Ailsa’s Story

Ailsa was referred to Jewish Vocational Services Detroit (JVSD), an organization that provides employment support services in metro-Detroit, Michigan, to assist her with obtaining employment. JVSD offers services including internship experiences, case management, job-skills workshops and employment opportunities for individuals who are experiencing homelessness. Through the RISE project, the organization has partnered with Dr. Joseph Himle to develop and test a work-related cognitive behavioral therapy (WCBT) for social anxiety among unemployed adults receiving standard JVSD services.

In addition to Ailsa’s usual employment services, she was asked to participate in a study of WCBT. Ailsa agreed to participate and was randomly assigned to receive WCBT. Ailsa’s WCBT sessions were led by Jewish Vocational Services employees, Nicole Hamameh and Zipora Goldenberg. Nicole and Zipora, along with other JVS employees, have been specifically trained to implement WCBT interventions in the JVS setting. WCBT Counselors receive support from University of Michigan through on-going clinical supervision with Dr. Himle.

Ailsa was interviewed about her experience participating in the RISE project and completing WCBT. She shared how social anxiety impacted her ability to find and keep a job and how receiving WCBT has helped her improve her symptoms. You can learn more about Ailsa’s experience by reading her full interview below.

How did you find out about Bridging the Gap/RISE?

A men’s counselor at Oasis told me about it….I was doing the culinary arts program there.

How has social anxiety impacted your ability to find and keep a job in the past?

It kept me from going after promotions I wanted or felt I deserved. I was just the quiet girl who came in and did her job and didn’t draw attention to herself. You have to talk to people to get noticed, and I wasn’t good at that.

What skills did you develop as a result of participating in RISE?

I’m getting so much better at opening my mouth and talking to people. I’ve realized it’s not the end of the world.

How did RISE counselors support you during the sessions?

They opened up a crazy opportunity for me, one that I thought I’d never be able to pursue. When they found out that I loved to cook and wanted to open my own restaurant someday, they put me in a cooking internship at Detroit Rescue Mission. Now I work there as a chef at the Men’s Shelter. It’s hard to be a female chef, first, and then to be one without training is even harder. But my counselors were like, “You got this!”

What kinds of cooking do you enjoy the most?

At Detroit Rescue Mission, they’ve dubbed me the Chicken Lady because that’s what we serve the most. It feels nice that people appreciate what I’m doing. But I experiment and come up with new recipes all the time. I joke with the guys that they’re my guinea pigs.

I like trying different styles. I guess my skills are mostly in comfort food like meatloaf, mac and cheese, roasts. All of my experience has been cooking for my kids but it’s always been my dream to open my own restaurant.

What are your goals for the future?

To finish my business degree and take culinary classes. I set a two-year goal to get the process started. I should have a business plan, a business name, and an LLC. I want to start small, maybe an at-home catering business, then a food truck, then a restaurant of my own.

The Project

RISE Project