Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work


SSW Names Josselyn Agency Partner of the Year

Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work partners with more than 1200 locations across the country to provide student interns with hands-on experience, but this year one organization stood out.

Josselyn recently took home the School of Social Work’s award for Agency Partner of the Year. SSW recognized Josselyn’s excellent internship program at both its Waukegan and Northfield locations.

Josselyn's Patrick Dawley, Ciera McNeal, John Cahill, and Erin Shea Brady pose with SSW's Amy Greenberg after being awarded the school's Agency Partner of the Year award on April 14.

'Mental Health for All'

Josselyn’s vision is ‘Mental health for all’ and I think it really lives by that statement,” said Josselyn’s Director of Internships Tom Tharayil. “For a lot of people, there’s not many places to go. Josselyn is committed to providing resources for equitable mental healthcare, no matter who you are.”

Tharayil, who earned his undergraduate degree and MSW from Loyola, has shifted the focus of Josselyn’s internship program the last several years as the center has grown. Supervision and community-building are key components that make the program work.

“Part of what’s good about that is interns can be vulnerable with each other, because it’s intimidating when you first start having clients,” Tharayil said. “So, having that support is key, and down the road it pays off.”

A Hands-On Approach

That’s particularly important for second-year internship placements, like the one SSW alum Kristina Skof completed. She said being assigned actual Josselyn clients was the best way to build confidence, but she couldn’t have done it without the support of her supervisors and peers.

“It’s very hands-on,” said Skof. “You’re given a case load and clients and you are treated like a staff member. You have full support and supervision and everything to help you, but you are going to get a full experience of being a therapist, which was perfect for me. It’s kind of scary, but once you actually get into it and do it and build that confidence, that’s when it clicks.”

Skof graduated with her MSW from Loyola in 2022. After graduation, she returned to Josselyn to start her career as a full-time staff therapist, where she works today.

Innovative Financial Support Opportunities

But beyond providing necessary professional support for interns, Josselyn is also focused on ways to provide financial support. They recently introduced a model where current employees working towards their MSW are able to simultaneously complete an internship at Josselyn.

"It’s a really great opportunity to be able to have additional support to reach my educational and professional goals," said Leilani Barrera, Josselyn Psychiatric Services Case Manager, who is a part of that model. "I’m grateful for the financial support and to be able to take advantage of this opportunity while pursuing my MSW at Loyola."

Josselyn is also trying to grow the internship program at its Waukegan location by offering scholarships and generous tuition forgiveness opportunities for new employees.

“For those who are willing to make a four-year commitment, for every year of employment, a pretty significant portion of their loan debt will be repaid by Josselyn,” said Tharayil. “This is apart from their salary and all benefits and contributions.”

The pilot program for newly hired clinical therapists at Josselyn’s Waukegan location offers 25% tuition reimbursement up to $10,000 for each of the first four years of employment.

“For the right graduate, being able to put four years in, know you’re getting that clinical experience, you’ll get the hours towards continuing education, you’re getting supervision towards your LCSW license, and knowing every year of those four years you can knock off some debt… that’s what I like about Josselyn is that they’re innovative,” Tharayil said.

The consideration that Josselyn gives to employees’ and interns’ real-world needs is part of the reason Loyola’s School of Social Work recognized them as its agency partner of the year. As the discussion around social work internships continues to evolve, Loyola’s School of Social Work hopes more agencies are as willing to adapt to help its employees and interns as Josselyn.