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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Jessie Marie O’Hara

Updated: May 21

Gordon: When did you attend University of Illinois, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?


Jessie: I got my Bachelor of Arts degree from UIC in 2016. A favorite memory from my time there would be making the Dean’s list and attending a celebration ceremony for it where I was able to take my mom as my plus-one. It was a lovely event and it was amazing to be able to share this moment with my mom as she has always been my biggest supporter, especially in my educational endeavors.

Gordon: When did you attend Loyola University, what degree did you earn, what was your favorite classes, and why was it your favorite?


Jessie: I attended Loyola University Chicago from 2017-2019. Loyola was a dream school of mine as an undergraduate and due to financial constraints I wasn’t able to attend, so I was really proud to be able to obtain my Master’s in Social Work there. My favorite class in graduate school was a class called Power, Oppression, Privilege and Social Justice. This course was my favorite because it confronted tough topics that are extremely relevant in my field of practice and it was the first class to openly address and expand on implicit bias.


Gordon: What licenses and certificates have you earned?


Jessie: I am currently in the process of obtaining my LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Work) and have obtained a training certificate to be able to practice EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and it has allowed me to delve more into trauma work as a clinician.


Gordon: When did you serve as Youth Advisor Covenant House New Jersey and what were your primary responsibilities?


Jessie: I served as a Youth Advisor for Covenant House after I obtained my undergraduate degree. I wasn’t quite sure what my career trajectory was at the time and this opportunity helped me solidify my passion for social work. In this role, I worked with at-risk youth in need of housing and additional resources. My primary duty was working as a case manager at their crisis shelter. It was a truly life-changing experience and it allowed me to grow in ways I couldn’t imagine



Gordon: When did you serve as Behavior Specialist Neumann Family Service in Chicago and what was one of your favorite memories when you were there?


Jessie: While I was completing my undergraduate degree, I took on the role of Behavior

Specialist at Neumann Family Services. The best part of working in this role was being able to interact with the members of our day program. The population that Neumann served was adults with a dual diagnosis including developmental and mental health issues. Working with this population was truly a treat and brought me an immense amount of joy.


Gordon: What did you enjoy most when you were a Community Outreach Intern at PAWS Chicago and what did you enjoy most about your work?


Jessie: Working with PAWS Chicago as a Community Outreach Intern was so much fun and such a different experience for me. This role really made me see the importance of community support and local resources for under-served communities. Plus, it was awesome to be able to tie in my social work background with work around animal welfare. Notably, working with the staff at my internship site and being able to be around animals throughout this internship was such a pleasure.


Gordon: When were you a Therapy Intern at Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare and what was one of the lessons that you learned that applies to your current position?


Jessie: During my time at Loyola completing my graduate program, I was required to complete two internships at different organizations. My second internship position was at Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare where I provided therapy in an outpatient setting, My time at Trilogy really allowed me to develop my clinical skills and figure out which populations I wanted to work with going forward.

A lesson I learned from my time at Trilogy that applies to my current position would be to remain client-centered. I learned that rapport building goes such a long way, especially with clients who may have a negative initial outlook on the therapeutic process.


Gordon: When did you serve as Adult Protective Services Investigator at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and what is one of the most interesting cases that you worked on?


Jessie: I served as an Adult Protective Services Investigator for Catholic Charities right after I finished my graduate program. One of the most interesting cases from my time there would be witnessing a client who was known to be adamantly resistant to any help from our organization become comfortable enough over time to allow me into their home to discuss available supports despite their shame around hoarding tendencies. That was such a special break-through moment and I was honored that I got to be a part of it.


Gordon: When did you serve as Senior Disability Examiner at Sedgwick and what were your primary responsibilities?


Jessie: During the beginning of the pandemic, I worked at Sedgwick as a Senior Disability

Examiner. This role was definitely out of my area of expertise and it focused on processing medical documentation and making decisions about workforce disability claims.


Gordon: You are currently a Therapist at Sage Therapy Chicago . Approximately how many people with Autism have you helped, what were some of their challenges, and how were they addressed?


Jessie: While I had worked previously with children and seniors with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at previous jobs, I have been able to work with multiple adult clients with this diagnosis as a therapist at Sage Therapy Chicago and continue in this work presently. Some challenges that I have encountered with individuals with this diagnosis have been working through the social stigma around autism and the ways in which our society does not often consider the experiences of those with it. This is an ongoing challenge that I don’t see being solved overnight, so I address it by remaining strengths-focused in my practice and helping my clients learn how to best navigate in a world that expects everyone to be neurotypical


Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

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