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SSA Centennial Celebration
Profiles of Distinction Series

Rory Gilbert, A.M. 1979

Psychotherapist and Counselor
Co-Founder, Police Assistance Center

“From my earliest recollections, I always wanted to help people, and SSA gave me the tools and helped hone my skills to make my career possible and rewarding,” recalls Rory Gilbert, a successful psychotherapist and counselor. “My early heroes were my teachers and camp counselors. I wanted to be the one people came to for help. SSA fueled my desire to be a clinical therapist.”

In practice for more than 25 years, Mr. Gilbert did his undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and when it was time to get his master’s, he chose SSA. “My brother graduated from the University of Chicago’s Law School and so I was aware of the prestige of the University of Chicago. As I wanted to be a clinical therapist and the School of Social Service Administration was a premier school in this field, I applied and was accepted.

“I did not know much about social service agencies but my first field placement was at the then named United Charities. It was a wonderful experience filled with a real mix of people and places,” he remembers. “My eyes were opened to broader social issues as I came in contact with victims of abuse, addiction, poverty, and more. That is when I realized that I could make a difference in someone’s life.”

Mr. Gilbert graduated from SSA in 1979, and for the next four years worked for United Charities where he received extensive training in family therapy. In the early 1980s, he became certified in alcohol and other drug counseling and worked for the Chicago Police Department. “In 1987, I co-founded the nonprofit, The Police Assistance Center, also known as St. Michael’s House, a counseling facility for police officers and their families. Because of my work with the police and my expertise in alcoholism, I am able to engage difficult men and their spouses in therapy as they try to put their lives back together. I led this important work until 2006, when I decided to go into private practice.”

Today, Mr. Gilbert works with individuals and couples handling a wide range of problems from addiction to relationships and everything in between. “SSA taught me to always view the big picture and I believe that my success with people comes from my ability to see the problem as a whole and not just in pieces. I owe a lot to SSA and professors such as Paul Gitlin (Paul Gitlin, D.S.W.) and other SSA alumni such as Wilda Dailey.”

During the course of his career, Mr. Gilbert has written on both alcoholism and domestic violence, lectured and consulted, and taught professional development classes. “I continue to learn and to build on my experience at SSA and the work I do. You could say that I am a work in progress.”

Rory Gilbert Photo

Rory Gilbert, A.M. 1979