Meet Reed Bohn

Why do you do this anti-violence work?
I do anti-violence work to have impact on an issue that is important to me. It may be difficult to find a service where we see someone like ourselves in an advocacy role. Something I appreciate is when someone “gets you” without a lengthy explanation, I have sense of relief and rapport. I want to give that to others calling in crisis.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job?
I would like to learn how to be a better white ally, build relationships to connect callers to a larger network of resources, and enhance the level of expertise on the hotline.

What is the most incredible view you have ever seen?
The view of Canadian wilderness that had been untouched by humans.


picture from International Rivers


What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?
I love the diversity and accessibility of things to do in Virginia:

  • The ability to get to the beach/mountains/DC within a matter of hours,
  • The history of our past and what is still evolving, and
  • The wide range of available activities (food, art, trails, etc.).

What is the latest book you’ve read and would you recommend it?
Mattaponi Queen: Stories by Belle Boggs. I highly recommended it. Her mastery of word really comes through; it definitely lives up to the reviews.

Describe the magazines on your coffee table?
My coffee table becomes a catch all and you can usually find a remote or two, junk mail to be recycled, a phone charger and picture frames with family and friends displayed.


picture from International Rivers


If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
I would be a parsnip. It is versatile, it holds up well in any form, and it makes winter more bearable.




Lastly, what excites you most about your job at the Action Alliance?
What excites me most about my job at the Action Alliance is all of the advances in technology and growth of the hotline team.

Reed Bohn is the Senior Hotline Crisis Services Specialist: Training at the Action Alliance.  He has worked and volunteered for HIV prevention, LGBTQ+ and anti-violence agencies. 


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email

Crisis Hotline Response: The Intersection of DV and Suicide

“How do you prepare yourself for a job like that?”

When you are introducing yourself to a new person, it is not long before you are asked “Where do you work?” When I tell them I work as a hotline crisis services specialist, the next question is invariably, “How do you prepare yourself for a job like that?”  The answer is training and very specific training.

As a hotline crisis services specialist at the Action Alliance we provide a 24-hour toll-free system of crisis intervention, support, information and referrals for the entire Commonwealth of Virginia via phone (1.800.838.8238 (v/tty), chat  or text (804-793-9999). We provide a wide variety of information as well as emotional support and need to be prepared for almost any question.

A lot of training happens before anyone takes a call solo. While development is an ongoing process, in addition to sexual assault and domestic violence, we cover broad topics like anti-racism, homelessness, human trafficking; and underserved populations, such as folks who are LGBTQ+ identified or folk who are incarcerated.

Suicide  is one of the many important issues we respond to on the hotline, and today I want to talk more about that issue. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that “suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.” When dealing with the trauma of intimate partner violence or sexual assault, a person’s mental health is impacted and a survivor may contemplate suicide. The ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence cites research saying twenty-nine percent of all women who attempt suicide survived physical assault by their partners. In their white paper, The Psychological Consequences of Sexual Trauma; Yuan, Koss and Stone find that “childhood sexual abuse was associated with an increased risk of a serious suicide even after accounting for the effects of previous psychological problems and a twin’s history of suicidal behaviors (Stratham et al., 1998).” What do these statistics mean for hotlines? It means we get callers who survived violence and are now suffering from suicidal thoughts. It means hotline crisis services responders need to be trained in more than advocacy; we need to be trained in suicide first aid practices.

Several of our hotline staff and an Action Alliance intern had the opportunity to attend Living Works Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) hosted by Richmond Behavior Health Authority.


Steve Alexander and Kristen Vamenta in ASIST training.

Living Works encompases the core belief that suicide is an issue for the entire community and that as a universal human problem, suicide should not be the domain of any one discipline or viewpoint. Living Works holds the belief that everyone, working together, can help to prevent suicide in the community.

ASIST is for everyone 16 or older—regardless of prior experience—who wants to be able to provide suicide first aid. By the end of the training, we were better able to understand the ways attitudes affect views on suicide interventions and provide individualized guidance and suicide first-aid to a person at risk. These skills translate beyond the workplace, beyond the hotline and into our everyday lives.

As we go about our work with survivors and in our personal lives as community members, I keep coming back to an often shared quote attributed to multiple sources such as Plato, Philo of Alexandria, Ian MacLaren, John Watson:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

The Hotline Crisis Services Team is comprised of an awesome team of trained staff who work 24/7. The hotline staff is:

Reed Bohn, Erin Cave, Charmaine Francois, Jennifer Gallienne, Mishawn Glover, Jennifer Harrison, Shirnell Lewis, Emily Robinson, Kristin Vamenta, and Carmen Williams


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email

Meet Jonathan Yglesias

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?
I grew up with violence so not so surprisingly, anti violence folks – people who want to elevate and validate the voice of survivors and reject oppression – are my people. I am fortunate to be in a movement among my people working for the liberation and validation of all people.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job? 
I am rejoining the Action Alliance and so am fortunate to be coming into this job already knowing a lot about the work and the people. But what I am most looking forward to learning in this new capacity is how to contribute to the movement and evolution of this agency in particular from a management role. I think I have a lot (A LOT) to learn from the visionary brains that I will be working alongside in this new role and I am looking forward to the inevitable growth and strain (a “feel the burn”, good, exercise kinda strain) that this role will produce in me.

What is the most incredible view you’ve ever seen?
I lived in Washington State for 3 years and saw a lot of beautiful sights and things all around the pacific northwest. My favorite view though, is the seeing the Appalachians from the seat of a plane. It is a welcome-home sight that I will always be grateful to see. It touches me in a way that is indescribable.

What is the latest book you’ve read and would you recommend it?
I recently read a collection of short fictions and wonders called “Fragile Things” by Neil Gaiman. I loved him growing up but I am not sure that I would suggest this particular series of stories. I found myself asking “wait, that is it?” at the end of each story.

I am guessing my tastes have evolved a bit since reading him in my youth.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

    • The people.
    • The Fauna: Virginia is where the flora and fauna of the North and South meet – we have it all.
    • The history: Virginia’s rich history that has given rise to innovative and strong social justice and resistance movements in various pockets around the state.

If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
My animals, a few books, and random household knick-knacks that hold sentimental value.


If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
Broccoli. I am tall, big headed, and when I grow my hair out – it is broccoli like. A good friend of mine, who is now a successful graphic designer has actually illustrated me (and our friends) as vegetables multiple times. I am always the broccoli. Without a doubt.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance?
I am so happy to be working alongside such fierce, beautiful humans who you can not help but learn from and grow with – I am most excited about this group of people.

Jonathan Yglesias is the Programs and Services Manager at the Action Alliance. He has worked in prevention for various agencies and is a resource nationally for prevention and advocacy. 


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email

Meet Angela Blount

Why do you do this Anti-Violence work?

I stumbled into this work not because I sought to do it but instead I believe I was led to this work by forces outside of myself. A series of events completely outside of my control happened and I found myself working for a local Sexual and Domestic Violence agency. Here I found my voice, I realized for the first time that I even had a voice. I have stayed and continue to do this work because it challenges me, challenges me to think about how I view myself, how I treat others and how I would want to be treated by anyone, stranger or friend, family or neighbor. I have learned to respect differences and the value in those differences. I have learned it is okay to develop a new value and belief system other than the one I was taught as a child.

What would you like to learn your first year on your new job?
I would like to learn how to not be so nervous in speaking in front of others and to speak with confidence and knowledge.


picture credit: The Food Network

If you were a vegetable what would you be? Why?
If I were a vegetable I would be a collard green. I would be a collard green because it is a comfort food for folks in my African American culture/heritage. I would be a reminder to everyone who partook of me of family meals and gatherings of friends and neighbors, and of holidays and laughter. I would somehow make those who partook of me happy after sad occasions such as funerals, bringing both tears of joy and pain. I would be a source of sustenance for my people and healing for the sick. My juice would be saved and given to someone who was “under the weather”. Because of how vital I am on so many levels, people would take care of me, careful to make sure there were no insects on me, no brown or yellowing leaves. I would be picked and washed carefully. Great care would go into preparing me for the feast. I would be seasoned and slow cooked to perfection. When I would finally reach the table, everyone would pass me around and partake of my seasoned bitterness and praise the one who prepared me for how I was like butter that melted in your mouth.

What are the 3 things you love about Virginia?

  1. I love the fact that Virginia, in terms of geography, is centrally located along the East Coast, close to metropolis areas but without all the urban chaos that goes along with big cities.
  2. Virginia has such interesting places to visit, hidden treasures that few even know about. I was born and raised in Virginia yet there are so many areas of the state I have never visited.
  3. Virginia has a bit of southern gentility I love. It is a place where strangers are more likely to speak than not. I like being able to strike up a conversation while in line at the grocery store or at the bank with a perfect stranger. I love that I don’t have to be afraid to speak to someone I pass on the sidewalk.

What would be the title of your autobiography?
The title of my autobiography would be “The Reinvention of Angela Take 5″

If you had one box for all your stuff, what would you put in it?
The first thing I would put in my box would be my pictures. My pictures are all snap shots of a point in my life of the people I have encountered along the way who helped create lasting memories both good and some not so good. They are family, some gone, some still here. They are my grandchildren, of pictures from birth to present. They are reflections of how quickly they grow and the individuals they have morphed into. They are workplace pictures of eras gone by.

Next in my box would go the small trinkets I have accumulated over the years from places I have visited or others have visited and brought me as souvenirs, reminders of the footprints of my life’s journeys. The final things to go in my box would be my son’s first pair of shoes, the tassel from his high school graduation, the robe and collar from his college graduation. These are the things that mean the most to me in life. If I had only these things, I would be content because if I had to start all over again with nothing but what I have in my box, I can recreate my life through these few things, knowing the best of who I am and all that I could ever hope to be is in that one box.

angela family pictureWhat is the most incredible view you have ever seen?
I have been a lot of places and seen a lot of things but this picture is emblazoned in my mind. It is a generational picture of my granddaughter doing the hair of my grandmother. It was the first and only time my grandmother was able to visit the home of my son before her health began to decline. What I love about this scene is the gentle care my granddaughter was giving to make “Grandma Mildred” look pretty.

Lastly, what excites you most about your new job at the Action Alliance?
There are so many things that excite me about my new job that it is hard to pick just one thing. I love the energy in the office. Yes it is an office and I know there are days when folks just are not “feeling” the love, but there is camaraderie and unity around the issues of anti-violence, equity and in particular issues that affect women. One of the things that does excite me the most is the realization that I am in an environment where I feel valued, my efforts feel appreciated and folks have so much confidence in me. It is exciting and scary at the same time because I ask myself, what if I fail, what if I make a mistake, say the wrong thing, or worse misrepresent the coalition in a damaging way. That in itself keeps me in a state of awareness about myself and the way I move about in and out of the office when I am wearing the face of our statewide coalition.

Angela Blount has been involved with anti-violence work for many years and most recently with the Action Alliance as a Governing Body member. She has recently joined the staff as the Programs and Services Assistant Manager. She continues to serve on the Governing Body of the Virginia Anti-Violence Project and gets involved in national activism such as Black Lives Matter. 


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email


The Urgency of Addiction: Children and the Drug Overdose Crisis in Virginia

Each day in Virginia, more than 2 people die from a drug overdose. In the 15 years between 2000 and 2014, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner noted that drug overdose deaths increased by 137%, from 424 to 992 victims. Now outpacing deaths from motor vehicle collisions, drug overdoses reflect our newest public health crisis.

The State Child Fatality Review Team – a brave group of professional women and men who gather several times a year to examine the specifics of child deaths in order to find solutions to these preventable deaths – has spent the past 2 years reviewing child cases of overdose to understand how this crisis is impacting Virginia’s children and their families.  Looking at the 41 deaths of children from poisoning between 2009 and 2013, the Team noted two distinct groups of children, each with their own set of risks: teenagers and infants/young children.

Teenagers who die from poisoning are most often the victims of accidental overdoses while misusing prescription medication, notably narcotics.  A smaller number die by suicide. They are overwhelmingly white and between the ages of 13 and 17. Even at very young ages, teens report a history of substance use and misuse, suffer mental health problems, receive substance abuse treatment, and grow up in homes with substance using and misusing parents. Keys to an effective response for these teens and their families include services that recognize and treat substance misuse in adolescents within the context of family relationships, and building Virginia’s capacity to serve those addicted to prescription medications and illicit drugs.


picture credit:

The picture of risk varies among the 15 infants and young children, where supervision by parents and caregivers is critical to their safety. While a majority of deaths were caused by taking prescription medications belonging to someone else, some children died after swallowing simple household products such as a battery, massage oil, or toothpaste.  Some died after accidentally chewing or swallowing a poison, some were murdered when given a lethal dose of medication to get them to sleep or to calm them, and others had no clear circumstances to determine how they died. And like teenagers, most lived with substance using and misusing adults. For these young and vulnerable children, attentive care and supervision by parents and other caregivers is crucial, including their diligence in safely storing medications and other toxic substances in the home.

The Team ended their review with the recognition that children’s overdose deaths reflect a small portion of deaths overall. But the loss of each of these young lives provides a window into a most pressing public health problem, one where the vulnerability of children and the needs of their caretakers are exposed, and the urgency of an effective response to addiction is paramount.

Once finalized in the summer of 2016, the Team’s final report on this review can be found here:


Virginia Powell, Ph.D. is a Program Manager in the Virginia Department of Health in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, in a department devoted to understanding injury and violence patterns through fatality review and surveillance projects.  Dr. Powell coordinated Virginia’s state child fatality review team; assisted in the development of a protocol for use by local domestic violence review teams; and was instrumental in the development of Virginia’s maternal death review team. She is principal investigator for the Virginia Violent Death Reporting System, a CDC funded initiative which is part of the National Violent Death Reporting System.  In Virginia, fatality review is at its core a public health effort designed to understand how and why people die and to educate others about those injuries and deaths in order to assist policy makers, advocates and planners in reducing violence.  


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

To inquire about submissions for blog, please check the submissions page for requirements or email

Mother’s Day for Peace

We tend to think of Mother’s day as a commercial ‘Hallmark’ greeting card kind of day to recognize mothers with cards, flowers and gifts. Celebrations of mothers and motherhood can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and Romans and our current commercialism around the holiday, and the role of mothers in families is indeed deeply rooted in our lives and culture. Nevertheless, the often overlooked herstory of the day is more aligned with the work of advocates and activists promoting peace and nonviolence and resonates with the early organizing efforts of our foremothers Ann Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe.

The herstory of the day is grounded in honoring women’s commitment to the past, present and future of our families and the world at both personal and political levels. It honors those who acted on behalf of not only their own children but of the future generations. So as in the past we work today to recall the origins of Mother’s Day’s as a call to women (and men) to join together to rise up to oppose war and violence.

In the words of Julia Ward Howe’s in 1870 her Mother’s Day proclamation:

Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience ………

………In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.


The full proclamation can be found at:


picture credit: Janett Forte

“Mother’s Day is the legacy of Anna Jarvis and her mother Ann Jarvis. At the heart of the traditions around Mother’s Day are themes of honoring mothers, compassion, peace, reconciliation, and social action.”

Perhaps in honoring our mothers this year we can reframe our Hallmark holiday to one that recalls the shoulders we stand on and the gifts of our early foremother’s in organizing for peace this Mother’s Day.  We can consider the legacy we are leaving and we can remind each other that peace, kindness, non-violence, equality and stewardship of the earth are values we all hold and work towards- together for ourselves and for future generations.

Happy Mother’s Day for Peace.

Janett Forte is a ‘mostly’ retired social worker. She is a governing body member of the Action Alliance and has been involved in the movement to end violence against women for over 30 years. She previously worked at Virginia Commonwealth University and coordinated services in Chesterfield County through the Domestic Violence Resource Center, an office she designed. She started her advocacy work at the YWCA in Richmond.  Retirement life has offered opportunities for travel both personally and professionally to places including service trips to Haiti, Guatemala, Philippines and Honduras and pleasure trips to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Italy. Janett is the mother of one son, Sean. 


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

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Breath…Movement…Meditation – DeStressing in a Stressful World

We all experience stress in life.  It is a fast pace world and it often feels like daily crises are occurring at any moment. So, how do we manage our busy lives and avoid burnout, emotional fatigue, or becoming generally unwell?

We often believe that self-care will require too much effort, too much time, or too much energy to put to practice. We become determined to plow through without the interruptions of self-care practices.  However, finding caring and replenishing ways to ‘interrupt’ our stress filled days is exactly what we all need, and it only has to take a few minutes!

Two great tools for fostering self-care into our daily lives include yoga and essential oils. Many forms of yoga allow us to ground, center, and relax our bodies and mind; while essential oils can foster balance and rejuvenation mentally and physically.


There are many kinds of yoga and yoga does not need to be an impossible or all consuming practice. The yoga I practice and teach is called Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini yoga is a meditative, restorative, and transformative form of yoga. Through such restorative practices you can transform stress into peace, tension into ease, and hardships into strength. As we are learning more and more, about the mind-body connection we are coming to understand just how influential our physical health is on our mental health, and just how much our mental health can influence our physical health. Yoga offers tools to rebalance both the body and mind through breathing, movement, and meditation. Here is how breathing, movement, and meditation can help you with daily self-care!


  1. Breathing – Forward Breathing

Many people are what is often referred to as ‘backwards breathers.’ This means when they breathe-in they suck their bellies in and when they breathe-out they poke their bellies out. To breath properly we are meant to deeply breathe into the belly, letting the belly expand with air (like a balloon filling with oxygen), and then breathe-out, letting our belly buttons come in towards the spine (as we allow the muscles to push the air out). To practice this spend 3 minutes breathing in for a count of 5 (with your hand placed on your stomach, your hand should move forward as the stomach expands with air), hold your breath in for a count of 5, breathe-out for a count of 5 (allowing your hand to move in towards the spine as the air is pushed out of the body), then hold the air out for another count of 5, and repeat.

Breathing in this manner allows your heart rate to lower and synchronize, calms the nervous system, brings oxygen into the brain, can lower blood pressure and sugar levels, and it can foster a feeling of calm and focus.


  1. Movement – Stretching and Flexing the Spine

Many have said that a healthy and flexible spine is central to our youthfulness and vitality. The movements in yoga help to stimulate specific muscles of the body, increase circulation, and helps to remove mental and physical blocks. A stretch that is great for keeping the spine flexible, the muscles around the spine loosened, and circulation going is a stretch called ‘cat cow.’ This can be done sitting cross-legged on the floor, sitting on your heels, sitting in a chair, and/or resting on your hands and knees. If seated you can hold your ankles, shins, or knees as you flex the spine forward and back (bringing the heart forward and up, and then letting the heart roll towards the space behind you; while keeping your base planted firmly to the ground and letting the shoulders straighten and roll forward). These different variations can stretch various areas of the back, so feel free to practice 3 or more variations at one sitting. Each exercise can be practiced for 1-3 minutes at a time. This is a great way to get some movement going in the back, spine, chest, and shoulders. These areas are often tight due to posture and lifestyle. They will greatly benefit from regular breaks and movement.


  1. Meditation

Through meditation one is able to foster new and healthy patterns, develop a clear and neutral mind, and develop a deeper intuition. It often feels very challenging to begin a meditation practice but a great way to begin is to tune in to the rhythm of our own heartbeats. To start find a comfortable seat and then either place two fingers on your left wrist or on your neck, finding your pulse. With each heartbeat you can mentally repeat the word ‘Sat’ ‘Nam’ (yogic words meaning true self), ‘True’ ‘Self,’ or feel free to choose your own two words. Close your eyes if you are comfortable and for 3 minutes simply feel your heartbeat and repeat your two words to the rhythm of your heartbeat. Often a practice such as this can help us become more present, foster a connection within ourselves and to the world at large, and allows us to observe and respond to our experiences, rather than becoming reactive.


picture credit: Becky Jacobson


As for essential oils, these are the oils found in the bark, stems, fruit, or leaves of plants.  These oils help to sustain the plants’ health and longevity and, when extracted correctly, these oils can provide the same healing properties to people. Additionally, smell is the one sent directly linked to the olfactory system (where emotions and memories are stored and produced) and so essential oils can have positive effects on our mood when used aromatically. In using essential oils, not all oils are created equally and so I stick to using doTERRA therapeutic grade essential oils, to ensure I (and my clients) receive the most effective results from using the oils. There are three ways to use doTERRA essential oils: topically, aromatically, and internally (this is unique to the oils produced by doTERRA).  Here is more information on how oils can help with our daily self-care!


  1. Topically – Lavender  

When used topically oils are placed directly on the skin.  This may include the bottom of the feet (where oils are quickly absorbed into the blood stream), the temples, or directly on areas needing remedy. For some oils it is recommended to dilute the essential oil using fractionated coconut oil or almond oil, particularly if you have sensitive skin.  To learn more about this please feel free to email.  Lavender essential oil is an oil that many apply directly on the skin. As well as an emotionally soothing effect, lavender also has a soothing effect for the skin. When placed on areas effected by a burn, bug bite, or cut lavender has shown to help the body soothed and heal itself.  Lavender can also be placed on the temples to help us to feel more calm and relaxed.  Lavender is a great oil to carry with you for times when you may need to relax the mind or soothe the skin.


  1. Aromatically – Wild Orange

To enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils you can us an oil diffuser or place a few drops in your hand and cup your hands over your nose as you inhale and exhale.  For both an uplifting and relaxing effect many turn to the oil wild orange.  Wild orange essential oil can help the mind return to a state of equilibrium, if stressed the oils will relax the mind or if fatigued wild orange brighten the mood.  Wild orange is a great mood booster to have on hand throughout a busy day.


  1. Internally – Peppermint

Using essential oils internally is unique the essential oils produced by doTERRA, as they have ensured that these oils are up to the food grade standards. Putting peppermint in your water bottle, preferably a glace water bottle, can add freshness to your water (helping you enjoy staying hydrated throughout your day), it can help with nausea or an upset stomach, it can give you a mid-day energy boost, and it can bring some coolness on a hot summer’s day. One drop of peppermint oil is equivalent in potency to 26 cups of peppermint tea!

No matter what you decide works best for you there are many ways to take ‘mini-self-care’ breaks throughout your day. Whether you stop for a moment to practice deep breathing or meditation, or to inhale some calming or energizing essential oils these mini-breaks can make the difference between thriving and surviving. May you enjoy your self-care daily interruptions!

Becky is presenting today at the THE HEART IS A MUSCLE: TRAUMA-INFORMED APPROACHES TO SEXUAL & INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE MAY 4-5, 2016 CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. For Information on upcoming training, check our Training Institute for what is coming up next.  


Becky Jacobson graduated from The George Washington University, with a Masters in Art Therapy and Counseling. She has experience working with adults, teens, and children. She has provided art therapy to hospice patients and their families; provided bereavement support; worked within several behavioral health programs; and worked with at risk youth. She offers individual, family, and group art therapy at Mind-Body Art Essentials, LLC, and provides art therapy based workshops throughout Richmond, VA. Becky truly believes in the power of art therapy, and in the innate power of creative expression and healing. You can contact Becky via email:


Joining the Action Alliance adds your voice to making change in Virginia. Start your membership today or call804.377.0335.

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10 Secrets of Healthy Trauma Organizations


Vicarious trauma is a profound negative psychological change  produced in  “helping” professions as a result of exposure to traumatic material of their clients. Continuous exposure to trauma of others may lead helping professionals to manifest the same or similar symptoms as victims they work with. In other words, symptoms of vicarious trauma are essentially the same as symptoms of primary trauma, and include re‐experience, avoidance, and hyper‐arousal.

Untreated, vicarious trauma leads to severe emotional and physical exhaustion,  deep sense of ineffectiveness at one’s work; and can result in emotional distress, detachment, ineffective professional behavior, and depression. Helpers who are worn out, traumatized, and fatigued, often tend to work harder, thus going farther down a dangerous path, which often leads to physical and mental health difficulties, such as chronic pain, clinical depression, substance abuse, and even suicide.


Self-Care Wheel – courtesy Olga Phoenix website

Leadership, including Boards of Directors, has primary ethical responsibility for creating environments which promote and support organizational and individual vicarious trauma prevention. While personal efforts are important, individual health can still be compromised in contexts where people are denied the opportunity to make use of these skills and knowledge. The most effective way to address and prevent vicarious trauma is through sound organizational processes.

Here are some ways healthy trauma organizations promote thriving environments for their staff:

  1. Provide sufficient training for every member of their team on vicarious trauma, its symptoms, effects, and tools to address and prevent it.
  2. Assure staff that vicarious trauma symptoms are a completely normal reaction to trauma work and encourage them to seek help.
  3. Establish organizational systems of care for staff who disclose or present with vicarious trauma symptoms.
  4. Provide adequate training in trauma-specific and trauma-informed outreach, intake, and service delivery strategies, to increase staff sense of effectiveness in helping clients and reduce the sense of demoralization brought on by trauma work.
  5. Establish a diverse caseload of clients in order to limit the traumatic exposure of any one worker.
  6. Create work environments which facilitate staff bonding and emotional support of each other, as this limits emotional fatigue and depersonalization, and creates a greater sense of personal accomplishment (e.g.: a vicarious trauma prevention/aka “We Thrive” support group).
  7. Institute regular relationally based clinical supervision to normalize staff feelings and experiences and provide support and tools to address and prevent vicarious trauma.
  8. Provide safe and comfortable space for staff to engage in their personal vicarious trauma prevention activities during the work day (e.g.: therapy, 12 step meetings, meditation, long lunch with support group).
  9. Nurture a culture of shared power in making organizational decisions, empower a sense of autonomy in staff-as trust, empowerment, and self-efficacy are the antidotes to a sense of powerlessness associated with vicarious trauma.
  10. As an organization, continuously planning and taking steps towards improving their organizational health and practices.

Would any of these work for your trauma organization? What are your organizational secrets you can share with us? For more on this, please visit or see “Victim Advocate’s Guide to Wellness: Six Dimensions of Vicarious Trauma-Free Life” book by Olga Phoenix, MPA, MA.

Olga Phoenix, MPA, MA is an internationally recognized expert and speaker on the topics of Vicarious Trauma, Compassion Fatigue, Secondary Traumatic Stress, and Trauma-Informed Services, as well as personal and organizational cultures of Sustainability, Self-Care, and Wellness. Through her books, trainings, webinars, and keynotes Olga helped thousands of victim advocates, therapists, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement, criminal justice and medical professionals to find their way to full and thriving life, free of vicarious trauma.


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