Daily Progress names Ingrid Ramos to "Distinguished Dozen"

Ingrid Ramos, LPC, is one of twelve Central Virginia residents honored in the Daily Progress’s annual “Distinguished Dozen.” Ramos is the Bienestar & Resilience Programs Director for The Women’s Initiative.

In the profile, “Serving the Latinx community with love,” reporter Allison Wrabel writes that Ramos “is working to empower the Hispanic community in the Charlottesville area through leadership opportunities and culturally responsive mental health care.”

Executive Director Elizabeth Irvin, LCSW, told the Daily Progress, “Our community is stronger because of the work Ingrid does, and maybe even more importantly the compassionate way that she does her work and the way that she leads.”

“She will help anyone,” said Monica Luna, a volunteer for The Women’s Initiative who has worked with Ramos through the Trauma-Informed Cross-Cultural Psychoeducation program. “She will go out of her way to find a way, and if she can’t do it she will point you to what way to go and who to ask … When you talk to her, her voice and just her way gives you peace.”

Read the full article here.

We're expanding walk-in clinic hours

Alyson Stewart, MFT, therapist and co-coordinator of the Sister Circle Program.

Alyson Stewart, MFT, therapist and co-coordinator of the Sister Circle Program.

The Women’s Initiative is offering greater access to same-day mental health support with two new free weekly walk-in clinics.

The expansion includes new Friday morning walk-in clinics from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. as well as new evening hours on Mondays from 5 to 7 p.m. During these times, one-on-one sessions with a counselor are offered free of charge.

“Our goal is to ensure that every woman in our community has access to affordable, effective mental health care when she needs it, regardless of ability to pay,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Irvin, LCSW. “Being open for additional free walk-in wellness consults is another important step toward that goal.”

Walk-in clinics at The Women’s Initiative can provide immediate short-term assistance including tools for self-care, emotional support, assessment of needs and goals, referral services, and resource connection.

Nosotros somos The Women’s Initiative

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The Women’s Initiative es una organización sin fines de lucro ubicada en la ciudad de Charlottesville, Virginia. Nuestra misión es la de proveer servicios de salud mental vitales para las mujeres sin importar su situación económica. Hablar de salud mental, frecuentemente se convierte en una experiencia secreta y privada, la cual generalmente se vive desde una situación de estigma y vergüenza, donde podemos llegar a preguntarnos cosas como: ¿esto que siento es normal?, ¿acaso estaré loca?, ¿de verdad merezco vivir así?

Lo cierto es que todos pasamos por problemas y dificultades, pues es parte de ser humano, aunque en ocasiones pareciera que la sociedad nos hace creer que los problemas de salud mental debemos enfrentarlos nosotros solos, lo cual es una mentira. Las personas nos necesitamos las unas a las otras, y resulta un ejercicio saludable el saber reconocer cuando necesitamos ayuda, así como saber dónde pedirla. Las mujeres que vienen a The Women’s initiative, lo hacen con una gran variedad de necesidades, como pueden ser depresión, ansiedad, trauma, problemas de pareja, violencia doméstica, etc.

Dentro de nuestros servicios, podrán encontrar grupos de apoyo enfocados a descubrir cómo el estar en compañía de otras mujeres quienes han pasado por situaciones similares a la nuestra, es una fuerza poderosa para la sanación. En The Women’s Initiative, la economía de las personas no es una barrera para recibir ayuda, las sesiones individuales tienen un costo basado en una escala de ingresos, y el costo por sesión puede ser de $5.00dlls o menos. Nuestros servicios y los grupos de apoyo son totalmente gratuitos. Para comenzar a recibir servicios con nosotros, llama a Varinia o Ingrid: 434.872.0047 x123.

Es así como The Women’s Initiative cree firmemente en la capacidad interna de toda mujer para crecer y sanar:

“Podemos hallar en la terapia un lugar para comenzar a sanar, y obtener la esperanza de que a pesar de los problemas y dificultades, o de la tristeza y el duelo, tenemos la capacidad para enfrentar el problema y recuperar la esperanza de una mejor vida.” -Ingrid Ramos

El Programa Bienestar específicamente se enfoca a proveer consejería y servicios psicoeducacionales para mujeres latinas y sus comunidades en la región de Charlottesville/Albemarle. Ejemplos de servicios del programa Bienestar:

New healing offerings start this fall

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Find your path to healing this fall through one of our many new and ongoing groups and offerings.

We are pleased to offer a host of free groups including …

Call (434) 872-0047 or email info@thewomensinitiative.org for more information and to register.

Resilience Resources for A12 & Beyond

The anniversary of a traumatic event can be a difficult time. And for many in our community, August 12 and its aftermath are a part of ongoing historical and racial traumas that impact everyday life. Caring for ourselves and our community is so important, and the following strategies compiled by the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition can help us this summer and beyond.

Seek Emotional Safety

  • Notice what things cause you to feel stress and anxiety
  • Reduce media exposure
  • Do things to help cope with stress, such as exercise, journaling, meditation, or prayer

Stay Connected

  • Keep routines with family and friends
  • Stay involved in activities & groups that make you feel good
  • For mental health info & referral, call 434-227-0641 or see www.helphappenshere.org

Foster Hope & Work for Change

  • Notice negative thoughts
  • Reflect on personal and community progress
  • Participate in activities that promote equity and safety for all
  • Do something to help others

Support Children

  • Limit media exposure
  • Support children to make a positive difference in their community
  • Answer kids’ questions honestly
  • Discuss concerns with teachers/professionals

The Women's Initiative and other community organizations have many offerings to provide support and care around the anniversary of August 12 as well as the historical and racial traumas that came before and have happened since. On Saturday, August 11, The Women's Initiative is offering a Free Walk-In Wellness Clinic at our Jefferson School City Center Office from 11 am-5 pm. For a comprehensive list of emotional support services throughout the summer, visit the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition.

July is Minority Mental Health Month

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In honor of Minority Mental Health Month, join our Sister Circle Program for special healing and self-care offerings for women of color. Registration is required (except where noted). To register, call (434) 872-0047 x105 or email swood@thewomensinitiative.org.

  • Stress Reduction Lunch Hours, Friday, July 13 and Friday, July 27, 12-1 p.m., Sentara Starr Hill Health Center at the Jefferson School. Free.
  • Yoga for Women of Color, Sunday, July 15, 2-3:15 pm. Gather and practice yoga in a safe and nurturing setting. Class includes postures accessible to all levels as well as time for exploring ways to use breath and meditation for wellbeing. Women are invited to stay after class to connect with other participants, share yoga resources and build community. Each class is offered on a donation basis; no one will be turned away for inability to pay. No pre-registration is necessary.
  • Spa Retreat, Saturday, July 21, 2-3:30 pm, The Women's Initiative Main Office. Facials and/or pedicures from a Mary Kay consultant. Massages by Common Ground Healing Arts. Free.
  • Sound Bath with Shawna Bass, Monday, July 23, 12:30-2 pm., The Women's Initiative Main Office. Come be bathed in healing sound waves that will help to bring you to a deep meditative state. Sound baths can be one of the most deeply healing and restorative ways to attain a deep state of relaxation. Our body and minds respond positively to the sound vibrations and resonance allowing us to release of stress, healthily lower blood pressure as well as heal at a deep molecular and emotional level. Pay what you can; no one will be turned away for inability to pay. 

Visit our Sister Circle page to learn more.

Introducing our new staff

We are thrilled to introduce the newest members of our staff.

Varinia Garcia Anderson, M.Ed.

Varinia Garcia Anderson, M.Ed.

Ashley Barlow, LPC

Ashley Barlow, LPC

Molly O'Halloran

Molly O'Halloran

Shell Stern, MSW

Shell Stern, MSW

Ulises Martinez, QMHP

Ulises Martinez, QMHP

Emily Zeanah Shelton, LCSW

Emily Zeanah Shelton, LCSW

Varinia Garcia Anderson, M.Ed, is a BIlingual Therapist providing individual counseling to clients through our Bienestar program. Originally from Costa Rica, Varinia is a strong advocate for our immigrant population, who inspire her to provide positive healing to those who need encouragement and strength.

Ashley Barlow, LPC, is the Clinical Services Director. She has committed herself to developing and maintaining therapeutic environments that are inclusive and aim to empower and support women, regardless of their background and circumstances; empowering them to live to their fullest potential and support them in breaking down barriers that might inhibit them from doing so.

Ulises Martinez, QMHP, is the Bienestar Support Specialist. He firmly believes that every person is born with the capacity to transform the world with their everyday actions and thoughts. "By being conscious how our own choices can affect our life, we can start generating positive changes that will impact ourselves and the people around us."

Molly O'Halloran is the Operations Manager. Having worked in small business management for the last 11 years, she is excited to support the growing needs of The Women’s Initiative.

Shell Stern, MSW, is a Therapist. She is committed to approaching social work through a social justice lens and believes in the innate healing power of each individual, often using Internal Family Systems, Mindfulness and Nature Connection to promote self-awareness and well-being.

Emily Zeanah Shelton, LCSW, is a Therapist. She grounds her clinical practice in a commitment to social justice, sensitivity to trauma, and belief in relationships as sites of healing and growth.

Learn about our whole team on our staff page


Help is available

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There has been a lot of difficult national news this week about suicide and struggles with mental health. If you or someone you know is struggling, know that help is available.

If you are in mental health crisis:

  • Twenty-four hours a day you can call Region Ten Emergency Services at (434) 972-1800, or dial 911.
  • Twenty-four hours a day you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Otherwise, for access to individual and group counseling:

  • For connection to local affordable mental health services through the Community Mental Health and Wellness Coalition, call (434) 227-0641 or visit www.helphappenshere.org
  • The Women's Initiative has free walk-in clinics for women three days a week and throughout the week we have free support groups as well.
  • On Our Own, a peer support recovery center for people dealing with mental health challenges, offers support groups throughout the week. 123 4th St. NW, Charlottesville. (434) 979-2440 or visit www.onourowncville.org

Self-care for working moms

The Women's Initiative provides vital mental health services for women during times of challenge and change, including all the ups and downs of parenting.

C-VILLE Weekly's Mother's Day cover story includes voices of three of our staff discussing the need for emotional support for new moms and those transitioning back to work. 

To complement the story, we put together a ...

Self-Care List for Working Moms

  • Be gentle with yourself and other moms: Often, we are our own worst critics. Set realistic expectations, let go of trying to do it all perfectly, and challenge cultural myths about “supermothering”
  • Prioritize sleep, healthy eating and healthy movement: These can be the first things to go when moms do everything for everyone else first, yet these basics are essential to your ability to care for yourself and others.
  • Lean on your support system: Foster connections with family and friends so that you can ask for help (for both practical things and emotional support) when you need it.
  • 5-minute stress reduction: Decompress throughout the day, and especially when transitioning from home to work and back. Try: Singing along to a favorite song, doing chest and shoulder stretches to open your heart, taking a short brisk walk, or eating a mindful snack.
  • Advocate for systems-level change: Speak up for improvements that move us toward equity in the workplace and parenting roles. If you can, encourage workplace innovation such as flex time, parental leave benefits, and childcare subsidies. Question assumptions about who holds the most parenting responsibility in the family.
  • When in doubt, reach out: Talk to your doctor, come to The Women’s Initiative free walk-in clinic or seek other professional help for emotional support.

Free support groups for moms at TWI

  • Moms With Babies Discussion Group: Support and community for moms with newborns to one-year-olds: Mondays, 10-11 a.m. 1101 East High St.
  • Mothering Circle of Charlottesville: Connect with other mothers, support each other, and share your stories in a safe, nurturing environment. Fourth Wednesdays of every month, 7-9 pm. 1101 East High St.

Click here for a full list of free groups and social support offerings at The Women's Initiative

Lead story: Women's resilience

Women's resilience was the lead story on NBC29's 11 o'clock news this Wednesday night, as reporter Victoria Wresilo featured the Challenge into Change program and the inspiring personal stories of hope and healing women shared.

About 150 people came out to Carver Recreation Center on Wednesday, April 18 to witness contest participants share their stories of transforming life challenges into opportunities for growth and renewal.

Congratulations to this year's contest winners:

First Place, Dr. Allison Kretlow, for her poem, “Four Year Old Faith”
Second Place, Bellamy Shoffner, for her essay, “Against Adversity, We Can Win”
Third Place (tie), Christa, for her essay, “Giving Birth”
Third Place (tie), Linda Martinussen, for her essay, “Ode to Elsa”

Purchase your copy of this year's Challenge into Change book, which includes stories and poems from our 81 participants, at New Dominion Bookshop on the Downtown Mall, 404 East Main Street, Charlottesville.

Read more about Challenge into Change.

Poems in times of challenge and change


For National Poetry Month in April, we're celebrating poems that inspire us and speak to the work of our agency: empowering women in times of challenge and change. 

To begin, we are featuring "Where I'm From" by Rebecca Ballard, below, a poem included in the 2016 Challenge into Change Writing Contest, an annual program that encourages women to write and share their stories of transforming challenges into opportunities for change and growth. 

Stay tuned for more as we are getting ready to unveil this year's Challenge into Change book at our Challenge into Change celebration on April 18. We invite you to this special evening to celebrate the process of storytelling as healing.

Follow The Women's Initiative on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with the latest.

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Hear Together: The Women's Initiative

Have you heard? The Women's Initiative is featured on WNRN's "Hear Together."

Executive Director Elizabeth Irvin, LCSW, spoke with WNRN about our affordable, accessible, effective mental health counseling services for women in our region.

"Wanting to reduce as many barriers as possible, we created walk-in clinics as a chance for any woman to come in and be seen same-day, confidentially, with a therapist, and begin the journey of healing," Irvin says.

Click here to listen to the full segment.

CranioSacral Therapy at Walk-in Clinic


CranioSacral Therapy with Amina Elizabeth Stevens is offered free during our Wednesday Walk-in Clinics at our main office.

CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle form of bodywork that can help relieve pain and stress. The practitioner uses light touch on the head, along the spine, and on the sacrum to release compression. Many people experience deep relaxation and increased physical ease during and after a CranioSacral Therapy session. At The Women’s Initiative sessions are done laying down on a massage table while fully clothed.

Sessions take place in our downstairs studio, 2-5 pm, Wednesdays.

See the flyer for this free offering.

Learn more about all our free walk-in clinics.

Free CranioSacral Therapy is a partnership between The Women's Initiative and Common Ground Healing Arts.

Verdigris fashion show to benefit TWI

We are thrilled to be the beneficiary of

Verdigris Clothier's Fashion & Trunk Show
Thursday, February 22
7-9 pm

The evening begins with a runway show at Old Metropolitan Hall on the Downtown Mall, and then continues down the block at Verdigris. Ticket sales and a percentage of proceeds benefit our vital mental health services for women.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased here.

"I am so pleased to partner with The Women's Initiative for this year's Fashion Show Benefit," said Mazi Vogler, owner of Verdigris. "As the mother of two young girls, I know it's important to support the invaluable service provided by The Women's Initiative. We all need help sometimes, and they aid women in our community regardless of their ability to pay for it. The Charlottesville that I live, work and raise my children in is strengthened by their important work. Because stronger women make a stronger community."

Understanding the impact of childhood trauma

Recommended reading: "What Do Asthma, Heart Disease and Cancer Have in Common? Maybe Childhood Trauma," from NPR.

Read this report and learn about the severity and prevalence of childhood trauma, also known as toxic stress. This public health issue affects so many in our community, including many of our clients.

That's why we are bringing greater awareness of all the ways to heal trauma—including therapy, movement, groups and education.