Our Staff

Anabel Ruiz, MS, Cognitive Remediation Specialist
Anabel is the Cognitive Remediation Specialist at Thresholds and liaison to the supported employment programs. She is the lead clinician delivering a Cognitive Remediation intervention to program participants as part of the randomized controlled trial (RCT), “A Dismantling Study of Cognitive Remediation.”  Anabel also has experience at the agency working with the Supported Employment Department, where she is a past team supervisor and trainer for new Employment Specialists.  Anabel holds a master’s of science in Mental Health Counseling from Purdue University and is fluent in Spanish.

Tovah Lieberman, MPH, Research Assistant
Tovah is a research assistant at Thresholds where she supports research activities on multiple studies. Her projects include leading the project team for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining the impact of an electronic decision support system (EDSS) designed for adults with schizophrenia who are smokers. In addition, Tovah conducts complex neuropsychological assessments as part of the department’s collaboration with Boston University to evaluate the effectiveness of computerized interventions that address cognitive skills to support individuals with mental illness to acquire and retain employment. She also collaborates with other department staff to screen members who may be eligible to participate in ongoing pharmacological intervention studies conducted in partnership with other academic centers, including Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Tovah holds a master’s in public health from Indiana University Bloomington School of Public Health.

Melissa P. Sherman, M.Ed., LPC, Research Assistant
Melissa Sherman is a Research Assistant for Thresholds. She has experience developing and managing program databases, as well as collecting and analyzing data for various department projects. Melissa captains a mobile health study where she is the lead evaluator and data manager. Melissa also provides assessment support for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining models to improve cognitive function among individuals in recovery, which require administration of complex neuropsychological and psychosocial assessments. Melissa also has experience collecting and administering qualitative and quantitative measures (STATA, SPSS), and is aligned with maintaining best practices as well as accurate and ethical data collection. Melissa received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and a master’s degree in Community Counseling from DePaul University. Melissa is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and has experience as a therapist for adults and adolescents in both group and individual settings. Melissa’s past experience as a researcher includes her work at DePaul University’s Department of Counseling and Special Education, exploring areas related to clinical best practice for community interventions, Response to Intervention (RTI), and national longitudinal studies examining areas of need for practitioners.

Nikki Pashka, MS, CRC, CPRP, Program Coordinator
Nikki has been in the field of behavioral health for close to a decade. Throughout her career, Nikki has consistently worked to advance programs and services that affect change and promote recovery in mental health, but particularly in the areas of employment and wellness in advocating for the rights of individuals living with disabilities. Nikki has diverse and extensive experience with translational science related to mental health services, applying evidence-based practices, research and evaluation, and developing and implementing training models. As Program Coordinator, Nikki manages all department activities and acts as liaison for all external and internal partners in conjunction with the Director of Research. Before joining the team at Thresholds, Nikki primarily worked in training and clinical services at various social service agencies serving diverse individuals who experience psychiatric disabilities and other co-occurring chronic physical and mental health conditions. She also worked for two National Research and Training Centers (Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation and University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Mental Health Services Research & Policy) and serves as an invited member of the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s Academy Advisory Council. Nikki received a masters of science in rehabilitation counseling from the University of Massachusetts – Boston, is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC), and holds certification as a psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner (CPRP).

Nick Walker, AM, MDiv, Research Assistant
Nick Walker is a Research Assistant at Thresholds and is part of the research teams leading multiple randomized controlled trails (RCTs) related to mental health services and recovery. His projects include a study of the role of cognitive remediation on work and employment participation, development of an electronic decision support system (EDSS) related to use of nicotine among members who smoke, presence of specific neurotransmitters and biological markers in relation to mental health recovery, the impact of mobile health technologies on recovery, and the role of employment and public benefits on health care access among individuals with serious mental illness. Nick is a dedicated supporter of the mission of Thresholds, actively participating as a member of the Thresholds Associate Board. Nick holds a master’s degree in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago.

Emily Giangrande, AM, CADC, Research Assistant
Emily Giangrande is a Research Assistant at Thresholds.  Emily is the team leader for a randomized controlled trial (RCT) evaluating the impact of computerized cognitive remediation strategies for individuals with serious mental illness seeking employment. In this role, she administers neuropsychological and psychosocial assessments, including the SCID and MATRICS. Emily also provides oversight for an RCT using a hermeneutic photography methodology to explore individuals’ attitudes toward work and supported employment. Emily’s clinical experience includes in-depth assessment in addition to individual and group psychotherapy. She also participates in other activities within the Thresholds community as a member of the agency’s “Just for the Health of It” Wellness Committee and as Secretary of the Thresholds Associate Board.  Emily holds a master’s degree in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and certification in Illinois as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC).

Lisa A. Razzano, PhD, CPRP, Director of Research
Dr. Lisa Razzano is Director of Research for Thresholds. Lisa oversees all externally-funded research programs underway within the agency, including studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the Social Security Administration (SSA), and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). She also has primary responsibility and oversight for development and implementation of new intervention studies and funded research initiatives at Thresholds. Dr. Razzano is a tenured faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where is she is Deputy Director of the Department’s Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy (CMHSRP). She has served as PI or co-PI for over $28 million in extramural research funding evaluating mental health service interventions and psychiatric rehabilitation. Lisa is recognized internationally as an expert in mental health, with particular expertise regarding physical health co-morbidities, mental health aspects of HIV/AIDS, and services research methodologies. Her research contributions have been recognized internationally with research awards from the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Greater Chicago, among others. Dr. Razzano is past president of the national Board of Directors for the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association and Psychiatric Rehabilitation Foundation, and currently is an elected member of the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Serious Mental Illness/Severe Emotional Disturbance.

Carla Elliott, BS , Cognitive Remediation Specialist Aide
Carla Elliott is the Cognitive Remediation Specialist Aide who facilitates the group component of the project, “A Dismantling Study of Cognitive Remediation”, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining the impact of a skills intervention on cognitive function among individuals with psychiatric disabilities. In conjunction with the Cognitive Remediation Specialist, Carla delivers interventions focused on compensatory strategies designed to help participating members cope with various cognitive difficulties. Carla also works with Supported Employment staff and clinical teams, presenting findings and suggesting intervention strategies that can increase participants’ abilities to obtain employment and to promote better functioning on the job. She has been part of the Thresholds workforce for several years, with past experience as a Job Club Coach who developed and implemented a DRS-funded job club and as a Recovery Specialist as part of the Justice Involvement Project.

Vanessa Vorhies Klodnick, PhD, LCSW, Senior Research Associate
Vanessa champions the development of services related to first episode psychosis at Thresholds, using research to inform transition age youth programs, practices, and policy development. She collaborates with universities on research projects aiming to better understand and improve transition age youth experiences in child and adult mental health systems. Vanessa also provides expert training, technical assistance, and consultation on transition age youth services to mental health service providers across the country, and she is a co-investigator for projects underway at the University of Massachusetts’ Transitions Research and Training Center, to develop and evaluate best practices in young adult peer support and vocational services. In 2014, Vanessa received the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association’s Mowbray Early Career Research Award for her work at Thresholds. In 2015, she received a Mary E. Switzer Merit Research Fellowship from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) for a project examining young adult engagement in Thresholds’ innovative Emerge Community Support Team services. Vanessa holds a PhD from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration and is a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Illinois. She also is an instructor at the schools of social work at Loyola University of Chicago and The University of Chicago.

Lupita M. Pivaral, MA, Research Assistant
Lupita Pivaral is a Research Assistant for Thresholds. She is primarily responsible for data collection, study engagement, and implementation of the FOCUS mobile health (mHealth) intervention, part of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) examining the impact of mobile health technology. In addition, Lupita conducts other assessments for the Department’s active research programs, including assessments related to a study of an electronic decision support system (EDSS) regarding nicotine use among members who are smokers. Prior to her position at Thresholds, she served in various research positions in the field of public health and is experienced working with at-risk populations, including working on studies at the UIC Institute for Minority Health. Lupita also has worked in community outreach, offering vocational and academic support to Spanish speaking persons. In both settings, she has facilitated communication between key personnel and Spanish-speaking individuals through the translation of printed materials and acting as an interpreter. Lupita holds a master’s degree in Sociology from Loyola University Chicago.