Minority Mental Health Month: Mood & Movement

LISTEN IN as TWI therapists Shelly Wood, Alyson Stewart and Juanika Howard kick off July as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month with a chat about how physical activity can help us boost our mental health.

Yoga for People of Color at Common Ground Healing Arts offers a nurturing space for movement. Beginners are welcome.

Yoga for People of Color at Common Ground Healing Arts offers a nurturing space for movement. Beginners are welcome.

As Stewart says, “movement” doesn’t have to be all about “exercise.” “Anxiety and depression can feel paralyzing and lead us into the misconception that we aren’t allowed to move, whether to change rooms, or literal bodily position because what we are experiencing feels so convincingly restricting that we limit our physical options,” Stewart says. “Challenge yourself: What does your space allow for, whether at home or in an office. Can you stand, can you move? Honor each part of your body with an expression of gratitude through movement, while acknowledging pain, stiffness, or tender spots that need our attention.”

Join Sister Circle all month long for special programs in July for women of color to support one another in using physical activity to boost mood, including…

  • Stress management workshops

  • C’Ville Walks With Heart

  • Yoga for People of Color

  • Zumba

Grant supports healing for crime victims

The VOCA grant enables us to continue providing free, life-saving counseling and support groups to women who have experienced trauma, violence and abuse.

The VOCA grant enables us to continue providing free, life-saving counseling and support groups to women who have experienced trauma, violence and abuse.

The Women’s Initiative has received a two-year grant for $367,436 annually to support our efforts to provide transformative mental health services for women who have experienced trauma, violence and abuse.

These federal funds, allocated to the state of Virginia through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Services Grant Program, will help local women gain freedom from debilitating mental health symptoms related to PTSD, depression and panic disorders.

Through one-on-one work with our therapists, women learn to reconnect with their deepest selves.
— Kerry Day, Director of Philanthropy

“The potential long-term effects of trauma on an individual’s physical and emotional health are well documented. That said, healing can and does happen. Through one-on-one work with our therapists, women learn to reconnect with their deepest selves, honor their resilience, foster essential social supports and develop appropriate coping skills,” said Kerry Day, Director of Philanthropy. “This VOCA grant serves as an important part of this transformation by enabling us to provide free, life-saving individual counseling and support group services to victims of crime.”

This generous grant is for the fiscal years of 2020 and 2021. The Women’s Initiative must secure a mandatory local match of $91,859.

TWI was first awarded a VOCA grant in late 2017 for an annual amount of approximately $100,000.

In announcing these new VOCA grants, Governor Ralph Northam named critical mental health treatment as one of the essential services for victims of crime. The Women’s Initiative’s mental health services regardless of ability to pay reach more than 4,000 women annually.

Over 90 percent of TWI clients are victims of crime, most commonly sexual assault and domestic violence. The prevalence of violence and abuse in women’s lives translates to greater mental health need: for example, women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder compared to men. They also attempt suicide approximately twice as often.

It is The Women’s Initiative’s belief that women can recover and heal from traumatic experiences in their lives. We invite contributions from the community to help us reach our mandatory match to continue this important work. Donate today.

Watch a CBS19 News feature about how the VOCA grant will support the work of The Women’s Initiative here.

Introducing our new staff

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

Elise Gibson, LCSW

Elise Gibson, LCSW

Andrea Perez, QMHP-C

Andrea Perez, QMHP-C

Elise Gibson, LCSW, is a Part-Time Therapist providing individual counseling on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. She provides a strength-based and empowerment-focused approach to treatment. She believes all people have a natural bend toward wellness and that therapy can help tap into those already present internal resources. She has a specific interest in the neurobiology of trauma and has received specialized training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Andrea Perez, QMHP-C, is the Client Support and Referral Specialist, supporting therapists to find additional community resources for clients. She works at our Jefferson School City Center office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Andrea is currently attending Virginia Commonwealth University in pursuit of a Master’s in Social Work and is passionate about being an agent of change in the community.

Learn more about our whole team on our staff page.

Supporting Women to Share Their Stories of Struggle

Tonia Alexander

Tonia Alexander

Volunteer Spotlight: Tonia Alexander

Since 2008 Tonia Alexander has been a volunteer for The Women’s Initiative’s Challenge into Change Writing Contest, an annual celebration of women’s stories of hope and healing. As a member of the Challenge into Change Committee, she helps guide the vision for the program and the culminating event at the Virginia Festival of the Book, our largest outreach event of the year. A Senior Self-Sufficiency Specialist at the Department of Social Services, Tonia also continues to inspire her clients to share their stories in each year’s contest.

Tell us about how you got involved with The Women’s Initiative originally.

I have shared each year’s book with so many women who may have been facing some type of struggle. I wanted to show them they aren’t alone. I think it can be empowering to know that, ‘Hey, my sister, my friend has overcome these things, and if they can, so can I!’
This year’s Challenge into Change book debuts at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

This year’s Challenge into Change book debuts at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

I have always found myself looking for resources that would serve my clients—something sustainable in the community that they would be able to access long after their time with me. I first found out about The Women’s Initiative when I was looking for a resource for a client who was dealing with major depression and I was trying to find a place that was very welcoming to her. The Women’s Initiative was nearby, so we were able to walk over and inquire about the services that were available. Charlottesville has a lot of resources, but it was great to have a resource directed towards serving women. We were able to make use of several opportunities available right from the beginning.

What inspires you to volunteer for Challenge into Change?

Over the years I have found that sometimes people will not be successful as they move towards self-sufficiency because of the additional stressors they’re dealing with. It has felt great to be there for these women—not only are they able share their stories in writing but their voices can be heard.

I have shared each year’s book with so many women who may have been facing some type of struggle. I wanted to show them they aren’t alone. I think it can be empowering to know that, ‘Hey, my sister, my friend has overcome these things, and if they can, so can I!’

How would you describe the impact of the Challenge into Change program on the authors who participate?

Every woman’s story is different, and it has made each book different over the years. Whether you’re sharing the first book or the most recent, there is always a woman that the book is able to speak to. Challenge into Change creates a connection between the authors and the readers that you can’t find in other books and I think that’s powerful. To be able to read the words of women from our own community, our own neighbors, to have an opportunity to share an encouraging word with a neighbor or a sister in a town that continues to heal, that is impact in itself.

All are welcome at this year’s Challenge into Change Celebration on Wednesday, March 20 at Carver Recreation Center.

This article is adapted from our 2019 Winter/Spring Newsletter.

Barn Party raises $118K for vital care

Photos by Brook Robinson

A gorgeous autumn day at Bellair Farm set the stage for an unforgettable 2018 Family Barn Party. Over 500 guests joined the fun and $118,000+ was raised in support of vital mental health care for women in need. Yeehaw! As volunteer Indigo Day shared, “It was epic.” Monica Prichard, Kristin Cory and Erika Jack’s talent and can-do leadership made all the difference. We thank our superb co-chairs, committee, volunteers, sponsors, in-kind vendors and supporters for their belief in our mission! Because of you, women in our community are finding renewed mental health and wellness.

Interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer for the 2019 Family Barn Party on Sunday, September 29? Contact Director of Philanthropy Kerry Day at (434) 872-0047 x103 or kday@thewomensinitiative.org.

SPONSORS

BLUE RIBBON
Bend Yoga
Investment Management of VA
Loring Woodriff Real Estate
Manchester Capital Management
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital

RED RIBBON
Red Light Management
Wells Fargo Advisors

WHITE RIBBON
Carter Bank & Trust
McGuireWoods
Old Dominion Capital Management
Union Bank & Trust
Virginia National Bank
Volvo of Charlottesville
Woods Rogers



COMMITTEE
MEMBERS

Kristin Cory, Co-Chair
Erika Jack, Co-Chair
Monica Prichard, Co-Chair

Maylisa Baldwin
Marie Bourgeois
Catherine Brown
Pam Calary
Kristin Clarens
Hobby Holmes Cole
Bridget Davis
Cynnie Davis
Marcela Foshay
Cassie Guy
Bebe Heiner
Christy Hickey
Laurie Kelly
Barkley Laing
Natasha Lawler
Jill Lerner
Maggie Noland
Susan Sheeran
Heather Sieg
Emily Westlake
Melanie Zink

This article is adapted from our Winter/Spring 2019 Newsletter.

Nature connection helps clients on path to healing

Carolyn Schuyler, LCSW, was the first program director of The Women’s Initiative and continues to be a board member today. In 2017, Schuyler founded Wildrock, a nonprofit that provides educational, recreational, and therapeutic programs in nature. Partnering with The Women’s Initiative, Wildrock has connected our clients with chances to explore ecotherapy. As one client shared about a half-day retreat at Wildrock’s nature center: “I had an amazing day of calm and connection with nature and new friends. It was a day of healing.”

What is ecotherapy? Who can benefit from it?

HEALING OUTDOORS.  Carolyn Schuyler, LCSW, helps connect TWI clients to opportunities for self-care and stress reduction in nature at Wildrock.

HEALING OUTDOORS. Carolyn Schuyler, LCSW, helps connect TWI clients to opportunities for self-care and stress reduction in nature at Wildrock.

Carolyn Schuyler: Ecotherapy supports people in developing a reciprocal, healing relationship with the natural world. The work can take many forms—equine therapy, horticulture therapy, expressive art in nature, the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku [“forest bathing”], stewardship practices, deep appreciation and observational practices, and scientific inquiry. I believe ecotherapy is at its best when people are not only receiving the broad range of social, emotional, cognitive and physical benefits of spending time in nature but also giving back to nature. Ecotherapy practices can help people develop an embodied understanding that their own well-being is inextricably tied to the well-being of nature. There is now a robust body of research revealing that a connection to nature is an important predictor of subjective well-being and ecological behavior.

How did your interest in ecotherapy develop?

I grew up with the freedom to play with my sister in a fossil-rich creek and forest area by my house. I believe my own adult happiness is fed by the reservoir of positive experience I had spending long, relaxed periods outdoors early in life. I have noticed in my years of being a therapist that this was true for many of my clients, too. Time and time again, I heard people telling me that their most hopeful, empowering experiences were times when they were immersed in nature.

How does ecotherapy fit into the overall mission of The Women’s Initiative?

The Women’s Initiative provides many avenues to support the resilience of women. Given the strong research supporting nature connection as a means for reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and trauma, it makes perfect sense that TWI would support women in exploring nature connection as a form of self-care. When I opened Wildrock, I came to TWI and offered to run Nature Nurture retreats. This started a wonderful collaboration that has now expanded to TWI offering walking groups in town and workshops at the office to support people in strengthening a healing relationship with nature. Having helped found TWI when I first moved to Charlottesville 11 years ago, it felt fitting to start ecotherapy work with TWI in this new chapter of my career.

How can clients incorporate ecotherapy practices into their healing process?

It can be as simple as women putting pictures of nature up around their desk at work (even looking at pictures of nature has been found to improve productivity and reduce stress). It may mean that women take regular mindful walks, find a special location in nature to visit repeatedly, or help with local stewardship initiatives, such as planting pollinator gardens. On our retreats, we provide women with a list of experiences that are evidence-based approaches to ecotherapy.

Tell us about your vision for the partnership between TWI and Wildrock.

I hope that we will continue to offer Wildrock retreats in the fall and spring, workshops on how to incorporate nature connection into a treatment plan, and regular in-town meet-ups to support ecotherapy practices. I would love to do a research study to explore how practices specifically impact anxiety.

This article is adapted from our Winter/Spring 2019 Newsletter.

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Upcoming Ecotherapy Offerings

Connecting with Nature and Ourselves in Winter

Monday, March 11, 5:30-7 pm

Join with other women to use the wintertime quiet to cultivate restoration, creativity and connection. We will use collage, mindfulness, writing, movement and nature elements to cultivate gratitude and self-love and set positive intentions. Facilitated by Shell Stern, MSW.

Registration optional: (434) 872-0047 or info@thewomensinitiative.org.

Nature Nurture Retreat
at Wildrock

Saturday, April 13, 9:45 am-4 pm

A day outside to learn how to use nature to deepen your self-care and reduce stress.

Wildrock is a nature park and barn center tucked away in the Blue Ridge foothills 40 minutes from Charlottesville. Transportation to Wildrock will be provided from TWI Main Office, 1101 East High St.

Facilitated by Carolyn Schuyler, LCSW, Shell Stern, MSW, and Hannah Trible

To register: sstern@thewomensinitiative.org or (434) 872-0047 x114

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Creando un Espacio Seguro y Confiable para la mujer Latina

Ingrid Ramos, LPC, terapista y directora del programa Bienestar

Ingrid Ramos, LPC, terapista y directora del programa Bienestar

¡Hola! Soy Ingrid Ramos. Como terapista y directora del programa Bienestar quiero desearles todo lo mejor en el 2019 y quiero reiterarles nuestro compromiso con la salud mental y el bienestar para la mujer Latina y su familia.

La Iniciativa para la Mujer con su programa Bienestar es la única agencia en Charlottesville que ofrece servicios de terapia en español a bajo costo para la mujer Latina. Existimos con el propósito de empoderar a la mujer Latina a encontrar su voz, y a transformar los retos de su vida en oportunidades para el bienestar personal y familiar.

Ya tenemos 10 años ofreciendo estos servicios en nuestra comunidad y hemos recibido la acogida y el cariño de muchas mujeres que sintiéndose tristes o ansiosas nos han llamado confiando sus historias y sus circunstancias. Ellas han buscado apoyo para ayudarse a sí mismas a encontrar paz, mejorar la relación con sus hijos y parejas, encontrar dirección en sus vidas, y también a desarrollar la autoestima y la confianza propia.

Al principio, cuando algunas mujeres se han acercado al programa para entender si es algo que quieren hacer, ellas nos preguntan: “¿Qué es la terapia?” Y sencillamente le decimos que “la terapia es una conversación con un profesional de la salud mental cuya intención es crear un espacio seguro y confiable para hablar de los problemas y las emociones de una manera sencilla y honesta, lo cual puede ayudar a la persona a encontrar una solución.”

Esto es posible porque a parte de nuestra pasión por el bienestar y la educación, nosotros estamos comprometido con la confidencialidad, la privacidad y el respecto a todos nuestros clientes. Nosotros consideramos a la mujer como una experta en su propia vida que, con el apoyo de un profesional de la salud, y el apoyo de la comunidad, ella puede encontrar la sanación y la felicidad.

¡Ven y visitamos! ¡Estamos para apoyarte!

Puedes visitarnos a nuestra Clínica de Bienestar totalmente gratis y sin cita previa todos los Miércoles de 2:00 pm a 4:00 pm.

Si prefieres otro horario puedes hacer una cita llamando a Varinia Anderson al 434-872-0047 Ext. 123.

Yoga offerings help women heal

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Yoga at The Women’s Initiative helps women restore a feeling of safety in their bodies.

Increasing research testifies to the healing power of yoga and other mindfulness practices. Bessel Van Der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and a leading researcher in traumatic stress, has found that frequent yoga practice over extended periods of time helps decrease symptoms of PTSD and depression in women.

The Women’s Initiative offers new yoga classes each season. Examples include Chair Yoga; Gentle Yoga for Mindfulness; and Yoga for Women of Color in partnership with Common Ground Healing Arts. Click here to see our current yoga and other mind-body offerings.

Yoga and mindfulness practices can help us befriend our bodies and their sensations, release muscular tension instilled not just by everyday stress but by traumatic histories, and use our breath to regulate our nervous systems—all processes that trauma is apt to disrupt.

Mind-body programming at TWI is free and open to all women and all bodies.Though any community yoga or mindfulness class can help one to heal, our trauma-sensitive program is unique in that it puts particular emphasis on cultivating physical and emotional safety. In TWI mind-body classes, all "instructions" are really invitations: a participant is as free to exit a pose or a movement or the room as she is to enter it. And this invitation is itself part of the healing, enabling a sense of physical and emotional agency that the traumatized body may have forgotten.

This article is adapted from our Winter 2018 Newsletter.

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.