May 25, 2017

Internship to Employment, Alexis Bauer, B.S, Psychology, May 2017

Interning at Hillside was an amazing experience for me. My first week included going to the new employee training where I learned all about the mission of the organization and the basic principles of how they operate. Training itself was a great learning experience for me. I realized how much my values fit with the goals of Hillside. The focus on unconditional love, flexibility and advocacy are three key parts of the work they do.      

Starting in the unit was challenging at first. I was placed in a residential unit of 9 girls with severe mental illness and trauma history. It was culture shock for me in the beginning. There are just some things the textbooks can never really teach you, you just have to see it for yourself. The stories were heartbreaking; the girls were hurting and in deep need of love and attachment, despite their behavior that sometimes said otherwise. After the first few days there, I adjusted to the environment and the girls started winning me over. I fell in love with the genuineness of this environment. There were no fake faces here, it was a safe place for the girls to feel how they were feeling, and ask for support when it was needed.

My roles included helping the support staff on the floor, observing meetings and treatment conferences that my supervisor attended, and assisting with some of the ‘behind the scenes’ paperwork. Interning here gave me the chance to see first hand some of the manifesting behaviors of various types of mental illness. I had to learn skills to build rapport, and how to create healthy boundaries. I found myself wanting to learn more about the specific mental illnesses my girls were suffering with so I could understand and empathize with them in a deeper way. My supervisor was a huge support for this in providing me with helpful recommendations and resources to learn more.

Days in the unit were not always easy. I did witness some crisis situations, and there were a lot of days I left emotionally drained, but all in all being here was an excellent first experience in the field. As my internship hours came closer and closer to ending, I still felt there was so much more to be learned here, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the clinical setting. There are so many staff members that have had years of experience in the field. They served as inspiring role models for me, especially when it came to crisis situations where difficult decisions had to be made. I talked to my supervisor about this and she mentioned there was an opening in the unit. Since then I have been hired on staff as a Youth Care Professional and will be starting there after graduation. I highly recommend this internship for anyone interested in exploring clinical work.