Brighid O’Shaughnessy has a Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Chicago’s Crown School of Policy and Practice with a specialization in Trauma.

During her time at the University of Chicago, she worked as an intern in Chicago Public Schools through the Juvenile Protection Association offering trauma-focused, non-directive play therapy to individuals and groups, focusing primarily on students with emotional and behavioral difficulties. She then went on to intern at the same school through the Counseling Department during which time she worked on such projects as an entirely student-driven Career Day as well as a student-designed and painted mural alongside professional visual artist Rhonda Gray. Brighid also designed and led regular talking circles for students, staff/community partners, parents and principals across multiple Chicago Public Schools and taught sex education across grade levels. During this time, she also completed the Center for Conflict Resolution’s 40 hour Certificate Program in Mediation.

After graduate school, she then went on to serve as the Restorative Justice Coordinator at the same Chicago Public School in North Lawndale. In addition to seeing 35 - 40 students weekly for such things as relationship challenges, depression, trauma processing, issues of bullying, and family and peer conflict, she provided crisis intervention support on such issues as sexual abuse disclosure, domestic violence, and physical fighting within school. Brighid also regularly coached students on emotional regulation strategies, utilizing Dr. Bruce Perry’s neuroscience-based trauma framework, and led regular restorative practice work with students. During that time, she deepened her study in Restorative Justice through training with Alternatives, Inc. and has gone on to take courses at the International Institute for Restorative Practices. In January 2023, she began the Graduate Certificate Program in Restorative Justice in Education through Eastern Mennonite University.

She currently works at Touch of Wholeness, LLC, a therapeutic practice located in Hyde Park and Olympia Fields. Through her work at Touch of Wholeness, Brighid serves as a Restorative Practices Coach at three Chicago Public Schools on the Southwest Side, offering coaching, consultation, training and support to administrators, staff, and teachers looking to foster a restorative mindset and bring restorative practices into their daily work.

Prior to her time at University of Chicago, Brighid was the Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Erasing the Distance, a nationally recognized non-profit organization that uses documentary theatre to disarm stigma, stimulate dialogue and support healing around issues of mental health. Between the years 2005 and 2016, Brighid grew the organization from a one-person operation to include 5 staff, a 15-person artistic company, 7-person board of directors, and a 10-person mental health advisory board of LCSW's, LCPC's, Psy.D's, and M.D.'s. With Erasing the Distance, she devised, directed and/or produced 15 world premiere theatrical productions covering such topics as veterans mental health, trauma and interpersonal violence, Asian-American mental health, and depression in families. She also produced 175 touring performances reaching over 55,000 people across the country at high schools, colleges, faith groups, conferences, community organizations and Fortune 500 corporations. She collaborated with licensed mental health professionals to provide and lead mental health training for Chicago Public Schools staff and community leaders on topics ranging from depression and anxiety to self-harm and domestic violence. Brighid also led artistic residencies focused on mental health storytelling and student activism at Al Raby High School, Grimes Middle School, and Dominican University. She continues to work with the organization to this day providing clinical supervision to MSW interns and collaborating on special projects.

A sought-after speaker and workshop leader, Brighid taught the Erasing the Distance methodology for collecting true mental health stories and shaping them for the stage at such institutions as The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and the University of Illinois at Chicago. At both institutions, she collaborated with students and professors on the development of multiple mental health focused stage performances, mental health trainings and workshops as well as resource materials for the public. Brighid also led workshops at Loyola and Santa Clara Universities as well as national conferences through organizations such as Active Minds and the Department of Child and Family Services.

Brighid was granted both DePaul University’s prestigious David O. Justice Award as well as their LifeLong Learning Award for her use of theatre to educate communities about mental illness in non-traditional and creative ways. She was also chosen by Extra Mile America as one of 200 heroic leaders in the United States making a difference in their communities and received a 3Arts Vision Award to support her artistic work at Erasing the Distance. Through her work at Erasing the Distance, she co-wrote and received multiple-year grants from such institutions as The Chicago Community Trust, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Rebecca's Dream, and the Illinois Arts Council and was featured on WBEZ's The Morning Shift, in the Chicago Tribune, The Reader and New City.

Her experience as a director, actor and teacher committed to social change has spanned over 25 years, including time co-directing the Thresholds Theatre Arts Project for adults with severe and persistent mental illness and Redmoon Theater’s Dramagirls Program for Latinx middle school girls in the Logan Square neighborhood. She also has devised original productions with teens in Chicago Public Schools and addressed issues of conflict resolution and non-violence through such programs as the Shanti Foundation for Peace and Lookingglass Theatre. She graduated with a M.A. from DePaul University and a B.A. in Theatre from Santa Clara University. Brighid has also worked as a life coach and workshop leader assisting people in uncovering their unique passions, values, and purpose. She received her coaching training from the Coaches Training Institute and also completed their year long Leadership Program. She is also a certified Nia and Qoya teacher, using the movement modalities of dance, yoga, martial arts and mindfulness to promote body-mind awareness.

Brighid currently still makes theater using personal stories. Her most recent projects included a storytelling series on women’s health alongside a photography exhibit and facilitated discussion with local health professionals and a collaboratively created theater piece chronicling the personal story of Englewood artist and activist, Tonika Lewis Johnson. The piece chronicled the origins of her Folded Map project, unpacking issues of segregation, racism, and community investment and accessibility. She is also a facilitator with the Our Whole Lives program offering comprehensive sexual health education to 7th -10th grade students and workshops for parents.

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Brighid O'Shaughnessy, LSW
Founder, Return to the Roots