New Staff Spotlight: Patti Ovalles, Chief Program Officer

Patti Ovalles, Chief Program Officer

What sparked your interest in social impact work?

College was a big turning point. As a person of color like me on a predominantly white campus, I craved that feeling of belonging, a home away from home. That’s when I started a Latin sorority chapter, not just for myself but to build a community for others like me. I discovered a passion for helping others and fighting for justice, which became super important to me. After graduating, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and be the support system I never had had as a first generation Afro-Latina growing up in a single-parent home. So, I jumped in at a community center, helping young people, especially minorities who often face challenges, navigate college, and stay on track. That’s how my journey in social impact work began, and it’s been amazing ever since!


What is your vision for YWCA Central Massachusetts’ programming in the next few years?

When I joined the YW, my goal was not to ‘fix’ what was working but rather build upon it. Ideally, every program would be fully staffed and bustling with even more participants in a few years; I dream of this place bursting with life, good vibes, and, even more, people experiencing all the fantastic things YWCA offers. It’s already a special place, and I can’t wait to see it reach even more people in our community!


Are there any unique routines or practices that help you stay creative and energized in your fast-paced role?

Staying connected to people helps me stay fresh. I’m a huge pop culture person, , especially coming from a youth focused background it helped me relate to the youth I worked with (they kept me young, even if they gave me some gray hair, too, ha-ha!). But really, the key is just having genuine interactions and getting to know people. Hearing their stories and experiences sparks new ideas and burns that creative fire!


How do you navigate the emotional challenges of working on critical social issues? What keeps you motivated?

As a licensed clinical social worker, I’ve seen some tough stuff, especially in recent years with folks experiencing trauma and homelessness. Dealing with that can take a toll, but I rely on the tools I have and remind myself I can’t fix everything at once. It’s about chipping away at the more significant issues, like broken systems, bit by bit. To stay sane, I separate myself emotionally and indulge in some guilty pleasure reality TV and time with my loved ones. It’s all about balance.

Program Spotlight: Domestic Violence Clinical Counseling Program




“I hope this program grows into a team of clinical social workers who really understand coercive control, interpersonal violence, and domestic violence. That any victim, survivor, and thriver of domestic violence have access to therapy; otherwise, this violence will persist in our culture and harm those with the least amount of power to speak out and receive life-saving support.” -Marienelly Vazquez, LICSW (she/her/hers), Director of Clinical Services and Community Outreach

Program Spotlight: Domestic Violence Clinical Counseling Program

With the Clinical Counseling Program, social workers offer free talk therapy to participants to bridge the gap to formal support.

Domestic and Interpersonal violence is a national epidemic that impacts 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men. However, it most impacts marginalized communities, such as black, indigenous, and LGBTQIA+ groups of people. These groups are at a much greater risk of violence and consequently have less access to formal support such as the legal, medical, and behavioral health system.

Our clinical counseling program utilizes evidence-based models and frameworks specifically designed for those who have experienced gender-based violence but have little to no access to trauma-informed, culturally specific care.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers on staff work with participants with a holistic approach that incorporates psychoeducation related to:

  • Healthy Relationships
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Skills to manage unhelpful ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Skills to help regulate intense, negative emotions.
  • Motivational Interviewing to inspire change.
  • Behavioral Activation to assist in managing symptoms of depression.
  • Solution Focused Therapy to shift focus on future goals and aspirations as opposed to past experiences.
  • Mindfulness Skill Development such as mindfulness, meditation, and body-scanning.
  • Grief, Loss, and Bereavement informed counseling.

The program is FREE and available in a multilingual/multicultural capacity, so it’s especially beneficial to undocumented people and people who speak English as their second language. The program is also person-centered and specializes in treating PTSD, Anxiety, and Depressive symptoms related to domestic and interpersonal violence.

After an initial intake, clients can schedule weekly or bi-weekly sessions, with treatment evaluations completed every 3 months. Sessions can be held in-person at YWCA at 1 Salem Square or via telehealth on a secure platform. Participants will need access to a secure device with a reliable Wi-Fi signal in a confidential location.

Participants can be referred from another department within the YWCA Central Massachusetts, such as Domestic Violence Community-Based Services or the Housing and Shelter Department.

For questions regarding the program structure, referral process, or internship opportunities, please get in touch with Marienelly Vazquez, LICSW, directly at 508-767-2505×168 (confidential) or email at (non-confidential).

If you or a loved one are experiencing domestic violence, call our 24-hour helpline 508-755-9030 or visit our 24-hour chatline at