My First Week at The Walker School

This past week was my first full week working at The Walker School in Needham, MA.  The Walker School offers a range of special education and mental health services that provide intensive therapeutic and academic programs for children, adolescents, and their families.  The Walker Needham campus offers a variety of services, including an Intensive Residential Treatment Program, an Intensive Community-Based Acute Treatment Program, and a school and summer camp.  The programs are created for children ages 3 to 15 with severe emotional, behavioral, and learning disabilities or with a history of past trauma, including sexual abuse or disrupted foster placements.  These programs provide therapeutic learning and living environments that help children to learn, grow, and heal and integrate successfully into society.

Logo
The Walker School Logo

As an intern in the Intensive Residential Treatment Program, I will participate as a member of a treatment team to meet the social, recreational, behavioral, and educational needs of children with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties and with histories of past trauma.  I will plan, implement, and participate in social and recreational activities, help to provide a safe and therapeutic milieu, and assist with the implementation of treatment protocols.  I will also co-lead activity-based groups for small numbers of children, work one-on-one with children toward improvement of academic skills, and facilitate developmentally appropriate and normalizing experiences for children, such as reading before bedtime.

I found my internship through a series of networking.  I am on the Board of Directors for the Brookline Teen Center and was part of a committee that interviewed prospective Executive Directors.  The person we hired was the Director of Residential Services at Walker.  After talking with the teen center’s new Executive Director about summer internship possibilities, I applied for a position at Walker because my passion and experience align with the goals of the organization.  I emailed the Director of Child Care Training and was interviewed by the Vice President of Operations.  I then observed a residential program to determine if it was a proper fit and decided Walker would be an extremely valuable learning experience for me.

My first week at Walker was both rewarding and difficult.  After spending only an hour going over Walker’s policies, I began working in my assigned residential program.  All of the staff were extremely friendly and my coworkers immediately welcomed me to their program, introduced me to all of the children, and put me straight to work.  Even after just one week, I can already tell that it will take the children a while to completely trust me, as many of them were previously hurt (either physically and/or emotionally) by adults in their lives.  While some children quickly accepted my presence, others were more resistant listening to my instructions or even talking to me or sitting next to me.  Regardless of these hesitations, my coworkers reassured me that, with time and the stability of my presence, the children will grow to trust me.

Walker_Entrance
The Main Entrance to The Walker School

This summer, I hope to gain as much knowledge and experience as possible out of my time at Walker.  Above all else, I want to learn, to the best of my ability, how to help children who have gone through difficult times.  I want to be a social worker for children  when I grow older, and I believe that Walker will provide me with extremely valuable knowledge and skills, such as how to make children who have experienced abuse feel comfortable and safe around you.  Once children feel they can trust you, they are then more likely to open up to you and the true healing can begin.

– Avi Cohen ’15

The Countdown & Completion of My Summer 2012 Internship

I have officially begun the countdown until I leave Israel, and although I will miss it dearly, I look forward to returning back to Brandeis. My most important learning goal this summer was to strengthen my skills in research, specifically clinical research. I was able to do this by contributing to two literature reviews on preventive interventions for dealing with violence and trauma. With the goal of eventually working toward my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, gaining this experience was crucial for my career development, and went much beyond my previous experience. I surpassed my original expectations because instead of doing one literature review, I ended up working on two. I was also given the opportunity to help out with a study on designing an intervention for building resilience for at-risk youth, the latter being one of the populations I eventually want to focus on as a psychologist. This has given me insight into cultures other than America and Israel, which was not exactly one of my original learning goals but nevertheless appreciated.

Photo Credit: Traumaweb.org

I am also learning more about evaluating the work of other psychologists, by observing my mentors here in real-time.

The work I have done at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma this summer will fuel the rest of my time at Brandeis. Specifically, it will put me in “research mode” as preparation for my Honor’s Thesis. It will also inform my academic work as I take courses in the areas I have researched this summer.

There is still a lot left to learn before I am prepared for the next step in my career. I want to gain more experience in research, which I will be able to do with my Honor’s Thesis this year; I also want do get more hands-on work with a clinical population, especially children, adolescents, first responders, and others affected by trauma. Whether working at a medical facility or with children in general, I know that to truly engage myself in this field, I must engage it at all levels, not just research.

For anyone interested in interning at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, I commend you for your decision to volunteer, and think you will have a blast. The Center does, however, get very busy with many projects. I would therefore advise interested students to research the Center’s work first, which can be viewed here. Once there, see if there is any program or type of work (i.e. research) that most interests you. Then contact one of the psychologists, someone in public affairs, or send them an e-mail. (Contact page located here). Keep trying if you do not hear back at first. And before you reach out, also think about one main project you can focus on. Every volunteer is required to contribute sometime to PR, but the rest can be decided by you and the staff members. While at the Center, I would definitely try to check out the various “Units” of the Center. You will learn not only about trauma and resilience, but all the different ways one can contribute through research, programs, therapy, marketing, and more.

Photo Credit: Traumaweb.org

– Rocky Reichman ’13

The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma: Week One

My first week in Israel brought with it a hot environment outside, but a warm one inside my internship site. The staff at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma are some of most humble, kind, and compassionate people I have ever met.  And, being from Brandeis, this is saying a lot!

The mission of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma is multifold. Besides offering direct treatment to survivors of trauma, they also implement programs to help individuals and communities build psychological resilience in the face of great trauma. Based in Jerusalem, Israel, the Center’s work extends across the globe. Within Israel, they work with an array of survivors, from survivors of terrorist attacks to medics and soldiers who served in elite combat units. Outside Israel, they help implement programs for children as well as adults survivors, including countries such as Haiti and the United States following Hurricane Katrina. On top of all this, a large part of what they do involves researching intervention strategies.

As an intern at the Center, my primary responsibility is to assist with research in the Child & Adolescence Clinical Services Unit. I am working on my own research project as well as on a special YouTube video the Center is creating. In addition, I also assist with PR activities.

droplet

The process of securing my internship was straightforward. I had worked at the Center before, and was still in touch with my former supervisor. After corresponding via e-mail for a few weeks, we worked out a plan for a main project and supplemental work I could do for this summer. After that, it was only a matter of staying focused on my goals and securing funding. Thanks to WOW, I am here now, doing exactly what I hoped to be doing.

My first week involved very little turbulence. I struggled a bit with jet lag and had to fight to stay awake on at least one afternoon, however my passion for this type of work (and dousing my face with a little cold water) literally washed my fatigue away. Getting a grasp on my Hebrew has been challenging, but day by day I become more comfortable with the language.

The summer has already proved to be an exciting one, and I am still only in its first stretches. I expect to increase my research experience this summer, but also to gain new experiences in combining media with psychology and meeting other volunteers at the Center. Also important, I hope to correspond with several people in the Center, and learn more about this type of profession, psychology in Israel, and what my career options are for the future.

My Resilience Workbook

– Rocky Reichman ’13