Shaler native’s goal of making the world a better place inspired business
Monday, January 27, 2020 | 12:01 AM
As Kristy Weidner dealt with her marriage ending, she wanted to make a change. She considered volunteering for the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders. Instead, she and her former supervisor co-founded the Village Center for Holistic Therapy because she saw a local need for services aimed at improving one’s overall well-being.
In 2011, Weidner, a social worker residing in Shaler, and her business partner, psychologist Victor Barbetti, opened their West End practice. In 2016, they opened a second location along Glenshaw’s Mt. Royal Boulevard.
Therapists combine a talk-based approach with additional areas of expertise, such as dance, yoga, meditation, art, music, pet therapy and acupuncture.
As the practice’s clinical director, Weidner, 40, said that clients are never pressured into trying therapies that don’t appeal to them.
“We really have a person-centered approach where we say, ‘You’re the driver of this vehicle; I’m the passenger. You’re going to have my support and encouragement. We’re going to throw a bunch of things at the wall and see what sticks.’’’
Sarah Hobbs, Village center program coordinator, believes Weidner’s methods are amazing.
“She’s always encouraging and full of new ideas on how to make the world we live in a better place,” said Hobbs. “She has taught me that there is always someone who needs your help, and we can always help those around us, without question. She also has an attitude of wanting the best for everyone and trying to add peace and well-being to all.”
Weidner is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor and mindfulness meditation teacher. Village Center for Holistic Therapy also specializes in leading yoga classes for people dealing with trauma and anxiety. In September 2019, Weidner opened inJOY Studio for meditation and yoga upstairs from the Shaler Village Center. For session information, visit www.kristyjoyweidner.com/.
“At my heart of social work, I wanted a place where people felt like they belonged, where they weren’t shunned because of their mental illness or their class. Just a place that was open for everybody,” she said.
She has worked hard, she said, to ensure that her Village Center is able to accept Medicare and Medicaid.
Weidner taught 16- through 21-year-olds at Pressley Ridge School for the Deaf after receiving a bachelor’s in education of persons with hearing loss from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She often incorporates her American Sign Language knowledge into yoga workshops. At Pressley Ridge, Weidner focused on educating students who are deaf and diagnosed as emotionally disturbed or on the autism spectrum. The Shaler Area graduate always had a psychology interest, but thought that studying deaf education would serve as a good “stepping stone.”
She earned a master’s in social work from the University of Pittsburgh and later worked as a Pittsburgh Mercy Behavioral Health outpatient mental health counselor serving both hearing and deaf clients.
Weidner has given back to the community since 2010 by facilitating support groups at the Highmark Caring Place for elementary schoolers experiencing grief.
In her letter nominating Weidner for the Pittsburgh Magazine 40 Under 40 award, which she won, Highmark Caring Place manager Andrea Lurier wrote that Weidner helped a group of children enamored with the “Minecraft” video game process their grief.
“The next thing I knew, Kristy was bringing in enormous boxes, paint, glitter, glue, fabric and more. Kristy honored their interest and helped them build a “Minecraft world” that included the Caring Place, heaven and a bridge between the two so the children could symbolically stay connected to their loved ones.”
Through Village Center, Weidner has hosted supply drives for Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center, Project STAR, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and North Hills Community Outreach.