Outside my building on my last day of work
Before I set out on my internship at Harvard my two main learning goals were to get more insight into the field of clinical psychology and to gain confidence in my work abilities. I think that I achieved my learning goals defined at the beginning of the summer and then some! While not as hands on as I anticipated, my internship was a wonderful learning experience and I really valued the time I spent in the lab. I definitely saw what working in a clinical psychology field entails and how it is different from any other working environment. There is a strict level of confidentiality, especially when dealing with child clinical psychology. I always had to remember to keep data with participant’s names separate from the data with numbers as well as to only upload information that was non-identifying.
I feel that I also achieved my second learning goal of gaining a sense of independence and higher responsibility. I tried to be as professional as possible in all of my interactions and attempted to figure things out on my own before asking for clarification. That being said, I had to learn that it is ok to ask questions and to do so in a confident manner without self-blame. My goal was to appear mature and to not be seen as merely “the intern.” The lab was an incredibly warm and welcoming place and I definitely got a chance to socialize with everyone outside of just a working relationship.
My internship this summer definitely helped me clarify my interest in working in a clinical psych field. I feel like my interest was really sparked whenever I was reading through the psychological measures given to participants or attending weekly seminars. I listened to talks that were on various topics in the field such as pediatric clinical psychology in a hospital setting and new approaches to looking at the role of parental behavior in anxiety. There is a lot of new and exciting work being done and it is inspiring to see so many people work furiously to ensure that the lives of children are improved.
Due to the nature of the work of my lab, as a volunteer I did not have direct contact with families that had risk or abuse situations. However, in my work I read a lot of participant files that describe traumatic events and sometimes even on paper the accounts were difficult to process. Also, I was in the room where the research assistants made phone calls to families. There were some conversations that described children wanting to hurt themselves or past abuse by others, which again was very disconcerting to hear. For anyone looking to pursue an internship in youth mental health, you should remember that the work that is being done will hopefully make a difference in the lives of adolescents. It is important to practice self-care and to talk to coworkers about issues that are of concern to you. In terms of general internship advice, I recommend trying to take on more responsibility and going above and beyond what is asked of you. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to be specific about what you would like to learn from the internship. I am most proud of navigating my internship, becoming more professional, and even when work was difficult – maintaining a smile on my face.
Melissa Viezel ’17