2020 PFIG Recipient Stephanie Kaiser

Jessica Meyers

Journal Entry #1

While I was unsure about what this experience would entail due to limitations of both the pandemic and general rules regarding patient confidentiality, I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality of the tasks I have been assigned and completed so far. I have been working for Cherry Tree Neuropsychology, a private practice in Arlington, Virginia that offers assessment, treatment, and therapy services to patients seeking various psychological care services. When deciding on how I wanted to spend my time this summer, it had to be an experience that would allow me to gain the knowledge and prepare me for a path that would lead to improving the mental health of many in the future. To get experience in what my studies and research at UVA might translate to in terms of a career, I knew it would be important to work alongside clinicians. After talking with many practices, I finally found one that would support me in exploring the field while providing guidance when I ask. As I expected, I have only become more convinced that I am on correct academic and career path. Following graduation next spring, I am planning on going to graduate school in order to complete a PhD in some kind of clinical psychology.  Although I am still unsure of what kind of clinician I want to ultimately be, I think that continuing my work here will help me to figure it out.

So far, I have been working closely with Kassidy Schmidt who is one of the  psychotherapists and administrators of the practice. She has been the one to coordinate with me about what I will be doing, what the practice is working on big picture, and shared about what she personally does. I have loved getting to know her and enjoy the mutual respect shared between supervisor and apprentice. Based on the work I have done so far, it seems as though the key to teamwork in this field is open and constant communication. Everyone understands that they can learn from each other and where there weaknesses are that need to be compensated for. Because the office is currently closed due to COVID, all the communication and work that I have completed so far has been online. We use virtual interfaces, such as video calling and email to communicate. Currently clinicians are providing services much in the same way.

Some of the tasks I have done so far and will continue to do include formatting and creating patient forms, researching questions relevant to the treatment of certain clients, and compiling information regarding other practices to market to. In the future, I will also be able to interview other clinicians at the practice about what they do and how they got there, sit in on meetings were clinicians review cases with each other, and learn more about how neurological tests are administered and analyzed. These tasks have helped me to become better at knowing where exactly to locate reliable psychology related research information as well as format documents on Microsoft Word. I have been impressed with how well I have been able to motivate myself to do my best work and put in the time to complete my assignments despite not being in the office. One thing that I have found challenging is not being able to immediately. Have my questions answered since it requires messaging and people are not available in person. However, this has helped me to problem solve on my own and become confident in my decision making. To anyone that may apply in the future, my advice would be to know about what exactly the practice does and what of that you would want to be involved in. The clinicians are very helpful and want to share their knowledge you just have to ask! Be vocal about what you want to learn!

Journal Entry #2

I am coming to be more invested in my work and the people I am working with more and more every day! It is so nice to feel like I have responsibilities and can be productive since it is summer and the world is still semi shut down. Never thought I would be so grateful to have the distraction of work! The past couple weeks I have also begun to expand on my skills and responsibilities. I have been doing some things that have more connection to clients directly. For example, last week I compiled a list of resources and clinical advice for how to deal with helping others through emotional abuse. That was a task that I particularly enjoyed because I had to do research about how therapists actually approach treating these situations. It also allowed for me to create something for clients specifically, allowing me to interact with them indirectly. It was fulfilling to feel like I could in some way be part of understanding and providing treatment.

Next week, I am looking forward to discussing my first case consultation with my supervisor. In order to prepare for it, I have completed research on possible diagnoses for this patient as well as reviewed cognitive and behavioral tests that can be administered relevant to this particular case. Not only am I going to be discussing what a possible diagnosis for this patient might be, but I will also learn more about how personality is assessed and analyzed in terms of explaining behavior and helping determine treatment. I am also looking forward continuing to get advice on possible paths of graduate level education as they share with me what their different degrees and training translate to in the field. I am also hoping to get feedback on the particular programs that they have done, and talk to some of their contacts who are currently in programs I am looking into. I am starting to get excited about my next steps in life, even if they are still a year away.

All in all, in reflecting on the past couple of weeks I think that one of my favorite parts about this internship has been building relationships with my coworkers. After proving that I am hardworking by completing tasks efficiently and invested in my position by always wanting to do more and being vocal about the things I am learning and wanting to be a part of, I feel more like a peer among them than just an intern. They trust my opinions and believe that I am competent enough to engage in meaningful conversation about their business and clients. While I have been able to complete my tasks with ease, these projects have made me pay closer attention to the behavior of those around me. Every human experience is so unique, and in light of all the crazy changes that have been happening in the world it has been fascinating for me to be completing this internship while witnessing the vast variability in responses to the same events. I think it has made me take an overall more empathetic approach to understanding others and less judgmental but more critical (as in I think more deeply) about what causes certain behaviors and how I should best respond to them.

Journal Entry #3

As the summer comes to an end, I’ve been thinking about how far I have come through this internship.  The work has been fulfilling, my coworkers have been supportive and constantly make sure that I am learning the ins and outs of what it means to help people improve their mental health. The past couple weeks have been. particularly interesting as I have been doing more to learn about. certain cases and help. Clinicians think through  diagnoses and treatments. I’ve gained exposure to tools and methods used by compiling easily accessible treatment tools, such as handouts for clients, treatment planners, and diagnostic texts.

My favorite part of my job has been doing case consultations with one of the  general managers and practicing counselors, Kassidy. She exposes me to real world problems facing clients and how she approaches interacting with. Them in a contextualized manner. She is always willing to listen to my thoughts and opinions on various psychological topics and I enjoy helping her work through the process of helping clients. It lets me actually apply things that I have learned about in class and about clinical techniques I have researched and see how they are applied to clients based on their various needs and characteristics. She also always gives me tips about how to deal with things that come up during therapy or about how to create relationships with clients that are trusting yet professional. All of these things are aspects of the experience and career that cannot be taught. 

After reflecting on my time at Cherry Tree, I have decided that I want to pursue getting a PhD as opposed to some of the other paths in clinical psychology. I want to be able to be a counselor, but have the background in research and neurobiology in order to apply those concepts to my treatment styles. I appreciate how this particular practice takes a more neurological approach, trying to understand and change brain function to change behavior. Beyond just confirming my passion for using neurobiology in clinical settings, I also learned about many other skills that were necessary to participate in operate a practice.  This opportunity has opened so many doors for me, I am excited to see where my next step will be!