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Experiences Gained From Psychology Internship

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Part of completing a professional degree in psychology is the internship. This provides the intern the opportunity to explore new career possibilities, and use the knowledge that was learned in college for real life situations. Internships also provide a network of resources and valuable feedback that is given by the advisor. The following information was gained during a psychology internship site and provided many opportunities for the intern to observe human behaviors and psychological problems that clients seek assistance with.

The clientele at this particular site are women, and although the site caters to all women it is particularly useful for single and/or working mothers. Many of these women are working moms who have not felt as fulfilled in their motherhood as they would like to. This site provides physical training in relaxation, stamina, and a balance of both body and spirit to create a more positive perspective on life. There are also resources, such as support groups, in person and Skype interviews, newsletters, and articles which help with specific issues the client may be going through.

Some of these issues may be lack of sleep, organization, addiction, depression, and more. This non-profit organization was created by a woman who had her children taken away from her and sent out of the country when they were very little. The owner of this organization is on a mission to help other women feel fulfilled in their motherhood, and deal with issues that arise from being a working mom. As she helps other moms, the owner of this organization addresses her own need to heal from an unfulfilled motherhood. By utilizing the physical exercise that is provided in sessions, along with resources and guidance, the working mother learns how to optimize the balance of motherhood, career, and financial freedom.

A woman can fulfill her dreams of career and financial freedom, while achieving balance and insights that lead to a fulfilling motherhood. The networking and guidance also provides a woman with many resources for dealing with personal and psychological issues without having to take the time to seek out many professional outlets for this. A well-rounded program for women is distributed in this site, as well as opportunities for interns to learn from the experience of working here. Many interns have stayed at the site on a volunteer basis, as this site provides a much needed service in society. Behaviors Observed During the Internship

During the psychological internship many behaviors can be observed. This gives the intern the opportunity to relate theory to practice, and to get to know the other aspects of the job that are necessary. It is important to remember to keep the patient’s information completely private, and if it is discussed, such as in a final project paper, then only the general details should be revealed—all private information should remain that way. In this specific internship many behaviors was observed, but only three will be mentioned here. One patient, a young woman, suffered from not one but two traumas within a years’ time, and has dealt with issues relating to post traumatic stress syndrome for the past year, as well as concussive syndrome. The PTSD was diagnosed from the patient having symptoms of sleeplessness, irritability, anger, isolations, trouble focusing and a decline in grades, and feeling very emotional along with anxiety.

The concussive syndrome was the result of an attack that obviously injured the skull—causing a concussion. The young woman complained of headaches and migraine, mood swings, and anxiety. All of these are symptoms of concussive syndrome, and she was diagnosed as having those two things, PTSD and concussive syndrome, from the trauma she experienced. Another young woman, who is also a young mother, reported problems with obsessive-compulsive behavior. She had also had a history of trauma, and found being a single mom to be very overwhelming. She displayed symptoms of food bingeing and overeating, and also has had trouble with compulsive shopping. Both of these problems are a recent behavior for this woman and is a direct result of what happened to her previously rather than physical or psychological dysfunction.

The third behavior that was observed was depression, specifically, post-partum depression, physical depression, and depression resulting from trauma. These three behaviors, Post-traumatic stress, Obsessive-compulsion, and Depression are all treated differently, but one theory that is used for all three of these is cognitive theory. These therapies and theories can be used in many ways to help relieve the symptoms the patient is experiencing. It is up to the psychologist to have enough working knowledge of these theories to use them in a creative and effective manner.

Connections of Behaviors to Theory
Symptoms and Definition. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects millions of people around the world for many different reasons. There is no one, specific cause of PTSD, as this is usually a reaction to the stress of trauma, and can include any type of trauma. According to the DSM-IV, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is “characterized by high-frequency, distressing, intrusive memories, and by amnesia for the details of the event. Also, there is disassociation, emotional numbing, depression, fear of death, and feelings of hopelessness” (American Psychological Association, 2000). Psychological research in this area has found that there is a number of changes that occur in the victims memory function (in recalling the event) that are very similar to symptoms of depression (Buckley, Blanchard, & Neill, 2000). Some of the feelings that a person who is suffering from PTSD may go through are shame, guilt, fear, anger, depression, humiliation (especially sexually assaulted victims), betrayal, and loss of autonomy. (DeMarco, C., 1997) Theories and Treatments

Socio-cognitive model. There are a list of psychological theories and approaches that deal with post-traumatic stress, as this is a broad spectrum disorder. Some of the theories associated with PTSD are: socio-cognitive theory, conditioning, information processing, cognitive-behavioral theory, emotional processing theory, dual representation theory, and cognitive theory. (Bisson, J., 2009, p 209) Only three will be discussed in the contents of this paper. Within the socio-cognitive model we find the “theory of shattered assumptions” which is based on the assumptions most people go through life believing. People need to believe these basic assumptions in order to feel safe, secure, and that their life has purpose and meaning. These three basic assumptions are: 1.) the world is benevolent, 2.) the world is meaningful, 3.) the self is worthy (Janoff-Bulman, 1992).

When the assumptions that one normally believes in order to maintain a feeling of security in life is shattered by a traumatic event (such as a rape, physical attack, accident, etc.) it can destroy the solid base these beliefs instill in us and may cause what psychologists call a “schema change” (Drobin, F., 2014). This change affects the self-image, and a negative belief system may be in place that conveys to the person bad feelings about self and the people around them. Janoff-Bulman also theorized that people who had the most positive experiences in life were affected most by the trauma when these events occur in their life. Basically the higher up you are, the harder you fall when something bad happens. It was also found that if you have had past trauma then you are more susceptible to PTSD when future traumas occur.

This may be because your world was already on shaky ground. Cognitive model. Ehlers & Clark, (2000), did a lot of work involving the Cognitive Model of PTSD, and found that those who suffered from PTSD suffered from negative appraisal, and believed the traumatic event happened to them because they were unworthy in some way or it was their fault. They had feelings of being mentally defeated and hopeless as well. This may cause feelings of anxiety, and Ehlers & Clark also believed that patients formed anxieties about their future after experiencing a trauma in their lives. Cognitive theories focus on the actual event that occurred rather than the sociological aspect of the disorder. This is called “information-processing” and shows us that the victim may build a system of responses in relation to the trauma—such as responding to a similar stimulus of sights or sounds could trigger panic or anxiety. (Chemtob, et al. 1988) Socio-Cognitive Model.

The “Theory of Dual Representation” considers how the brain’s functions during and after the traumatic event occurs. (Brewin, C., & Holmes, E., 2003) The memory processing of the event can be “represented” in two areas of thinking—the verbal accessibility memories, or VAM, and the situationally accessible memories, or SAM (Brewin, C., et al, 1996). This socio-cognitive model explains that the imbalance of this process is what may create the anxieties and memory loss that occurs because of a trauma. Depression

Symptoms and Definition. Depression can come in many forms, and the Psychological Manual of Mental Disorders lists over a dozen different kinds of depression. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) lists 21 different categories of attitudes and symptoms of depression. (Wasserman, D. 2011) Sometimes a person becomes depressed due to situations in their life that are overwhelming or causes them to become very sad. Other types of depression may include physical depression that stems from a chemical imbalance or mood disorder.

A type of depression that affects new mothers is post-partum depression, in which a woman suffers from mild to severe depression following the birth of her child (DeMarco, C., 1997). Depression can be mental or physical or both. Symptoms of depression include: sadness, despondency, pessimism, irritability, decreased activity, and feeling inadequate (Wasserman, D. 2011). Depression is also considered a mood disorder for the obvious reasons that our mood is affected by these negative feelings. (Williamson, J, 2008) Theories and Treatments

Cognitive Theory. Psychological approaches to depression include Behavioral Approach, Cognitive Approach, Bio behavioral Approach and more. Because of learned helplessness (the expectation of being out of control), and low self-esteem associated with depression the cognitive approach is used most often. Other Theories. Also used are operant theory, achievement motivation theory, and learning theory. There are many different theories that can be used within the cognitive theory to address the many different problems and categories of depression. (Chemtob, C., et al, 1988) It is common for a therapist to use prescription medications along with these therapies to get more successful results for the patient. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Symptoms and Definition. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is characterized by obsessions and compulsions that are repetitive in nature and cause distress to the person who is doing them. The most common symptoms of OCD are: 1.) Contamination (germ phobic), 2.) Undesirable impulses and 3.) Doubts (Lejoyeux, M., & Weinstein, A., 2010). The person who has OCD is helpless to stop this disorder, and it affects their life in a negative way and causes anxiety and distress. At some point people with OCD must face the realization that their obsessive behavior is in excess and has become a destructive force in their life. This realization is what brings them to seek help. (Harrington, M., 2010)

There are serious obsessive-compulsive disorders such as constant hand washing or hair pulling, and there are less serious obsessive-compulsive behaviors, such as compulsive eating or shopping. In the case of someone who is a compulsive shopper the person may realize they have a problem when they buy things they cannot afford or need. Compulsive eating is evident in weight gain, and by overeating even after one is full or not hungry. Behavioral Therapy Treatment. People with “classic OCD” are usually this way from delusional beliefs and thoughts. A person who has sudden OCD resulting from stress and using the compulsion to override unpleasant feelings may have an easier time with recovery. Their compulsions are usually to obtain a temporary euphoric feeling of pleasure to avoid painful feelings.

Some milder cases of OCD may be treated with behavior therapy and/or counseling to address the painful issue they are trying to avoid. Since this is considered an anxiety disorder it is usually treated with behavioral theories, persistence, or modification. More serious OCD is usually accompanied by anxiety, and is treated with medications. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors are what are used most often for OCD, such as Risperdal. These patients are also treated with antidepressants and cognitive behavior therapy (Franklin & Foa, 2002). If the OCD is unresponsive to medications then electric shock treatment may be used. Anxiety Reduction Theory. The “anxiety reduction hypothesis” is based on the premise that people have anxiety and use obsessions and compulsions to ease the anxiety. This is avoidance learning in which the OCD is reinforced by the fact that it reduces the anxiety. In this case cognitive behavioral therapy is used to reduce the anxiety and the compulsions that follow (Harrington, M., 2010). Benefits of Internship and Supervision

While interning one comes to realize that a good education can only teach you knowledge of psychology. Putting this knowledge into real life situation takes a lot of practice and experience in bridging psychological theory with the current situation at hand. An internship gives the new counselor a chance to gain work experience in a professional setting. In order to assist the new intern or psychologist in learning how to use their education in real life settings a supervisor or other person oversees the interns during the internship. This supervisor will hold the intern accountable for their choices and actions when dealing with clients. This accountability helps the intern to maintain professionalism and provides a code of ethics from which to work by. It is important for a new counselor to have a supervisor to help oversee the work that is being done, provide feedback, and give advice that will help the counselor to grow in their knowledge and experience.

The supervisor can also see the work of the counselor from an outside point of view, and may give a subjective evaluation of the work performance. This would be helpful in knowing if there is an instance of transference (on the part of the new counselor) or if there is an area that needs improvement etc. The supervisor could also assist with providing an alternate treatment plan should the one that was chosen not be effective for the client. The supervisor has the responsibility to make sure all of the clients are getting the best care. This means that the supervisor must do more than provide consultation for the counselor. The supervisor can look at the cases to see what the best treatments may be (consultation), but also would evaluate the performance of the counselor (supervision). In this way the supervisor must oversee the entire process, and make any adjustments that are necessary for the benefit of the client.

In this process the counselor also continues to grow in their field, gain valuable feedback, and experience. The internship that’s being discussed provided many opportunities for growth in the field of psychology enabling the intern the chance to make a real connection to the clients and gainful insights. There are also the chance of developing your network within the local psychological community—a great asset to someone who is just starting out in their career. The internship also provides a work experience that may be included in a resume or portfolio. There is even a chance of receiving a letter of recommendation from the supervisor. All of these benefits of an internship, especially the one in consideration, provide a bridge for the intern between principles and practices; and assistance in developing a new career. Recommendations for future interns and professionals in the setting The person who interns at this site should keep this resource available for them to use as they encounter conflicts in career and family obligations.

Many interns do go on to have a professional career while also raising a family. The information learned here could be invaluable in one’s own life as a working parent. It would be of great value for the intern to continue to seek new information that may be available that could be utilized in this program. New resources are always popping up that can help the working mother to become more organized or proficient financially. Some of these resources may include programs or seminars that deal with the issues that are faced in this organization. As this particular intern site is expanding nationally; it would also benefit the site coordinator as well as the intern to network with any available resources in their immediate area that may be of particular use within this program. This may include counselors who will volunteer some time for this non-profit organization; gyms that may give discounts, or meeting areas where support groups can be formed, etc.

There should also be a level of empathy and understanding for the working mom, so if the intern were a male his perspective would have to be from a woman’s point of view. For woman interns this is not usually a problem. Having good research and writing skills is mandatory in this site so for the intern who is weak in these areas there should be some extra work done to compensate. Knowledge of psychological theories and how they apply to real life situations is also a must in this site. There is no time to learn psychology as you work at this site; the knowledge should already have been learned and ready to be applied to the situations at hand. If the intern has any weak areas in what he/she has learned then it would be beneficial to review some of their previous studies where needed.

Cooperation and team work are also vital, as sometimes an intern may have taken an interview and the rest of the group must be made aware of the issues they are researching and writing about. Working in a group is a rewarding experience, but one should be mentally ready to deal with oppositional situations of differences of opinion on theories or treatments. Having an open mind and a good demeanor is helpful in these situations, and if all else fails contact the site supervisor for advice. And of course, continue a level of professionalism throughout the course of the internship as you represent the school you are affiliated with. Personal Growth Experienced

This internship impacted me a great deal, and has changed my views of what I can do with my psychology career in many ways. As a mother of six children and having also raised six foster children; I can relate to the challenges these mothers deal with on a daily basis. Like many of the clients at my internship I was also a single mother, for the most part, as my husband and I were separated for most of our marriage. I happen to be a very strong and independent woman, and still the challenge was more than I could bear at times. If I had a resource such as this and the support of other women in the support groups; I would have fared much better during my own motherhood years—although I still have two children at home. I do have daughters who are mothers, and currently I am the grandmother of five beautiful grandchildren.

I have introduced my daughters and daughter in law to this organization, as well as many of my friends who are mothers. I feel that at such a time in history as this one, where many women are not only single mothers but also have professional careers; we need this organization and more like it to help bring about the changes that have occurred for women in the past few decades with efficiency and strength. Women have much more on their plate than they did a short time ago, and the passing of the equal rights amendment opened the doors for many professional jobs for women. Unfortunately, at the same time, marriage is not the same as it was and many more couples are getting divorced contributing to the growing rate of single mothers in this country. On top of these new career opportunities, women are finding they must also be the custodial parent for their children.

This is an overwhelming task even for the hardest working women. With these new changes in culture we need to have resources that can assist us to have more fulfilling and organized lives. Women are making money and need to learn how to manage it. This organization does that, and has helped me personally to have a more successful future, and a more positive mind and body to go along with it. I was so shocked when I first found this internship site, as I had no idea such a place existed, and the supervisor who mentored me is also the founder of this organization. She has been such a positive role model for me, and helped me to realize my own potential as a woman. This potential was not just in what I could achieve, but what I could personally take from my experiences and how I could bring out the best of who I am and how I connect with the world. I would recommend this organization for any woman, and have decided to continue on as a volunteer.

I found a unique place for my talents and knowledge in the field of psychology that is very rewarding and satisfying. I enjoy it so much that it is a pleasure to be a part of this team. I have also learned how to work together as a team, and how to communicate better with my colleagues and supervisor. After being so independent for most of my life, it is a new experience for me to work with others in making decisions. I find that it is refreshing to have the input of others, and not have to do all of the work or take all of the responsibility myself. I also have learned that I have a real love for research, and hope to grow in my knowledge of the field and the world around me. I see this as not just helping others, but also helping myself to become a better person in the process. It is a win-win situation that I am blessed to have become a part of, and hope to build more future memories and connections within this organization.

Becoming a good psychologist or counselor takes so much more than just getting a university education. There needs to be real-life situation in which to allow the counselor to grow with the knowledge they have received. An internship is the opportunity to step into a new career with the control and guidance of a supervisor and staff to assist the intern in their new profession. This transition between school and actual work in the field is a necessary and much needed part of the learning process. It is here that the intern can receive feedback and mentoring from their supervisor that will enable him/her to advance in their field with confidence and competence. One does not usually forget their intern experience as it is the first step they take in their new career and one where they can make contacts and friendships with fellow professionals in their field. This is where you begin to feel like the professional you have trained for, and is where you develop the professional identity that you will carry throughout your career.


American Psychological Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
of Mental Disorders 4th edition revised, American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, Psychological Inquiry, (3), 219-224. Bisson, J. (2009). Psychological and social theories of post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychiatry, 8(9), 290-292. DOI: 10.1016/j.mppsy.2009.05.000. Brewin, C., Dalgleish, T., Joseph, S. (1996). A dual representation theory of post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological Review, 103, 670–686. Brewin, C., Holmes, E. (2003). Psychological theories of posttraumatic stress disorder. Clinical Psychology Review, 23(3), 339-376. DOI: 10.1016/S0272-7358(03)00033-3 Buckley, T., Blanchard, E., Neill, W. (2000). Information processing and PTSD: a review of the empirical literature. Clinical Psychology Review, 20, 1041–1065. Chemtob, C., Roitblat, H., Hamada, R., Carlson, J., Twentyman, C. (1988). A cognitive-action theory of post-traumatic stress disorder. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 2, 253–275.

DeMarco, C. (1997, Feb 05). Natural treatment for depression. Edmonton Journal. Retrieved

From http://search.proquest.com/docview/252410065?accountid=12

Drobin, F. (2014, June 1). Recovery, spirituality, and psychotherapy. Journal of Religion and Health, 53 (3) 789-795. Doi 10.1007/s10943-013-9800-4. Retrieved on June 30, 3014 from: Ehlers A, Clark D. (2000). A cognitive model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Behavioral Restoration Therapy, 38, 319-45.

Harrington, M. (2010). Knocking out compulsive behavior. Lab Animal, 39(6), 160. Retrieved on July 3, 2014 from: http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA227598187&v=2.1&u=vic_liberty&it=r&p=AONE&sw=w&asid=901f978f2bca4242f22968e69bebc8e5 Janoff-Bulman, R. (1992). Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma. New York: Free Press. Lejoyeux, M., Weinstein, A. (2010). Compulsive buying. American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse, 36(5), 248-253. Retrieved June 21, 2014 from:

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