxiety in Athletes.
Chris Trondsen, MS, LMFT, 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 publicly for mental health and shared his story of recovery on TV, including the Dr. Drew Show, the Montel Williams Show, and NBC, as well as in various newspapers and websites including Buzzfeed and VICE. 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, is a leader of the IOCDF's BDD and LGBTQ+ Special Interest Groups, and the newest member of the IOCDF Board of Directors. 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.
Leslie stepped away from a long and successful corporate career. She went back to school to obtain her master’s degree in clinical social work to help children with anxiety-related disorders. It’s important for Leslie to help these kids—because she was one of them herself. She was diagnosed with emetophobic OCD at the age of 8 but has been in "remission" for over 15 years. Leslie has volunteered and participated in various IOCDF programs for the past 12 years. She credits the amazing IOCDF staff for encouraging and supporting her on her journey to becoming a clinical social worker. Leslie is focused on starting her new career and helping children struggling with the pain, frustration, and uncertainty that can accompany anxiety disorders. It’s her mission to let them know there is hope and they are strong enough to come through the other side. Leslie lives in Brooklyn, NY, and in her spare time loves to go out to dinner with friends and see live music.
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. Read more.
Julia C. E S.
Julia is a Brazilian college student. She was formally diagnosed with OCD at the age of 13 after her parents were able to identify some of the symptoms. She is studying International Relations and hopes to bring perspectives from Brazil’s experience with mental health access to the OCD international community. Before the IOCDF Advocate program, she has volunteered in projects related to youth empowerment and environmental awareness in non-profits and international organizations. Moreover, she hopes to get a Masters degree in public international health in the future. She enjoys reading fan theories on movie forums during her free time.
Uma R. Chatterjee, MHPS
Uma is a neuroscience graduate student and researcher, working in The Kolber Lab at the University of Texas at Dallas. She currently studies the neurobiological mechanisms driving the amygdala’s lateralized role in comorbid chronic pain and psychiatric conditions. Uma also conducts research studying the effects of psychedelic-assisted therapy on comorbid OCD & post-traumatic stress disorder, and will continue conducting OCD neurobiology research in graduate school. Uma is a board-certified Mental Health Peer Specialist. Her global MHPS practice & neurobiology research are both informed by her lived experience with lifelong OCD, comorbid PTSD, young-adult cancer, and other chronic illnesses. Uma is committed to bridging the gap between patients and access to evidence-based treatment & neurobiology education - especially for historically excluded groups. Her survivorship serves as the bedrock of her advocacy, carried out through her work as an educator, organizer, and creator. Connect with Uma on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok: @UmaRChatterjee
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.
Justine De Jaegher
Justine De Jaegher is a Canadian living with OCD, having been diagnosed at the age of 20. Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, she now resides in Ottawa, Ontario with her wife. She is a co-facilitator for her local GOAL support group and is involved in two IOCDF Special Interest Groups (SIGs) - the faith and mental health and LGBTQ+ groups. Justine works in political action for a Canadian labour organization and is an advocate for progressive social and economic policies. She holds a BA in Economics and Political Studies from the University of Manitoba and an MA in Public Administration from Carleton University. She is dedicated to expanding access to evidence-based mental health care by reducing stigma around mental illness and removing financial barriers to care.
Kalista is dedicated to advocacy and sharing her passion for life beyond OCD. She enjoys exploring her creativity, reading, and hiking in her free time. Kalista was diagnosed with OCD at the age of ten. After seeing the impacts the stigma of OCD has had on both herself and her family, she started advocating on her social platforms. She created an online series that garnered over 20 million views, leading her to be featured in Psychology Today and Made Of Millions. Kalista also spoke at the Active Minds National Conference on Destigmizating Mental Illness in a Digital Age. Furthermore, she did an episode of JED Voices, sharing her story and advocating in depth about OCD.
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. Read more.
Shaun Daniel Carl Flores
My name is Shaun Daniel Carl Flores, UK-based and 28 years old. I am a mental health activist and advocate especially for those with OCD. My OCD diagnosis earlier this year turned my world upside down. Depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation were my companions for a series of months. I now have turned my pain into my passion. I am passionate about increasing awareness of OCD and having more people from ethnic communities speak about their OCD. OCD was the worst thing to ever happen to me. I vow to continue being the worst thing to happen to OCD.
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. Read more.
Andrew GottWorth is a Kentuckian living in Berlin Germany with his wife. He works for a university in Academic Affairs. He has experienced anxiety, depression, and OCD most of his life, only receiving treatment for anxiety and depression in college in 2009, and an OCD diagnosis and treatment much later in 2018, when no longer able to work due to its effects. With being undiagnosed and “under-diagnosed” for so long, he is a big advocate for explaining all forms of OCD, especially for young people. He is also an avid rock climber, disc golfer, and soccer player and hopes to bring mental health awareness to athletes, especially by breaking down traditional masculine views when it comes to mental health. He hopes to combine his background in academia and research with a love of nonprofit work and volunteering in order to bring evidence-based best practices to the most vulnerable.
Ezra Homonoff is a graduate student studying school psychology at Lehigh University. They were diagnosed with OCD at 12 years old, although they have experienced OCD symptoms since elementary school. Ezra founded ThisIsOCD.blog on Tumblr in 2015, one of the first blogs on the platform to spread OCD awareness.
Micah is a mental health advocate who suffers personally with OCD, depression, and hoarding disorder. One of his deepest passions is to help parents and loved ones of those who battle mental health concerns better understand the world from a sufferer's perspective.
Darcy is a current graduate student getting her M.Ed. in Special Education. She is passionate about making education accessible to all and hopes to use her degree to pursue being a Kindergarten teacher in an integrated classroom. Her passion for OCD Advocacy comes from her own experience with OCD and sharing her story at IOCDF conferences. When she is not teaching or advocating, she enjoys creating art, baking, and playing with her pet rats!
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, interning with the events team, and more recently her involvement in Young Adult programming. Caroline also has a passion for 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! Read more.
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 Piirainen 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.
Katy is currently a stay-at-home Mom, who previously worked as a speech and language pathologist. Katy's OCD onset around the age of 12, but she did not receive a diagnosis until over a decade later. After finally receiving the appropriate treatment, she began to share her story via her blog Navigating Uncertainty. She has also been a guest on mental health podcasts, and shared her experiences through the IOCDF newsletter, blog, and conference. She is passionate about normalizing mental health and increasing awareness about OCD.
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 is also the host of Your Anxiety Toolkit Podcast, a podcast aimed at providing mindfulness-based tools for anxiety, OCD, depression, and BFRBs. Read more.
Krista Reed, LSCSW
Krista is a mental health clinician in Wichita, KS who specializes in OCD, BFRBs, and BDD. Krista was diagnosed with OCD and Excoriation Disorder in 2007 and struggled finding help in her community. During this challenge, she herself became trained in treating OC and other related disorders. Krista is an advocate in her community for proper treatment and education about OC and other related disorders. In 2021, she founded the ICT OCD Alliance, which is a grassroots alliance group of therapists who treat OC and other related disorders. The focus of this alliance is to spread awareness in the Wichita community so sufferers can find help sooner and get the proper treatment they deserve. Krista also provides presentations in her community to end the stigma of these disorders.
Alexandra is currently a stay-at-home to a beautiful son. She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and turned her passion for mental health and advocacy into a challenging and rewarding career as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate serving the Latinx and immigrant populations. As a first-generation Puerto Rican, Alexandra has been living with OCD since the age of 6 but was unable to access appropriate diagnosis and treatment until the age of 35. She lives with the additional diagnoses of major depression and complex PTSD. Alexandra is passionate about breaking the stigma around mental illness and using her lived experience to help others. She believes culture and community are important intersections in mental health and is dedicated to advocating from a place of inclusivity, compassion, and learning.
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 was diagnosed with OCD when he was 10 years old and just graduated from high school. He has been an active advocate from an early age, including putting together his own educational fliers on OCD for distribution at his school. At one of his first Annual OCD Conferences, he sought out IOCDF National Advocate, Ethan Smith, to ask how we could do more to make sure everyone could get treatment. Now, Alex serves as an incredibly active and positive IOCDF Advocate, with a particular commitment to the Foundation’s faith and OCD initiatives. Alex is a leader in the Faith and OCD Special Interest Group (SIG), and he never misses a meeting. He has spoken on multiple IOCDF livestreams on the integration of his Jewish faith with treatment while utilizing Jewish texts and his collaboration with his rabbi. Alex was also a speaker at the 2022 Faith and OCD Conference, the 2021 Online OCD Conference, and the 27th Annual OCD Conference.
Maya is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studying psychology and neuroscience. She has been living with OCD since she was 14 and began advocating on Instagram for individuals living with OCD and related disorders when she was 17. She is the co-founder and co-president of the OCD Support Group at UNC-CH, through which she helps facilitate peer support among students with OCD on campus. She also works in Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz' Stress and Anxiety Lab, which studies OCD and related conditions. Maya is interested in the intersection between ADHD and OCD as well as trauma and OCD, and her main goal is to use science as a way to help individuals with OCD get diagnosed and treated as soon and as effectively as possible. After graduation, Maya plans on studying clinical psychology in graduate school so that she can help other people struggling with their mental health.
Sophie is a research associate at Teesside University and a research fellow for the NIHR ARC NENC in the UK. In these roles she is focused on finding ways to engage and empower people in their own mental healthcare. She believes that everyone should have access to the care she has had and is dedicated to making resources more accessible for people no matter what their background. Sophie is currently writing her first book detailing her experience of losing parents at a young age and subsequent battles with OCD and trauma. The main aim of the book is to help people manage OCD and trauma in ways that support their mind, body, and spirit. Sophie is passionate about her OCD advocacy, loves sports and is dedicated to helping others find light in their own darkness.
Kim Vincenty is a mother, wife, OCD advocate, speaker, and support group facilitator who has spent the past 10 years fostering community and helping families find the best resources for mental health education, intervention and recovery. She most recently served as the president of OCD Jacksonville, an affiliate of the International OCD Foundation. Known for sharing her relatable story, Kim has articles published in The Mighty and Yahoo News and has been a guest on the OCD Stories Podcast. In 2017 Kim co-founded The Fearless Collection with national lifestyle brand Natural Life. In 2022, she launched JACK to expand her reach and continue to be a resource (and mom friend) to sufferers and families across the nation.
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. Read More.
Hannah Zidansek is an OCD advocate living in Pittsburgh, PA. She was diagnosed with OCD at age 13. Growing up in a small town, there were little to no resources in her area. It was a struggle to find proper treatment and receive support and understanding. Because of this, she has remained passionate about maintaining community and spreading awareness for fellow sufferers. She has been advocating through support groups, blogs, youtube, and IOCDF conferences since 2012. Hannah is committed to cultivating connections with people struggling with OCD and related disorders as she credits community for being the biggest game changer in her recovery.
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